Triple Play

Los Angeles Triathlon

Venice's other muscle beach: transitioning in the Los Angeles Triathlon    Photo: Ann Johannson

During its first three ­decades as a sporting event, the ­tri­a­thlon suffered from an image problem. Ironman races—­2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run—got all the ­attention, and the triathlon was considered by most to be a fringe pursuit for type A endurance freaks. But in the past ten years, the number of sprint-distance races—typically a half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride, and three-mile run—has exploded, so ­tackling your first event is easier than you might think. “The intensity level really varies,” says USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach. “Today there are races for all types of people.” What’s more, triathlon training is, by definition, cross-training, so prepping for your first event will bring variety to your work­out routine. “It adds new ­chal­lenges,” says Urbach. “And the sports help balance each other out, allowing people to stay healthy and interested for a much longer period of time.”

Your turn:
Best race to feel like a star:
Los Angeles Triathlon
The Scene: A point-to-point race, it begins on Venice Beach and ends downtown. The Highlight: The finish is in L.A. Live, a $2.5 billion entertainment complex, for a stadium-like thrill. Mark Your Calendar: Olympic (one-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike ride, 6.2-mile run) and sprint distances; September 2012;

Best race to swim sans wetsuit:
Austin Triathlon, Texas
The Scene: A true urban race. The course is almost entirely downtown, starting in the city’s famous Lady Bird Lake. The Highlight: The music. Live bands play on the run and bike courses and at the finish line. Mark Your Calendar: Olympic and sprint distances; September 3, 2012;

Best race involving the Hudson:
New York City Triathlon
The Scene: Thanks to the Hud­son River’s currents, NYC has the fastest swim leg of any Olympic tri. And with a finish in Central Park, it’s one of the most scenic. The Highlight: The 25-mile bike ride starts and ends on the West Side Highway. Mark Your Calendar: Olympic distance; June 24, 2012;

Best race for the seasoned:
Escape from Alcatraz, San Francisco
The Scene: With a 1.5-mile swim in San Francisco Bay and a hilly eight-mile run, Alcatraz is one of the toughest tris in the country. The Highlight: Slowly motoring out and then jumping into San Francisco Bay from a four-story ferryboat to start the race. Mark Your Calendar: Olympic distance; June 10, 2012; escapefromalcatraz­

Best race to complete an ultra-distance tri:
Ford Ironman Florida
The Scene: Staged in the warm waters and on the wide beaches of Panama City Beach, it’s one of the most popular races on the Ironman circuit. The Highlight: Competing against pros like Scott DeFilippis, Chris McDonald, and Jessica Jacobs. Mark Your Calendar: Ultra distance (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run); November 5, 2011, Panama City;

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