Endurance Sport Guidelines

Spring is in the air, well, it should be and this is when so many of my friends and family ask me about fitness. They know I’ve been participating in triathlons for more than a decade yet too often they still ask me about my last marathon. That’s when I break the news that I don’t typically run marathons; I compete in triathlon.

Ironman Triathlon Logo

The Ironman Logo – M-Dot

Of course, their next question is, “Oh, so you’ve been to Hawaii?” No, that is the Ironman World Championship and you need to qualify to race. The comparison is the requirement to qualify for the Boston Marathon (and while I’m here, shout out to #BostonStrong). The difference is the Boston Marathon is not considered a “world championship” and about 25,000 runners race each year and only about 2000 triathletes compete in the Hawaii Ironman. (No offense runners!)

Most running races cover distances of: 5K, 10K, 20K, 13.1mi (half marathon) and 26.2 (marathon). There are other longer “ultra” distances like 50K, 50 mi and 100mi, etc.

Boston Marathon

As for pace, this range can really vary based on your fitness level and perspective but I’d say running 8:00 to 9:00 min/mi are respectable. You’re not going to win any awards and you’ll probably beat most of the pack.

Triathlons are a different story. A triathlon is a sport consisting of swimming, biking and running, in that order.

I’m not really sure of the reason for the order but it seems to me there is less risk of a serious problem if something goes wrong later in the race. Here’s how the common races break down along with T-Time, N-Nutrition, H-Hydration and Tr-Training considerations.


Half-Marathon – 13.1mi run

  • T – <2 hours
  • N – 0-2 Gels
  • H – 16-20 oz./hr
  • Tr – 4-6 hrs/wk

Marathon – 26.2mi run

  • T – <4 hours
  • N – 2-4 Gels
  • H – 16-20 oz/hr
  • Tr – 5-8 hrs/wk

Short Course Triathlon

Triathlon Logo

Sprint – .5 mi swim, 12mi bike and 5K (3.1mi) run

  • T – <2 hours
  • N – 0-2 Gels
  • H – 16-20 oz/hr
  • Tr – 5-8 hrs/wk

Olympic (International) – 1.5K (.9 mi) swim, 40K (25mi) bike, 10K (6.2mi) run

  • T – ❤ hours
  • N – 0-2 Gels, maybe something more solid while biking
  • H – 16-24 oz/hr
  • Tr – 6-12 hrs/wk

Long Course Triathlon

Half-Ironman – 1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, 13.1mi run

  • T – <6 hours
  • N – 100-300 calories/hr – Gels, Concentrated Liquid, Solid
  • H – 16-24 oz/hr, perhaps more during transition
  • Tr – 12-18 hrs/wk

Ironman – 2.4mi swim, 112mi bike, 26.2mi run

  • T  – <12 hours
  • N – 100-300 calories/hr – Gels, Concentrated Liquid, Solid
  • H – 16-24 oz/hr, perhaps more during transition
  • Tr – 15-25 hrs/wk

Also within triathlon are Transitions: T1 (swim-to-bike) and T2 (bike-to-run). This time is also counted in your total time and typical transitions are in the 1-3 minute range but may be longer for longer races.

Kevin Ironman FL 2013

Kevin crossing the finish line of Ironman FL in 12:17:18 and Top 30%.

Remember, the nutrition, hydration and training specifications are guidelines and it’s important to know what “you” need. That is what all the hours of training are for. You need to learn how your body handles different products and conditions. The more you practice the greater chance you’ll have for success. Most races go “wrong” not because of fitness but because of poor mental, nutritional and/or hydration preparation and execution. But you still have to train each discipline. Also, the “solid times” posted will not win you any awards but are quite respectable and not that easy to accomplish, especially for the newcomer. However, you’ll beat most of the pack.

I hope you enjoyed this brief overview and guideline to endurance sports. If you want to learn more please comment/reply and of course, share with anyone you think this might help. FYI, some of this general information can be found on Wikipedia Triathlon.

2 thoughts on “Endurance Sport Guidelines

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