My first real “triathlon” post

made specific for the triathlon wikipedia page...

Image via Wikipedia

While enjoying my (nearly) 3 day break from running, I spent some time researching triathlons.  Since I am brand new to it, I went to the USAT site, downloaded the rules and FAQ and spent some time trying to clarify some things in my mind about some “noob” questions I had.

I had questions about everything from wetsuits to drafting so I took my time and tried to absorb the letter of the rule, knowing full well that this would all go to hell in the real world under the stress of a race.  My first question was about wetsuits.  When could/should you wear them?  The rules state that they are legal below 78 degree water temps.  You “can” wear them all the way up to 84 degree water, but you forfeit your place and time if you do.  There are no specifications of a USAT approved wetsuit in the rules, but I would assume that going into a shop that sells “tri” stuff will net you one that is servicable.

The way my triathlon schedule is lining up, a wetsuit won’t be an issue anyway.  My first swim will be a pool swim (no wetsuits allowed) and the rest will be well into the summer.

My next question was about drafting.  I am a mountain biker from way back and have ridden in packs before during races and organized rides.  So the concept of drafting was not new.  However, the definition of what constituted drafting was.  So what is drafting?  Essentially, there is a zone around another rider you are not allowed to linger in for longer than 15 seconds without making a move.  You can’t sit on somebody’s wheel or you will get a penalty.  Technically, if I did the math right, you need to stay at least 8 feet behind the rider ahead of you and arount 2 feet to either side of his/her back wheel unless you are making a move to overtake them.  Once you commit to the move, you have 15 seconds to move into and then out of that “zone”.  In short, hang back a bit and then commit to your move and you will be fine.  Just don’t wheel sit.  And you have to ride on the right side of the road unless you are passing.  Passing is only allowed on the left.

The chaos of the transition area was also a curiosity to me.  What do you do?  It appears that everyone is assigned a stall for their bike and gear.  As long as you put your stuff back in your spot and don’t encroach on anybody else’s spot or mess up their stuff, you are fine.  And, in most transitions, you can’t ride all the way to or from your stall, you have to dismount and walk your bike back to your stall.

I know it sounds kind of silly to be wondering about these things, but I have enough sports background that I think it is important to know the rules before I start.  I may very well jump in the pool a few times and decide I just can’t do this.  But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be informed.

I haven’t purchased my USAT membership… yet…

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2 Responses to My first real “triathlon” post

  1. brianthinagain says:

    Excited to see there is another crazy person in this world that is looking to do a triathlon for fun!

    I am the same way you are about wanting to know what I am getting into. A good way to get your feet wet is to volunteer or spectate at one early in the season. Or just jump in and do a sprint one that doesnt have too many entrants.

    The best thing I can tell you about the swimming thing is to go to a masters class or you will be wasting precious time trying to learn, it is not natural to swim with the proper form. If the class is small they can give you feed back every few laps which you can then take to your own practice. Then volume makes you better. Best way to tell how much better you are getting is to count your strokes per length. In about 18 weeks I have gone from 26ish to 16-17. And most of this when 9 weeks ago started a triathlon class at the YMCA. Oh and the wetsuit? You want to wear it if legal, many deep lakes stay cool enough. It makes you float and you swim faster.

    I don’t know what triathlon you are entering but if it is a sprint distance, which should be the first one everyone tries, it is probably informal enough and small enough that you don’t need to worry much about the transition space. It is quite a group of people that do these things, just make sure to leave the next person as much room as you need and everyone will be happy. Now if it is a big one, they will have specific rules with penalties such as disqualification for riding a bike in the transition area. They are all based on being safe and courteous to other racers and although it might behoove you to slow down a competitor by blocking them a few extra seconds its just not something any of us would do. It is more like the group of people you run with, one big happy family all rooting for each other.

    Good Luck with your triathlon training.

  2. Sheila says:

    I’m looking at half ironman and then full ironman after that. Good luck if you do it! I’m hung up on things like “do I have to wear goggles and swim with my face in the water” so your questions totally make sense.

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