A Brief Introduction to Triathlon

“What is triathlon?”

“So do you do all that in one day?”

“Is there a break between events?”

We’ve all been asked these questions. We’ve all seen the baffled looks on our friend’s and family’s faces as we try to explain this bizarre sport. Sometimes we take for granted how this sport works and forget that there are people out there who don’t participate in triathlon (weird, right?). Well here is a simple play-by-play of a typical triathlon event. Share with a friend who doesn’t understand why you get out of bed at 5am on Saturday morning or someone who is thinking about trying it out but finds the whole thing a little daunting and confusing! 

The Swim

Triathlon always starts with a swim. The distance varies from 100m to 3800m depending on the event you choose to do. This is where most participants feel the least comfortable. Swimming can be scary but with some advance preparation and practice just about anyone can get through the swim. Try A Tri events feature short enough swims that even just the doggy paddle will get you through.

Transition One (T1)

The transition zone is the place where you park your bike and other gear. There are racks for your bike and a small space to place some gear. Most races just have one transition zone that you enter twice. After the swim, you'll run into the transition zone, set your wetsuit and swim gear aside, put on your bike shoes, helmet, grab your bike and head out toward the bike course. Some people spend as little as 30s in transition, others like to take their time.

The Bike

When you leave transition, you walk or run with your bike out to the bike course. At the bike mount-line you hop on your bike and away you go. Bike courses can range from 10km to 180km. A wide range of bike types can be used. In shorter events or the Try A Tri events some people will even ride their cruiser or MTBs! Most people choose either a road bike or triathlon specific bike (pictured). Use whatever you have and whatever works!

Transition Two (T2)

At most events there is just one transition zone that you return to at the end of the bike. Rack your bike back in its spot, put on your run shoes and head back out onto the run course.

The Run

The run course can vary from 2km to a full marathon. By now you might be feeling a little tired! Keep going. You're almost there. The run is often the most difficult part of the event. By the time you hit the run you've swam and biked and the sun is probably making the air a little warmer! Water stations along the course provide runners with hydration to keep going.

The Finish

The best part of the day! Congrats! You made it across the finish. Pickup your finisher medal, grab a banana and go relax on the grass, you just finished a triathlon!

Give Triathlon a Tri!

Now that you know a bit more about how it works, why not give it a shot? All of our triathlon events feature a Try A Tri, a short event that is perfect for beginners!


The Somersault Event Series is the pre-eminent event series in Eastern Canada consisting of triathlon, duathlon, and running events for all ages and abilities.



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