Ignorance is no defence when it comes to the rules of a race. Flout them and you could pick up time penalties or worse, be disqualified from the race altogether. Wise up with our guide to a few of the most common, and avoidable, infringements often made by newcomers to triathlon.
Don't forget your helmet
Read your race pack when you receive it. If you are taking your bike to the transition area the night before the race, remember to take your helmet. The rules in your race pack will state that you must bring your helmet with you when you leave your bike. This is when the officials will do their safety checks to ensure your helmet meets the requirements set out by the British Triathlon Federation. If you don't do this, you won't be allowed to race.
Nothing and no one outside of the race goes into the transition area
Respect the sanctity of the transition area. For safety and competition reasons only competitors and their specific pieces of kit are allowed inside. Pets, children and partners should be left at home or kept well within the zones specified for spectators. The environment of a transition area in the middle of a race is frenetic, so safety is paramount.
Any equipment that impedes hearing or concentration is prohibited
Safety first. It's for your own protection and for that of those around you. You need to be able to hear instructions from the marshals as well as be aware of your fellow competitors at all times. Runners may already know of the ban on MP3 players during races and road cyclists should appreciate the dangers they pose. Don't be tempted to take a mobile phone into the transition area to update your supporters. The ever-vigilant marshals could slap a hefty time penalty on you. Your concentration needs to be high throughout the race.
Don't mark your bike's position in transition
You may want to publicise your charity by marking your position with a flag or a balloon. However, this gives you an unfair advantage over your fellow competitors by making your bike easier to find. Any such items will be removed by race officials, who will also be within their rights to throw another time penalty your way. Instead, study the transition area before the race and try to memorise your bike's rack position in relation to something immovable, such as a tree or pillar.
Keep your helmet on until you've racked your bike
It might seem a good idea to save time in transition by taking off your helmet on your way to racking your bike. Don't - you may be penalised. Running in cycle shoes, with other competitors and bikes all around, presents a high risk of injury and it's for your own safety that your helmet must not come off before your bike has been safely racked.
Drafting - make sure you stay at least the required distance behind the bike in front
It's easy for beginners to underestimate the distance required between bikes - seven metres long by three metres wide for a short course and 10 metres long by three metres wide for a long course. This may seem an excessive amount but any closer than that and you will be benefiting from the slipstream of the person in front. A bus-length is a good distance to keep in mind to ensure you aren't penalised for drafting. Remember, too, that you've only got 30 seconds to overtake, so if you do enter another rider's slipstream, be sure to pull ahead or drop back. Riding in a pack also counts as drafting and slingshotting (using the slipstream of someone who has overtaken you to immediately overtake them) is also forbidden.
For more information and the full technical and competition rules, visit the British Triathlon Federation website at www.britishtriathlon.org.