Triathlon, as you know, is a sport with three elements so when it comes to organising triathlon events, it is like putting on three individual events on one day which are all live at the same time. Added to that, we are often running events over multiple distances at one time, which increases the level of complication. So, it is vital that not only our marshals but also our competitors know what they are meant to be doing and when.
Here are my tips on making your triathlon race day experience a less stressful one.
1. Know the route
Most event organisers will spend hours planning the route and carrying out risk assessments on the course to make sure it’s safe for the athletes to take part. Before you sign up for an event, have a look at the course and know what you are letting yourself in for.
I always use interactive maps which means the athletes can download the cycle section to their Garmin or bike computer. It even nails down the percentages of how much climbing they’ll do. The biggest advantage of knowing the route well is that if a sign goes missing or gets blown around in the wind, you won’t go wrong as you'll know the way you should be going.
It is also one of the British Triathlon Federation rules of triathlon for all participants to know the route beforehand, and for good reason. Sometimes locals are not happy about lots of Lycra-clad cyclists and runners interfering with their Sunday routine, so they mess with the signs or simply remove them. One year, we had to rebuild parts of our bike and run course four times on the morning of the event because of sign tampering. Needless to say, we don’t use that course anymore.
But while organisers do their best to help athletes, it is always better to make sure you know where you are going by doing a recce the day before if you can.
2. Take responsibility on race day
We know this is down to a small minority of people, but there are times when one or two grumpy or overly precious individuals can have a much bigger impact than they should on the marshals, volunteers, and event organisers. Without all of these people getting up at the crack of dawn, you would not have a race to go to!
Besides that, there will have been days of setting up the course beforehand – people really take pride in what they are doing. The amount of work that goes into a race is enormous. When one person gets the hump because they are asked for a BTF race licence or ID they don’t have (even though they are asked to bring it in numerous emails!) it leaves a sour taste. Or they blame a marshal because they went the wrong way even though they were going too fast and missed a sign, and that marshal then gets abuse because of it, that isn’t right.
We all have a responsibility to ensure we are playing fair and safe on race day, so please always try to be kind to those around you, even if you are nervous or striving to perform at your best. No matter whether you are at the front end of the race or one of the back markers, everyone is doing their best. Respect each other, and respect the amount of work that goes into putting on the event you are going to.
3. Read the event information before you send a question or contact the organisers
Most questions from athletes inevitably come in the last week before the event, but that also happens to be the busiest week for the event organisers. If you have a question, read the event information before sending an email to ask things that are most likely already answered on the event website or in event emails that are sent out before the race.
4. Have a go at marshalling
Marshals are key to an event and good marshals are hard to come by, so if you take part in events yourself then why not also give something back by marshalling? We give our marshals free food and drink on the day, a cool event tee and a free or reduced-price entry to one of our races as a thank you. Plus, you get to see some of the crazy things other athletes do, which can often help you when you next race yourself.
5. Make it fun first
Triathlon is about fitness, health, and enjoyment. Having raced at running and cycling events, I'd say triathletes are the most supportive group of athletes of all three separate disciplines. Make it fun for those around you when you can; a quick pat on the back from some of the fastest people as they are lapping the back markers can give a huge boost.
A kind bit of encouragement as you see other athletes on the course goes a long way to building a great racing environment for all. We do triathlon because we love this sport and sharing that love on race day means you will have many more people encouraged to sign up and continue to build triathlon going forwards.
About the author: Liz King is the Director of Tri Spirit Events and a multiple Ironman finisher. King has been organising events for the past eleven years.