It's More than a Sport, Its a Lifestyle

First Youth Triathlon Race

Youth Triathlon Races are very fast paced due to the short duration of each leg of the race. This adds to the excitement of the race, especially as a spectator.  As mentioned in What is Triathlon?, the races are composed of three disciplines, Swimming, Cycling, and Running (in this order).  Moreover, there is a Transition area which is an enclosed section where the triathletes bicycles and supporting gear is stored for use during the race.  The Transition is known as the fourth discipline of the race; as time spent in transition can greatly effect the overall finishing time of each triathlete.

Most races have a single transition area, but some races can have two transition areas.  Regardless on the number of areas, the transition area can be referred to as T1 or T2.  This designation is based on when the triathlete enters the transition area.  When the athlete enters after the swim to grab their bike, transition is referred to as T1.  When the athlete enters after the cycling leg to leave their bike and prepare for the run, the transition is referred to as T2.  Either way, the athlete is entering the same transition area.  However, knowing these designations will help better understand the sport when reading articles, viewing race times,  or talking to other triathletes and parents.

The first step in entering a race is registration.  Almost all races require this to be done online and well before the date of the race.  Some will allow registration in person and a few will allow registration the day of the race; however, this is very rare.  Most races are USAT Sanctioned and will require all participants to be a USAT member, or pay for a one day pass.  For youth, the annual USAT membership is $15 and can be purchased through www.usatriathlon.org.  The one day pass can be purchased at the race site for $10.

Before an athlete can race, they must pick up a race packet that typically contains a race bib, bike and helmet stickers, a timing chip attached to an ankle strap, and numerous other “freebees” or “Swag”.  Most races will require packet pickup the day before the race and the location is usually at the race site.  This is an asset for the competitive triathlete ; arriving the day before allows the athlete to become orientated with the overall course.  It is also a good time to ride the bike course and swim in the lake/bay if it is an open water swim course.  More importantly, the day before the race is a great day to spend as a family.  There is excitement combined with relaxation and the day can provide a great environment to plan fun family activities in anticipation of the race.


Its Race Day: Most races are in the summer months and start very early to take advantage of cooler weather.  Start time for most races range between 06:45 and 7:30. However, race day preparation starts much earlier.  The day starts with body markings (race numbers written on the arms, legs, and the age written on the calf), receiving timing chips (if they didn’t come in the race packet), and setting up the triathlete transition area.  These activities usually start an hour an a half to two hours before the race and becomes very important for the competitive triathlete if the transition spaces are unassigned.  Almost all youth races have unassigned transition spaces.  This means that the spaces are first come, first serve and in order to secure a good transition space, the triathlete must be ready to set up their equipment as soon as the transition area opens.  Youth races with assigned transition spaces are not as stressful, provided the athlete arrives in plenty of time to set up their assigned space and prepare for the race.

Another important aspect of transition; the transition area is tightly controlled for saftey.  Before the start of the race the transition area will be open to youth athletes and parents; however, it will be closed before the race begins, so it is wise to ensure plenty of time to set up athlete gear and orentate the athlete on where their transition spot is located relative to the entry and exit.  Once the race starts, the transition area is closed to everyone, execpt athletes, during the race.  This does mean parents as well.  There are always volunteers to help youth athletes with anything they need.

Race Start – There are two ways that youth triathlons start; one is the time trial start and the other is the wave start. The time trial start is used in pool swim triathlons where the athletes are started, one at a time, from the same lane in the pool.  The athletes time will start when they are sent into the water and will stop when they cross the finish line.  Each athletes time will be compared and the lowest time wins the race.  The wave start, or mass start, is used in lake or bay swims where the athletes are not confined to a pool lane.  The triathletes are sent into the water by age group and all start at the same time.  For safety, and depending on the amount of youth triathletes in each age group, most races will send about 6-8 athletes at a time; thereby creating a wave start, where each athlete in the group will have the same start time, but their time will be compared to all triathletes in their age group to determine the age group winner.

These excited youth triathletes will then enter T1 and put on their shoes, secure their race bib, don their bike helmet, grab their bike, and any other items they would like for the cycling leg of the race.  Athletes are not permitted to ride their bicycle in transition and will run with the bicycle until the leave the transition area and pass the bicycle mounting line.  After this line, they can mount their bike and hammer the pedals.

After they complete the cycling leg of the race, they will arrive at a dismount line where they will have to dismount from thier bicycles and run thier bike into transition.  While in T2, they will place thier bicycle in their chosen/assigned spot, remove thier helmet, and run out to the final leg of the race; the run course.

The athlete will complete the required distance for thier age and then arrive at the finish line where thier final time will be recorded, timing chip removed, and they will receive a finishers medal.  Now the first time competitor can officially be called a Triathlete.

Shortly after all age divisions have completed the race, the awards ceremony will begin.  Most Triathlons will award the top three to five competitors, by gender, in each age group.

After the race is always a great time to spend with the family and recall all of the inspiring stories experienced during the race.  This makes for great conversation and teachable moments during the trip home.

Now that we have discussed a typical race day, how does Trinity Multisport prepare and condition youth athletes to compete on race day?  Please read our Practice Philosophy to learn more.