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Kids Summer Triathlon

Summertime invites outdoor activities. In our home, it beckons the triathlon.

This year, my husband organized a kids triathlon to kick off the summer the day after school ended. The kids had a blast! We also plan to hold it again at the end of the summer to compare the times.

My husband is a triathlete. Just before we got married, he participated in a half IRONMAN and has dreams of a full IRONMAN, but he sets that dream aside because the time commitment is not conducive for families (and a full-time job). Throughout our marriage, we have cheered him on in many, many races on a smaller scale, “GO, Daddy, GO!” is a favorite mantra we chant as he whizzes past us on a course. When we moved into our neighborhood two years ago, my husband met a few other friends that also love the triathlon, and I snapped this picture of the three of them last year at a race:

The three dads are pumped to involve their kids in something they love. We’ve done a kids triathlon for the past few summers with just our kids, but this year, we went a little bigger. We invited a handful of our friends and their kids to participate alongside our kids. You can even host an event like this in your own neighborhood. We just made sure our swim, bike, run was close enough to each other without crossing any roads. We are lucky to have a bike/run trail right by our neighborhood pool to accommodate those safety measures. We had 12 kids participate. We broke it into two categories for the swim — 7 lengths of the pool for the older and 5 lengths for the younger. The bike was 2 miles (2 loops on the course). The run was 1 mile (one loop). We stationed adults along the path, and even a water station part way through. The transition station was all set up, and we helped the kids prep the station with a towel on the ground to sit on, another towel to wipe off the feet, socks and shoes all laid out with helmet nearby.

When photographing events, I always try to remember the details. {I have listed some of my image stats under the images. I used my 70-200mm zoom lens for all of these, and the lowest aperture on that lens is a 4.0 f stop, so that was the setting I kept it on for most of these.}

ISO 125 f4.0 ss1/320 (in shade)

In triathlons, they write the race number on your arm, and your age on your calf. The kids thought this was fun.

ISO 250 f4.0 ss 1/160 in shade

We conducted a pre-race meeting to go over all the rules and regulations, and there was some excellent attentiveness!

I think the dads were the most excited for the race to begin.

And they’re off! The older group went first, while the younger kids watched. It was in this segment that I realized swimming for survival for my boys wasn’t enough. Yes, they know how to swim, but they had never had much formal training. The girls — who had swim training — literally blew them out of the water!


ISO 160 f4.0 ss 1/100

I love the shot below of my friends’ husband helping his daughter in transition.

There were 2 girls and 5 boys in the older group. The girls finished first and had a head start. Below, my boys fumbling to dress themselves. Having done a few triathlons myself, I know this part is tough.


ISO 160 f4.0 ss 1/500

My boys both HAD to wear green shirts this day to confuse all of you. I also realized that my boys have no gear shifts, and their bikes may be a tad small for them. I bought the helmets that morning because they didn’t want to wear Darth Maul and Jelly bean helmets in front of their friends. It was time.

ISO 160 f4.0 ss 1/800 full sun

I was running around a little and didn’t get much with the younger swimming. I did capture one of my daughter (see the top pic with title) and I love this transition shot, too, of dad video-ing while mom helped the little one transition. This cutie just finished kindergarten.

My friend took this pic with her phone, and I love it because it shows that a) I was there and b) the track (you can see a runner in the yellow shirt all the way to the left) and where they came back on the right of this image by the house.

This is the shot I was taking of my son. He’s got a big smile on his face because he knows … long distance running is his strength. Man, that boy has some great endurance and determination.

ISO 160 f4.0 ss 1/1000 full sun with some clouds

About the time my boys started to run, my daughter was getting out of the pool to transition.

Waiting while our kids are all on the course …

ISO 200 f 4.0 ss 1/400 in shade

This is nearing the end of the race when we saw the first few kids coming around the corner and we watched from afar. Cute girl in yellow was in the lead, but when I saw my running boy up close, I had an idea it might be in his favor. I took the trio below of them about to finish. It was SO close, and with about 100 yards to go, he slipped by her. She is the daughter of one of my closest friends, and we were standing by each other laughing — promising to love each other still … no matter what. ;)

ISO 200 f4.0 ss 1/400

(It is too blurred for my liking and could have darkened, but I didn’t change my settings from the above shaded spot.)

My oldest skimmed just past her, it was very exciting to watch. My hubby made the finish line out of PVC pipes and a roll of art paper. I also love that I can see his age on his calf.

ISO 200 f4.0 ss 1/400

My second son came in a few minutes behind them. He had to stop a few times to tie his shoes, and I guess they were slipping off. Yeah, his weren’t the best running shoes, either. When my daughter came in with the second heat, I thought it was so sweet that my boys went to meet her and run the end with her.

ISO 160 f4.0 ss 1/1000

ISO 200 f4.0 ss 1/400

Fun was had by all.

ISO 200 f4.0 ss 1/500

Here is the final group of contestants, and below, a friend of ours went to a trophy store and got real medals for just over $2 each.

ISO 200 f4.0 ss 1/500 (in shade)

Overall, it was a great day. The men were so happy to share a love of theirs with their children, the kids got some great exercise and understanding of what their dads love, and moms got to enjoy it, too! There will be some practicing for the end of the summer race.

If you want to hold your own summer triathlon, a few tips:

- Find a course that you wouldn’t have to cross roads

- Pack plenty of water

- Plan well fitting shoes

- Transition station all set up

- Marker the arms and legs with age/race number

- Trophy store for cool medals

Photo tips: To photograph an outdoor sports event in full sun, you will most likely be shooting on a 100-200 ISO. Your aperture can be set in one spot such as f2.8 or f4.0 and can stay there because you are mostly photographing 1-3 people at a time (I stayed at 4.0 the whole time because of my lens). Your shutter speed will be up high ranging from 1 /500 to 1/1000, maybe up to 1/2000. The shutter speed will vary, depending on the clouds coming and going, and that can get tricky. You just have to be aware of the light as it changes. Keep checking your LCD screen or histagram to make sure you are on track as the light changes. Set your focal point on the faces of those you photograph, and with movement, just make sure that shutter speed is high enough to accommodate (never under 1/125 for sports). I used my zoom lens 70-200mm 4.0 for all of the images.

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  1. Looks like the kids really enjoyed the triathlon. Our neighborhood consists mostly of girls and only three boys that are ages 7 and 5. I need to put on my thinking cap and come up with my own idea that will balance out age and gender. Relay races is a possibility. Thanks for sharing the end of school year fun and your photography tips

  2. how fun! and so valuable on so many levels! Continuous focus also helps me with subjects on the move!

  3. Hi, Kristen. I´m from Brazil and I really enjoy your website since I´m just beginning to take nice pictures myself…This triathlon was so fun! Well, I have to ask you…to take these pictures, do you set your camera to AV mode (and set the apperture) or did you go manual? If you go manual, isn´t trick to have to look to the photometer all the time? Thank you

  4. These dad’s rock!!! looks like so much fun!

  5. Fun! I have a friend in Utah with six active children (and a sporty husband.) They do a Kids Tri with all the cousins in their family each year (there are many!) They even make up matching T-shirts for the event. It always looks like a blast! And always fun to see the dad’s getting into the fun. :)