Copyright: (c) 2002 James Goddard
Last-modified: FRI DEC 20 11:39:00 CST 2002
Maintainer: James Goddard <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Disclaimer: Approval for *.answers is based on form, not content.
Answers to rec.sport.triathlon frequently asked questions.
Subject: 1. Introduction and Intent
This posting contains answers to frequently asked questions posted to
rec.sport.triathlon plus interesting and useful information for triathletes.
known, author's name/email address are given.
The original FAQ for rec.sport.triathlon was maintained by Osmar Zaļane and
updated by him in 1994. In 1996 Larry Chapman updated the links/addresses to
Osmar's FAQ. No maintenance has been performed since then.
Send me, James Goddard <email@example.com>, any corrections,
suggestions, or proper info of sources or holder's of copyright.
This article is provided as is without any express or implied warranties.
every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information
in this article, the author/maintainer/contributors <take your pick>
no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the
of the information contained herein.
Subject: 2. Table of Contents
1. Introduction and Intent
2. Table of Contents
3.2. Where can I get a copy of this FAQ?
3.3. What is rec.sport.triathlon?
3.4. The rec.sport.triathlon Charter
3.5. Posting Etiquette
4. General Information About Triathlons
4.1. What is a triathlon?
4.2. What is a biathlon/duathlon?
4.3. What are the distances for triathlons?
4.4. Is triathlon an Olympic sport?
4.5. What are the governing bodies for triathlon?
4.6. What are the rules of triathlons?
4.7. Where can I find a triathlon in my area?
4.8. Where can I find more information on triathlons?
5. The Swim
5.1. What strokes are permissible?
5.2. What are the rules about wetsuits?
5.3. Should I buy a wetsuit? What kind of wetsuit should I buy?
5.4. Where can I find a place to train?
5.5. Where can I find information on swim training?
6. The Bike
6.1. What is drafting?
6.2. Why is drafting bad/good?
6.3. What is blocking?
6.4. Should I buy a road bike or a triathlon bike?
6.5. Should I use 650c or 700c wheels?
6.6. Where can I find information on bike maintenance?
6.7. What's the best kind of trainer to use in the winter?
7. The Run
7.1. How do I avoid cramps during the run?
Subject: 3. About rec.sport.triathlon
Subject: 3.1. Introduction
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the popularity of
triathlon and as such, more and more people are discovering
This FAQ is an effort to make the group as efficient as possible by
the most commonly asked questions and provide guidelines for posting.
This FAQ is considered a work in progress and will continue to evolve with
the newsgroup and the sport itself. Comments and suggestions are welcome and
should be sent to the maintainer.
Subject: 3.2. Where can I get a copy of this FAQ?
The original HTML version of this FAQ can be found at
Subject: 3.3. What is rec.sport.triathlon?
rec.sport.triathlon was created August 6, 1991 by Tim Rigg because:
"The only related groups are rec.running and rec.bicycles. There is no group
discuss swimming and there is no group to discuss the interactions between
It is a newsgroup devoted to all things triathlon. Anything even remotely
to do with the sport is considered a valid topic of discussion. Threads
events, equipment, tactics, tournaments and personalities are all welcome.
Postings for the sale of triathlon gear and advertisements for related
commercial ventures are also acceptable if some general guidelines are
(See Section 3.5).
Subject: 3.4. The rec.sport.triathlon Charter
The following charter was included in a post to news.announce.newgroups
approving the creation rec.sport.triathlon as a newsgroup. The first draft
the charter was submitted by Tim Rigg and refined during the discussion
to produce the final result:
rec.sport.triathlon is for the discussion of all multi-event sports
triathlons, biathlons, duathlons, and all other events. Valid topics include
equipment questions and suggestions, training ideas, race results, athlete
profiles, race strategy and similar topics. In an effort to minimize cross
posting, specific questions should be posted to other groups when there is
little impact from the multi-event nature of the sport (for example, "Help,
triathlon bike makes a strange clicking sound" should be sent to
Subject: 3.5. Posting Etiquette
It is acceptable for people to post "classified ad" type messages informing
group of gear you have for sale or auction. However, it is requested that
prefix "FS:" or "FA:" be added to the subject header (FS = For Sale, FA =
Auction). The FS:/FA: prefix allows people to either skip over the message
use a filter to find, file, or ignore the posts. The use of such prefixes is
generally accepted practice on all newsgroups.
The posting of commercial advertisements for a company has been a much
topic. Nearly everyone dislikes "SPAM" and many people consider commercial
advertisements, even triathlon related ads, junk mail. But since the group
not moderated it is nearly impossible to police such posts. Therefore it is
is strongly suggested that a post of an advertisement for a commercial
organization have the prefix "AD:" added to the subject header. This allows
people to either skip the message or invoke a filter.
People who looking to buy used gear should post a message with the prefix
in the subject header (WTB = Wanting to Buy). Be sure to include your
information in the body of your message so sellers can contact you directly.
Subject: 4. General Information About Triathlons
Subject: 4.1. What is a triathlon?
A triathlon is an athletic contest in which participants compete three
succession. Usually these events are swimming, bicycling and running.
