Work It Out: Training for a triathlon, from Olympic to Ironman |

Work It Out: Training for a triathlon, from Olympic to Ironman

A young competitor in the 2013 Rocky Mountain Triathlon at Silverhtorne's North Pond Park. Triathlons come in four general distances and are a perfect multi-sport event for competitors of all ages.
Bill Linfield / Special to the Daily | Summit Daily

106-Degrees West Half Ironman

What: The inaugural Half Ironman in Summit County, with a 1.2-mile swim on Lake Dillon, a 56-mile road ride to Montezuma and a 13.1-mile run around the lake for a total of 70.3 miles

When: Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016

Where: Dillon Marina starting line

Cost: $125 to $175

Online registration for the triathlon is now open. The start list is restricted to 2,500 competitors. For more information and to pre-register, see the official 106-Degree West website at

Triathlons come in many shapes and sizes, but some things never change.

In general, all triathlons consist of a swim, bike and a run, all combined into one race. The distances vary from race to race and can range from 13 miles to more than 140 miles — in a single day. Most triathlons are split into four distances: sprint, Olympic, half Ironman and full Ironman.

Sprint races (the shorter triathlons) range from 11 miles to 16 miles depending on the format. The distances are: swim 500 to 800 meters, bike 10 to 13 miles and run 3.1 miles in that order.

The mid-range format is the Olympic distance, which is the race that is found in the summer Olympics. These races have set distances of: swim 1.5 kilometers, bike 23 to 26 miles and run 6.2 miles. All told, Olympic tris total about 32 miles.

Sprint and Olympic triathlons are the most common events organized by USA Triathlon Association. They require dedicated training, but not as much as the two longest formats. One of the longest events hosted by USA Tri is called a half-Ironman. This race consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 50-mile bike and a 13.1-mile run, bringing the total distance to 70.3 miles. The entire race usually needs to be completed in eight to ten hours. In September, the town of Dillon partners with several organizers to debut the 106-West Triathlon, the first (and only) half-Ironman held on and around Lake Dillon.

But a half-Ironman is still not the longest distance. This final distance is called an Ironman and consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and, finally, a 26.2-mile run (aka a full marathon). All told, a full Ironman reaches 140.6 miles.

Both Ironman formats require a lot of training and proper nutrition, but it’s different than training and eating for other events. When you race these distances, you can eat almost anything you want since you’ll burn anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 calories in one race. Those numbers are not exaggerated.

Why a tri?

Triathlon racing is an amazing sport. You get to meet and race with a lot of different people, all of who share similar goals for training and racing. You can run these races by yourself, with a group of your friends or even a group of random athletes who are racing at your pace.

Not only do you get to meet some amazing people, but you also get to race in multiple disciplines. Some races are just about running, biking or swimming, but, with triathlons, competitors get three disciplines in one race. If you are a weak swimmer but a fast runner and a solid cyclist, then you can typically place well in a race.

Since tris are not limited to any particular discipline, most athletes find a favorite activity and learn how to get better at a weaker activity. This is the best way to get into the sport with shorter distances.

More than swim, run, bike

Racing a triathlon of any distance can be fun and challenging, but let’s say you want to get to the serious distances. If so, the benefits skyrocket tremendously.

The half-Ironman and Ironman distances can be very beneficial to your physiological, emotional and psychological health. When you train for these races, you tend to burn about 1,500 to 3,000 calories a day. This means you will lose those unwanted pounds fast, but you need to keep up with a proper diet to make sure you have enough energy to train and compete.

These calorie counts may seem exaggerated, but they are very accurate when people are seriously training for a triathlon. Ocne you get into these distances, not only will you be healthier overall, but you will start to get addicted to this level of physical activity. Soon, the shorter races will drop out of your mind, and you will focus on the longer races ahead.

The psychological benefits of long-distance training are just as powerful. It gives athletes time to contemplate problems at work or elsewhere, like stresses at home, and focus that energy into your training. This gives most athletes more energy, and, once the training is done for the day, you will find yourself truly relaxed and free of stress.

Triathlons are all about finding the best approach for you. Athletes find personal ways to get through long, difficult training days and races, whether that’s looking to their families for mental support or replaying a song or movie in their heads to get motivated. When you cross the finish line, the rewards are even better: You’ve earned the title of Ironman or Ironwoman.

I personally love the longer races. Between training and racing, you will learn a lot about yourself, your diet and your psychological health. You will also live longer and happier as a result.

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