General Questions

What is a triathlon?

Triathlon is an endurance and versatility sport, in which the individual athlete carries out a swimming, a cycling, and a running segment, in that order, and with the clock running during transitions. It is an athletic contest won by completing the course with the fastest time.

What is a duathlon?

A Duathlon is similar to a Triathlon, but the swim leg is replaced by another run leg, so it becomes a run, cycle, run race. Basically a duathlon is a triathlon without the swimming. Duathlon distances are similar to those for triathlons.

What is an Aquathon?

An Aquathon is similar to a Triathlon, but without the bike leg. So it becomes a swim and run race. Again, just like Triathlons and Duathlons, there are varying distances. However, the distances are normally of sprint distance.

What are the typical triathlon distances?

There are no set distances for triathlons. Many triathlons use various distances that conform to the land/water available to them. There are, however, some standard distances for triathlons:

• Ironman: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
• Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
• Olympic Distance: 1500 meter (.93 mile) swim, 40k (24.8 mile) bike, 10k (6.2 mile) run
– this is the distance used in the summer Olympics
• Sprint Distance: usually about one half of an Olympic Distance race 500-750 meter swim, 12 mile bike and 3.1 mile run.

What are the different divisions in a triathlon?

Triathlons are usually separated into different divisions for awards. Most commonly there are pro/elite categories and age group categories.

The age group categories separate men and women into different groups. Each gender group is then separated by their age. Age groups are usually in 5 year sections. For example, women’s ages 19-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-45 … men’s ages 19-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-45.

Awards are often given to the top finishers overall for each gender and for the top 3-6 finishers in each age group division.

 Do I need to buy a lot of expensive gear?

No. It’s possible to compete in a triathlon with equipment you already have. All you need is a swim suit, tennis shoes, a bike and a helmet. Everything else is extra and after you have done a few races and decide you like the sport, then you can start acquiring gear.

What if something goes wrong in the Special Triathlon I’ve spent so much time preparing for?

For some, understandably, a triathlon is a culmination of much dedication, preparation, training time, and family support. It’s a project, it’s a big deal, and you want it all to be worth it.

But sometimes things go wrong out there, in the same way that it might rain on a long-planned outdoor wedding. The swim might not go as well as you expect. You might get a flat tire on the bike. You might experience unexpected cramping on the run.

If you do run into a problem during your triathlon, it’s ok. There are many more races out there. Your time and effort didn’t go to waste because now you are in GREAT shape! Assess what went wrong and then sign up for another race. Keep up with your work outs and you can “redeem” yourself at the next race.

What are the rules of triathlon?

Triathlon rules vary by race and governing bodies. For individual triathlons, check the race packet for rules for the race.
For ITU races, the rules can be found at
For USAT races, the rules can be found at
Even if your race is an ITU or USAT event, you should still check the race packets for changes/exceptions to the rules.

Where can I find more information on triathlons?

Beginner Triathlete
USA Triathlon
International Triathlon Union

What should I wear?

Don’t worry too much about what to wear, especially for your first tri. There is triathlon specific apparel you can wear, but for your first race, swimsuit for the swim, Shirt/Jersey and shorts (over your suit) for the bike and run, whatever is in the back of the wardrobe!!! Once you have done a few, you can invest in a triathlon specific outfit. Triathlon shorts are generally spandex and have a light chamois (padding). Triathlon tops are also spandex, sleeveless and may have a couple pockets. Keep in mind, for some races, a wetsuit is required.

Can a team have two people on it?
A: Yes, a team can consist of two or three people; and can be all male, all female or co-ed.

I’ve registered for the race, but now I’m injured and won’t be able to compete. Will I be able to get a refund?
Although refunds are not available please send your deferral inquiries to

Is there medical support?
If you require medical assistance during the race, visit the medical tent by the finish line Medical staff will be on the course and emergency services on notice.

What kind of timing will you use?
We will be using chip timing,

Can I wear the chip wherever I want as long as I have it with me?
No. The strap with the timing chip should be worn on the left ankle. Wearing it on an ankle helps ensure that its signal is properly read when you cross a timing mat. The left ankle is important because if it is on the right ankle, it may rub or get caught on your bike’s chain ring.

If I lose my chip, will I be timed for the race?
If you lose your chip before the race starts, see race personnel to see if a replacement chip is available. You will be billed for the $30 replacement cost of the chip. There are backup manual timers; however, it is impossible for them to always catch every participant. Thus, if you do not have a chip during the race, please do not expect to be timed.

I know someone who cannot race, can I use their number?
NO! You will be banned from participation at all USAT-sanctioned events.

