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Triathlons are as diverse as triathletes

Written by Matt Westenburg

With more than 18 years of experience as a certified public accountant, Matt has helped companies develop & validate business models, raise capital and provide management expertise. He enjoys working with entrepreneurs who are passionate about achieving their goals and bettering the community. He was voted the Silicon Prairie “Service Provider of the Year” and has been recognized multiple times for his contributions to the local entrepreneurial community.

Triathletes are not all the same. Men and women of all ages participate in these competitions with individual goals and motivations. Just like the triathletes who compete in them, triathlon races are not all the same. The courses have various elevation, thematic, and distance differences that make them unique. In general, there are four different lengths of triathlons.

Sprint triathlons

Sprint triathlons are great races for your first competition or for seasoned triathletes to go out and have fun. These races combine swimming, biking and running in shorter distances. Most Sprint triathlons include a 0.75 km (0.5 mile) swim, a 22 km (13 mile) bike ride, and a 5 km (3.1 mile) run. The race usually takes people about an hour and a half to finish. If that seems like a bit too much for you, there are Super Sprint triathlons that have even shorter distances.

Olympic triathlons

Olympic triathlons are the next level of competition. It’s called an Olympic triathlon because these distances are the official lengths for Olympic competition in the summer games. These races have 1.5 km (0.9 miles) of swimming, 40 km (24.9 miles) of biking, and 10 km (6.2 miles) of running. A good time for completing an Olympic triathlon is anything under the three-hour mark.

Half Ironman triathlons

Half Ironman triathlons offer a grueling fitness challenge for competitors. Triathletes in these races swim 1.9 km (1.2 miles), bike 90 km (55.9 miles), and run 21 km (13 miles) to the finish line. The average Half Ironman race takes about six hours to complete. Competitors train for the fitness demands of this race but also practice fueling their bodies. During the Half Ironman biking and running portions, athletes will need to intake calories to keep going and have a strong finish. It’s important to practice this before race day because eating too much or too little will affect your performance.

Sprint triathlons are great races for your first competition or for seasoned triathletes to go out and have fun. These races combine swimming, biking and running in shorter distances. Most Sprint triathlons include a 0.75 km (0.5 mile) swim, a 22 km (13 mile) bike ride, and a 5 km (3.1 mile) run.

Ironman triathlons

An Ironman triathlon is the longest and most difficult triathlon race. The swimming portion is 3.8 km (2.4 miles). The biking leg is 180 km (111.8 miles), and the running section is 42 km (26.2 miles). Each of these legs is its own accomplishment. Combined, the swimming, biking and running distances make Ironman triathlons an incredible feat. Seasoned triathletes recommend working your way up to Ironman races by competing in shorter events, like the Olympic and Half Ironman triathlons, first. Ironman races have cutoff times for each leg, so people who do not finish a section in time will not be able to continue the race. Professional Ironman triathletes finish in under nine hours, but most races have a 17-hour cutoff time.

Triathletes come in all ages with many different levels of fitness. In spite of these differences, these people are all motivated to challenge themselves by competing in triathlon competitions. Triathlon races have different lengths, elevations and difficulty levels, but each one is an accomplishment when you cross the finish line.

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