One of the main reasons for doing Triathlon Training is, of course, doing Triathlon Racing. See the British Triathlon web site for the full Triathlon Racing Calendar.

Though triathlon is fundamentally an endurance sport Youths (Under 17) and TriStars (Under 15) always race over shorter distances. The table below gives typical distances for each age group. Note that the bike leg will be longer if it is on tarmac.

Age group Swim Bike
(if grass)
(if tarmac)
Tri Start 8yrs 50m 800m 1500m 600m
TriStar1 9-10yrs 150m 2km 4km 1200m
TriStar2 11-12yrs 200m 4km 6km 1800m
TriStar3 13-14yrs 300m 6km 8km 2400m
Youth 15-16yrs 400m   10km 2500m (= senior Super Sprint distances)

Race distances are not precise. No two events are the same as the transitions between each discipline are included in the race.

Race Preparation

Triathlon is an unusual sport. Every race is different, there is a lot of kit and equipment involved, you have to look after yourself (no team manager) and you only get one go at getting it right. Preparation is really important. Here are a couple of favourite maxims:

  • Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
  • Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
  • .

Things to do in the days beforehand:

Make sure that you know:

  • Where the event is
  • How long it will take to get there (include car parking time)
  • What time you have to register
  • What time your race starts

Check that all of your kit and equipment is ready.

  • Bike (everything in working order)
  • helmet
  • shoes (running shoes, cycling shoes, elastic laces or toggles)
  • goggles & swim hat
  • race clothes – swimming costume, tri-suit, T-shirt, sunglasses…
  • towel talcum powder (to put in your shoes)
  • drink bottle

If you only discover that something is missing the evening before the race that’s too late to do anything about it.

Here are a few things that it’s a good idea to have with you
- safety pins, elastic bands, insulating tape, spare inner tube & tyre levers, bike tools, bike pump, spare goggles, spare swim hat, toilet roll.

The day before the race:

One important factor in racing well is having plenty of energy. Energy comes from food and goes through exercise and activity. There is no need to eat loads and loads before a race unless it’s over two hours long but conserving energy by taking things fairly easily and eating good quality food is a good idea. Good quality food is carbohydrate – like pasta or rice; vegetables; and protein like meat or fish. It’s best to avoid fatty and sugary snacks like crisps, cakes, chips, burgers, sweets and chocolates. The best thing to drink is water. Most races start quite early in the morning so staying up late isn’t a great idea.

Race day:
Racing on a full stomach is likely to make you feel sick. Racing without any breakfast is also likely to make you feel sick. The answer is to eat a sensible breakfast about two and half to three hours before the race. Besides ensuring that you have some energy and that you have digested your food properly this also means that you are wide awake, fully alert and don’t feel as though you have just got out of bed by the time you race.

A sensible breakfast is something like cereal & toast. It’s sensible to keep drinking up to the start of the race and OK to nibble on a few snacks, like a sandwich, a muesli bar or a banana. Again, sweets, crisps & chocolate do more harm than good*.

When you get to the race:

The four important things to do when you get to the race are:

  • Register, collect your signing on details and find out if there is any new information
  • Check the course
  • Set up your transition(s)
  • Warm up

If your planning was good you’ll have plenty of time for all of these. Remember that queuing for registration and toilets can use up a lot of pre-race time.

After the race:
The most important things to do after the race are to keep warm and to re-hydrate. This is also a good time for a sugary snack. Needless to say, being prepared in advance with warm clothes, food and drink is much better than not being prepared.

* Why do sweets, crisps and chocolates do more harm than good?

The body converts sugar to energy very quickly, in minutes, and the energy that it gets from fat is no good for racing because it cannot be metabolised at a quick enough rate. Eating sugary things is OK if you use the energy straight away – otherwise your body has to do something else with the sugar and it stores it as fat. Even if you do use the energy straight away it doesn’t last long and you feel ‘low’ half an hour later when the energy runs out. For very short races, having sugar just before the start can be beneficial: For races over half an hour it’s a bad idea because the energy low happens during the race.