A Buffoon’s Guide to… Triathlon

Disclaimer: if you’ve ever read any of my stuff before, you’ll know better than to expect anything that’s even vaguely sensible, mature or rooted in reality. These Buffoon’s Guides follow one golden rule: I don’t really have a clue about the subject and I refuse to do anything to remedy that before I write about it. My research is solely based on “stuff what I reckon” with a sprinkling of “stuff what I dreamed”. So then…


What is a triathlon?

When a cyclist, runner or swimmer suddenly finds that they have far too much time on their hands and/or money in their bank account, they immediate become a triathlete. A triathlon is the thing that is sometimes on channel 4 on a Sunday morning that isn’t Hollyoaks. Basically, hundreds of people jump into a lake and it all gets really splashy. Then you have to get out of the water and strip down to a sort of leotard before doing cycling and a run. It all looks very serious. 

History of the Triathlon

The first triathlon was held in 1911 and originally consisted of significantly more disciplines than the three we’re now used to. As well as swimming, running and cycling, the original triathletes were expected to demonstrate their skill in archery, tennis, billiards, rock climbing, falconry, tap dancing, jousting, cheese-making, basketball, judo, more billiards, dentistry, public speaking, pottery, even more billiards, general knowledge, canoeing, javelin (throwing), javelin (making), horse riding, duck wrangling, tidying up, knitting, bobsleigh and singing a lovely little song. The triathlon as we know it today didn’t appear until 1915, after some helpful soul pointed out what “tri” meant.

“The fourth discipline”

Sandwiched between all the swimmig, cyclig and runnig, there are transition phases which basically consist of getting changed and throwing your discarded kit into a little plastic crate while somehow not tripping over your bike. Triathletes spend a lot of time practicing their transition in order to shave precious seconds off their finish time, to the point where it has been referred to as “the fourth discipline”.

However, there are actually a few more disciplines which aren’t as widely publicised.

The fifth discipline: Neatly applying those temporary tattoo race numbers to your shoulder. These things are by far my favourite thing about triathlons.

The sixth discipline: A nice sit down after all that rushing around.

The seventh discipline: Telling everyone you did a triathlon.


This is a skintight all-in-one affair, specifically designed to prevent me from ever doing a triathlon.

Open Water

Most triathlons shun the comforts of a swimming pool and instead make their competitors brave the open water. If turning a translucent shade of blue while sucking up fist-sized chunks of cryptosporidium is your idea of a top Sunday morning, then triathlons are for you. And on top of all that, you might get splashed by other swimmers. No thanks.

Brick session

Absolutely no idea. Not a clue. Sorry. 

Drying off

During the swim:cycle transition, I have never seen a triathlete take the time to get properly dry. At most, it’s a cursory towel-dab before leaping onto the bike without so much as a single thought for drying between their toes. How cool will your shiny medal look when you’re queuing up at the fungal infection clinic, eh?

Okay, still quite cool, but that’s not the point.

In my humble opinion, triathlons will only become truly civilized if they change the rules so that competitors have to bring their mum or nanna along to inspect them for proper dryness before being allowed to begin the next phase.


Considered by some to be the ultimate test of running, splashing and pedalling about. This event consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a full marathon. This would be fine if they gave you a year to do it in, but the standard cut-off time is 17 hours, which is just stupid. 

The official way of writing the word Ironman is to put it in full capitals, which means I can never read an article on the subject without mentally shouting the word “IRONMAN”. Considering movie releases of recent years, they might be better off changing their name from “IRONMAN” to “IRONMAN. NO, NOT THAT ONE”. 

I’ve just remembered a joke I saw on twitter a while back…

Police officer: “Do you know why I’ve stopped you?”

Motorist: “Is it because I did an Ironman?”

Police officer: “No.”

Motorist: “I did an Ironman.”

Hey! Need more nonsense in your life? Here’s how to get it… There’s probably a clicky thing somewhere around here where you can sign up for email alerts whenever anything is posted on borntoplod.com.For every five new subscribers, the internet sends me a free puppy. Twitter’s nice isn’t it? I’m @borntoplodblog I’ve also got a Facebook thingy here: Facebook.com/borntoplod.


7 thoughts on “A Buffoon’s Guide to… Triathlon

  1. I shall be doing my first triathlon this Sunday, so your guide us very well timed. I shall pay close attention to your every word and let you know how much it helps.

  2. Jay I like you more and more with every post. I warn you if you keep posting things as brilliant as this I may just have to find out where you live, bribe your neighbours into moving be your stalky best friend forever.

    • That’s more than lovely Autumn. However, I’m a better blogger than I am a neighbour. After I’d filled your wheelie bin with stuffed badgers (don’t ask) for the third week running, the shine would start to wear off.

  3. Thank you for the Friday chuckle…..
    Brick session – before I found out what one of those was I had the mental image of all those super tight lycra clad guys n gals trying to climb a brick wall after building it! Then I saw an IRONMAN on telly and thought…. where’s the brick wall. Then thought…. brick session….. where you’re bricking it before the start! AH! That makes perfect sense. You’ve got to practice your Brick Session to make sure you don’t have to urgently go to the loo in one of those one piece tight lycra things whilst waiting at the start. Obviously!!

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