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Old 07-01-08, 05:56 PM   #1
Tom Stormcrowe
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How does a Triathlon Work? Questions for new Triathletes answered here

Here we go, there have been a few questions and a request for some stickies.

Post your questions here about how it all works, and we'll try to answer them.
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Old 07-12-08, 07:00 PM   #2
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"How early should I get there?"

Give yourself plenty of time to set up your equipment (see below), use the bathroom several times, acclimate yourself with the race site, and (if you choose to do so) do a warm-up. I like to get to races 90 minutes early, which gives me about 20-30 minutes of warm-up, 20-30 minutes of setup, and 20-30 minutes of port-a-john excitement.

"Where do I keep all my stuff, like my bike and shoes?"

In a triathlon, all of your equipment is kept in a "transition area." You get a space on a "transition rack" which is usually a long metal beam that runs parallel to the ground--you either hook your handlebars over it or you hook your seat over it. The area near the wheel that touches the ground is where you put all the gear you'll need easy access to during the race--your helmet, shoes, etc. As a courtesy to other racers, push all gear you won't need during the race to the edge of the transition area so more participants have space near the racks (as space is usually pretty limited).

"What about security? Will people steal my stuff?"

You don't lock your bike in transition, but at many races, to remove your bike from transition after the race you need to show that your bike (which is affixed with your race number) matches the race number assigned to you. There have been only a few incidents of theft at triathlons, but there have been enough that people are aware of the issue, and any decent race will at least have people watching the transition area for shady goings-on.

"How does the competition itself work?"

Unless you're an "elite" or a "professional" you'll probably race primarily against people of the same gender and age as you. These "age groups" are generally binned every five years, though the lower and upper groups are sometimes a catchall (e.g. 18 and under, or 75 and older).

"How does the swim work?"

Usually, you'll start in a "wave" of between 30-150 athletes, though some races do a "mass start" or a "time-trial" (one-at-a-time) start. You can usually choose to wear a wetsuit (unless the water is too warm), and if the rules allow it I highly recommend wearing it. Many people find that their swim times are improved by about 10% when they wear a wetsuit that fits them properly.

After the swim, you'll remove your cap, goggles and top half of the wetsuit (on the way to the transition area) and enter the transition area. Some people like to remove the entire wetsuit in or near the swim exit, that's cool too. After removing your wetsuit, if you're wearing one, PUT ON YOUR HELMET. Grab all the other stuff you'll need on the bike (shoes, sunglasses, bottles, etc), put on what you need to, and get outa there!

"What rules are there on the bike?"

The most important things to remember are the rules concerning DRAFTING and BLOCKING. Don't do either of these, unless you happen to be racing a draft-legal race (which you probably aren't).

DRAFTING: Stay 3 bike lengths behind the person in front of you, except to pass. If you want to pass, you have 15 seconds to pass once you move inside of 3 bike lengths. If you get passed, you have 15 seconds to drop back outside of 3 bike lengths. Violation of this rule will get you a DRAFTING PENALTY.

BLOCKING: Stay to the right unless passing, just like the interstate. Don't cross the yellow line and don't pull out in front of other riders. Don't get a BLOCKING PENALTY!
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Old 07-17-08, 03:23 PM   #3
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What should I wear?
Tri-shorts make sense as bottoms for all three, but what about tops? Should I wear a cycling jersey for the bike and a shirt for the run? If I go this route, what do I do about attaching the race number? Should I just run in a bike jersey so I don't have to worry about where my number is, or will they give me two numbers so I can have one pinned to a bike jersey and one to a running shirt?

Thanks.
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Old 07-17-08, 03:31 PM   #4
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"What should I wear?"

Actually, they make triathlon-specific tops, often called a tri singlet, tri shirt, tri jersey, etc. They are usually form-fitting, sleeveless garments with a zipper and pockets like a cycling jersey. They're quite suitable for wearig under a wetsuit, biking and running (though your cycling buddies might mock you for wearing a sleeveless jersey ).

You'll usually get one number, and it's most important to wear it on the run. The race number either gets attached to the singlet with safety pins, or pinned to a "race belt" that you can get for under $10 from most triathlon stores (or make your own from supplies at Wal-Mart for 1/4 of the price!).
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Old 07-17-08, 04:05 PM   #5
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If you are just starting out & don't want to spend the money on a tri-specific top, wear what is comfortable. Figure out whether the running or cycling top is easier to get on when you are wet, and wear that.

I second the race belt option. You can make one VERY cheap (piece of elastic & plastic clip from any fabric store). Then you don't have to worry about jackets or weather, the race belt just goes over whatever you decide to wear. Lots of the races around here have actually gotten away from race bibs - they just do the body marking now.
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Old 07-22-08, 04:46 PM   #6
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I bought a race belt from my lbs for about $7.

I had tri shorts already (had worn them to the gym). I wore cycling jerseys in the race, a short sleeve for a tri in Dec 2007, and a sleeveless for a tri on June 7.

