Average Olympic Triathlon Time: How Long Does An Olympic Triathlon Take?

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When thinking about your own race targets, it’s useful to get an idea of the average Olympic triathlon time as a benchmark.

When you say that you are going to do an Olympic distance triathlon to most people, they will be shocked as they associate the event with superhumans such as the Brownlee brothers.

While you may not be going for gold at the Olympic games, you will still be taking on a significant challenge.

An Olympic distance triathlon is the next step up from a sprint triathlon. The distances are doubled, and many people like Olympic triathlons as the distance is just far enough to be a serious challenge, without the training being overwhelming.

In this article, we will cover:

  • What Is An Olympic Triathlon?
  • How Long Does An Olympic Triathlon Take?
  • 3 Key Factors For A Good Average Olympic Triathlon Time
  • Top Tips For Great Transitions

Let’s get into what is considered to be a good Olympic triathlon time!

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What Is An Olympic Triathlon?

An Olympic distance triathlon follows the format of any traditional triathlon. Many people refer to the Olympic distance as the standard distance.

The race starts with a 1500 meter swim, followed by a 40 km bike ride, and finishes with a 10 km run. This is the distance you would race if you had qualified for the Olympic Games or the ITU World Championships.

If you are an amateur triathlete looking for a challenge, an Olympic distance triathlon is an achievable distance. It is also a great way to test your physical and mental fitness, even if you are experienced with endurance racing.

How Long Does An Olympic Triathlon Take?

Answering the question of “how long does an Olympic triathlon take?” starts with the individual. Everyone has different fitness levels, experiences, and mindsets.

A good Olympic triathlon time for the best male triathletes is about 1 hour 50 minutes. The best female triathletes just about break the 2-hour mark.

But these triathletes live and breathe triathlon training, so the rest of us with day jobs and other commitments should expect a much slower time.

So what is the average Olympic triathlon time for everyone else?

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The average Olympic triathlon time for men is 2 hours 52 minutes. Women complete the distance in an average of 3 hours 7 minutes.

But of course, there are several things that will affect your average Olympic triathlon time, and the main thing is your age.

It may be no surprise to you that the younger triathletes tend to be the fastest. In the 18 to 24 age group, triathletes have an average Olympic triathlon time of 2 hours 47 minutes for men and 3 hours 5 minutes for women.

The men in the older age group of 70 to 74 finish their races in 3 hours 29 minutes, while the women’s average time is 3 hours 56 minutes.

So with all this in mind, to get a good Olympic triathlon time males should aim to finish in 2 hours 34 to put them in the top 20%.

Females need to cross the finish line in 2 hours 48 to hit the same target.

However, younger triathletes should aim to shave 15 or 20 minutes off these times.

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3 Key Factors For A Good Average Olympic Triathlon Time

There are certain things you can do to get a good Olympic triathlon time. Let’s break down a race to see where you can make up time.

But first, it is worth mentioning how vital pacing yourself is. During an Olympic distance triathlon, your pacing is critical to your success. This is because the fastest way to complete the distance is to race at a pace you know you can maintain. The only time you will go faster is during the final push at the end.

However, during your triathlon, there will be times that will push you out of your comfort zone.

#1: Build Your Advantage During The Swim

To position yourself well for racing, you need to get off the start line as fast as possible. Olympic distance triathlons start either in a lake or the sea, and the start is where you can gain your advantage.

You need to battle for position at the start and put your pacing to the back of your mind for a few minutes. If you are not a strong swimmer, look for a faster swimmer to swim with. You will be able to draft them by staying close behind them. 

However, keep an eye on where you are going. You don’t want to end up swimming further than you need to!

Average Olympic Triathlon Time

#2: Smash The Bike Ride

The bike ride is the longest part of your race. Therefore, you need to give it more attention than the other parts to ensure you finish with a good Olympic triathlon time.

Having said that, if you are not a strong runner, the advantage you gain on the bike will shrink pretty quickly. This is why you need to ensure that you are a good all-rounder with the three sports, rather than relying on your strongest.

One way to gain speed on the bike is to make yourself as aerodynamic as possible. This will reduce wind resistance, allowing you to cut through the air. To do this, you may want to fit your bike with aero bars as these make your riding more efficient.

As you pedal, try to maintain an even pace for the whole ride. Drafting is not allowed in most triathlons, but you can stay within what’s allowed to make your life a little easier.

For example, if the rules state that you can ride 10 meters behind the rider in front of you, hold the gap perfectly until you find a faster rider. This “leapfrogging” is within the rules and can still give you a helpful tow.

However, don’t sit behind a group of riders for the sake of it. There will be times when you will be better off riding by yourself, at your own pace.

The ride is the best time to fuel your body, as you will have snacks and energy gels with you. It is also easier to drink water while riding than when running.

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#3: Finish With A Strong Run

Many people use the run to make up for any lost time. With a bit of luck, your pacing will leave you with some energy to claw your way through the pack.

The competitors who are strong on the bike will have gone all out during the ride. So there is a good chance they have tired legs, allowing you to catch them.

It is much better to pass people in the last few miles of the race than struggling on wobbly legs. When you do this, you will be incredibly motivated to reel in everyone in front.

Leave the transition for your run with confidence and ambition, and look for people at a similar level to you. Use them as pacesetters, but don’t get too ambitious and completely exhaust yourself.

After this early burst of speed, continue at an even pace before pushing on in the last mile or so. You may want to take an energy gel in the transition to give you an extra boost.

It is worth noting that there is no point in taking on water in the last 15 minutes of the race, as it won’t get into your system before you finish.

Also, don’t try out any new nutrition strategies or energy gels you are not used to for your race. This is not the time to experiment; you should have all this nailed during your training!

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Top Tips For Great Transitions

You can significantly improve your average Olympic triathlon time in the transitions.

You need to make your transitions second nature, so you don’t have to think while you do them on race day. Luckily, you can practice your transitions at home to make them as smooth as possible.

It is recommended that you actually transition a little slower than you think is necessary. This is because you stand less chance of getting flustered, which will make you transition slower.

Part of your transition practice should be setting your stuff out neatly. This way, you know exactly where everything is so that you can put your hand straight on it.

When you arrive at the race, take note of how the transition is set out. This will mean you can get out quickly, but it will also allow you to find your bike in a sea of carbon fiber tubing.

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How Long Does An Olympic Triathlon Take – Answered!

Now you know the average Olympic triathlon time of the best triathletes and what everyone else achieves!

You also have a goal to aim for that is considered to be a good Olympic triathlon time.

If you want to have a clear indication of your fitness progress and a new pastime, entering triathlon events is a great thing to do.

But don’t get overly bogged down with times. An Olympic triathlon is no mean feat, so just completing one is an outstanding achievement that should not be taken lightly.

Found this article helpful? Learn more from The BikeTips experts in the guides below!

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One of BikeTips' regular writers, Tom is a mountain biking expert living in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on two wheels or a snowboard! Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

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