If you’ve been thinking about doing your first triathlon, now is the time to set your 2017 goals and start formulating a plan. The official triathlon season generally runs between May and September, and you’ll need anywhere from two to nine months of training time, depending on your race distance. To help you make an educated decision about which race you should choose, we tapped Bethany Rutledge, coaching director of the Atlanta Triathlon Club, to break down the training, estimate the costs, and recommend nearby races for each type of triathlon.

In triathlon, you will find races that are a variation of four distances:

  • Sprint – Swim 400 to 800 meters, cycle 12 to 18 miles, and run 3.1 miles
  • Olympic or International – Swim 0.9 miles, cycle 22 to 26 miles, and run 6.2 miles
  • Half Ironman – Swim 1.2 miles, cycle 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles
  • Full Ironman – Swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles

Sprint Triathlon

Training: If you choose this distance, Rutledge says you should expect to train consistently for five or six days a week. Divide your workouts between swimming, biking, and running, doing each for a day or two every week. One of those bike days should include something called a “brick,” which means you’ll transition to a short run as soon as you’re finished with your bike ride.

Cost: The cost for this type of race is minimal. You don’t need to invest in a lot of fancy gear, just have a good pair of running shoes, goggles, and access to a bike.

Races: There are a lot of great sprints in Georgia including the Tri the Parks series and GA MultiSports Series.

Olympic Distance Triathlon

Training: You should expect to train five or six days a week. Your sessions will generally be longer than they would for a sprint triathlon; you’ll work up to about two hours on the bike on weekends and about two hours on the run, depending on your speed. When you are working up to longer distances, it helps to have a plan. You can get some great plans online for free, or join a local triathlon team for valuable group coaching.

Cost: You’ll likely want your own bike and may want to consider investing in some triathlon-specific gear so that you can complete the whole race in relative comfort without changing.

Races: A very popular race that is close to home is the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon in late June.

Half Ironman

Training: You’ll be training for about 90 minutes most days but should allocate up to four hours on some weekends for longer bike rides and bricks. Since your race time will be anywhere from five to seven hours, nutrition needs to become an important part of your day.

Cost: You’ll want to own a bike that is professionally fitted for you and gear that is comfortable for you to race and train in.

Races: Half Ironmans tend to sell out more quickly than most Ironman races. Choose your race and go ahead and sign up. Ironman Augusta is generally considered a first-timer friendly race and is in late September.


Training: If you’re going all the way to Ironman, you’ll be training for 90 minutes to two hours on most weekdays (with some of those sessions being two-a-days) and longer on some weekends (up to eight hours a day). Prior to your first Ironman, be sure to do a handful of centuries (100 mile rides) and some long runs. The amount of time you’ll need for training will depend on your speed and training plan, but inevitably, there will be weeks when you feel like all you do is train.

Cost: Ironman races are an expensive undertaking. Plan for gear, nutrition, coaching, race registrations, and potentially massage and bodywork to keep you healthy.

Races: Although most Ironman races don’t fill up right away, some will. Make sure you do your research on the race and when you need to sign up.  It’s good to volunteer on the course the year before you run it so that you can get a feel for the race and a shot at early sign ups. Some popular races close to home are Ironman Louisville, Ironman Chattanooga, and The Great Floridian.

Want to learn more? Join us on 2/18 at 9:00 am for our Triathlon 101 Session. 


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1 comment

  • Corey White: June 02, 2021
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    Do you guys still do the Triathlon 101 class?

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