Swim, bike, run with Macmillan

If you want to challenge yourself, then a triathlon could be the perfect event for you.

Triathlon is growing in popularity and so there are more opportunities for newbies to experience the sport than ever before. In most triathlon events you could expect to find 25% of competitors are first timers so don’t feel like you are alone. With a range of distances and loads of beginner-friendly events, there is a triathlon out there to suit you.

What happens in a triathlon?

The swimming leg

The swimming leg of a triathlon can take place in any body of water. Depending on the event you choose, you could be swimming lengths in a local pool, paddling in a river, bobbing in a lake or even splashing in the sea. If you’re swimming in open water then you’ll probably need a wetsuit.

Any stroke goes so don’t be afraid in taking your time and breast stroke if that’s more comfortable. Just don’t flip in to backstroke as this can be interpreted as asking for help.

You may be interested to note that a lot of events host Women Only waves.

The bike leg

The longest part of the triathlon is the bike leg. Whether you’ve got a road bike, a mountain bike, or need to a hire a bike, the middle portion of your triathlon can have you cycling round a city or enjoying breath-taking countryside. Helmets are always required!

It depends on which event you choose as to whether the roads that you’ll be cycling on will have other traffic. If you’re nervous about other traffic, look for closed road or quiet road events.

The running leg

Once you’ve ditched your bike, you’re ready to run. How far you run depends on what distance you’ve chosen.

Make sure you’re trainers are comfortable and fit properly. Your legs will feel a bit weird going from cycling to running but it will get easier as you go.

The transition

Transition is often called the fourth disciple of triathlon. It’s here where you transition between your swim-to-cycle and your cycle-to-run and where your kit will be.

Before the race, you’ll need to rack your bike (set it up on one of the racks) and arrange your kit. There will be marshals around in case you have any questions (don’t be afraid to ask!)

What are the distances?

Super Sprint – This is a great distance for those looking to dip their toe in the water without the distance being too daunting.

Sprint Distance – Despite the name, you don’t have to sprint. Probably the most popular distance for triathletes, the sprint distance provides a challenge, but at the same time isn’t something that needs to consume your life in order to prepare for.

Olympic/Standard Distance – at double the distance of the Sprint event, the Olympic provides a good challenge for people looking to push themselves that little bit more. With more miles going through those legs on the bike and run, this will be a challenge.

Whether you’re doing a triathlon or duathlon, as the distance increases you’ll need to pace yourself more and consider hydration and nutrition.

The distances for each triathlon vary slightly but here’s a breakdown of what the distances mean:

  • Starter Tri = 200m (swim), 12km (bike), 2km (run)
  • Super Sprint = 400m (swim), 10km (bike), 2.5km (run)
  • Sprint = 750m (swim), 20km (bike), 5km (run)
  • Olympic (Standard) = 1500m (swim), 40km (bike), 10km (run)
  • 70.3 / Middle Distance / Half-IRONMAN = 1.9km (swim), 90km (bike), 21km (run)
  • IRONMAN / Iron distance = 3.8km (swim), 180km (bike), 42km (run)