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Triathlon Etiquette: The Unwritten Rules

Triathlon Etiquette: The Unwritten Rules

  Jakob Ohlsen     22nd December 2017

If you are planning on competing in a triathlon, be mindful of your behavior. Like any other social setting and competition, there is an unwritten set of rules that each participant is expected to abide by. The adrenaline will be pumping in the heat of competition, yet you must stay focused on what is going on around you and how your behaviors are perceived by others. Let's take a look at the nuances of triathlon etiquette that will help you preserve your integrity as a competitor and avoid rubbing your fellow racers the wrong way.

Before the Race

Too many triathlon participants believe that the only conduct that matters is mid-race conduct. The truth is that there is a series of unspoken rules for actions before, during and after the race. Be mindful of your behavior in the minutes leading up to the race. If you arrive early, feel free to set out your gear in a neat and organized fashion. However, you should not spread out your items as if you are having a bake sale. Do not occupy more rack space than is necessary. Though you can arrive to the race as early as you like, do not expect rack-mates to accommodate you if you show up a minute or two before the competition. If you need more rack space, request it in a courteous manner.

Make sure your bike is in solid working order. Give it a once-over before the race commences. Though the race site might have mechanics on-hand, it is taboo to believe these individuals will be able to solve every single problem with their portable workshops. Triathlon participants should also know the course's idiosyncrasies. Study the course in-depth. If a pre-race meeting is available, attend it. If the race director requests that competitors pay attention to his words, listen closely even if you know the course inside and out.

Though pre-race small talk is acceptable, you should not monopolize a fellow racer's time on the morning of the big day. Maintain a narrow focus and save the discussion for the hours and days after the race.

During the Race

Once the race starts, try to avoid infringing on competitors' spaces. Be mindful of your elbow placement so you don't mistakenly hit a fellow participant. Never shove a competitor out of your way. Keep in mind that if you are found guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct, time might be added to your total.

The transition area will undoubtedly be quite chaotic. Proceed in a gentle manner once you reach this stage of the course. Be especially careful around the mount-dismount line so you don't topple over or cause someone else to topple over. Do not lose sight of the fact that it is possible to be penalized for disobeying mount/dismount directives.

If you feel as though another competitor is acting in an unacceptable manner or if you dislike someone in particular, try to hold your tongue. When in doubt, say nothing. If you decide to speak up during the race, vocalize words of encouragement to your fellow athletes. Actions will always speak louder than words. Focus on your performance rather than "smack talking" and you will earn the respect of your peers.

Always ask for permission to swim in a specific lane. Never spit when others are riding their bikes in your vicinity. Yell "braking" before you hit the brakes on descents and turns. Point out upcoming hazards to those biking alongside or behind you.

After the Race

Try to keep a level head as you cross the finish line. This is not the time for drama. Take off your number or chip, grab a drink of water and separate yourself from the finish chute to accommodate those behind you. Always act respectfully toward finish line workers. Though your race is done, these employees are still working.

Once you have recovered, proceed to either root for your fellow racers or engage in conversation with others who have finished the race. Maintain a positive tone even if you are hyper-competitive and pleased with your comparably fast time. If you decide to remain on-site for awards, don't leave until each award has been handed out. An early exit is a sign of disrespect for your fellow competitors.

Respect is the Name of the Game

In the end, competing in a triathlon is all about respecting one's opponents as well as the course. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Though you won't find the rules detailed above written in any sort of handbook, they are all true. Implement the advice and you will find will be in good graces with your fellow competitors from the beginning of the race all the way until the end.

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