What Is a Triathlon? (2021)
Triathlon is an aerobic type of an endurance multisport race that consists of three disciplines in a row: swimming, cycling and running, usually in that order, with transitions inbetween. It’s not exactly set in stone like that though.
But triathlon isn’t just swim-bike-run either. There’s a lot more to it.
How Long is a Triathlon?
Typically the shortest form of triathlon at an event is what’s called the super-sprint distance triathlon, also referred to as “starter triathlon” (for beginners), that consists of a 300m swim, 8km bike and a 2km run. On average, it would take a little more than an hour to complete.
There can be even shorter triathlon distances and of course longer ones as well.
Usually the longest form of triathlon is what’s called Ironman. It involves a 3.8km swim, 180km bike leg and a 42km run. Those crazy enough can even go beyond that and take part in ultra triathlons. (source)
Why Do a Triathlon?
People want to live a healthy lifestyle, but when it comes to actually walking the talk, excuses often start to take them in the other direction. It’s a common problem.
We might sign up for a gym membership with the goal of striving for a healthier lifestyle and feel like we’ve accomplished something just by taking action. After all, anyone can lift the weight. We go there a couple of times and do just that, lift some weights, but the initial purpose we went there for starts to fade away rather quickly. And it’s not just that, for some it’s because it’s kind of boring, too. We start to slack while being there, even skip a few days, and before we know it, we’ve decided that there’s no point going there anymore at all because we didn’t uphold the agreement to ourselves. Ever been in this situation?
But what happens when people sign up for a triathlon event?
You kind of get this “Oh, shit!” moment. If you backed down now, you would only let down yourself. And if you didn’t start preparing for the triathlon event, you would run the risk of never making it to the end in a timeframe that you’d be happy with yourself, again letting down only yourself. Neither is a good option. So, having signed up for such an event and forced to prepare for it for your own sake, all of a sudden you’re living the healthy lifestyle, but not for the sake of living a healthy lifestyle. And once you finish the race you get the neccessary confidence to achieve even greater things.
Entry Fee for a Triathlon Event
It should come with no surprise that a lot goes into organizing a triathlon event. It can be costly.
Some events may be backed by non-profit organizations whose aim might be to simply improve their event organizing skills or to raise funds for charity and/or to spread the popularity of the multisport in general.
Whatever the case, there will likely be an entry fee of some sort or in some cases none at all. You might be looking at anything from 0€ to 150€+ to particiapate in a triathlon event.
There are professional triathletes categotized as Elite, and then there are non-professional triathletes categorized as Age Group.
Age Group system puts together participants of similar ages (usually around 5-year difference) and sex.
Triathlon events have certain set of rules. The aim of these rules is to ensure a level playing field and a safe environment for the participants.
Each discipline (swimming, cycling, running) has its own set of rules and etiquette, some of them are universal rules, overseen by the technical officials. These rules are usually readily available on the event’s website.
A violation against these rules can lead to time penalties, sometimes instructed to serve in special “penalty boxes” located near the transition zones. For repeated offenses or more severe violations, triathletes may be disqualified from the race entirely, suspended from participating in further races in a certain time period or permanently expelled from all future events run by that organizer. Granted, penalized triathletes are usually allowed to protest or appeal their penalties.
Learn more about triathlon rules here [International Triathlon Union (ITU) Competition Rules for 2019].
The 4 Triathlon Disciplines
Wasn’t there 3 disciplines?! Swimming, biking and running. The title says 4… So what’s the fourth one?
It’s not really the fourth discipline, but it’s often referred to as one. In that sense, the fourth discipline is the “transitioning” phase where you transition from swimming to biking and from biking to running by changing your gear/equipment in the designated area inbetween the 3 disciplines.
A triathlon usually starts with swimming.
This part of the race can take place in either a swimming pool or open water (sea, lake, river, etc).
Beginner events usually take place in a swimming pool. There are many reasons for this, but one of the more important one is to do with safety. Olympic and longer distances tend to involve open water swims.
