The most popular form of a triathlon involves swimming, cycling and running performed with immediate transitions between each activity. Triathletes compete for the fastest overall time.
This three-sport concept dates back as far as the 1920s, when the three disciplines were running, biking and canoing. The first triathlon as we know them today was held in San Diego in 1974.
The most common triathlon distance consists of a swim of .93 miles, bicycle route of 24.8 miles and run of 6.2 miles. The most recognized ultra-distance competition is called the Ironman Triathlon. Extreme athletes swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run a full marathon of 26.2 miles. The fastest time recorded in an Ironman Triathlon is 7 hours, 45 minutes and 58 seconds by Marino Vanhoenacker.
Since triathlons are timed events, transitions involve finesse. The transition period is the time in which participants move from one sport to the next — from swimming to biking and biking to running. During these transitions, athletes quickly dry off, change clothes and gear up for the next activity. Transitions become an important part of their training.
Training for a triathlon might be easier than you think. Even those who’ve little to no training can be ready for a triathlon in as little as 12 weeks. The two main components are time commitment and equipment. You don’t have to give up your life or break the bank to make it happen.
You do need some basic equipment for your first triathlon. The equipment doesn’t have to be expensive. For swimming, you need a swim suit, goggles and swim cap. For the cycling component, you need a bicycle that fits you. This can be a mountain bike or a road bike. You’ll want a good pair of cycling shorts because you’ll put in many hours in the saddle. Clipless pedals and cycling shoes will help with your pedal stroke, but aren’t a “must have” for the beginner. Last, but important for the running section, you’ll need a good pair of running shoes. Take the time to find a pair that are specific to running and fit your foot correctly.
If you’re not highly active, give yourself about 12 weeks to get in shape to train for a triathlon. This will help you condition at a pace in which you get in shape and minimize the chance of injury. Commit to training five days a week — that’s only two and half to four hours per week. Plan on two of your workouts per week to include a combination of running or biking exercises. Ask a personal trainer or go online for sample workout plans.
Crossroads Fitness in Grand Junction will hold an “Everybody Ironman Triathlon” in June for members and non-members. This is a fun way to become familiar with triathlons. This challenge encourages participants to complete the 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of walking or running over the period of a month. These activities can be done inside the health club or outside on your own. The goal of the program is to engage participants to be more active and get a taste of an Ironman.
With some basic equipment and a strong will to accomplish a big task, there’s nothing to do except get started.
Consider what Navy Commander John Collins exhorted to participants in the first Ironman competition he dreamed up in Hawaii in 1978: “Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles, brag for the rest of your life.”