Five Triathlons to Try First

The best races—from mini to Olympic—if you’re new to multisport

Crossing over into multisport endurance events can be intimidating, even for the most seasoned athletes. Luckily, triathlons come in several standard sizes—Mini Sprint, Sprint, Olympic, Half and Full—so you can ease your way in with shorter distances. Before you pull a Julie Moss and jump headfirst into an Ironman, test the waters with these Mini-, Sprint- and Olympic-distance races.

The Rookie Tri
May 5, 2013 in Austin, Texas
Length: Mini Sprint (328-yd swim, 11.2-mi bike, 2-mi run)
The name says it all: this race is specifically designed for triathlon rookies. The super short swim is just 328 yards—72 yards shorter than a standard Mini—making it especially accessible to beginners. And there’s no need to be intimidated by more seasoned competitors; while the race is open to all levels of triathlete, there’s a special division just for first-timers with separate wave starts, finisher medals and awards. 

My First Tri
June 22 and August 24, 2013 in Hudson, Wisconsin
Length: Mini Sprint (400-yd swim, 10-mi bike, 2-mi run)
My First Tri isn’t just a race—it’s a complete program that guides you from the start of training to the finish line. Newbies join the Beginner Triathlete Program, a group geared towards training specifically for the event, and racers can sign up to complete the entire race alongside an experienced mentor.

5430 Sprint Triathlon
June 16, 2013 in Boulder, Colorado
Length: Sprint (0.5-mi swim, 17.2-mi bike, 3.1-mi run)
Sure, awkwardly suiting up alongside a local Boulder gear-head and his $5,000 tri bike is intimidating. But entering a race in a town known for its diehard athletes also exposes you to more experienced competitors—those hardcore Boulderites using sprints as a training tool—and gives you a taste of bigger race culture without having to commit to a longer distance.

Life Time Fitness Triathlon
July 13, 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Length: Sprint  (0.25-mi swim, 15-mi bike, 3-mi run) or Olympic (0.9-mi swim, 25-mi bike, 6.2-mi run)
The prospect of choppy ocean waters can make swimming the most daunting part of a triathlon, but the lake start (Lake Nokomis) of The Life Time Tri: Minneapolis should help eliminate that fear. And if hills aren’t your strength, you’ll be glad the race finishes with a nice, flat loop around that lake. If the bike or run gets tough, look up: This tri is among the most scenic urban courses in the country.

REV3 Destination: Maine
August 25, 2013 in Old Orchard, Maine
Length:Olympic (0.9-mi swim, 24.8-mi bike, 6.2-mi run) or Half-Ironman (1.2-mi swim, 56-mi bike, 13.1-mi run)
For beginners, the smoother the experience the better, and REV3 knows how to organize a race—their country-wide triathlons are well-oiled machines. They also offer 16- and 20-week training programs in each of their race cities, as well as services like bike rentals for destination racers. At Old Orchard Beach, the shady bike course and flat run are perfect for beginners looking to push themselves farther distances.