## Monday, August 19, 2013

### Metric, Imperial and ???

Ever notice that all 10k running races are 10k long?

All half marathons are 21.1k or 13.1 miles?

All marathons are 42.2k or 26.2 miles?

As an athlete who started her athletic adventures in the running world, I grew to assume that all races with a set name are a set distance. (Despite those non-running people who ask us running people questions like: did you run the 5k marathon last weekend? or how far is a marathon? Like 10k or something?)

Then I discovered triathlons and, with them, I discovered a whole world of randomness.

If I had started at the Ironman distance (ha!), I would have learned that all Ironmans (Ironmen?) are swim 3.8k (2.4 miles), bike 180k (112 miles) and run 42.2k (26.2 miles).

The half Ironman is still pretty logical in that all distances are half that of the Ironman (swim 1.9k (1.2miles), bike 90k (56 miles) and run 21.1k (13.1 miles)).

The Olympic is also a set distance although it does, in my opinion, seem bizarre in how they figured out the distances. Bizarre because the amount of time doing each sport relative to the amount of time doing the event is much different in the Olympic than it is in the Ironman or half Ironman events.

The Olympic swim is 1.5k (0.93 miles), the bike is 40k (24.8 miles) and the run is 10k (6.2 miles).

The swim is only 400m shorter than the half Ironman. The bike is less than half the distance and the run is also less than half the distance. Odd, but whatever.

The thing is that I debuted at the sprint, or what is sometimes called the sprint, triathlon distance. (Well, technically I debuted with a super sprint (or a try a tri) but let's take that one out of the mix for simplicity's sake.)

Here are the distances of the non-Olympic triathlons I have done so far:

Grimsby:  swim 750m, bike 25k and run 7.0k.
Guelph:    swim 750m, bike 30k and run 7.0k.
Welland:  swim 750m, bike 30k and run 7.5k.
Belwood: swim 750m, bike 30k, and run 7.5k
Toronto Island (next weekend) is swim 750m, bike 20k and run 5k.

They are all called triathlons. Yet, unlike half marathons, I can't compare my results from race to race because they're all different distances.

According to my friends in the know, a sprint triathlon is exactly half the distance of the Olympic triathlon (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run). Which means that I will actually be doing my first sprint this weekend. A triathlon is anything between the sprint and the Olympic distance.

Got it?

The other thing I find a little odd is the stickers people put on their cars to celebrate the triathlon distances they've done.

Ironmen (rightly) brag of their accomplishment with the number 140.6. Half Ironmen use the number 70.3 to represent their races. Olympic distance finishers use 51.5 for their race.

Notice anything odd?

The 140.6 and the 70.3 are in miles.

The 51.5 is in kilometres. If we switched it to miles it would read: 34.48. But I've never seen a 34.48 sticker on someone's bumper. Only the 51.5.

I like 51.5. It sounds like a lot. Yet it does feel a little unfair because it looks pretty close to the 70.3 half Ironman distance but I know full well that it's not.

It's been two seasons of triathlons now and I'm getting the hang of things. Some things, like the numbers, I'm still trying to wrap my head around.