Beginner's Guide


The swim portion of a race is often under estimated in the whole process of a triathlon. Be sure you are ready. There are lots of great informative articles out there on how to prepare for a race. Here's an example. If you are a weak swimmer, you can place yourself in the LAST wave of athletes where it will be less crowded. Just ask during registration, at the 'Problems' table and our staff are there to help guide you. We fully understand the needs of the first time athlete and are more than happy to help answer any of your questions! You can also email us.


The best advice I can give to first timers, although this applies to all competitors, is to arrive at the race site early. There’s lots to do before a race, and lots of people trying to do the same thing, so the best way to avoid being rushed is to insure that you have enough time to get organized pre-race. Here is a logical progression that you may want to go through when you get to the race site:

  • Arrive Early! A half hour won't be enough time to get everything done. Give yourself an hour, even more if you can, so that you won't be rushed. It is an even better idea to have seen a triathlon event before you race. That way you know exactly what you are signing up for and it helps relieve any pre-race anxiety. Come to an early season event and watch or better yet, come to an event and volunteer. By the time your turn comes to race you will be well informed!
  • After parking, take your bike and gear with you to the transition area (the big fenced in area with the bike racks) and claim a spot of real estate for yourself. There's nothing worse than arriving with plenty of time to spare, but forgetting to rack your bike FIRST, and then ending up with little or no room to lay out your gear. If you are doing the Try-A-Tri make sure you rack your bike in the right area. The Try-A-Tri will often have it's own area which is often smaller than the regular transition area. All too often people rack their bikes in the wrong transition area and then they can't find their way in there once the race starts. When in doubt, ask someone who looks like they know where they are.
  • You can 'rack' your bike by either hooking the seat over the top rail of the bike rack or by hooking the handlebars/brake levers over the top rail. The choice is yours - whichever works better for you. Take a look around to see what others are doing, and then follow suit. Once your bike is racked, you can drop your gear next to it - there should be time to lay it out neatly later. You can pump your tires up beforehand, or in the transition area - the choice is up to you.
  • Now you should consider heading to the registration area . Registration flows like this:
    • Step 1- Race # look up. Find your name on the list and then look for your assigned #.
    • Step 2- Sign a waiver form (parents must sign for those under the age of 18). Also write your race # on the waiver form.
    • Step 3- Race # pick up. Tell the volunteer your race # and hand in your waiver. You will be handed an envelope with the contents of the envelope listed on it. In the envelope will be your Race #BIB that has been specifically assigned to you. You will also receive a sticker sheet with 2 numbers on it. One sticker goes on the front of your helmet and the other larger one goes on your bike. You will also have a wristband . Put the wristband on BEFORE the event in order to recieve your post-race food. This allows you access into the food area. The volunteer will aslo hand you a swim cap . You can also pick up some pins at this step if you need them to secure your bib to your shirt.
    • Step 4- Race Kit Pick Up- You will receive a sponsor bag with and sponsor samples (at participating races). Take this bag to the next table where you will receive your t-shirt.


  • Race Number and pins
  • Swim Cap if you are doing the triathlon
  • Sponsors goodies
  • Along with your all-important T-shirt which you can wear proudly the next day.


Next you will need to get Body Marked and pick up your Timing Chip.You will find these stations just outside the transition area (where you rack your bike). Look for the green SportStats tent and that's where volunteers will mark your race number on your one arm and age group category on your one calf. They will also give you a timing chip and Velcro strap that gets worn around the ankle. Your time is electronically monitored when you step on the big orange mats at the finish line, so be sure to step on these mats or your time won't be recorded.

Now that your bike is racked and you have your race kit, if you arrived early enough you should have plenty of time to get Ready to Race:

  • First off, you need to do something with that race number. You have to finish the race with the number on the front of your body, so you can either use the pins you were given to pin it to the shirt you'll wear during the race, or you can use a number belt if you have one.
  • You should be pretty organized by now so you can use any spare time to familiarize yourself with the flow of traffic once the race starts. Figure out where the swim finishes and where you'll have to run to get your bike. Locate a fixed landmark (garbage cans may get moved) or count the number of bike racks to your bike, so that you don't get lost looking for your bike. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack if you don't have some idea where to start.
  • After the swim, you will most likely enter the transition at one end and leave at the other. When you return you reverse things. That is, the bike starts and finishes at the same side of the transition area, and the run goes out where the swim came in. Got it?
  • It's also a good idea to do a walk or warm-up run of the start of the run course and finish. That way you won't get lost starting the run and you'll have some good landmarks as you near the finish line. It's always nice to know when you are nearing the finish line, so if you have some visual cues you'll be more comfortable.
  • The best advice I can give any Newbie triathletes is to get to the swim start early and do a good warm-up in the water. The swim is often the most daunting part of a triathlon and I don't care if you come from a swimming background, open water swimming is different than pool swimming. When you can't see the bottom and there are no lane ropes people often freak out a bit and then they have trouble swimming. Factor in any trouble navigating and you've got a long swim on your hands. Take some time to get comfortable in the water and with the fact that you can't see as well. Practice sighting the orange buoys so you won't get lost. The more time you spend getting comfortable, the less time you'll spend panicking. If you are a weak swimmer or a beginner, please stay to the back of the pack. This not only keeps you from getting clobbered, but it also helps those stronger swimmers get out of your way faster.
  • One more point about the swim. You will see people at the race with wetsuits. You don't have to have a wetsuit to race, so don't worry. They do help you float a bit better in the water which can improve your swimming and that's why people wear them. But, first time wetsuit wearers often find them constrictive and it causes even more panic. It's not that they are too tight, but coupled with open water anxiety they start to feel like they are too tight on your chest. If you are wearing a wetsuit for your first race, especially if it's borrowed, spend even more time playing in the water before the race so that you get VERY comfortable in it.