What happens to my bike while I'm swimming and running? Your bike will be set up on a bike rack in the transition zone. Transition is organized by race number and/or age group; others are first-come, first-serve.
What does transition mean? The transition is the period of time between each sport segment. The time between the swim and the bike is called T1, and the time between the bike and the run is called T2. The time you spend in transition is counted towards your overall time for the race. All races will have a transition zone, with row after row of bike racks. Each athlete will place his or her bike on a bike rack, with just a little bit of space between each bike. You will place a towel right next to your bike, and all of the gear you will need during the race must fit on your towel. Examples of items you'll place on your towel will include: running shoes, helmet (a MUST), cycling shoes if you use them, your race number (must be worn during the run), sunglasses, socks, any clothes you'd like to put on over your swimsuit, etc.
What is a wave start? Many triathlons with an open water swim (in a lake, ocean, or river) will have wave starts. It is safer to start the athletes in waves rather than all at once. Waves are determined by age and gender.
What is it like to swim in open water? The biggest difference between swimming in open water and training in a pool is that there are no lane lines! And there is no side to hang on to if you get tired. Some open water courses are out-and-back, and others look more like a loop. Either way, the course is marked with buoys. It is important to sight (look up and see where you are) every so often so you swim fairly straight. The wave start can be tricky - if you're uncomfortable being shoulder-to-shoulder with 40 or 70 other people, just count to 10 or 20 when the bullhorn sounds and let everyone else get out on the course. Or stay to the outside of the pack. Most triathlons will have safety canoes and kayaks out on the water, along with lifeguards. If you ever feel like you're having trouble during the swim, just wave your hands and a rescue boat will be at your side soon. Open water swimming can sometimes be wavy or choppy, depending on weather conditions.
Why do I have to race in the swim cap they gave me? Everyone must wear a swim cap for safety reasons. A swimmer is easier to see in the water if they're wearing a swim cap. All athletes who start in the same wave will have the same color cap on.
I have a mountain bike -- is it OK to ride that? Absolutely! There are lots of triathletes who ride mountain bikes. You may want to consider adding "slicks" if you can afford them. Slicks are smooth tires, which would be faster on the roads than the nubby tires that come on mountain bikes. Bear in mind that if you plan to compete regularly, or are looking at competing in races longer than Sprint distance, you should probably think of investing in a road bike or tri bike.
Why is bike fit so important? Are your knees bumping into your chin? Do you risk serious injury every time you try to get off the seat of your bike? It is important that you can adjust your seat so that there is only a slight bend in your knee when your foot and pedal are at the 6 o'clock position. It is also important that you are able to stop and get off your bike without injuring yourself. Bikes come in all sizes, and the seat post can be adjusted somewhat to make sure the height of your bike is correct for you. But besides the height, there are other important factors to consider, for example: does your seat need to be adjusted forward or back? Is your seat level? Are the handlebars too far away or too close? If your bike is not fitted properly for you, you risk serious injury after prolonged riding. Take your bike in to a local bike shop and have them take a look for you.
What is a race number belt? It is required that triathletes wear their race number (sometimes called a bib) during the run portion of a triathlon. Some athletes put on shorts and/or a t-shirt over their swimsuits after the swim and simply pin their bibs to their shorts or shirts before the race. For those athletes who race in their swimsuits (or tri suits), there is nothing to pin their bib to. They use a race belt, or tri-belt, which is a very simple stretchy band with two plastic prongs that hold a race number. As these athletes leave the transition zone for T2, they clip the belt (with the bib already attached) around their waist, and off they go!
Training sounds impossible; how will I come up with enough time? You can prepare for your first triathlon by training four or five days per week. If you are currently working out every other day (or can make the time to do that), you will be fine. Just make sure to spread your workouts between swimming, cycling, and running over the week. It's helpful to keep a training log to see which sports you have done and to monitor your progress.
Why is hydration so important? It is important to drink water, during training and during a race, especially in the heat. Even becoming slightly dehydrated can impair your performance by a surprising amount. Sports drinks are formulated to be absorbed by your body better than water, but be sure to train with whatever you think you'll use on race day. Do not introduce anything new on race day! It is important that you consume a full bottle of fluid during the bike portion of a triathlon. If you are uncomfortable removing your bottle and drinking while riding, be sure to practice during training so you can stay steady while you drink. A word about backpack style (Camelback) hydration systems: For a sprint-distance race, a system like this is most likely not necessary, you should be OK with the bottle (maybe two at most) on your bike.
Why can't I have someone pick up my packet? There is paperwork that every participant must sign and verification of identity. Also if something is incorrect with your packet, we will have adequate time to make corrections. This is a USATriathlon rule, and there will be no exceptions.