Subject: 4.2. What is a biathlon/duathlon?
A biathlon/duathlon is an athletic contest in which participants compete two
three) events in succession. Usually these events are bicycling and running.
Basically a biathlon/duathlon is a triathlon without the swimming. The
distinction between a biathlon and a duathlon is that a duathlons often
the run so as to be a run-bike-run event.
Subject: 4.2. What are the distances for triathlons?
There are no set distances for triathlons. Many triathlons use various
that conform to the land/water available to them.
There are, however, a few "common" distances:
Name Swim Bike Run
Sprint .75km 20km 5km
Olympic or International 1.5km 40km 10km
Long Course 2.4m 112m 26.2m
The terms "short course" and "long course" generally refer to distances less
than and greater than Olympic distance respectively.
Subject: 4.4. Is triathlon an Olympic sport?
Triathlon made its Olympic debut at the Summer Games in Sydney in 2000.
Subject: 4.5. What are the governing bodies for triathlon?
The international governing body for triathlon is the International
Union <http://www.triathlon.org/> (ITU)
The U.S. governing body for triathlon is USA Triathlon
Subject: 4.6. What are the rules of triathlons?
Triathlon rules vary by race and governing bodies. For individual
check the race packet for rules for the race.
For ITU races, the rules can be found at
For USAT races, the rules can be found at
Even if your race is an ITU or USAT event, you should still check the race
packets for changes/exceptions to the rules.
Subject: 4.6. Where can I find a triathlon in my area?
There are several online resources that list triathlons by location:
Timberline Timing <http://www.timberlinetiming.com/calendar>
Subject: 4.7. Where can I find more information on triathlons??
Try the following links:
USA Triathlon <http://www.usatriathlon.org/>
International Triathlon Union <http://www.triathlon.org/>
Subject: 5. The Swim
Subject: 5.1. What strokes are permissible?
Any stroke is allowed in triathlons as long as you are not using an
means to propel yourself through the water.
The most common and efficient stroke is freestyle. Breaststroke, however, is
often performed by people who either have trouble with freestyle or are
Subject: 5.2. What are the rules about wetsuits?
The wetsuit rules change by race and governing body but the general rules
for ITU races are:
Elite athletes in the Olympic Games and ITU Events:
Swim Length Forbidden above: Mandatory below: Maximum stay in water
1500m 20 deg. C 14 deg. C 30 min
1500-3000m 23 deg. C 15 deg. C 1 h 40 min
3000-4000m 24 deg. C 16 deg. C 2 h 15 min
Junior and Age Group competitors:
Swim Length Forbidden above: Mandatory below: Maximum stay in water
1500m 22 deg. C 14 deg. C 1 h 10 min
1500-3000m 23 deg. C 15 deg. C 1 h 40 min
3000-4000m 24 deg. C 16 deg. C 2 h 15 min
And for USAT races are:
"Each age group participant shall be permitted to wear a wet suit without
penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water
temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater
than 78 degrees, but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants
may wear a wet suit at their own discretion, provided however that
participants who wear a wet suit within this temperature range shall not be
eligible for prizes or awards. Age group participants shall not wear wet
suits in water temperatures equal to or greater than 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
The wetsuit policy for elite athletes shall be determined by the USAT
Athletes Advisory Council."
Subject: 5.3. Should I buy a wetsuit? What kind of wetsuit should I buy?
Whether or not to buy a wetsuit is a personal decision. If you are not sure
may want to check local bike/run/tri shops in the area to see if they have
you can rent. If you live in a warm climate there may be no reason to buy
however if you live where the waters are often in the 70s or colder you
probably consider one
If you are going to buy a wetsuit, make sure you get one that is made for
triathlon. A dive/jet ski/etc wetsuit will not give you the freedom of
you need to swim effectively. Triathlon wetsuits generally range from about
to over $400 depending on the type and quality. There are several types of
triathlon wetsuits on the market: TypeDescriptionAdvantagesDisadvantages
Shorty: No sleeves with short legs
Cheap, easiest to remove in transition
Least exposure protection and speed improvement
Farmer John: No sleeves with long legs
Improved warmth over Shorty without sacrificing range of motion
Less speed improvement than a full suit, slower transitions than Shorty
Full Suit: Full sleeves with long legs
Fastest suit with best exposure protection
Arm movement somewhat restrained, slowest transition, most expensive
Subject: 5.4. Where can I find a place to train?
Most suburban areas have pools available for lap swimming. The YMCA and
clubs are a good place to start. Many areas have city recreational centers
also offer lap swimming. Often local high schools or colleges will have a
pool, call and ask if they allow public use.>/p?
If you don't know about any in your area, US Masters Swimming offers a
searchable list of swim locations at
great international list can be found at http://www.swimmersguide.com/.
Finding a place for open water swims in your area can be more difficult.
areas have lakes with public beaches but the swim area is often cordoned off
a small, easily life guarded space. The best bet is to ask other triathletes
your area where they train.
Subject: 5.5. Where can I find information on swim training?
