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Ultra-triathlon – rules, distances, and preparation methods

Ultra-triathlon – rules, distances, and preparation methods

Triathlon is a sport involving competition in three different activities: swimming, cycling, and running. Participation in such contests requires above-average physical fitness. However, some athletes want to go one step further. The most ambitious people can therefore be recommended to take an interest in the so-called ultra-triathlon. These are much more demanding competitions, whose route is marked out on clearly longer distances. Therefore, every person planning to take part in an ultra-triathlon should take care of proper preparations. What kind of training is particularly recommended here?

Ultra-triathlon – different variants of the competition

In the beginning, it is worth emphasizing that the rules of triathlon and ultra-triathlon may be very different. For example, the Olympic version of this discipline assumes:

– swimming a distance of 1.5 km;
– Cycle 40 kilometers;
– run 10 kilometers.

However, most people training for triathlon places the most significant importance on the so-called total distance. Sometimes such competitions are also referred to as “Ironman Triathlon” or just ultra-triathlon. In their case, the competitors compete over a distance:

– 3.9 kilometers in swimming;
– 181 kilometers in cycling;
– 42.2 kilometers in the running.

As you can see, the demands placed on the participants of such competitions are very high. Just swimming almost 4 kilometers and cycling more than 181 kilometers is a considerable challenge. However, after completing these two competitions, the competitors must additionally… run a marathon! This shows that ultra-triathlon is a discipline for the best-trained people.

Of course, with time, even more complex variants of such competitions appeared. For example, double ultra-triathlon involves running twice as many distances as described above. The most extreme competition in the whole cycle is the triple deca ultra-triathlon. As the name suggests, the course of this competition is 30 times longer than the standard distances. The current record in this category belongs to Dirk Leonhardt. In 2020, the German athlete completed the triple deca ultra-triathlon in 959 hours and 3 minutes (less than 40 days)!

Ultra-triathlon – rules

Regardless of the chosen formula, all triathlon competitions have almost identical rules. The winner of the competition is the competitor who finishes the designated route the fastest. Of course, this applies to the whole route, i.e., all three stages. The match starts with a water section in the standard variant, where the competitors have to swim a certain length. After finishing it, the competitors get on the bikes and cover the designated distance. The final stage, on the other hand, is the running section.

Clearly, throughout the entire event, participants must rely solely on their own muscle power. Any outside intervention or support is strictly forbidden. The only contact with the competitors can be made by the volunteers responsible for handling the competition. These people serve food and water to the participants if necessary.

As in all other sports, participants in triathlon are obliged to follow the rules of fair play. Thus, any attempts to cheat or unauthorized practices towards other competitors may result in immediate disqualification.
How to prepare for an ultra-triathlon start?

All that’s left is the most critical issue: discussing the recommended training program for people practicing triathlon. It is not hard to guess that the general scheme of such training assumes preparing the body for three different activities. However, running, swimming and cycling have one thing in common…

This is, of course, the fact that they are aerobic activities. This means that the most significant importance in their case has the broadly understood endurance and efficiency of the body. It is on building these two features that a good training plan should focus on.

Regular running, swimming, and cycling are the absolute basics. However, in triathlon, the intensity of training is as important as the type of exercises performed. Therefore, if one is preparing for a competition, one should start training well in advance. Specialists indicate that for ultra-triathlon, the preparation period must be at least 2-3 months. During this time, you should gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. This mainly concerns the regular increase of the distances covered in the pool, bike, and run.

However, training units based on the aerobic effort are not everything. Contrary to appearances, people practicing triathlon should not avoid gyms! Strength training is an excellent supplement to the preparation period. Thanks to such exercises, you can effectively increase your muscle endurance. As far as the layout of strength training is concerned, the best practices are those performed with low load and a high number of repetitions. People training for endurance should perform from 12 to even 20-25 repetitions in each series.

The last and most crucial element of preparation is… regeneration! All described training methods are very hard on the body. That is why an adequately long renewal is essential. If you do not take care of it, you will get injuries caused by overloading your body sooner or later. Good regeneration assumes, among others:
– at least 8 hours of sleep a day;
– One day a week free from exercise;
– daily stretching and relaxation exercises;
– avoiding physical activity outside of designated training sessions.


Ultra-triathlon is a variation of a triathlon competition held over a much longer distance. Depending on the specific variant of the competition, this distance can be two, three, four, or even thirty times longer! Therefore, with such an advanced activity, the critical role is played by good preparation. Triathletes should combine intensive aerobic exercises with strength training. Apart from that, they have to take care of regeneration because the described training regime is a severe burden to the body.



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