Ironman World ChampionshipsKailua-Kona, Hawaii 1 of 9
Of course. The Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii is the ultimate race for most triathletes. The October race is the most celebrated triathlon in the world—and the most exclusive. The race lets in 1,800 professional and age-group qualifiers as well as 100 legacy and 100 lottery athletes. Qualification is determined by being a top age-group finisher at one of a handful of Ironman 70.3 and Ironman events worldwide. (Photo: Ironman)
Escape From AlcatrazSan Francisco, California 2 of 9
The sheer mystique surrounding Alcatraz Island and its prison is brought to life at this annual race. Participants swim from Alcatraz Island to the mainland in San Francisco Bay (1.5 miles in chilly water), then bike 18 miles in Golden Gate Park before running 8 miles in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. The triathlon caps out at 2,000 racers and the demand is so high that a random lottery is necessary. (Photo: Getty)
SavagemanMcHenry, Maryland 3 of 9
Thought to be one of the toughest triathlons in the world, Savageman is most well-known for the Westernport Wall, a monster of a hill that's so steep that anyone who bikes it without touching their feet to the ground gets a brick on the road, engraved with their name. A brick beats any race-day T-shirt, but the bragging rights for finishing this triathlon tops everything.
Chicago TriathlonChicago, Illinois 4 of 9
For the sheer size, you can't beat this big-city race. The Chicago Triathlon attracts 9,000 athletes every year, and more than 15,000 spectators will be there to cheer you on. The swim is in Lake Michigan adjacent to downtown, the bike is partially on the famous Lake Shore Drive and the run finishes in Grant Park. Truly an unforgettable experience.
WildflowerBradley, California 5 of 9
This 70.3-mile race is a tremendous challenge, full of steep hills on the bike (more than 5,000 feet of climbing in just 56 miles) and varied terrains on the run. But the intense course is the race's biggest draw, and the triathlon is bigger than ever in its 30th year. More than 3,000 triathletes compete and up to 30,000 spectators cheer them on. With the Central California scenery as your backdrop, this is a race you will fall in love with as you suffer through it.
New York City TriathlonNew York, New York 6 of 9
Like its fellow marathon friend in the Big Apple, the New York City Triathlon's demand massively outweighs its supply. So a lottery is the most common way to get an entry. Once you're in, prepare for a 1,500-meter swim in the Hudson River, a 40K bike ride on Manhattan's west side and a 10K run in Central Park. Get ready to fall in love with New York all over again.
Malibu TriathlonMalibu, California 7 of 9
Malibu is one of the jewels of the Southern California coast, and this triathlon as one of the most scenic in the country. Beyond that, though, is the star power—Hollywood celebrities compete in this triathlon every year, raising this race to its high-profile, bucket-list status. The September race has Olympic and sprint distances with an ocean swim. (Photo: Rich Cruse)
Ironman Lake PlacidLake Placid, New York 8 of 9
The beauty of Lake Placid is impossible to miss, and the prestige of Ironman Lake Placid is known to almost every triathlete. The race is Ironman's longest-running event besides Kona, and features a swim in Mirror Lake, a bike ride through the Adirondacks (with 4,800 feet of climbing over 112 miles) with the run passing aging venues from the 1932 and 1980 Olympic games. (Photo: Larry Rosa/EnduraPix.com)