The best bang for the buck is probably to find a masters group in your area.
information on masters swimming in the US refer to US Masters Swimming
Many people have had tremendous success with Total Immersion
<http://www.totalimmersion.net/>. The general consensus is that if you are
already a good swimmer who is just looking for refinement, TI is a good
Subject: 6. The Bike
Subject: 6.1. What is drafting?
The ITU defines drafting as: The technique of riding in a pack during the
cycling event. They define draft zone as: An imaginary area approximately
bicycle lengths long and six feet wide surrounding each competitor during
Basically drafting is a method to increase your speed or decrease your
lowering your wind resistance.
Subject: 6.2. Why is drafting bad/good?
Drafting is a hot topic of debate among triathletes.
Those that are against drafting often list the following reasons:
Drafting takes away from the individual competitor nature of the sport.
Drafting is less safe/causes higher insurance rates.
Those that are for drafting often list the following reasons:
Drafting evens out triathlons which often are weighed to longer times in the
Drafting is more spectator friendly.
Subject: 6.3. What is blocking?
Blocking is basically riding in the wrong part of the bike course. Most
the right side of the bike course is for riding while the left side is for
passing. Riders who camp out or overextend their stay in the passing lane
blocking. Blocking is a violation in most triathlons.
Subject: 6.4. Should I buy a road bike or a triathlon bike?
You don't need a triathlon bike to do triathlons. Modified road bikes are
common in triathlons. If you already own a road bike or plan on doing other
types of riding you may be better off with a road bike with clamp on
The advantages of a triathlon bike are in the posisitioning. They are setup
keep you more comfortable when in the aero bars and to work the quads less,
saving them for the run. Often triathlon bikes are more aerodynamic than
Subject: 6.5. Should I use 650c or 700c wheels?
Both wheel sizes have advantages and disadvantages. 650c wheels accelerate
climb faster, but they also decelerate faster. 700c wheels are more
and are more readily available if you need a tube on the road.
The only people who should be really concerned about wheels sizes are
particularly short or tall people. 650c wheels work much better with shorter
people, especially on triathlon bikes where the geometry prevents the use of
700c wheels on smaller bikes. Tall riders should stick to 700c wheels.
Subject: 6.6. Where can I find information on bike maintenance?
Sheldon Brown has a great website devoted to bike maintenance and other bike
related issues at http://www.sheldonbrown.com/repair/index.html.
Subject: 6.7. What's the best kind of trainer to use in the winter?
There are two common types of trainers available: stationary trainers and
Stationary trainers clamp on to your rear fork and provide a rolling
for your rear wheel. Resistance is offered by wind (a fan attached to the
roller), fluid (a fan incased in oil attached to the roller) or magnets.
units tend to be the cheapest. Fluid resistance tends to offer the smoothest
ride. Magnetic units often have adjustable resistance. If you get a
trainer you should also get a block for the front wheel to keep the bike
Stationary trainers have the following advantages/disadvantages:
Excellent for spin/muscle/aerobic training
Easier to ride/learn
Cheaper (usually) than rollers
Some have computer interfaces to simulate road conditions
More options for resistance control
Do nothing for balance and form
Allows you to coast
Cause a lot of wear on the rear wheel
Causes more stress to the frame of the bike
Requires no thought so can be mind numbing
Rollers provide 3 tubes two of which are connected by a belt. The front
rests on a single tube and the rear rests between two tubes. The belt from
front rear tube to the front tube causes the front wheel to spin with the
wheel. Resistance is offered by friction and gears (smaller tubes offer more
resistance) or a fan unit attached by a belt to one of the tubes. Rollers
the following advantages/disadvantages:
Excellent for spin/muscle/aerobic training as well as form and balance
Ride is more true to actual road riding
Do not allow you to coast
Force you to concentrate on your workout
Less stress/wear on bike
Harder to learn/use
More expensive than basic stationary trainers
Less resistance options
The big reason most people avoid rollers is that they have a steep learning
curve. The common fear is that you will ride off the rollers and hurt
You can't actually ride off rollers like you might imagine, the only thing
can do is drop the front wheel off of the side of the roller which can cause
to loose your balance and fall. The best tip for learning to ride rollers is
start in a doorway so if you loose your balance you can just stick out your
elbow to stop your fall.
Subject: 7. The Run
Subject: 7.1. How do I avoid cramps during the run?
Two good suggestions to avoid cramping when you start the run:
Stay hydrated on the bike.
During the last couple of miles on the bike stretch your calves by standing
the pedals and dropping your heel down.
Subject: 8. Glossary
a handlebar extension enabling the rider to use a more aerodynamic
running out of energy during a race a.k.a. hitting the wall
a float used to mark the swim course
riding in the passing lane
a bike/run workout
the technique of riding in a pack during the cycling event
a triathlon start where the competitors start one at a time
a triathlon start where all of the competitors start at the same time
of in waves
a cyclist that does not to triathlons and hates triathletes
the time taken to complete an individual leg of a triathlon
the period/area between legs of a triathlon where participants change
equipment/clothing for the next leg
the swim to bike transition
the bike to run transition
a group of triathletes starting together as opposed to a mass start
Subject: 9. Contributors
Mark Cathcart mailto:<firstname.lastname@example.org>
5.4 Swimmers Guide
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