Beginner’s Guide to Triathlon


To help you through your first race, here are some points to consider:


Ensure that your bike is road safe. It does not matter what kind of bike you ride, only that it is safe.  Including tight handlebars, good tires that are well inflated, an aligned seat post, and properly working pedals, gears and brakes.


At the St. Joseph Island Triathlon, you have a choice of registering early or on race day. Here are the steps at registration (early or event day):

Step 1- Inform the volunteer at Registration if you have already Registered or if you need to sign up for a race.

Step 2- Sign a waiver form (parents must sign for those under the age of 18). Hand in your waiver to the Registration volunteer.

Step 3- Pick up your race number and pins.

Step 4- For Triathletes only, be sure to pick up your swim cap.

Step 5- Pick up your Race Kit – You will receive a bag with a t-shirt and sponsor samples.

On Race Day, whether or not you have pre-registered, you will have to go to REGISTRATION to be Body Marked and to pick up your Timing Chip. You will find these stations inside the Registration area.

Volunteers will mark your left arm and 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.

Race Day

To ensure a successful race and a low-stress day consider the following:

  • Arrive early to the race site.  There’s a lot to do before you race, and many people trying to do the same as you.  To avoid being rushed or stressed for time, come early.  We recommend approximately 1 to 1.5 hours before race time.
  • Come by early registration to pick up your racing kit and talk to race organizers.  Not only will this give you more time on race morning but it may also help you settle some pre-race nerves!
  • Once you arrive at the Transition Area, be sure to “rack” your bike and settle your race equipment in the area designated for your event.  There are signs and volunteers to help you.
  • 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.  Once your bike is racked, you can drop your gear next to it.
  • For your race number, it is required that you finish 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.
  • Consider using spare time to familiarize yourself with the flow of traffic throughout the race and in the transition zone.  Notice all transition entrances and exits.
  • Consider warming up in the water. The swim is often the most daunting part of a triathlon so take some time to get comfortable in the water.  Practice sighting the buoys.
  • Please always keep safety in mind.  Bike courses are never closed completely to traffic. Police and volunteers will be available on course to help with flow of bikes and cars but there is potential for a car to be on course who is unaware that a race is in progress


Common Rule Violations

Here are just a few of the things that you could get disqualified for in a triathlon.  These are simple things that most people wouldn’t do if they knew in advance that it was against the rules.

  • Unracking your bike before you do up the chin strap on your helmet, or undoing the chin strap before you rack bike.
  • Mounting your bike before you reach the mount line on the road, or dismounting after the same line on the road.
  • Not wearing a race number while on the bike and run
  • Altering a race number – you can’t fold or cut it to make it smaller, for example.
  • Men not wearing a shirt/top while biking and running (you need to wear a top during BOTH)
  • Competing while listening to a walkman/MP3 player.  This is a safety hazard so DO NOT race with headphones of any kind. You will be DQ’d.
  • Drafting, blocking or crossing the centerline on the road during the bike portion of a race.
  • Not obeying an official or being abusive to officials.


Frequently Asked Questions, Just For Beginners!

1. What happens if I feel like I can’t finish the swim?  What do I do?

If you feel like you are panicking or too tired to continue, lie on your back and float . If you can, take off your swim cap and wave it in the air. A lifeguard will come and get you.  The most important thing is to remain calm. If you are just feeling tired, by all means, you can just take a rest at a nearby kayak. When you feel rested you may proceed with the race. You will not be disqualified for outside assistance. Safety always comes first!

2. How do I get the sand off my feet after the swim?

Most swims will have a bit of a run to get to the bikes.  Often the run is through grass which will naturally clean your feet.  If you get to your bike and you have sand between your toes, you may want to use a towel to wipe it off, or some people bring a container like a Tupperware which they fill with water to rinse their feet.

3. What should I wear during the race?

There are lots of options here.  Many people just bike in their bathing suit, which isn’t as uncomfortable as one might first imagine.  Men need to finish the race wearing a shirt of some sort, but women can race in just a full-bathing suit (no bikini-types) if they like.  If you like you can  take time to put on a pair of shorts after the swim (either cycling or running) and a top but be aware that there are no changing tents so anything you put on will go over what you are already wearing. If you are wearing a wetsuit, you should wear whatever you will biking in under the wetsuit to save time and make transition easier.

4. Where do I place my bike in the transition area?

The transition area is the fenced in lot where the bike racks sit.  The racks are organized into race categories. You need to find the rack that corresponds with the race you are doing, and from there it’s first come first serve.

5. What kind of equipment do I need to do a race?

There are a few bare essentials that you need to do a race.  You will need a bike (anything that is road worthy will do.  No need to have a high tech racing bike for your first triathlon), you must have an ANSI/Snell/CSA certified bike helmet (all bike helmets sold today are certified), you probably want goggles for the swim, you need a swim suit, running shoes of some kind, cycling shoes if you have clipless pedals on your bike, and men need a shirt of some sort to wear.  You may want a hat for the run, sunglasses for the bike and run, a water bottle or two on the bike is a good idea as well. After that, things like wetsuits, fancy wheels for your bike, racing flats to run in, etc. are all extras.