I rented a wetsuit for the June tri.
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Old 07-28-08, 12:51 PM   #7
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Do you have to wear a shirt? Could I just wear tri shorts for the swim, bike, and run and never use a shirt?
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Old 07-31-08, 12:02 PM   #8
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For my first tri in a few weeks, I plan on tri shorts, sports bra for the swim, and if needed, I'll put on a compression type longer top for the bike and run.

Does this sound good?
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Old 08-07-08, 04:36 PM   #9
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hi there.
the questions do not appear to have been answered for a month but here goes...
i have entered an extreme duathelon that is cross country run, off road (mtb) ride followed by another XC run. i having commuted to the city for 10 years, and have small childeren need vital training tips. my fitness is average is there any training schedule that would fit.
i have 7 weeks until the event, i have taken on board the advice above.
ade
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Old 08-11-08, 06:14 AM   #10
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Most REgulations prohibit baretop biking and running...check with the race organizer
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Old 09-23-08, 10:01 AM   #11
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What about these tri suits. Can I wear one of those for the swim, bike and run??????? What's a good brand?
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Old 09-23-08, 10:17 AM   #12
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Yes, tri suits are fine to wear for the duration of a triathlon. They're usually a bit more expensive than a pair of tri shorts and a tri singlet/top, but tri suits are often more aerodynamic than a two-piece outfit, and you can dump ice down your suit on a long day without worrying about the ice excaping through the bottom of your jersey. Plus they make my spare tire look smaller!

Also, some of the top-of-the-line tri suits (speedsuits) have hydrodynamic properties (making you faster in the swim), and have ITU-legal back zippers.

As far as a good brand, it really depends on what fits you. I have found that DeSoto trisuits run a bit small in the shorts portion, Zoot runs a bit large in the top portion, and Voler fits me just right But, if you can get to a physical store and try a bunch on, that's really your best option.
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Old 09-24-08, 09:56 AM   #13
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OK I signed up for my first sprint, the JerseyMan, this Sunday. If there was an Olympic distance, I would hav edone that but it was sprint or half. No thanks on the half!

I bought a Descent tri-suit and a Zoot. The Descent seems nicer and was more $$$.

So here's some dumb questions:

Do triathletes shave their arms, armpits and legs? Can I go with the #1 buzz and not wear a cap on my head?

When I go from the swim to bike, I assume people would typically at least dry their feet off? Do people typically wear socks on the ride? I have never ridden w/o socks and don't really want to. Same with running...

Can I skip "wearing" a number until the run? I bought a belt. Does someone write my # on me or should I bring some sort of marker to write it on myself???

What else am I forgetting.
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Old 09-24-08, 10:06 AM   #14
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OK I signed up for my first sprint, the JerseyMan, this Sunday. If there was an Olympic distance, I would hav edone that but it was sprint or half. No thanks on the half!

I bought a Descent tri-suit and a Zoot. The Descent seems nicer and was more $$$.

So here's some dumb questions:

Do triathletes shave their arms, armpits and legs? Can I go with the #1 buzz and not wear a cap on my head?

When I go from the swim to bike, I assume people would typically at least dry their feet off? Do people typically wear socks on the ride? I have never ridden w/o socks and don't really want to. Same with running...

Can I skip "wearing" a number until the run? I bought a belt. Does someone write my # on me or should I bring some sort of marker to write it on myself???

What else am I forgetting.
Good questions!

Shaving: it's not necessary to shave any parts of your body. Some triathletes and cyclists shave their legs (including me) because it's easier to treat road rash on a leg with no hair on it. Also, it just feels good and you look like a "real" cyclist But there is no compelling reason to shave anything at all, so don't worry about it if you don't want to. And I've never seen a male age-grouper triathlete with shaved armpits and arms.

Swim cap: you are almost always required to wear the swim cap, so that the spotters can see you easily when you're in the water. I'd forego the close shave on top and just buzz it and put the cap on over the buzz, if you want to cut it short for the race.

Swim-bike transition: if you have triathlon-specific bike shoes, they are generally designed to be be worn with wet bare feet (to save you time in transition), so you don't need to dry your feet and you don't need to put socks on. However, if you're rocking cycling shoes, your best bet is probably to dry your feet, put on socks and be comfortable during the ride.

Running without socks: don't do this unless you've practiced it. It's worth the extra 5 seconds to put on socks, compared to the two weeks you'd be sidelined due to the blisters you accumulate during your sockless run.

Number on run: you are usually required to wear your race number on the run. Just safety pin it to your race belt before the race starts, and then put your race belt on as you're running out of T2.

Body marking (writing your race number on your body in Sharpie): the race staff will take care of this for you when you register/pick up your packet race morning. Be sure not to apply sunscreen before you get body marked!
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Old 09-24-08, 10:37 AM   #15
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Thank you for the response!

So, sorry for the more dumb questions but if a cap is required, that is something I bring/provide for myself I assume? See that is something I definitely would not have known!!!!

