Anyone who plans to complete an Ironman has to be at least a little bit psycho. “Not quite right in the head”, as my old man was never known to say. For those on the road to the Ironman, the first stop is a “sprint distance” triathlon, then “olympic distance” and finally the “70.3”, which is still only half the distance of a real Ironman. These beginner triathlons, due to being less serious competitions, are typically more fun (see the Retro Tri) and still offer beautiful tours of some serious American lake shores or coastlines — considering they all have to take place near some body of water. Below is a list of shorter triathlons, for the Ironchild in training, that offer up great fitness culture, beautiful scenery and plenty of activities for your spectating fans. We end on an accessible “70.3”, the last test before before completing a true Ironman.

Rio-Grande-Retro-Tri-Gear-Patrol Rio Grand Retro Triathlon
The Retro Tri Series is designed to be approachable and fun, with participants encouraged to complete the event in their best retro garb. The race is open to anyone over 13 years old and the legs of the tri are done in reverse order, with a refreshing 400-yard swim awaiting triathletes after they complete a 3.1-mile run and 10.2-mile bike ride. April 25 for $25+
Chicago-Tri-Supersprint-Gear-Patrol Chicago Triathlon SuperSprint
The SuperSprint is the slimmed down version of the Chicago Triathlon, consisting of a .25-mile swim, 6.2-mile bike ride and 1.6-mile run for a total of 8 miles on the shores and the water of Lake Michigan. Get winded in the Windy City. August 23 for $65
Nations-Tri-Sprint-Gear-Patrol Nation’s Triathlon: Sprint
This hugely popular triathlon consists of an 800m swim, 26.5k bike ride and 5k run through the nation’s capital. The course features the best marked swimming course of any triathlon and a bike ride past national monuments and the scenic streets of DC. September 7 for $150
TriRock-Asbury-Park-Gear-Patrol TriRock Asbury Park Sprint
Sixty miles south of New York City, on the Jersey Shore (but not the Jersey Shore) is one stop in the Tri Rock Series — a triathlon series taking place in seven cities across the US. The series is competitive and regulated, but doesn’t take itself too serious; your entire run is accompanied by a rock and roll soundtrack and you cross the finish line with celebrity status, literally running onto a red carpet. August 24 for $130+
Portland-Tri-Gear-Patrol Portland Triathlon Sprint
Taking place in Portland, a city renowned for it’s swimming, biking and running trails, this locally operated and sustainable race was the first urban triathlon held in the city. The triathlon consists of a 0.5-mile swim in the Willamette River along with a 16.2-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run through and around the beautiful Cathedral park. September 21 for $100+
Rev3-Tri-Knoxville-Gear-Patrol Rev3 Triathlon Series, Knoxville
From its first event in Connecticut, the Revolution 3 series has expanded it’s relaxed and charity-focused race both nationally and internationally. The half-Rev held in Knoxville is one of the most beautiful on this list, with a 0.9-mile swim in the Tennessee River followed by a 24.8-mile bike race and 6.2-mile run through the rolling Tennessee countryside and Greenway Trails. The whole things ends at the site of the 1982 World’s Fair. May 18
Musselman-Tri-Gear-Patrol Musselman Tri: Mini-Mussel
The Musselman Tri (or mini-mussel for beginners) takes place in Geneva, NY on the north edge of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes Region. Due to the beautiful location — along with proximity to New York’s “Wine Country” — this race is consistently highly ranked among American triathlons. The 0.5-mile swim takes place in a canal before hitting the open lake, the 16.2-mile bike race takes you through vineyards and rolling hills, while the 3.1-mile run takes place on a shaded lakeside path. July 13 for $85
Wildflower-Tri-Gear-Patrol Wildflower Tri
The “long course” is considered the best non-Ironman triathlon, with many people camping out for the race. Named after the Wildflower festival, which it has long since overshadowed, the event started in 1983 and has grown to include more than 7,500 athletes and 30,000 spectators. Taking place on the shores of Lake San Antonio, CA, the shorter tri includes a .25-mile swim, 9.7-mile mountain biking race and 2-mile run. The race is hilly and relatively difficult compared to the others on this list, making it the perfect training ground for the Ironman. May 3
Lobsterman-Tri-Gear-Patrol Lobsterman Tri
The Lobsterman is recognized as one of the top triathlons in the nation and certainly the Northeast. Taking place on the shores of Freeport, ME, the race is takes in the untouched beauty of southern Maine and serves up lobster to all those who complete the tri. The 0.9-mile swim takes place in the chilly Maine waters, making wet suites a requirement, while the 24.9-mile bike race tours the rolling coastline of Freeport and Brunswick and the 6.2-mile run goes through the village of South Freeport. September 6 for $135+
Ironman-703-Timberman-Gear-Patrol Ironman 70.3 Timberman
Not exactly for beginners, but this race, taking place in Gilford, NH, is considered one of the more accessible half-Ironmans. The race attracts over 2,000 triathletes who come for the atmosphere of Lake Winnipesaukee, which is surrounded by opportunities for spectators to enjoy the scenery, including to camping, hiking, swimming and zip lining at nearby Gunstock Mountain. The 1.2 swim takes place in the blue and beautiful lake with the 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run taking in the New England countryside. August 17 for $250+

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