Triathlon? Picking The Race


The latest in a series of posts about the writer trying to go from couch potato to triathlete. Check out previous posts here.

If you’ve been reading along with this series, you know a few things: I’m cheap, I don’t like things that are difficult, and I’ll go out of my way to find the easiest path to accomplish something. So it was that within the course of a year or so I had mastered (this is used rather lightly) the three disciplines of triathlons: swimming, biking and running. I had invested less than a thousand dollars, and kept my workouts down to 30 minutes or so a day.

All of these workouts had served me well. I had lost a good chunk of weight, was in the best cardiovascular shape of my life, and the wiring in my brain had somehow been refreshed, making me a happier person.

In truth, you could pick any of the three elements to focus on, and see similar results.You don’t have to be a triathlete, but it helps a lot to have that goal. A personal preference, but I also like the variety of exercises.

So it was that i arrived at the next step: picking my race.

First, the race. Not all triathlons are the same. There are varying distances and courses. The typical distance of a “sprint” tri are ½ mile swim, 12 mile bike, and 3 mile run, and “olympic” distances are twice that of the sprint. Sprints are suggested for first timers, and that’s the path I went down.

Most offer open water swims in lakes or reservoirs, but there are a few triathlons where the swim is in a river, downstream. If you’re like me, and not a great swimmer, this is the kind of race for you.

If you really want a controlled environment, check your local rec center or gym for an indoor tri. These involve laps in a pool, spins on a stationary bike, and running on a treadmill or indoor track. They’re not much for scenery, but you may prefer the familiarity of the equipment.

Whatever distance, or type of tri, you really can’t go wrong. You’re doing it, and that’s all that matters!

The race I picked was a river triathlon in central Utah with a one-mile swim (downrivers tend to have longer distances since the swim is easier.) They claimed the water typically  flowed 4-6 miles per hour, which meant I would finish in half an hour or less if I could just stay afloat (which was pretty doable in a wetsuit.) Just as well, their bike and run courses were rather flat, and the run was on a golf course (great for the achy joints, versus pavement.)

It couldn’t have been more perfect for a first tri.

Being the cheap fool I am, I even found a coupon for $10 off registration, so my charge was just $65 to enter. Most will cost between $50 and $100, but you do get some swag (like t-shirts, swim caps, energy gels, etc.)

Hit sites like for lists of events, and try searching for your state + triathlon for more ideas. If you know of other methods, or races you recommend, leave them in the comments!

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