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Triathlete’s 2023 Guide to the Best Tris for a Good Time

Sometimes the standard swim, bike, and run distances and format feel a little…stale. Fortunately there are some wacky, dirty, and downright weird multisport events to help jumpstart your tri mojo.

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If you’re looking for an exciting challenge next year, but still want to stay in the multisport world, there are many options off-the-beaten path to satisfy your curiosity.

Off-road and gravel triathlons have experienced a huge increase in recent years due to the unique and varied terrain offered and the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in nature. Or, you could try swimrun—a fun twist on a triathlon that allows competitors to compete solo or as a team.

There are adventure races that require good navigational skills and team challenges that test your mental and physical strength. Even traditional triathlons are spicing up the everyday swim-bike-run format with exhilarating swim starts, beach runs, and trips through the zoo!


Plotting out your 2023 triathlon season? Be sure to check out our full collection of 2023 race guides, featuring the best races in the U.S.A. for every level of triathlete, from beginners to Iron-distance.


 

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Western

The best good-time tri for: An Epic Shark-Infested Adventure

Escape From Alcatraz

June 10-11, 2023
San Francisco, CA

The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, a fun triathlon race in the usa
(Photo: Escape from Alcatraz)

Escape From Alcatraz is a bucket-list triathlon for some and the stuff of nightmares for others. Much of the mystique surrounding this race has to do with the location being the site of legendary prison escapes and the incredibly difficult course with frigid water, steep hills, and unpredictable weather. The race begins with a plunge off the San Francisco Belle into the 55-degree F waters below that are notorious for strong current and waves (and aquatic life). The 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island takes athletes to the shores of the St. Francis Yacht Club to a mini transition area where they have the option to put on shoes for a .5-mile “warm up run” to transition at Marina Green. Then, riders set off on a grueling, 18-mile bike that goes through the Presidio, up and down the hilly topography of San Francisco, out to Golden Gate Park and back. The challenging 8-mile run takes competitors under the Golden Gate Bridge, past city landmarks, down Baker Beach, and back up the infamous 400-step sand ladder. Sound like fun? If you think it’s difficult racing at Alcatraz, try getting an entry. It’s limited to 2,000 participants and age groupers must register for a random drawing. The drawing has already closed for 2023… but there’s a loophole. The event will be holding an aquathlon (750-meter swim/ 5K run) the day before the triathlon on June 10th, and there’s still time to enter that race. Also, the top five swim times will be granted the “Luck of the Draw” and can skip the random drawing next year to register for the triathlon.

RELATED: 3 Bucket-List Triathlon Travel Destinations

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The best good-time tri for: Northwestern Switchbacks

Bellingham Off Road Triathlon

August 20, 2023
Bellingham,WA

Bellingham off road triathlon, a fun triathlon race in the usa
(Photo: Paul Bikis)

The Bellingham Off Road Triathlon is a true Pacific Northwestern adventure all wrapped up into one event. Athletes begin with an 800-meter freshwater swim in picturesque Lake Padden with mist-shrouded pine trees. Then, grab your hydration pack, helmet, and mount up for a challenging 9K-mountain bike course that takes riders on tricky single-track trails. Competitors will climb up the “Expert Loop” and drop down into some sweet switchbacks before ending on a gravel section back at transition. This course has 500-plus feet of elevation gain, and it’s highly recommended that athletes practice riding the course ahead of the event. The 4.1K run goes along the lakeshore through a lush forest with giant trees. New for 2023, the race is USAT sanctioned, so expect it to get even more popular in the coming years.

