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Triathlon: the UK's fastest growing participation sport

Triathlon events are conquering the nation as the fastest growing participation sport in the UK.

Perhaps it's the challenge of three sports rolled into one event that has enticed the country. The basic format is a swim, cycle and run, one after the other, but things can be made interesting by the varying of conditions and distances.

For starters the swimming portion could be in a river, a lake, the sea or a swimming pool. Some kick off in the water while others require a Baywatch-style run into the open water.

Next on the checklist is how long it will be. An Ironman Triathlon consists of a 3900 metre swim, followed by a 180 kilometre cycle and topped off with a mighty marathon at 42.2 kilometres.

The Scottish based event, Celtman, even extends the bike portion by another 22 kilometres.

Compare that to the standard variation which starts with a significant swim of 1500 metre, jumps straight into a 40 kilometre cycle, and ends with a 10 kilometre battle to the finish line.

Although this might seem feeble by comparison, it is the competitive distances that will be used in the Commonwealth Games this summer. July 24 could men a chilly start for the Commonwealth triathletes as the open-water swim will be held in Strathclyde Country Park.

In format, Glasgow 2014 has expanded the triathlon events by including a Mixed Relay event. This will see two men and two women form a team to compete in a 'super-sprint' triathlon. Women will start it off then it will alternate to men, back to women and finish with the men. Each member will take their turn swimming, biking and running before tagging in a team mate.

It will be action packed with lots of transitions to keep audiences on their toes. The average return to the transition zone where all the teams tag over is every five to eight minutes.

(Hopes of a mixed relay at the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio were sunk when organisers announced no new disciplines would be added because of financial pressures. There's no doubt the International Triathlon Union will be pushing for it in the future.)

Triathlon is fairly new to the sports scene. It was born in 1974 and was added to the Commonwealth Games in only 2002.

In awe of triathletes, I am going to give a standard triathlon a bash, but I've found even the basics aren't easy. The incredible speed at which the professionals have to change at each stage is a talent in its own right.

These transition times are made on the clock so there is no room for putting talc your toes. Or is there?

Some athletes douse their trainers in talcum powder beforehand to make the transition faster. Vaseline or baby oil around the wrists and ankles of the wetsuit is another handy household trick to maintain the race momentum.

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