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First Triathlon – No Sweat

If this is your first triathlon then you will probably have a few questions about how things will run on the day.  The team at Tri Angus have pulled together this article to help answer some of those questions and hopefully put to bed any nerves you might have.

Starting at the end, if you’ve ever done a fun run or a 5k race you’ll remember how great it felt crossing that finishing line. Well multiply that feeling at least 10-fold and that’s the buzz you’ll get when you complete your first triathlon – there’s nothing like it.

Ok so let’s look at the specifics:

What equipment do I need:

You’ll need appropriate clothing , see the next section, plus a road-worthy bike and a cycle helmet. One thing you definitely won’t need during the event is any form of MP3 player as these are not allowed to be used during the event.

What to wear:

You’ll need something to swim in, something to bike in and something to run in. In triathlon the clock starts when you first start swimming and doesn’t stop until you cross the finish line on the run so you want to minimize the time between the different sections, or “transition” to give it its real name. Most people don’t bother with a full change of clothes between disciplines they just add or remove clothes whilst they are in the transition area. Although if you want to do a full change it’s up to you and there are changing rooms available.

You’ll probably swim in a swim-suit and you’ll be provided with a colour-coded swimming cap which you must wear to help the pool officials identify you.

For the cycle you’ll probably want to pull some shorts and a top on over your swim-suit. Remember you’ll be wet from your swim, so this might be a bit tricky – something for you to practice at home. You’ll need some sort of shoes or trainers and, absolutely compulsory, a cycle helmet. There is a strict no helmet no race rule, which is rigidly enforced – in fact you must be wearing your cycle helmet whenever you touch your bike. You will also have been given two copies of your race number which you must wear for the bike and run sections. For the bike section it needs to be clearly visible on your back so you can either pin it to whatever your wearing on your top, do this when you are first setting up your bike and clothes before the start so it’s ready and waiting for you when you come out of the swim. Alternatively you can use a number-belt, which you can get from a specialist triathlon shop.

Then finally there’s the run where you’ll probably wear the same as for the cycle but without the helmet. You’ll also need to make sure your race number is visible, this time on your front, so you’ll either have safety pinned your number to the front of your shirt or you’ll rotate your number-belt so your number is at the front.

Some people do wear tri-suits which are either a one-piece or two-piece garment which is sufficient for all three disciplines, but that’s something maybe to think about for your next triathlon.  It is also quite common for people to race in just their swimsuit, remember you will be on a bike so you should consider the weather conditions before deciding on this option.

Getting there and registration:

The maps on the Montrose and Forfar Triathlon pages shows you where the event is taking place and there will be parking at the front of the sports centres and also on the local street if necessary. When you first arrive you should go to registration in the sports hall where you will receive your race-pack containing your coloured swimming cap and race number(s) which you must wear for the run and bike sections. You will also have your race number marked on your upper arm and leg. Then you should take your bike and other stuff and set it up in transition.


This is where you swap disciplines, from swim to bike and then from bike to run. At Montrose the transition area is a playground between the Sports Centre and Montrose Academy.  At Forfar, the transition area is at the Taylor Street side of the Campus building.  It will be set up with bike racking and this is where you will rack your bike and store the clothes and other stuff you will need for the different sections of the event.

The racking will be numbered and you must put your bike in the space corresponding to your race number. There is not a lot of space allocated to each person so you will need to be fairly disciplined about your stuff.  Also remember you will be emerging from the swim with a load of other folk and will need to identify your particular spot. Most people use a distinctive towel to help them find their bike and then lay their clothes, shoes etc out on top of the towel.

Transition is quite strictly marshalled. You will have time between registration and the start of the event to set up your stuff, but shortly before the event starts with the swim the transition area will be closed and you will not be allowed in again until you emerge from the swimming pool. Similarly at the end of the event you will not be allowed into the transition area to remove your stuff until after all the competitors have finished. It is a good idea to have your family and friends ready with some warm clothes for when you finish.  Entry to the transition area will only be given if you show your race number – please take note of this for the end of the race in particular.

So now you’ve got all your equipment set up let’s go through the individual disciplines in the order you’ll do them on the day.

The Swim:

This is either 16 or 30 lengths of the Montrose and Forfar pools. You will be allocated to a heat and a lane depending on your estimated swim time: in triathlon the slower people go off first. You’ll also be given a coloured swimming cap which you must wear to help identify you within the lane.  The sprint event will start first followed by the novice event.

There will be up to 6 people in your lane and you will be set off at approx. 5 second intervals by a marshal. There is no diving in, you’ll be told to get into the water and lined up in order of swim hat colour.  You will then be told when to start: each swimmer starts five seconds after the one in front. The lane marshal will call out the colour of the hat when it is your turn to start. For safety reasons, backstroke and butterfly are not allowed at the event.  With backstroke in particular, there is an increased risk of collision in the lane if you don’t swim in a straight line so its not safe.   Most swimmers will either do front crawl or breast-stroke (or alternate between the two). If you want to over-take the person in front of you, you can only do it at the end of a length. You should tap them on the toes then at the end of the length they should let you past and then carry on. Similarly if you are tapped on the toes, just wait at the end of the length for the person to turn in front of you then carry on.

A lane marshal will let you know when you have two laps to go. They’ll do this either by tapping you lightly on the head with a float, or by dipping a float in front of you as you come up to the end of the length. When you’ve swum your final two lengths, get out the water and make your way out of the swimming pool area via a door at the same end of the swimming pool and head directly outside to the transition area where you will find your bike.


You now need to get ready to cycle. This means putting on whatever clothes you’ve chosen to wear and, most importantly, putting on your cycle helmet. Remember you *must* be wearing your cycle helmet before you touch your bike. You will then walk with your bike from the rack to the mount line, which will be clearly marked and controlled by a marshal. At that point you can mount your bike and set off on the bike course.

The Bike:

The bike course, which is either 12km or 20km long, is shown on the map and will be well marshalled but remember it is on public roads and the highway code must be obeyed at all times. The event has a no-drafting rule. In practice this means you must stay at least 10m behind the cyclist in front of you unless you intend to over-take them. If you do want to over-take you must make the manoeuvre straight-away and not sit behind them. If you start over-taking and then change your mind you must drop back to at least 10m behind them. Similarly, if you are over-taken you must allow the manoeuvre to be completed and not draft off the person who over-takes you. As you finish the bike course you’ll approach the dismount line, where a marshal will make sure you dismount, and then you walk your bike back to its position in the racks.  For more information on drafting visit


You must keep wearing your fastened helmet until your bike is safely racked, then you can make whatever changes you need to get ready for the run section. Remember to make sure that your race number is clearly visible on your front.

The Run:

This is a fairly straight-forward 5km looped run. It is along a cycle/footpath and pavements and there will be members of the public around so you need to watch out for them. Apart from that, it is a matter of following any marshal’s instructions and finally, remembering to smile as you approach the finish line!


There are showers and changing facilities available in the Sports Centre. There is no catering but food is available throughout the day at Madisons Cafe so you can get something to eat and compare notes with people. We will endeavour to get full results out as soon as possible and there will be a prize-giving as soon as all the results are collated.


We really want you to enjoy your first triathlon and we’ve tried to cover as much as possible, but if you have any other questions – don’t be nervous: just ask! You can email us before the event here.