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The Different Levels of Triathlon

John R. Nofsinger is a former U.S. Air Force engineer who has served as William H. Seward Endowed Chair in Finance at the University of Alaska Anchorage since 2014. Outside of his professional pursuits, John R. Nofsinger is a fitness enthusiast who has completed multiple Ironman triathlons.

The Ironman race is regarded as the most difficult among all triathlon variations, as it is the longest in overall distance and most physically demanding. Ironman participants are required to first complete a 2.4-mile swim before moving on to the 112-mile bike ride. The grueling race ends with a 26.2-mile run. That last run, for comparison's sake, is the same distance as a full-length marathon.

Further driving home the difficulty of the Ironman triathlon is the fact that Olympic triathlons are much shorter in distance. They involve a 0.93-mile swim, 25-mile bike ride, and 6.2-mile run. The gold medal winner in the men's triathlon at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games was Alistair Brownlee, who finished with an overall time of 1:45:01. Patrick Lange, who won the 2018 Ironman World Championships, did so in a total time of 7:52:39.
Before moving from an Olympic distance to the Ironman triathlon, athletes should first attempt a long course triathlon, which involves a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run. First-time triathletes should start with a sprint triathlon. This introductory race consists of a 0.47-mile swim, 12-mile bike segment, and 3.1-mile run.

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