Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Unofficial Guide to Triathlon Race Etiquette

Perhaps I’m not the best candidate to propose such a list, but nevertheless, I feel compelled to share a few points that I think are important to the running of a smooth race. These rules are for participants. For race directors and organizers, see my other post.

By no means is this a comprehensive list. It’s just a summary of my own observations after several races.

  1. If you are a slow swimmer, stay to the outside. Seems easy enough but I am still amazed at the number of people “hugging” the buoy doing the breast stroke. The truth of the matter is that if you are not comfortable out in the open water, you should not be racing. If you are slower or can’t make turns using the free-style stroke, keep yourself outside and away from faster swimmers.
  2. Observe the overtaken rule. The field at last week’s Boulder Sprint Triathlon was thick. I was both being passed and passing during the entire 15 mile course. One thing I noticed as I went by someone was their failure to drop back three bike lengths. Folks, if you get passed, it’s your responsibility to drop back, not the responsibility of the passer to open up the distance. Read the rule.
  3. Take as little transition space as possible. Race organizers could probably do a lot to encourage this, but I still see people set up their transition area like it’s a picnic. Huge beach towels with all kinds of crap equipment all over them can dominate space that could be used by another athlete. The TA is not your base camp. You should be in and out quickly which means you should need a minimal amount of space.
  4. The aid station is not a bar. This one could apply to running races as well. In crowded field, if you feel the need to stop or walk at the aid station, get your water and then move out of the way first. Standing around blocks the hundreds or even thousands behind you. They have a race too.
  5. Audible call outs are for when someone is in your way. Not just on the bike but even on the run I heard “on your left” despite already being on the right. I get it. You’re going to pass me. But unless I’m blocking you, an announcement is neither necessary nor especially appreciated.
  6. Excretory functions are not a group activity. I can’t believe I have to write a rule for this one but I do. I realize that there are times when no facility is available but at the very lease, if you are going to relieve yourself, do it away from other racers. I mean, seriously.
  7. Knowledge is King. This appears on a lot of other blogs and for good reason. While some races lag, most have plenty of good information for you ahead of time including detailed maps, schedules and other information essential for a successful race. As a participant, your job is not just to show up and race. You also have to do the pre-work.
  8. Passing someone in the last 100 yards of the run is lame. Okay, we might make that 50 yards, but the point is, what are you trying to prove? And don’t give me this crap about being competitive because odds are, people finishing did not start at the same time. Stop screwing up people’s finish photo and complete your race with just a touch of style.
  9. You are not special. No matter how expensive your equipment, how high your USAT ranking or whether or not you’ll finish the day atop the podium, most of us just don’t care. The world is overwrought with self-important douche bags.  Try not to be one.

True, 10 items would have made a nice round number but this list captures the basics. Can’t wait for the next race to watch people not observing them!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Granted, I'm a runner and not a triathlete...but rule 10 seems to contradict rule 9. I agree nobody is all that special, so why should someone feel badly about passing another athlete at the finish (especially if it's all in the name of a photo)? That seems particularly lame. If you're trying to PR and the last 100 yards means even seconds, you owe it to yourself and to your training to close out as strong as you can, without regard to a competitor's photo finish.

    1. If everyone that ever clipped me right at the end of the race was only doing so for a PR, I might agree. But I'd be surprised if that was the case even 10% of the time. More often, it's likely and ego boost that has little to do with overall race performance and more to do with just beating someone at the end. I don't mind racing someone in, but sneaking by is lame.

  2. When you start your swim training program, there are lots of points to keep in mind. The first is relaxation. Understandably, you may not be very comfortable in the water. You may even have bad memories of swim lessons.

    training for a triathlon

    1. Very good points. I don't think you can emphasize swim prep enough!

  3. I hear conflicting rules on #5. I hear other people say to always call out (at least on your bike) that you are passing... for safety.