Healthy Living on August 26, 2011 by

Triathlon Etiquette Dos and Don’ts

The idiosyncrasies that come with the world of multisport racing can be quite overwhelming for the novice athlete to grasp. There are so many things that can go sideways in training and racing. Learning the ropes early on, and being flexible, can be key elements to enjoying yourself and having memorable experiences.

I believe that there are no secrets in multisport training or racing. I believe this because anytime someone comes up with a new concept, they want to share it with the world. However, what works for one may not always work for most. I’m going to highlight some of the things you should be doing, and some you might want to consider not doing from an etiquette standpoint. These are things that are nice to know, so you don’t become “that guy” at your first or next event. I hope these tips will foster the enjoyment you receive from the sport, and by so doing, make you the kind of person we all appreciate competing with. I’ll break this down into the three areas of swimming, biking and running, but first I’ll talk about your transition area.

Transition Area

Do This:

Get there early and choose a spot that is advantageous to you. Maybe you like the end of the rack where there’s a little more room, or you can hold on to the rack while stepping into your shoes? If there are open spaces on “extra” racks that are not designated for any bib numbers, ask the race staff if you can set up there. Don’t worry if they appear to be farther away from your exit. The time you save by not having to wrestle into your space could mean a quicker transition anyway.

Put your gear beside your bike, on the same side as wheel that’s touching the ground. This is actually a little known (and adhered to) USAT rule. No matter how you rack your bike, either by handlebar or seat, your gear goes on the same side as the grounded wheel.

Establish your space with a towel. Not a beach towel, and not a “bath sheet”, but a towel just wide enough to stand on when changing shoes. All of your gear should fit on this towel and return to the towel when you make your transitions.

Keep you transition gear orderly. Nobody should risk tripping over your gear. And if they do, you’d be surprised how far things will end up from where you actually left them. It shouldn’t look like a 15-year-old’s bedroom.

Respect others’ gear and space, always!!

Don’t Do This:

Move other bikes or gear without the owner’s permission. They got there ahead of you and might not be the ones who should move their gear.

Leave your gear in the aisles after changing. Room is tight, and again, nobody should be tripping over or kicking your stuff.

Use spray-on sunscreen in the proximity of others’ gear or bikes. Not only is this dangerous if it’s any oily type of sunscreen, but some of these products have been known to damage paint, decals and clear-coats on frames.

Go blasting through transition without regard for others. It’s kind of like “pit row” at Indy. Save the speed for out on the course.


Do This:

Position yourself at the start according to your real ability. If you’re not going to mix-it-up with the Big Dogs, then stay out of their way and save yourself the abuse. This is not the time to be losing time while repositioning goggles knocked off in the first 40 yards or checking to see if your nose is really bleeding.

Continue to swim with those of similar ability. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t draft behind someone faster, it just means you’ll avoid getting constantly pummeled as you sight for the next buoy, if everyone around you is moving at the same relative speed.

Move out of the swim line if you need a break, need to use a resting stroke (breast, back, side etc.) or need help. You’ll avoid disrupting others and in the case of needing help, you’ll be more visible to safety personnel.

Swim all the way to the sand. Chances are you can swim faster than you can walk through waist deep water, so keep swimming until your hands start to hit bottom. You may be surprised that you’ll be passing people who’ve stood too early.

Don’t Do This

Abrupt starts or stops can injure other swimmers. If you suddenly stop to take a breather, someone can swim right into you. If on the other hand you start swimming again and decide to breaststroke, your sideways kicking action can be a hazard to those coming up alongside you.

Hitting back at someone who unintentionally or seemingly-intentionally hits you, is a waste of energy and falls into the category of poor sportsmanship. If you notice it’s a continuing problem, report the participant to the race director when convenient, for further action.

