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Triathlon, as most people know it, consists of three sports completed consecutively. Swimming often is first, then cycling and then running or walking. Some triathlons, however, put swimming last. There also are winter triathlons and hybrids that incorporate kayaking or even shooting baskets and flying paper airplanes. It's true. We know the guy who put them on. Nevertheless, there are four main distances: 1] Sprint, 2] Olympic or international, 3] Half Ironman or 70.3 and 4] Ironman or 140.6.

Sprint: Sprint triathlons, as you might have guessed, are short. 300-700 meter/yard swim, 12-15 mile bike and 3.1 mile run. Short and sweet and fast. Sprints offer a chance to get your feet wet without investing your entire 401K or abandoning your family.


Olympic: Olympic or international distance triathlons incorporate 1500 meter/yard swims, 24-28 mile bike legs and 6.2 mile runs. The name does not imply that you must be an olympic hopeful to take it on. Instead, it a common distance in international and Olympic triathlon racing.

Half Ironman or 70.3: Now we're getting up there. You see this label and it generally means a lot of work is coming your way. "OK. So what does that mean, smart guy?" you say. 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run, bub. That's what we mean. Getting up there indeed. Oh, the 70.3 is the total distance traveled. Yes, miles. Yikes! We know.

Ironman or 140.6: Now, some nuts have come along of late and created longer events, but for most people, the Ironman is the Mt. Everest of triathlon. 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile crawl. Yep. Make a day of it.

Most triathlons begin with the swim portion. Some are in open water, some are held at local pools. Some allow wetsuits while others do not. The transition between the swim and the bike is known as T1, or Transition 1.

The first transition is the place to dry off and move on to the bike leg. This is your homebase, of sorts, where all of your gear is kept. Your bike will be propped up on a rack or even leaned against a tree (as happens in some small events). There is a transition area entrance and an exit. Be mindful of the traffic pattern and listen to direction from event volunteers.

The second leg of a triathlon most often is cycling. This is pretty straight forward. Ride for the designated number of miles using pretty much anything with two wheels that lacks a motor (boy, wouldn't that be nice). Be considerate of other participants and know and follow the rules of the road. Do so and soon you'll wheel into T2, of Transition 2.

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