How a Triathlon Works

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to get out there and do you first triathlon. On race day, you’ll need to arrive at the scene early enough to set up your biking and running gear at the transition area(s). There will either be one or two areas, depending on if the triathlon is an out-and-back or a point-to-point style race. You’ll also need to visit the body marking stations to have your number assigned and pick up your timing chip. You’ll also find out which wave you’ll be starting in.

Swim Start

The swim start is the most chaotic and unpredictable aspect of the whole race. After the starter pistol fires, everyone piles into the water simultaneously, jockeying for position. If you’re unsure of yourself, or just not a strong swimmer, it may be best to start towards the back or outside of the pack. Pick your initial target, e.g. a tall tree or a buoy, and start your swim. As the pack spreads out a bit, you’ll be able to fall into your comfortable swimming rhythm. As you approach the end of the swim, be sure to swim until your hands hit the ground. You will cost yourself time if you stop swimming too early and try to walk or run in the water.

First Transition

Once you’re out of the water, it’s time for the first transition, also known as T1. This is more critical of the two transition areas, as there is often more to do. First things first… find your bike. A very common beginner’s mistake is to charge gung ho into the transition area, and – in the excitement – forget where you parked your bike. Take your time and keep a cool head.

Bike Leg

Once you find your bike, it’s time to transition. Many racers will leave their bike shoes clipped into their pedals, so all they have to do it mount their bike and go. If you wear socks with your shoes, leave them on top of your shoes. Be sure to leave your helmet somewhere conspicuous, as even mounting your bike without a properly secured helmet results in a penalty or even disqualification. Head toward the bike route.

Second Transition

As the bike route winds down, experienced triathletes can start to stretch their legs in preparation for running, which is the third and final discipline. The easiest way to do that is to coast into the transition area with your legs straight. You’ll begin to loosen your hamstrings, which will help you more easily transition into the run. Once you’re in the T2,you’ll need to park your bike and head to the running course.

While it may seem overwhelming your first attempt at a multisport event, it – like anything else – becomes easier with experience. You’ll need to try different tactics and see which ones work best for you. After a triathlon or two, you’ll know which methods are most effective for you.

Good Luck!