I guess I'll be wearing socks for the bike anyway, so for the run they'll already be on.
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Old 09-24-08, 10:39 AM   #16
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Actually, the race directors will provide a swim cap if it's required. That way, they can insure that everyone has the same color cap

Good luck with your race!
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Old 09-24-08, 11:36 AM   #17
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thanks a lot!
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Old 09-24-08, 11:56 AM   #18
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It looks like they just posted the rule book:

Lets talk about chips - It says I should have the chip ready for the swim... where the heck does it go when I swim???

They mention a water bottle to clean my feet - another something I never thought of.

Any idea roughly what a sprint (.6 miles, 20miles, and 5k in this case) should take a person in good-very good shape? 1 hour 20-30 minutes???
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Old 10-01-08, 11:52 AM   #19
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Newbie of Newbies

Hello all! I have been thinking of trying a triathalon for quite a while however, I never knew anyone who ever did or attempted one before and kept puting it off. I do ride my bike quite a bit but i'm a bit nervous about the swimming. I'm looking into swimming lessons but as far as actually training for a triathalon....I'm stuck. I don't know where to begin. Do I just go out my front door and start running? I know one of the challeges I will have is nutrition. I eat terrible and I know I'll have to change that if i'm going to begin this process but I think I need some help. I got a few books but I guess i'm a bit overwhelmed. I live in the Flower Mound area but the closest teams I can find are in Dallas. Any advice for a new newbie? Thanks for all your help!
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Old 10-01-08, 12:02 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by pjcampbell View Post
Lets talk about chips - It says I should have the chip ready for the swim... where the heck does it go when I swim???

They mention a water bottle to clean my feet - another something I never thought of.

Any idea roughly what a sprint (.6 miles, 20miles, and 5k in this case) should take a person in good-very good shape? 1 hour 20-30 minutes???

The chip will go around your ankle (either left or right, doesn't matter) and it will stay there for the whole race. There will be a velcro strap on it that you use to keep it attached to you. One hint, put it up a little, or it will rub when you have socks/shoes on & may cause a blister (personal experience).

If it is an open water swim, something to rinse the sand off your feet will be helpful. A small tub big enough to stick your foot in will save time & help if you are feeling uncoordinated after the swim.

That is a bit longer than a traditional sprint race (750m, 20km, 5km). A traditional sprint time could be anywhere from 1 hour to 1:15, depending on transition distances & open water vs pool swim.
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Old 04-16-09, 12:21 PM   #21
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New to racing bikes and new to tri

I've just joined the forum, and I am glad to see such useful information. But, if I can get a little help for my situation...that would be great! I am a Mom with three children. I started walking to get fit after #3 last year. Then I just sort of got stuck in January. I needed a goal to push myself, and so I found a local sprint-tri for early Sept. 2009. I started training about two months ago. I call it training as it is for the race, but with three children and an active household, I take my 30 minutes where I can

I was just given a Cannondale R600 (late 90s model). It's from my brother. It looks beautiful...and well, frightening. In the last 13 years, I've owned a 1995 Schwinn mountain bike and a 1996 Gary Fisher. By the way, I live by no mountains. This Cannondale weighs about 40-50 pounds less than my mountain bikes. It is actually made for me and my size, and did I mention tiny tires? I received the bike yesterday. The tires need to be filled, and I'm off, right? For someone who has never raced or been on a racing bike and has no understanding of the gears, what two or three main pieces of advice can you give to me today?

Any help will be read and appreciated. I'm sure I'll be back to quiz on the swim and run, but one thing at a time

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Old 04-16-09, 12:56 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Cannondale Tri View Post
I've just joined the forum, and I am glad to see such useful information. But, if I can get a little help for my situation...that would be great! I am a Mom with three children. I started walking to get fit after #3 last year. Then I just sort of got stuck in January. I needed a goal to push myself, and so I found a local sprint-tri for early Sept. 2009. I started training about two months ago. I call it training as it is for the race, but with three children and an active household, I take my 30 minutes where I can

I was just given a Cannondale R600 (late 90s model). It's from my brother. It looks beautiful...and well, frightening. In the last 13 years, I've owned a 1995 Schwinn mountain bike and a 1996 Gary Fisher. By the way, I live by no mountains. This Cannondale weighs about 40-50 pounds less than my mountain bikes. It is actually made for me and my size, and did I mention tiny tires? I received the bike yesterday. The tires need to be filled, and I'm off, right? For someone who has never raced or been on a racing bike and has no understanding of the gears, what two or three main pieces of advice can you give to me today?

Any help will be read and appreciated. I'm sure I'll be back to quiz on the swim and run, but one thing at a time

Cannondale Tri
What kind of shifters does it have? On the brake levers like this?



Or on the downtube like this?

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Old 04-16-09, 03:38 PM   #23
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What kind of shifters does it have? On the brake levers like this?

They are like this.
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Old 04-16-09, 03:44 PM   #24
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Okay. Check out this article.
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Old 04-17-09, 09:10 AM   #25
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next step...

Thanks for the article. Very helpful. Now I just need to fill the tires (and I am not sure even how to do that-it does not look like my Fischer's tires) and take a spin. I'll probably take it to the bike store for help there. I'm hoping to ride tonight as we have 90% chance of rain tomorrow.

Ride on.
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