Other Multisport Events
The triathlon is challenging because of the three different sports you must tackle in the competition. The triathlon is not, however, the only challenging multisport event available to those willing to try something different.
A well-known alternative to the triathlon is the duathlon, which features a run, bicycle ride, and another run. This is sometimes confused with the biathlon, an event in the Olympic Games featuring skiing and shooting. A kind of starter distance for a duathlon is known as a Formula One: 2-mile run, 10-mile bike ride, 2-mile run. There are other distances, all the way up to the Powerman Duathlon: 10K run, 60K bicycle ride, 10K run.
Your local bike store will have a calendar of multisport events, including duathlons, and there are ample resources on the Internet to find a duathlon if you're interested. For people who don't like swimming or aren't very good at it, the duathlon is a fine alternative to the triathlon. If you can run and ride, you can take part.
Unless you are a veteran of the duathlon and in peak shape, your best strategy in the duathlon is to go relatively easy in the first run to avoid blowing up in the second. You want to finish in a sprint, not a crawl.
Although duathlons once enjoyed widespread popularity, they've taken a back seat to triathlons lately despite the fact that the two-sport race provides a good opportunity for triathletes to sharpen their biking and running form before and during the triathlon season. USA Triathlon is working to promote more duathlons, so keep your eye out for opportunities in your area.
Competing in two sports instead of three might sound easier, but the duathlon is actually a bit tougher than the triathlon. In a triathlon, the swim phase does not usually elevate your heart rate to a significant degree. In a duathlon, you start out with a run, which gets your heart pumping pretty hard. The cycling phase provides no letup, and your second run is usually harder than the first. The two runs can represent some serious stress to your body.
For organizers, duathlons are a lot easier than triathlons because no large body of water is needed, and a typical duathlon takes a lot less time from start to finish. See Chapter 19 for information on the popular XTERRA off-road duathlon.
It's not common, but some triathlon organizers have been known to add an event called aquabike, created to give a competitive option to people who have injuries that keep them from running but not from biking or swimming.
It's a relatively new sport that usually allows participants to swim with the triathlon swimmers and bike with the bikers. When an aquabiker finishes the ride, however, it's over. No running is needed, and there is no second swim. With chip timing, it's easy to keep track of the aquabikers and to produce results.
Another new multisport opportunity can be found in the aquathlon, sometimes called aquathon, for people who don't have or want to purchase a racing bicycle. The sport of aquathlon is attractive to many athletes because the typical distances are shorter, meaning less training time is needed to compete, and it's a good way to train for two of the three triathlon sports.
Even better, the equipment costs are relatively low. All you need are a swimsuit, goggles, running shoes, and shorts. You don't have to lay out the bucks for a bicycle or lug it around to your competition.
As with a duathlon, the logistics of setting up an aquathlon are easier than a three-sport event, and it can be contained in a relatively small area. An aquathlon can be organized as a run-swim-run or simply as a swim-run. You may have never heard of the aquathlon, but hundreds of swimmer-runners take part in the growing International Triathlon Union Aquathlon World Championships each year.
Is there such a thing as a triathlon without water? You bet. It's the winter triathlon, featuring running, mountain biking, and skiing — all done in snow. The run is usually 5K, but it can be longer, and it takes place on packed snow or ski trails. Next you hop on the mountain bike for a 10 to 15K ride on a ski trail. When that's done you get to hit the ski trails for an 8 to 12K cross-country ski.
This is an event limited to places where there is plenty of snow, and strategies and gear are lots different from most races. But if you have a pair of skis and a mountain bike, this is a great way to get started in multisport events if you're inclined to try something very different. If promoters of this sport have their way, the winter triathlon will be part of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.