One of the most common questions budding triathletes ask is ‘what triathlon distance should I do first?’ We're blessed in this sport with many different forms of Triathlon. The standard distances are Super Sprint, Sprint, Olympic Distance, Half Ironman and Ironman, and trust me each one brings their own set of challenges.
But how can you work out which one is right for you?
I think the first thing to think about is what you want to get out of the event. Why are you doing this? If you want the ultimate test of human endurance then you'd opt for half Ironman or the Ironman and for 99% of people, Ironman is more about survival and less about racing. The accomplishment of just getting round this event is massive and many people get a buzz they’ll never forget from this.
Sprint Triathlon vs Ironman
Although the distance is shorter, sprint racing is just as exhilarating as an Ironman. You're more likely to lock horns and battle to the finish line with another athlete and see how fast you can push the body, as well as being able to walk away afterwards in relative ease! I loved racing sprint and Olympic distance and I always will. Even though I am yet to race an Ironman, I am excited to see how strong I can be over this ultimate distance. It's also about your ability level and the amount of time you have/want to put into the sport.
If you're locked away in an office all day and you're only able to train a little bit at the weekends, then Ironman might be too big a challenge for you. You tend to get more of the diehard triathletes racing in Ironman and it still amazes me how fit most of the athletes look on the start line! The obvious path is natural development; start small and build up and see what you fancy. There are so many triathlon events around the world, so it should be easy to find the right event for you. But make sure that you plan ahead, as many events fill up fast. And more importantly make sure you have enough time (6-8 weeks minimum) to prepare for it! To give you an idea of some of the triathlon events out there that are worth trying, I've put together a list of some of the best races I've been to:
- Schliersee Alpen Triathlon: Located in beautiful Bavaria, Germany. It's one of the most stunning races on the triathlon circuit. Lake swim, super hilly bike ride and cross country run at the top of the hill. You are even offered Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancake) and local beer to refuel at the top.
- Dunkerque French Grand Prix: Get a taste of international racing just 30 minutes from the other side of the Channel Tunnel. It’s 30 euro to enter, and a good early season option. 800 plus athletes start together for a super fast and flat, drafting race around the city centre.
- Helvellyn Triathlon: A lake swim, 38k tough bike finishing the run at the top of Britain’s 3rd highest peak. Stunning.
- London Triathlon: The biggest triathlon in the World. 13,000 athletes competing across the Sprint distance, Olympic distance and relay. One of my favourite races in the UK and you're likely to be competing alongside David Hasselhoff or Richard Branson among others.
Ultimately though, whichever distance or race you try out will give you invaluable experience in your personal development within the sport. Whether you are aiming to keep fit and race triathlons for fun, or whether you want to aim to qualify to represent your age group at European or World Championships, the sky is the limit in this amazing sport. So get out there and try some triathlons and see how quickly you get hooked.