We can't blame you if you've been putting off studying the densely worded, 25-page official USAT race guidelines. You probably have better things to, like, say, training. Or taking a nap. So we enlisted a few experts to distill the document down to the basics, focusing on the areas where triathlon newbies typically run afoul of the law.
"Triathlon is very complicated to begin with. There's a lot going on," says Ian Murray, founder of the Triathlon Training Series and one of only 16 level-3 triathlon coaches in the country. "And that's before people come to realize there are rules they have to follow where they can get penalized or disqualified."
As you prepare for your first race, keep in mind the guidelines below to reach the finish line without fault.
Rule 1: Unplug your iPod. For safety's sake, you can't blast "Born to Run", or any music, during the race. So if you're accustomed to jogging with your tunes on full-blast, get used to the silence. "As a coach, one of my laws of triathlons is nothing new on race day," Murray says. "You have a chance to try everything in training. You might need a workout or two where you don't use the music in order to find the groove and the motivation without it."
Rule 2: Keep it clean. Long story short, keep your garbage to yourself. You'll get docked serious minutes if you're caught tossing any of those gel packs or Power Bar wrappers to the street. The problem: "Lots of triathlon shorts and shirts have a very small pocket," Murray says. The solution: "Take your gel tab or your wrapper and either tuck it underneath the leg or in the pocket of your race suit."
Rule 3: Fly solo. Your family, your friends, and your lady can cheer all they want from the sidelines, but they can't do a thing that might help you gain even a miniscule advantage. "You can't have a family member or a friend or even a stranger hand you something during the event," Murray says. "You can only get race-provided support." And there should be plenty of that: Aid stations are typically well supplied with water and sports drinks like Gatorade.
Rule 4: Keep your own pace. Just in case rule three didn't make it clear enough, your friends can't even shout your time. We know, lighten up, right? They also can't run along with you for a few feet, Rocky-style, to help buoy your spirits. "You have to do it all yourself," Murray says. "Officials cruise around the course looking for these infractions and they can give you a penalty, a 2- or 3-minute infraction, which in a short race can mean the difference between third and twelfth." Don't worry, pick up your own pace by following these 3 Easy Ways to Run Faster.