RELATED: What is XTERRA? Your Guide to Off-Road Triathlon

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The best good-time tri for: A High-Altitude Camping Experience

Lake Tahoe Triathlon

August 26-27, 2023
Lake Tahoe, CA

The Lake Tahoe Triathlon, a fun triathlon in the usa
(Photo: Lake Tahoe Triathlon)

The Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine State Park on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe is home to tall pines, a historic pier, and black forest. At an elevation of 6,300 feet, it’s also a challenging location for the Lake Tahoe Triathlon, a multi-sport event with a 70.3 Olympic, sprint, duathlon, and aquabike. The Olympic course is likely one of the most demanding, but also most scenic distances, with a 1,500-meter swim, 25-mile bike, and 6.9-mile run. Athletes start the swim on a rectangular-shaped course in Lake Tahoe with an average water temp. of 67-70 degrees F. Once you exit the swim, run up a 100-meter grass hill to transition, then out on a scenic tour of the lakeshore and surrounding hills. Be ready for a big climb past Rubicon Point Lighthouse as you head toward the turnaround past Emerald Bay followed by a scenic—but technical—descent where cyclists can reach speeds up to 50 mph! Once you get to the bottom, turn around and climb back up to round out 2,237 feet of gain. The run takes athletes along the lakeshore with a beach loop portion that has single-track dirt and sand. Although it’s mostly shaded, be prepared by twists and turns, and uphill and downhill sections. Sugar Pine State Park is also a great spot for camping, so pitch a tent and sleep under the stars the night before your race.

RELATED: Camp at the Start Line of These Triathlons

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Mountain

The best good-time tri for: A Chilly Spring Offroader

Iceman Triathlon and XTERRA Triathlon

Feb. 25, 2023
Morristown, AZ

The Iceman, a fun triathlon in the usa
(Photo: 4 Peaks Racing)

2023 will mark the fourth year for the Iceman Triathlon and XTERRA Iceman, held in Morristown, Arizona. This event has options in road triathlon and XTERRA off-road triathlon, aquabike, duathlon. The off-road full-distance triathlon includes a 750-meter lake swim, 20K off-road bike, and 5K-trail run. The off-road duathlon includes a 5.5K trail run and 20K off-road bike and 5.5K trail run. New in 2023, there is the addition of a 5K run and a SUP/kayak division. True to its name, Arizona is chilly in February, but in the past athletes have received items like a custom race hoodie or wool socks. For the swim, expect water temps in the low 60s, so athletes may wear a wetsuit, neoprene cap and boots, and gloves are allowed. The bike is a one loop, out and back route up Castle Hot Springs Rd. Gravel bikes are allowed as long as they have straight handlebars, and with no water stations, this is a self-supported ride. Then, it’s onto a trail run adventure on the paths adjacent to the boat ramp through some sand and past saguaro cactus. The age group winners in the XTERRA event qualify for the World Championship.

RELATED: What to Wear for Open-Water Swimming (Even When it’s Cold)

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The best good-time tri for: Women Only

Women of Steel Triathlon

May 20, 2023
American Fork, UT

The Women of Steel Triathlon, a fun triathlon race in the usa
(Photo: Women of Steel)

The Women of Steel Triathlon is one of the nation’s longest running women-only triathlons that provides an opportunity for females to compete alongside their peers in a welcoming and competitive race environment. This event has a sprint triathlon, 5K, and, new for 2023, an aquabike event. The sprint triathlon consists of a 300-meter swim, 12-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run. Ladies will start the race in the pool where they will swim a serpentine pattern, starting on one end, swimming the length of the pool in lane one, then ducking under the lane line and swimming a length in lane two. Repeat the process for all six lanes. The bike course takes athletes through two loops along beautiful roads of American Fork and Highland townships. The scenic 5K run has a fun downhill mile to the finish. Be sure to stick around after the race for a pancake breakfast for athletes and spectators.

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The best good-time tri for: Getting Dirty (But Not Injured)

Stagecoach Gravel Triathlon

August 6th, 2023
Steamboat Springs, CO

The Stagecoach triathlon, a fun triathlon race in the usa
(Photo: Bar-U-Eat/Without Limits Productions)