Do I need a USAT license to participate?
Yes. All individuals and relay team members must furnish proof of current USAT membership or you will be required to purchase a one-day USAT license ($12) at athlete check in.

Can I have someone else pick up my packet for me?
No. You must pick up your own packet or you will not be allowed to race. NO EXCEPTIONS. You must be at athlete check-in before close at 7pm on Saturday, April 27.

Can someone else check in my bike for me?
Yes. If you cannot check in your bike, you may have another competitor check in your bike once they have gotten their participant wrist band.

Can I change my race division?
Once registered, you cannot make changes in your race division to improve your wave start order. You may change from age group to Clydesdale/Athena. No changes will be made after the race

My registration information is wrong, what can I do?
You must e-mail 7 days prior to the race in order to have your registration information corrected. Race Day, you must report to the solutions table at athlete check-in to make corrections.

Where do I pick up my timing chip?
Chip pick up will be part of the athlete check in process rather than race morning.

If I was unable to stay for awards, can I have it mailed to me?

No we no longer mail awards

Are there any age restriction on who can do a triathlon?  Yes, we have restriction depending on  the distance:

Youth Triathlon: Minimum age of 6 on December 31st in the year of the event

Sprint Triathlon:  Minimum age of 12 on December 31st in the year of the event

Olympic  Distance: Minimum age of 15 on December 31st in the year of the event

Half Ironman and ironman; Minimum age of 19 on December 31st in the year of the event

Swim Questions

What strokes are permissible?

Any stroke is allowed in triathlons as long as you are not using an artificial means to propel yourself through the water.

The most common and efficient stroke is freestyle. Breaststroke, however, is often performed by people who either have trouble with freestyle or are resting or sighting.

Can I be placed in the same wave as my friend/mom/sister/training partner?
No..If you are in the same age group, it is possible that you will be in the same age group wave,

How is my wave assigned?
They are assigned by age groups and sex

Can I switch my wave?
Once the waves are assigned, the week before the race, it is critical for safety and fairness that every athlete starts in the swim wave to which she has been assigned, as it disrupts timing, announcing and so on. Persons “sneaking” into a wave not assigned to them are subject to disqualification. The deadline to request wave changes is August 1.

How many people will be in my wave?
Wave number There will be approximately 50-75 people per wave. but could be up to 150

Do I have to wear a wetsuit?

That depends on the race. Your race will have that information available to you, usually on their website. If you are swimming in a pool, you should not wear a wet suit. If you are swimming in open water, the water temperature is the main factor. Wetsuits help you stay warm in longer swim distances, and the buoyancy will make most amateur swimmers swim better. They can however be difficult to take off in transition. If it is a shorter swim, you feel comfortable with the temperature you probably don’t need one. Try swimming in a wetsuit to help you with your decision. At certain temperatures wetsuits are required, so check the rules for your race.

What are the rules about wetsuits?

The wetsuit rules change by race and governing body but the general rules for ITU races are:

Elite athletes in the Olympic Games and ITU Events:

Swim Length Forbidden above: Mandatory below: Maximum stay in water

1500m 20 deg. C  14 deg. C      30 min
1500-3000m 23 deg. C  15 deg. C  1 h 40 min
3000-4000m 24 deg. C  16 deg. C  2 h 15 min

Junior and Age Group competitors:

Swim Length Forbidden above: Mandatory below: Maximum stay in water

1500m 22 deg. C  14 deg. C  1 h 10 min
1500-3000m 23 deg. C  15 deg. C  1 h 40 min
3000-4000m 24 deg. C  16 deg. C  2 h 15 min

And for USAT races are:

“Each age group participant shall be permitted to wear a wet suit without penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees, but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wet suit at their own discretion, provided however that participants who wear a wet suit within this temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards. Age group participants shall not wear wet suits in water temperatures equal to or greater than 84 degrees Fahrenheit. The wetsuit policy for elite athletes shall Do I need to buy a wetsuit?

A wetsuit is not mandatory for most triathlons, and certainly not needed in the short distance races like Sprints, held in water that’s warm or a pool.

What type of wetsuit should I buy?

This depends on the temperature of the water you will be swimming in most often.  Here are the comparisons:

Shorty: No sleeves with short legs
Cheap, easiest to remove in transition
Least exposure protection (coldest) and speed improvement

Farmer John: No sleeves with long legs
Improved warmth over Shorty without sacrificing range of motion
Less speed improvement than a full suit, slower transitions than Shorty

Full Suit: Full sleeves with long legs
Fastest suit with best exposure protection (warmest)
Arm movement somewhat restrained, slowest transition, most expensive

Bike Questions

Do I need cycling shoes? And clipless pedals?

