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10 Things people get wrong about triathlon

Is triathlon really that strange?

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

There always seems to be at least one person at the office or at a party who isn’t too familiar with our sport. You tell them you’re a triathlete, then you take a deep breath and hope you’re not going to get asked about racing in Hawaii or how much you get to eat or … well, one of these:

Spelling (or saying it) it with an “A”

No matter how many times you might have seen it spelt as “triathalon,” and heard people pronounce it that way … there’s no “a.” It’s triathlon. Not tri-a-tha-lon!


It’s Ironman … not Iron Man


Even though Ironman, the company, has to pay royalties to Marvel for the use of the name, as much as many of us would love to be Tony Stark and be able to don a metal suit and fly around – we’re not.

All triathlon races are Ironman distance


How often have you been told by someone that one of their friends or family members “just won and Ironman.” Then, when you press them on it, you eventually figure out that the athlete in question had won their age category at a local sprint event. Many people seem to think that the only distance of triathlon includes a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and a 42.2 km run – not that they could come up with those distances, either.

Only super-fit people do triathlons (and rich ones)


As a follow to the point above, many people believe that you need to be able to race for upwards of seven or eight hours to complete a triathlon event. How often have you heard, in a surprised voice, “there were all shapes and sizes doing the triathlon” when someone comes to their first race?

“Many of us have zero athletic experience, but a whole load of enthusiasm,” says Paula Johnson. “Also you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on equipment to begin…my first “tri” bike was $100 – very second hand – and a borrowed wetsuit.”

I don’t have the time to train for a triathlon


Many believe that a typical triathlete’s training regimen includes swimming, biking and running every day. Oh, if they only knew how little some of us have done heading into a race, and how much you can achieve in seven to 10 hours a week – you know, the amount of time many people spend watching Netflix.

That’s the sport with shooting, right?


I don’t hear that one as much anymore, but when I got into the sport (yes, I’m really old!), I routinely got asked about how I travelled with my gun to events.

American multiple Ironman champ Heather Gollnick offered up a similar type question she’s had to field many times:

“Oh is a triathlon where you throw and ride a horse and run???? Nope but you got one sport right!!”

Order – swim, bike, run


“The swim is last, right, so you can cool down?”

Swimming in open water is the same as swimming in a pool


Lakes can be cold and dark … ocean’s can be very wavy. Just sayin’.

You can eat whatever you want


“I remember hearing that after an Ironman you could eat whatever you wanted for 2 weeks and not gain weight,” says Amy Shigo. “Not true, but I gave it my best.”

That said, Shonny Bonn points out another popular belief:

“Triathletes eat healthy. Myth, a lot of them eat anything and everything, including fast food.”

Timing “pauses” during transition


When Bob Babbitt headed to the Hawaii to do the Ironman for the first time, he thought it was a three day event. There’s a reason why the world’s best triathletes fly through transition!