There was a time when doing a marathon was a big deal: 26.2 miles (42 km)! In 1980, ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” introduced the world to the IRONMAN world championship in Hawaii. ABC explained how an IRONMAN consisted of a 2.4 mile (3.86 km) ocean swim, 112 mile (180 km) bike ride, and a 26.2 mile (a marathon) run. It seemed to be the ultimate challenge of individual fitness. Participation jumped from 108 starters in 1980 to 326 in 1981.
Thirty-five years after triathlon started, there are over 110,000 USA Triathlon registered, adult members and over 604 race directors (2013). Today, in order to race in the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii, you have to either win a slot in one of the qualifying events worldwide, be selected by the IRONMAN Lottery, be selected by the IRONMAN legacy committee, or win a slot through the eBay charitable auction. Last year there were 2,247 participants.
San Diego is consistently ranked within the top 5 places in America for professional and aspiring triathletes to train. IRONMAN, Triathlete, and Outside Online rank San Diego/Carlsbad as the 2nd, the 3rd, and the 4th, respectively, best place to reside and train for triathlon. (Boulder, CO and Tucson, AZ were also highly rated locations.) According to Outside Online, “the weather must be pleasant, the bike routes plentiful, and the cuisine healthful.”
- Outside goes on and states that San Diego is the best for year-round open water swimming; “the city has an average temperature of 70.6 degrees Fahrenheit with little rainfall and endless opportunity for open water swimming in the Pacific Ocean.”
- IRONMAN describes Carlsbad, CA in San Diego’s North County as “It serves as a bridge between the flat, coastal cycling routes and East County’s less populated, and more challenging terrain…Carlsbad enjoys the best of Southern California’s year-round training weather. You can swim in the ocean most months, and run without sleeves in December.”
- Triathlete describes Carlsbad: ” The weather is unbeatable; the Pacific is way more exciting than a pool; and you can never run out of people to train with… The terrain in and around Carlsbad makes it almost impossible not to add variety to your training. On the coast you’ll find your flat roads, about 10 miles inland you’ll find endless short-and-steep hills and about 40 miles inland you’ll find punishing climbs like Palomar Mountain.”
I can confirm that triathletes are everywhere. Within a couple of months, I met two guys who train for IRONMAN and a third guy who regularly trains for a more do-able Olympic-length triathlon. Of course, some people don’t like to swim-bike-run. I also know a few guys who regularly ride centuries (over 100 miles) at once.
What does being a “tri town” mean for everybody else? San Diego offers an encouraging atmosphere for people who like to stay fit, access to a great variety of gear, and many clubs to get involved:
Six months after arriving in San Diego, even I’m beginning to think about signing up for triathlon. Peer pressure!