TRIATHLONS are the new marathons.
Not content with running a mere 26.2 miles, today's athletes-in-need-of-a-goal are signing up for swim/cycle/run combinations. Although the Ironman format (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a marathon) is familiar to most, other races offer a variety of distances. They include the sprint (half-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run), the Olympic (0.93-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike ride and 6.2-mile run), and the half-Ironman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run).
"People are looking for the next thing -- they're reaching, trying new things," says Paul Ruggiero, head triathlon coach for the Greater Los Angeles chapter of Team in Training, a training group sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "Go to a race," he adds, "and you'll see different body types and a huge range of socioeconomic backgrounds."
But training for a triathlon can be a daunting task. Becoming proficient in three sports, learning how to swim in open water, finding the right bicycle, carving out additional time to work out -- these can befuddle those adept at doing just one, or even two, things well.
Here's what coaches and triathletes say about getting started, nutrition, gear, training -- and the event itself.