General rules would be something like these:
- use any swimming style/stroke at any time you prefer, you may even tread water or stop, catch some air and adjust your goggles, etc.
- using swim aids (excluding goggles), be they swim gloves, floaties, flippers or propulsion devices, is a NO GO.
Next up is biking.
This is the longest part of the whole triathlon session.
You don’t need a fancy triathlon bike for this. There’s no need to invest in one right off the bat when just starting out with shorter distances. A simple mountain or road bike will do just fine. It’s for longer distances a specialized triathlon bike starts to show its benefits (less cramped fatigue on lower back muscles as you’re able to lean on the triathlon handlebars more ergonomically, etc).
The bike route is usually signposted by the officials in order to help direct you along the way. Always, just in case, get familiar with the route before the race.
Here are some general rule examples for biking:
- drafting is not allowed in triathlons; (this means participants can’t work together in order to benefit from the reduced air resistance.)
- helmet is a must.
Assuming your bike didn’t fall apart along the way or that you didn’t push yourself to your absoulute final limits during the previous 2, now it’s time to run for it with what feels like bricks down there.
Running is the final discipline towards the finish line.
There aren’t many rules for running, apart from the obvious ones, like the fact that you actually have to run/walk and not crawl or fly towards the finish line.
The fourth discipline of a triathlon, or so it’s referred to as, is the transitioning.
This is the part where you spend time going from swimming to biking (T1) and from biking to running (T2). There’s this transition area where you put your bike, biking/running shoes and whatever else you might have already now waiting for you.
Basically it looks something like this: you come out of the water and run to your transition area where your bike is, if you can find it that is, all the while getting out of the wetsuit as you look for it. Shoes on, bike by your side, one is usually not allowed to go at full speed within the area for safety reasons, up until you reach a certain point where you can start either hopping on the bike or going at a full speed.
The time it takes to transition from swimming to biking take top athletes less than a minue, an exeprienced good triathlete around 2 minutes. From cycling to running it would take the top athlete less than 30 seconds and a good experienced triathlete less than a minute. It can take much, much longer for a beginner hobbyist.
when it comes to rules, simply don’t do to others you wouldn’t want done to you.
As was mentioned earlier, you don’t need anything fancy when starting out:
- running shoes
For shorter distances as a beginner one can use simple mountain bike they’ve got laying around. Usually that’s how people start out anyway.
A bike helmet is a must have almost always. No organizer would want to take the responsibility for somebody’s accident just because they didn’t wear a helmet. So it’s a must have! They might even disqualify you if you didn’t wear it.
Much like with the bike, you don’t need to go fancy with swimwear nor running clothes either.
It’s once you’ve finished your first race you start to get the feel for what you’d want to do with this sport and if it’s something worth spending money on to begin with. If you get hooked on it, you kind of get the urge to get all the fancy equipment even though you don’t really need all of it.
Training for a triathlon is fairly simple, even if you have zero fitness right now.
Since triathlon is an aerobic sport, the focus is more on endurance training in order to last longer at a good tempo. However, that doesn’t mean strength sessions would be obsolete. Strength comes handy, too.
Learn more about the meaning of all that here.
By the way, when training solely for one sport, you tend to develop imbalances in stength. With triathlon your training is well-rounded and so improves full-body strength.
The Nasty Side of a Triathlon Event
The potentially disgusting, the ugly, the disturbing things about triathlon nobody really ever talks about…
(links open in a new tab)
The TOP 10 Best Cheap Triathlon Watches | post | TriathlonsWay
Is a Cheap Triathlon Watch Worth It? | post | TriathlonsWay
Do You Need a Triathlon Watch? | post | TriathlonsWay
How Does a Triathlon Work? | post | TriathlonsWay
Why Get Into a Triathlon? | post | TriathlonsWay
Benefits of a Tri Watch | post | TriathlonsWay
What Is a Triathlon? | post | TriathlonsWay
Triathlon Safety | post | TriathlonsWay