The short answer is no

What is drafting?

The ITU defines drafting as: The technique of riding in a pack during the cycling event. They define draft zone as: An imaginary area approximately three bicycle lengths long and six feet wide surrounding each competitor during the bike segment.

Basically drafting is a method to increase your speed or decrease your effort by lowering your wind resistance.

So stay back at least three bike lengths, and make sure when passing that you are completely finished passing within 20 seconds of entering the drafting zone.

What is blocking?

Blocking is basically riding in the wrong part of the bike course. Most commonly the right side of the bike course is for riding while the left side is for passing. Riders who camp out or overextend their stay in the passing lane are blocking. Blocking is a violation in most triathlons.

Do I need to buy bike shorts?

Bike shorts have a special pad in them to help you stay more comfortable on your bike seat. As you know comfort is very important and the better you feel, the longer you can stay in the seat. So bike shorts are highly recommended.

Do I need to buy an expensive triathlon bike?

Anything with two wheels in your garage can get you started at no extra cost. Many beginners use their mountain bikes out of the garage. Some races even have a special division for those athletes riding mountain bikes.

When you decide to take on longer triathlons, a road bike will probably be more comfortable for you and will take less effort to ride greater distances. You can look for used road bikes at your local bike shops or you can invest in a new one for about $600. Keep in mind, over the years you will ride thousands of miles on your bike, so you will get your monies worth.

Should I buy a road bike or triathlon (time trial) bike?

You don’t need a triathlon bike to do triathlons. Modified road bikes are very common in triathlons. If you already own a road bike or plan on doing other types of riding you may be better off with a road bike with clamp on aerobars. The advantages of a triathlon bike are in the positioning. They are setup to keep you more comfortable when in the aero bars and to work the quads less, saving them for the run. Often triathlon bikes are more aerodynamic than road bikes.


What is Transition?  You had this at the beginning which one do you want to use?

Transition is the term used to describe the change over between the individual segments of a Triathlon, Duathlon or Aquathon. It is when you are “transitioning” from one sport to the next.

Transition 1 (also known as T1) occurs between the:
swim and cycle in a triathlon
first run and cycle in a duathlon
swim and run in an aquathon
Transition 2 (also known as T2) occurs between the:
cycle and run in a triathlon
cycle and second run in a duathlon

Where do I put my clothes, towel and bike on race day?

On race morning, you will enter a secured area called the Transition Area. Here you will find tons of bike racks. Your spot on the bike racks will be assigned by your heat or race number. If it is simply first come first served, get thee early and claim a spot. Here you will lay out your towel, shoes, helmet, etc. You will come here after you finish the swim and bike legs to exchange out your gear.

Does my time stop in transition?

No. Your time is running from the start until you cross the finish line,

Where can I change?

Most people wear their swimming suits (or triathlon suits) the whole race and put clothes over the top so they don’t need a changing room. If you need to change in a way that you may be exposed, you will need to use a locker room or port-a-potty to change.

Can my friend wait for me in the Transition Area to cheer me on and help me get out of my wetsuit?

The Transition Area is for athletes only. This way it can remain secure and your gear will be safe. There are plenty of great spots at the swim finish, at the bike and run starts for your friends and family to cheer you on. USA Triathlon rules do not allow you to receive assistance during the event and this includes helping you get that wetsuit off. We suggest swimming in it before race day and practice taking it off alone.

What about before the race….can my spouse and kids help me set up my gear in the transition area?

No. The transition area must be secure at all times. Therefore no spouses, friends, dogs, etc.are allowed in on race day. They can help you carry your gear to and from transition but once you get to the entrance it is all you.

Do I need a bike lock for my bike in the transition area?

No, you do not.

What if I finish the swim portion and I can’t remember where my bike is?

The rows of the transition area will be labeled with numbers and letters. Before the race, you may want to write down your row # with a permanent marker on your hand to refresh your memory after the swim leg.


aerobars- a handlebar extension enabling the rider to use a more aerodynamic position
bonk-running out of energy during a race a.k.a. hitting the wall
buoy-a float used to mark the swim course
blocking-riding in the passing lane
brick-a bike/run workout
drafting-the technique of riding in a pack during the cycling event
lemming start-a triathlon start where the competitors start one at a time
mass start-a triathlon start where all of the competitors start at the same time instead of in waves
split-the time taken to complete an individual leg of a triathlon
transition-the period/area between legs of a triathlon where participants change equipment/clothing for the next leg
T1-the swim to bike transition
T2-the bike to run transition
wave-a group of triathletes starting together as opposed to a mass start.