Triathlon 101

A Quick history

The first triathlon took place in San Diego in 1974. It was a birthday celebration for a member of the San Diego Track Club.  Lots of the runners in that group were also comfortable in the water (surfers and lifeguards) who had some sort of bike (beach cruisers and road bikes). The course had several run and swim legs and a single bike leg that toured Mission Bay.

Fast forward four years to the first ironman competition on Oahu in 1978. That event was the culmination of a debate over who was the fittest athlete:  The Swimmer (2.4mi Waikiki Rough Water Swim), the Cyclist (112mi Around The Island Bike Race) or the Runner (26.2mi Honolulu Marathon). The only way to settle the debate was to do all three in one day.  Luckily, John and Judy Collins had been a part of San Diego's first triathlon in 1974.  They organized the race and called it "Ironman".

Many years and many mile later, Triathlon debuted as an Olympic sport in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Today there are over 150,000 USA Triathlon annual members, we’ve seen year-to-year growth of 55% and the sport is growing. 

Read more about TCSD's beginnings HERE.

Race Distance 101:


An Ironman consists of a 2.4mi swim, 112mi bike and 26.2mi run.  Sometimes refered to as a "Full".


This is called a "long course" or "70.3" and is half the distance of the Ironman: 1.2mi swim, 56mi bike and 13.1mi run.


The Standard distance is 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run.  It is also known as the Oylmic distance.


Sprints are any distance shorter than the Standard or Olympic distance.  Usally a .5k swim, 20km bike and 5k run.

Beyond these four there are dozens of races with odd distances that are super fun. The typical order is swim-bike-run but there are a few triathlons that start with a run, move to the bike and finish with a short pool swim.  There are also run-bike-runs (duathlon), swim-runs (aquathlon), and swim-bikes (aquabikes).


You are not alone!  Even the most experienced athlete is nervous about race day.  What to expect will help calm your nerves.  Every race is a little different, so don't be afraid to ask a fellow athlete questions on race day.  In the meantime, there are things to prepare before race day to make it go more smoothly:

  • Learn the rules--seriously just read them, it'll help.  Not knowing the rules does not prevent you from getting a penalty.
  • Review the course, be aware if you will be racing on closed roads or part of an area that's sectioned off but with traffic.  If you live near where the race is, try a "mock" swim, bike or run on the course.
  • Race day is about logistics---is there one transition area or two? do you drop your bike off the night before the race or the morning of? when do you pick up the race packet?  do you rack your bike in an assigned spot or is it random?  where is parking?  All of these questions are answered in an athlete guide or email provided by the race.
  • Unsure of what to bring?  Here is TCSD's handy race checklist.


A major benefit of being part of the TCSD team is that at certain races, we get perks like preferred bike racking (near entry/exits) and early entry to sign up for Ironman races.  Sign up HERE.




There are three elements to training.

  • “Frequency” - how often you exercise.
  • “Intensity” - how hard the workout is.
  • “Duration” - how long a workout will be.


The best advice is to start small and gradually build.

If you haven't exercised in a while, it's a good idea to see your doctor. 

Beginners start with low frequency, itensity and duration.  Then increase to higher frequency but stick to short duration and low intensity.

If you have a long history in exercise, your technique is good ,and you’re
already rather fit then it’s safe to increase the duration of workout and have some workouts that are at a high intensity.

There’s strong evidence that suggests greatest gains will come from practicing the "80/20 Rule".  80% of our training time should be at low intensity and 20% at high intensity.  This results in maximum gains while decreasing the chance of over-training and injury.  


**Coming soon**


New and nervous about "self-coaching"?

As you increase your race distances, you may want to talk to a professional to sharpen your training plan.  TCSD certified coaches offer training packages and plans for every budget and level of athlete.  They also offer TCSD member discounts.  Check them out here.