Gravel triathlon is one of the fastest growing segments in the multi-sport world. Unlike off-road triathlons, where athletes ride well-suited mountain bikes on technical, single-track trails, gravel triathlons take place on rural, unpaved roads. There’s varied terrain, less vehicle traffic, and an opportunity to truly enjoy nature without white knuckling a steep descent. Colorado’s first-ever gravel triathlon, the Stagecoach Gravel Triathlon, is returning to Steamboat Springs for round two in 2023. The event will be limited to 250 athletes with a sprint, aquabike, and stand-up paddleboard division, as well as a first timer’s swim wave. The race begins with a .5-mile swim in the cool waters of Stagecoach Reservoir with temps. hovering around 70-72 degrees F. Then, break out your gravel or mountain bike for a 16-mile tour of some of the most picturesque roads in Yampa Valley. There is a short paved section of 2.1 miles before the course heads out along rolling, gravel country roads with the final 3 miles on pavement. Look forward to steady climbs and winding descents. When it’s time to run, competitors take to the trails on a 4-mile gravel route that hugs the shoreline of the reservoir. The road surface of this race is such that athletes can ride a road bike with a minimum of 25 mm tires and a low pressure, so this might be the perfect opportunity to try out an off-road style triathlon next year.

RELATED: How to Train for Gravel Triathlon

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Central

The best good-time tri for: Pure Adventure Racing

Dirt In Your Shoe Duathlon and Adventure Race

February 25-26, 2023
Navasota, TX

(Photo: Amie Quinn)

If you’re looking for a change from the typical triathlon, then the Dirt In Your Shoe Duathlon and Adventure Race might be just the ticket. This two-day event takes place in Navasota, Texas. On Saturday, there is an adventure race—a unique team event that includes a 3-5-mile trail run, 6-10-mile bike, and a 1-2-mile kayak/paddle, all sprinkled with mental, physical, and teamwork challenges. The course will be marked, but there will be points along the route that need to be punched with a passport. The duathlon is located at the beautiful, private Magnolia Hill Ranch. Along the way, there will be a 2-mile hilly trail run on single track through the piney woods, a 9-mile bike on gravel roads free from vehicle traffic, and another 2-mile trail run. The bike course is very beginner-friendly and fast on jeep roads with a few, easy single track trails for fun. Athletes may use a mountain, cyclocross, gravel, or hybrid bike on this course.

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The best good-time tri for: Pristine Offroading

Bluebonnet Off Road Triathlon and Duathlon

March 25, 2023
Burnet, TX

The bluebonnet triathlon, a fun triathlon race in the usa
(Photo: Race Revolutions)

Reveille Peak Ranch is Texas Hill Country at its finest encompassing 1,300 acres with 100K of the best mountain biking and hiking trails in Texas. Located just an hour from Austin, the ranch is also the site of the Bluebonnet Off Road Triathlon and Duathlon. The event hosts an off-road triathlon and duathlon with relay options. The course will be open the day before for pre-riding and running. Athletes in the triathlon will start with a 750-meter swim in the 20-acre lake. A two-story pavilion with an observation deck overlooking the lake is the perfect spot for spectators. Then, athletes will hop on their mountain bikes for 13 miles of trails consisting of 90% single-track where they will encounter short, steep climbs, rocky downhills, and granite outcroppings. The run is a “mostly flat” 6K weaving along the lake on gravel and dirt trails sprinkled with small cacti and wildflowers in full bloom.

RELATED: Mountain Biking for Beginners: Here’s Where to Start

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The best good-time tri for: Rugged Racing

Branson Mountain Man Off-Road Triathlon

Sept. 23, 2023
Branson, MO

The Branson Mountain Man, a fun triathlon race in the usa
(Photo: Ruth Robertson)

The Branson Mountain Man Off-Road Triathlon isn’t just for burly, plaid-clad, lumberjacks. This is a race for athletes of all abilities. The rugged course is set at Table Rock State Park on the south side of the dam on Lake Taneycomo. Both bike and run courses utilize the scenic White River Valley trail system with twists and turns through tree-lined trails with plenty of fun rocky sections to navigate. Competitors have the option of choosing either the sprint course or burly course. The sprint consists of a 500-meter lake swim, 6.2-mile mountain bike, and 3.5-mile trail run. The burly course is double the distance with a 1,000-meter lake swim, 11.5-mile mountain bike, and 6-mile trail run. After the race, stick around for hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill. The town of Branson is known as the “Gatlinburg of the South,” so make it a race-cation and catch a show, do some shopping, and enjoy great dining options.

