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What Is a Triathlon Race & What Does It Consist Of?

   May 21st, 2018   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

What Is a Triathlon Race?

The question asked often by coworkers, friends, family, kids, and that sweet old lady at the grocery store you catch staring at your chest (relax, she’s confused by the triathlon shirt you are wearing) and she sweetly says confused “What is a triathlon?” Though, let’s be honest, what she really said was “What is a triathAlon?” Well, there are so many things you want to say to her, starting with “It’s triathlon, not triathAlon” but instead you kindly reply: “Great question!”

A triathlon, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “an athletic contest that is a long-distance race consisting of three phases (such as swimming, biking and running)”. The swim-bike-run version is the most common version, at least around these parts, and, for the sake of this article, it is the version that we will focus on. Right off the bat, don’t get bogged down by the word contest.  A triathlon is so much more than a contest amongst peers. It is more of a contest within yourself. The definition of a triathlon to me, is someone physically AND mentally pushing their body to its absolute limit.

what is a triathlonWhether you are participating in a short or a long distance triathlon race, you can guarantee that you will be putting yourself to the extreme physical and mental test. To me, a triathlon is defined as pushing yourself so hard that you will likely want to give up halfway through the run (I chose this phase to talk about giving up in because I personally despise running), but ultimately pushing yourself forward. I know this because I have done it. More than once. More than twice even. And, even though I hate running, I push through the physical and mental barriers because I know my beautiful wife and daughters will be waiting for at the finish line, somehow beaming with more pride than they were at my last event, however that is even possible.

Looking back over the years at what I have taken away from the triathlon – the accumulated race shirts, race medals, and the race memories – I have come to realize that, put very simply, a triathlon will leave you most with a changed life! So, as for me and my take on triathlon, I am simply trying to win. No, not win the race event. If that were the case, I would be able to have someone write this blog for me. I am winning against myself. Or, as my daughter’s Garmin says, I am trying to “beat yesterday.”

What Does a Triathlon Consist Of?

Now, let’s come back to the event itself. Picture it: it is race day morning and you are settling into transition for your first triathlon. Here’s what to expect:

You’ll show up on race morning (let’s face it, this is half the battle) and you’ll see transition. This is the area that will typically be the huge fenced-in area loaded with bike racks. Before you can enter and begin your preparation for the race start, you will need to show proof that you are a registered athlete for the particular race. (Most race directors will provide you with a bracelet that you must have on you when entering this space).

Transition is where you will ultimately end up between all phases/events of the triathlon. It is where you rack your bike and where you will leave your swimming gear (triathlon wetsuit, goggles, cap, etc.). It is where you will change and prepare for the bike portion after you’ve completed the swim, and where you will change and prepare for the run portion after you’ve completed the bike. Once you enter the sacred transition area, take notice of your surroundings. Depending on the race structure itself, you will begin the triathlon with swimming – either in a pool or in open water (lake, river, ocean etc.).

Once completing the swim, you will make the (hopefully) short journey from the swim area to transition. You’ll get ready for the bike portion, and head out of a designated exit site, to begin biking. You’ll finish biking by heading back into the designated bike entrance of transition and begin to prepare for the run. The difference now is that your run will finish at the finish line of the race, NOT in transition. Whew, you did it! Congratulations, you are now a triathlete. Grab your medal and then grab a beer. Or a pancake. Or both!

Adam Himmelwright is a swimmer that started competing in triathlons as a way to get back into shape. In the 2009 Nations Triathlon, Adam swam the swim portion in a relay triathlon. That propelled him to competing solo. Eight years and numerous tri's later, he is living the triathlete lifestyle.

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