Crowd the turn buoy. If you aren’t keeping up with the group you’re swimming in, don’t expect them to show you any courtesy if you decide to take the inside line on the turns. You will get swam over, or at the very least, irritate those around you


Do This:

Be cautious leaving T1. This is not the place to light the afterburners and show the crowd what you can do. There will be others still wobbly from the swim, who’ll be doing all they can to stay upright. This could include inadvertently weaving into your very path with no warning.

Familiarize yourself with any course abnormalities, as well as the USAT Rules for bike course conduct.

Ride to the right side of your lane. It may not always be the “with traffic” lane in every case, so stay right and pass left.

Because most triathlons in the U.S. are non-drafting events, you’re not required to point out obstacles for competitors behind you. But if you’ve just made a legal pass on someone, and they’ve not dropped out of your draft zone yet, as a courtesy, you could point out an obstacle they might be unable to see. It’s the right thing to do.

Ride your line and be predictable. Erratic riders can be dangerous, so give them space when you overtake them too.

Don’t Do This:

Littering is a penalty and includes anything that falls off your bike too. Ejected water bottles can be quite the hazard on the bike course, but so can a slick gel packet or CO2 cartridge. Make sure your gear is secure enough to withstand the bumps and jolts and occasional railroad tracks.

Roadside repairs should be done far enough off the road so as not to create a hazard to you or others. They may not be expecting you while you’re concentrating on the final steps of repairing a flat. It might not be that you’re in the way, but that they just didn’t see you soon enough to react. Better safe than sorry.

Spit or blow your nose anywhere but to your right. Need I say more?

Carry too much speed through aid stations. The volunteers might not be expecting you to come through so fast and so close. Don’t put either of you in jeopardy.

Ride on the tops of your shoes into the dismount area, when you’ve only seen it done by others. It takes a fair amount of practice to control your bike while getting your feet out of your clipped-in shoes. Don’t be a hazard to others.

Blast into the dismount with enough speed that you skid to a stop or nearly run into the back of someone else. This is not the place to show the crowd what a crash looks like.


Do This

Just as on the bike, run to the right, pass on the left.

If you are not taking aid from one of the stations, move one or two steps to your left. This will keep you from running into anyone leaving the station or impeding anyone heading in.

If you plan to walk through the station, it would be best to grab your aid before slowing to walk, then move over as far right as you can after passing the station. Again, there may be someone coming up behind you, wanting to grab and go.

If you plan on refilling your hydration bottle or system, most aid stations are happy to help. It’s best to go to the end of the station and step out of the flow of traffic to do this.

Make your intentions known. If you’re looking to grab water, go ahead and vocalize this so they’ll expect you to take it.

Use the trashcans. Every one of those cups needs to be picked up by the volunteers. Help those who help you.

Thank the volunteers, as often as possible. Without them, the events can’t take place.

Don’t Do This:

Hog the path if you’re on one. Everybody is entitled to a fair amount of room. If you decide to pace with someone, you are still required to yield the right of way where necessary. If this means you need to run single file in some sections, so be it.

Assume that someone wants your company. Whether the person is pacing nicely at a speed you like, or struggling, they may not want you in their space at the moment. Be courteous and ask if you might run along with them, or if they’d like some company and “teamwork” to finish.

Be a Chatty Cathy. I know people who would rather go their whole run without having a single conversation with anyone. They find their groove or zone, and you might not be a part of it.

Spread your negative attitude. Just because the course is kicking your butt, doesn’t mean we all need or want to hear about it, especially if it’s doing the same to us. We all deal with hardships differently, and for some, it may mean going internal and getting the mind straight. Positive thoughts to pull you through.

Berate any volunteer. These people are out on the course to help you, make sure you get what you need within their power, and try to make it enjoyable for you. If the water jugs are completely empty, yeah, it’s a problem. But take it up with the Race Director, because they’re the ones who dole out the supplies. And maybe someone’s already on the way with more water?

You probably have your own list of Dos and Don’ts that you’ve built. The main thing is to help those just starting out in the sport, and hopefully over time, all of these things just come naturally.

Good Luck Out There, and Train With Grain!


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