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Eastern

The best good-time tri for: East-Coast Alcatraz

Escape the Cape Triathlon

June 11, 2023
Lower Township, NJ

Escape the cape, a fun triathlon in the usa
(Photo: Escape the Cape Triathlon)

The highlight of the Escape the Cape Triathlon is the unique race start that begins with a 12-foot jump off the Cape May-Lewes Ferry into the Delaware Bay! The event has an Olympic and sprint triathlon, aquabike, relay, and free kids’ run. It’s a locally owned and operated event with professional management (their own athlete tracking app) and welcoming feel. For the swim, water temps hover around 70 degrees F in June, but can range from 55-75 degrees F. The closed bike course will take athletes on a tour of the vineyards and backcountry roads of Cape May. There are no bike aid stations, so athletes will need to provide their own hydration and nutrition. The run is an out and back along the shoreline and includes plenty of sandy beach sections, so be prepared. There are also a few unique features that make this race unlike any other: One tri club champion will be crowned at each DelMoSports race and will receive the coveted DelMo silver trophy cup. Also, spectators can send their athletes a cheer card on the electronic big screen that athletes will see on the run course just after leaving transition.

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The best good-time tri for: Swimming Then Running, Then Doing It Again (A Lot)

Odyssey Swimrun – Mackinac Island

August 27, 2023
Lake Huron, MI

Odyssey Swimrun Mackinac Island, a fun triathlon race in the usa
(Photo: Odyssey Swimrun Mackinac Island)

Another fast growing segment that’s quickly gaining popularity in the multisport world is swimrun. This multistage competition allows athletes to swim and run while traversing varied terrain—without equipment changes or transition areas. In some categories, a team of two will be tethered in order to maintain contact in the water and on land. Also, gear like oversized hand paddles and giant pull buoys is allowed. Odyssey Swimrun has five races in five states: Coastal Dune Lakes in Florida, Casco Bay Islands in Maine, Orcas Island in Washington, Pace Bend Park in Texas, and Mackinac Island in Michigan. The Mackinac Island race takes place in the jewel of the Great Lakes—Lake Huron, and last year was the inaugural event. There are solo and team races with short course (13.15 miles total) and long course (18.75 miles total) distances. To begin, athletes board the Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry to transfer to the start on the ferry dock. Then, athletes swim in the crystal clear, freshwater of Lake Huron and traverse single-track forest trails crisscrossing the island until they end at the finish line at Marquette Park. Mackinac Island doesn’t allow motorized vehicles, so athletes should be sure to look out for horses and bikes on course. The perks for these races are great: a colorful bib number jersey, swim cap, finisher’s apparel, silicone cup, rest tube for the solo swim, post race food, and photos.

RELATED: What to Expect At Your First Swimrun Race

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The best good-time tri for: Lions, Tigers, and Triathletes (Oh, My!)

Miami Man

Nov. 12, 2023
Miami, FL

Miami Man, a fun triathlon in the usa
(Photo: Miami Man)

Where else can you run by a rhinoceros or jog by a jaguar? Unless you live in Africa, the only place is at Miami Man. This special race is Miami’s longest and largest triathlon that takes place at Larry and Penny Thompson Park and Zoo Miami. The event has a 70.3, international, and sprint triathlon, duathlon, and aquabike divisions. Athletes set out from a sandy beach for a freshwater swim in a crystal-clear lake in full view of spectators. The bike goes through rural Miami-Dade County on improved road conditions. The run for the international race has a 5-mile section that goes through Zoo Miami for a total of 6.2 miles on 80% paved and 20% dirt road. Athletes will run by Asian Elephants, Samburu Giraffe, and Clouded Leopard. Another highlight of the run are the spectacular aid stations located every mile. There is a contest for the best aid stations, so volunteers typically go all out with costumes and decorations. New in 2022, the event had exotic animal shows at the awards ceremony, and if you placed high enough in your age group, you received an adorable stuffed monkey or giraffe.

RELATED: 7 Race Moves That’ll Slow You Down (But Are Totally Worth It)