New to triathlons? Start here!

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What is triathlon?

A triathlon is a race where you swim, bike, and run, in that order.

Where are the races located and how to register?

You can use Trifind to see a list of races to plan your season.

What is USAT and do I need to be a member?

You don’t have to be a USAT member for most small / local races. You can sometimes buy a one day membership pass on race morning at races but don’t count on it. Membership link can be found here. Plan on bringing an ID and proof of USAT membership if you are going to a sanctioned race. You do not have to be a USAT member for Got Energy but do for Trinona.

How to setup transition area

When you enter transition, make sure you have your packet, numbers, and body marking done, and have all of your gear, wetsuit, bike, etc. Find an open spot to rack your bike or go to your assigned spot if they have the numbers on the bike racks. Smaller races don’t have assigned spots. Rack your bike by the seat or the handlebars. Place a small towel down to the right of your bike tire that is touching the ground. Lay out your gear in the order you will need it.

Quick guide to racing:

First steps: Find a race, register for a race, and start (or continue training)

Practice the course the weeks or days before the race if at all possible, this will give you an advantage for race day.

Plan travel / hotel arrangements as necessary.

Do a minimum of 1 open water swim before the race if it is your first one. You will need to learn how to stay calm in open water and sight correctly.

Don’t wait until race morning to pack your car / tribag. Start packing the week or days before.

Pickup packet during designated times on race website. You will be given numbers for your bike, helmet, and your race belt (to wear during run).  Body markings will also be done with stickers or permanent marker. Check-in your bike the day before if that is required for that race. On most small races you don’t need to check in the prior day, just bring your bike and rack it on transition the morning of. Spend time reading the athlete guide on the race site.

Wake up early and eat 2-3 hours before your start time. Eat only familiar, easily-digestible foods

Get to the race early to secure a good spot in transition. Ideally, this is a spot on the end of the rack close to the bike in/out.

  • Make a mental note of landmarks to help you easily find your rack.
  • Use a bright-colored towel so your area stands out.
  • Organize your gear in the order you will use it – run through transitions in your mind.
  • Complete a good 10-15 minute running warm-up about 45 minutes before start time.

Put on your wetsuit and hop in the water for a good swim warm-up 15-20 minutes before your start time. Use safety pins to secure timing chip around your ankle to it does not come off when removing wetsuit.
What is a good first race?

If you are near La Crosse, WI like most Bluff Busters, Got Energy in West Salem or Trinona in Winona which are both in June each year.
How much time each day do I have for training?

The amount of training you will need depends on your current fitness level and your triathlon goals. You can expect to train between 5 and 15 hours per week for sprint races.


What are the typical race distances?

  • Sprint – Varies per the race, usually about a 400-700 yd swim, a 12-17 mile bike, and a 2-4 mile run
  • Olympic – 1.5k (.93 mile) swim, 40k (24.8 mile) bike, 10k (6.2 mile) run
  • International – Similar to an Olympic distance, but can vary a little, swim is sometimes longer
  • ½ Ironman – 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
  • Ironman – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2mile run


What is a good starting distance?
Starting off with a sprint is recommended depending on your current fitness level and background.


How do I get started training / what is the best way to train?

Depending on your current level of fitness, it can take 2-3 months before you are able to complete your first sprint tri. It also depends if you are there to simply finish, or if you are competing for a podium spot. I suggest having fun during your first race, and focus on  being more competitive during later races.

Sample training plan: 12 week sprint beginner plan <– still needs to be updated


What gear do I need? See this list


How do I setup my transition area when I get to the race?tritransition

Your “spot” is to the right of your bike tire that is touching the ground. Many people lay a small towel down with their gear in the order it will be needed (swim, bike, run).



Do I bring food, drink, or other nutrition to the race?

For sprints you typically don’t need any nutrition during the race other than water (and I know some people that don’t even bring a water bottle on the bike in sprints). If you are just starting out, you can bring 1 Gel and a water bottle with electrolytes which should get you through the race.

Beginner sprint training plan – 10 weeks (coming soon)

Olympic training plan – 12 weeks (coming soon)

Half Ironman training plan – 18 weeks (coming soon)

  • What are the different divisions in a triathlon – Triathlons are usually separated into different divisions for awards. Most commonly there are pro/elite categories and age group categories. The age group categories separate men and women into different groups. Each gender group is then separated by their age. Age groups are usually in 5 year sections. For example, womens ages 19-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-45 … mens ages 19-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-45. Awards are often given to the top finishers overall for each gender and for the top 3-6 finishers in each age group division.



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