Guest Post: Triathon Cheat Sheet!

Hello, hello! It’s been a fast, busy weekend full of wedding festivities, training runs, and traveling. D & I are in Denver for the day to get some things checked off the list before the big move, so today you’re hearing from another Heather. Enjoy! 🙂


Hey guys! I’m Heather from with a Side of Sneakers! Like Heather, I’m a Registered Dietitian (and did my internship in MD too!). Since Heather already provides great nutrition & running information here, I thought I’d talk about something different: triathlons!

In December ‘08 I was sidelined with an injury/illness that affected my feet & ability to run. After months of sitting on my rear end feeling sorry for myself, I took up swimming & biking to give my body a break from the stresses of running.

Add swimming & biking to running, and what do you get? Triathlons!!

Although I was quite familiar with running lingo (marathon, 5K, fartlek…), entering the triathlon world taught me a whole new language. Here’s my cheat sheet for all things beginner triathlon:


“Triathlon” refers to a single event made up of 3 sports: swimming, biking, & running; it doesn’t refer to any specific distance. Here are some of the most common distances:

Sprint: ~ 0.5 mile swim, 13 mile bike, 3.1 mile run

Olympic: .93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, 6.2 mile run

Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

Full Ironman: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run


You may hear someone say triathlon has a ‘4th event’- it’s the transitions, the parts that come between the other events.

Each triathlon has two transitions: T1, between the swim & bike, and T2, between the bike & run.

A transition is when the athlete switches between sports. During T1 this may include taking off a wetsuit, putting on dry clothes, & dropping off a swim cap & goggles. It always includes picking up your bike & putting on your helmet. Some people put on bike shoes during the first transition; others wait until they’re on the bike to slide their feet into shoes.

T2 is often a bit simpler: drop off your bike & helmet, and grab your running shoes.


Fueling your body for triathlons is similar to running: how much you need depends on how far you’re going. Some people may not need anything but water or a sports drink for a sprint distance tri, others may use gel or other types of fuel. The longer the distance gets, the more important fueling during a race becomes.

The major difference between fueling for a running race & fueling during a triathlon is when you fuel. During a triathlon, you try to do a majority of your fueling on the bike. It’s easier for your body to handle fuel while your biking than it is while running. The length of the race will determine whether you’ll need to continue fueling during the run.


Training for a triathlon is pretty similar to running, except for the obvious: you need to train for the swim & bike portions too. That means you’ll need to manage your schedule so you’ll have enough time to dedicate to each sport.

Some people have a balanced training plan, meaning they equally divide workouts between sports. Others focus more of their workouts on the sport they are weakest at- it’s up to you.

The other main difference when training for a triathlon, is that you need to not only be able to do each sport, but you need to be able to do them back to back. To prepare for that, triathletes train in “bricks”.

A brick is a back to back workout; either a swim followed by a bike ride, or more often, a bike ride followed by a run. Running is one thing- doing it on exhausted legs is another!

If you love running or racing (or even if you’re completely new to it all!) and you’re looking for your next challenge, I highly recommend trying a triathlon!

 If you have any questions about getting started in triathlons, you can find me over at with a Side of Sneakers!



Filed under new things!, Nutrition, training

4 responses to “Guest Post: Triathon Cheat Sheet!

  1. Fun guest post! Thanks Heather #2!

    Heather # 1… hope everything is going well!

  2. Great intro to Tri’s post! I have been thinking about adding swimming and biking, and recently added the swim and signed up for an aquathlon (swim + run). However, I’m worried about the transition, as my legs feel like jello when I get out of the pool after practicing. Any tips? Just keep practicing?

  3. very interesting!!! 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  4. Could not have been more helpful. I signed up for my first tri last week. Fabulous guest spotlight!

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