Triathlon Race Tips – Issue #64

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Triathlon Race Tips Newsletter

As we head into summer, we also enter the peak racing season for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

Let’s look at some frequently asked questions when it comes to triathlon racing, particularly as it relates to swimming. Also, I have another exciting announcement but it will have to wait until tomorrow. I’m dying to share it with you right now but a small technical glitch needs to be taken care of first.


“I learned that if you want to make it bad enough, no matter how bad it is, you can make it.”
-Gale Sayers

Racing FAQ’s

1. Should I wear a wetsuit?

It depends on if wetsuits are allowed in the race. Most of the age group races allow wetsuits. In this case, by all means, use a wetsuit! You will not only be able to withstand cold water, but you will also be given the gift of buoyancy by your apparel- which will make it a lot easier to get through the swim.

2. Can I swim another stroke besides freestyle?

Yes. Although freestyle is the fastest and most common stroke in triathlon, beginners may benefit from an occasionally few strokes of backstroke or breastroke to regain their breath.

3. It’s my first race. Where should I line up at the beginning of the race?

Stay towards the back and to the outside (away from the first buoy). If you start in the pack, you will get clobbered, and likely lose more energy fighting against the conditions than if you get some cleaner water and take the first buoy a little wider.

4. Should I use a heart rate monitor?

If you are used to using a heart rate monitor when you train, it may help you during a triathlon at certain points, like transitions, to keep your heart rate from getting too far out of whack. However, for the swim, it will be impossible to look at your watch and keep track of your heart rate while you swim and try to see where you’re going at the same time.

5. How often should I “sight”?

First of all, find out how many buoys there are and learn the course before your race. This will limit the number of times you need to pop your head up to see where you are. Ideally you can find an object- like the swimmer in front of you, or the next buoy, to focus on when you lift your head up. Otherwise, taking a peek every 6-8 arm cycles should be adequate.

6. How often should I breathe during a race swim?

If this is your first race, don’t get hung up on this. Breathe when you need air, even if that means every 2 strokes. However, as you get a race or two under your belt, learn to bilateral breathe- or every 3 strokes. This will help with navigation, and keep you a little more straight.