WITH the Winter Olympics in Russia having just come to a glittering end, all eyes are turning to the Commonwealth Games to be held in Scotland when we can again see athletes push themselves to the limit. However, ahead of that there are a multitude of additional sporting challenges for athletes including a true test for those who participate in triathlons. One of these is a triathlon in April for newbies – a chance for amateurs to compete on the same course as elite athletes in what is the fastest growing Olympic participation sport, with a 31% growth per annum.
In its most common form a triathlon includes swimming, biking and running. Your overall time is made up of the time taken to complete each race as well as the transition time – the valuable time spent getting yourself ready for the next event.
Cape Town, South Africa is due to host its first World Triathlon Series (WTS) event in April this year – one of eight cities – when locals can watch elite athletes from more than 60 countries compete with Table Mountain as the backdrop. Ross Faragher -Thomas, MD of Virgin Active South Africa, the official health club partner says, ‘An exciting element to the WTS is the mass participation option, where ordinary athletes are being given the opportunity to compete on the same ‘stage’ and race route, on the same day as top international athletes.
’The Olympic distance triathlon is also available to amateurs so it’s an excellent opportunity for thousands of South Africans to compete and show their stuff,’ says Faragher-Thomas. ‘We are pleased to be involved as it falls within our mandate which is celebrating a healthy lifestyle and encouraging as many of our members, and their families, to actively be part of a world event.’
Anyone who can swim, ride and run reasonably well is eligible to enter individually or, if you can get three people together, you can tackle the course as a relay team.
There are various distances for the sprint and the Olympic competition as well as age categories and a corporate challenge. The amateur sprint distances are very achievable for novices – it’s a 500m swim, 20km cycle and a 5km run.
Here are some basic rules you need to know before you sign up for a triathlon which could help you decide whether you are you ready for this challenge.
An open water swim, which will be in the V&A Harbour, can be a little daunting especially when you have a mass start so we would suggest you get some practise in ahead of race day.
· You can use any stroke you want to, in fact you can even tread water or float and the rules allow you to stop and catch your breath or adjust your goggles if required.
· You may also rest by standing (if shallow enough) or hold onto an inanimate object but you may not use this to push off and gain an advantage.
· No fins, paddles, snorkels or flotation devices of any kind are allowed. Wearing swim goggles or a face mask is recommended
· Wetsuits are permitted as long as they are not thicker than 5mm at any point. For Elite, U23, Junior and Youth athletes doing a swim up to 1 500m, wetsuits are forbidden above 20 degrees, and mandatory below 14 degrees
· For Age Group athletes doing a swim up to 1 500m, wetsuits are forbidden above 22 degrees, and mandatory below 14 degrees
· Wetsuits may only be stripped in the transition zone
· You must have your helmet on and secured before you can even mount your bike.
· If through an accident or other means, your bike is rendered inoperable, you are allowed to push it or carry it to the finish line. You are not allowed to make any forward progress without being in possession of the bike.
· There really aren’t many running rules besides the fact that you if you sustain an injury you cannot crawl across the line – you must either be running or walking.
You must follow the rules for transition which includes putting your equipment (clothing and bikes) in the designated areas with bikes upright in the bike corral and generally stay out of your fellow competitors’ way. With thousands of competitors a triathlon can be chaotic, so practise this ahead of race day.
Up for the challenge?
Newbies to triathlons say the first time out can be a bit daunting but that once the bug has bitten there is no turning back. There is no greater fulfilment than getting active and competing in three different disciplines. It’s the ultimate challenge. If you think you have what it takes then don’t miss out. The opportunity to compete alongside the world’s best triathletes, on a global stage, doesn’t come around often.
The 2014 ITU World Triathlon Cape Town takes place in and around the V&A Waterfront on April 26 and 27. For more information on the event and to enter, go to http:/www.capetown.triathlon.org.