A common mistake is to consider the triathlon as the sum of three different disciplines.
In fact, it is a multiple-stage competition where, through transitions, are blended together three sports, which, individually speaking, have very different tactical, technical and metabolic characteristics than the result of their union.
Let’s take a look at these sports, starting from swimming:
1. Start: here is the first obvious difference because instead of diving off the starting block, you may happen to start directly in the water (sea-lake), from the beach or floating pontoon.
2. Tactics: while swimming in the pool starts at the maximum speed that you can maintain throughout the race, in triathlon you will need to swim fast from the start in order to get into a good group with which to swim all the distance and only after that find your right race-pace.
Slightly increase the leg work only in the last 200m to prepare them for the cycling leg of the race.
3. Buoys: the course is delimited by buoys that most of the time mark a 90 ° turn; passing them as a group requires high energy and specific preparation, very different from that needed for turning in the pool.
4. Getting out: some courses require getting out of water after 750m, a short stretch of racing, and plunging back into the water.
5. Arrival: while at swimming you have to sprint at 100% of your abilities the last meters, in triathlon you will have to prepare for the transition area by conserving energy and trying to maximize the order of your “maneuvers”.
There are a few differences also in regards to cycling:
1. Start (Bike Out chute): out of the transition area, with the first pedal strokes, you will need to put on your shoes, already clipped into the pedal, and then, you will need to control the effort. Also, you will not start this portion with your teammates but with athletes who have been swimming at your speed, therefore, you can hardly use the group tactics prepared before the start.
2. Tactics: This is the most important difference. Finishing first in the cycling leg counts for little if you spend too much energy doing this. Remaining in a homogeneous group, making the transitions at the right time, knowing who is at your side in the group are essential elements for a “clean” leg of the race.
3. Arrival (Run Out chute): As in swimming, no sprint; in the last few meters you’ll once again prepare your legs by less intense strokes and you will loosen the shoes in order to rapidly get off before T2 (the second transition).
In the running leg of the race the only difference relates to training. From tactical and mechanical standpoint, it is similar to on-road racing because, being the last leg, the aim is reaching the finish line as quickly as possible.