Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ references the USA Triathlon Competitive Rules

Please note, some USA Triathlon sanctioned events may request a rules modification or dispensation for a USA Triathlon Competitive Rule for the event.  Ironman branded events and ITU races held in the United States are sanctioned by USA Triathlon; however, these organizations use rules that are different from USA Triathlon Competitive Rules and Officials Program procedures on several issues. Care must be taken not to confuse the different sets of rules and procedures. For this reason, it is always important to review the event website prior to race day! 

Unless otherwise noted, the FAQ below reference the Competitive Rules which apply to age group participants.  If you have a question regarding the USAT Competitive Rules or our National Officials Program, please contact: rulesandofficials@usatriathlon.org.

Quick Links:

Transition FAQs
Swim FAQs
Bike FAQs
Run FAQs

Transition FAQs

Can I ride my bike in transition?
If there is a mount/dismount line you must observe it.

What is the proper way to rack a bike? 

Both the athlete's gear and the bicycle wheel are to be down on the same side of the number on the rack. When bikes are racked in alternating directions more bikes will fit on the rack and athletes will have similar amounts of space for their transition. If there is open racking, gear should be on the down wheel.

Can I rack my bike by the seat, brake levers or handlebars?
Bikes can be racked by the bike seat or handlebars; however, the race director can specify racking method.

Can I use a bike trainer in transition? 
Yes. However, it must be in an out-of-the way place and only if the race director permits it. While on the trainer, you must wear a helmet and the helmet chin strap must be clipped.

Can I leave my bag in the transition area?
Do not bring so much gear that it cannot be stored next to your wheel.  Gear that is out in the aisle or in another competitor’s space is a violation and you could be penalized. There is no competitive rule excluding bags from transition; however, it is at the discretion of the race director to allow or disallow bags in transition.  

Are balloons legal in the transition area? 
There is no competitive rule excluding balloons in the transition area; however, it is at the discretion of the race director to allow or to disallow balloons in the transition area. 

Swim FAQs

Do I have to wear a swim cap?
Yes. If the race organizers provide a swim cap, you must wear it.

Can I wear my own swim cap?
If the race organizer provides a swim cap you must wear the proper official swim cap corresponding to your wave. Wearing a different swim cap than what is provided by race management is a violation of the rule.

What if swim caps are not provided by race management?

For safety reasons if no official cap is provided, all swimmers should wear their own brightly colored swim cap.

How do I display my official race number during the swim?

Body marking is your official swim number. 

Do I need to be body marked?

Yes, body marking is required.  

What happens if my body marking is covered during the swim?
If your body marking is not visible during the swim, then your swim cap must be marked with your official swim number, and your swim cap must be worn until you return to your transition area.

Can I wear a wet suit for the swim?

You may wear a wet suit (5mm or less in thickness) only if the water is 78° Fahrenheit or less.

If the water temperature is greater than 78° but less than 84°degrees Fahrenheit, you may wear a wet suit, but you are no longer in age group or overall competition, you are ineligible for rankings and awards. Your results will not appear in the age group or overall results sent to USA Triathlon, but should be available on site under a wetsuit results list.  No wet suits are allowed in water temperature greater than 84° degrees Fahrenheit.

Can a race director require wetsuits must be worn for the swim?

For safety reasons, typically due to low water temperatures, a race director may require wetsuits are worn for the swim.

If the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees Fahrenheit can the race director disallow wetsuits be worn for the swim?
Although the rule allows participants to wear a wetsuit at their own discretion, when the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit a race director, for safety reasons, may disallow wetsuits.

Can I wear neoprene buoyancy shorts?
Buoyancy shorts (less than a 5mm thickness) may be used in lieu of a wetsuit in a wetsuit legal swim.  If you wear them outside of the allowed temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit or less, or wear them in addition to another wetsuit, you would be disqualified.

Can I wear a wetsuit hoodie or booties during the swim?  
Hoodies and booties are considered part of the wetsuit and are always legal when the water temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit or less.

Can I wear a Swimskin/Skinsuit/Speedsuit when the swim is non-wetsuit legal?
If the suit has no buoyancy aiding materials it is legal to use and participants may use them at any temperature and for all segments of an event.  If your body marking will be covered then the swim number must be applied to the swim cap and your swim cap must be worn until you return to your transition area.

If my suit does not appear on the USAT “Approved List” is it legal to use?

This list is not all-inclusive and not appearing on this list does not mean there is any problem with the suit. The “Approved List” only includes suits which have been submitted by the manufacturer for approval. 
 
If you have a question regarding the legality of a suit, please contact: rulesandofficials@usatriathlon.org.

Can I wear a garment that covers my entire body for the swim?
The USAT Competitive Rules have no restrictions on clothing and an athlete can wear a suit providing full body coverage for the entire race, and in non-wetsuit legal swims as long as the garment contains no buoyant material.  If your body marking will be covered then the swim number must be applied to the swim cap and your swim cap must be worn until you return to your transition area.

Can I wear compression sleeves (arm/leg) during the swim?
Yes, compression sleeves may be worn. If your body marking will be covered then the swim number must be applied to the swim cap and your swim cap must be worn until you return to your transition area.
Note: In a non-wet suit legal swim, as long as the garmet contains no buoyant material, then sleeves are legal to use. 

Are goggles required for the swim?
Swimmers may wear but are not required to wear swim goggles or face masks.

Can I use a snorkel mask (covering the nose) with or without a snorkel for the swim?
Yes, this is legal to use.

Can I use a snorkel for the swim? 
Yes, this is legal to use.

Can I use the Powerbreather during the swim?
Yes, this is legal to use.

Can I use a tempo trainer during the swim? 
Yes, a tempo trainer is legal to use during the swim and can be worn on the outside or inside of your swim cap; however, if the device were to go into your ear, that would be a violation.

Can I use fins or paddles during the swim?
No, fins and paddles are illegal equipment and may not be used. Use of any artificial propulsion device, such as fins and paddles, would result in disqualification.

Can I wear foot socks during the swim? 
Yes, foot socks may be worn during the swim as long as they do not aid in propulsion (i.e no webbing).

Can I wear shoes during the swim? 
You may wear swim shoes.  Many people like the “Vibram Five Fingers” and wear them throughout the race.  There are other styles as well.  What you cannot do is wear shoes with propulsive design like fins.  You may wear neoprene shoes/booties if the water temperature is below 78 degrees Fahrenheit and wetsuits are legal.

Can I wear gloves during the swim?
No, gloves are illegal.  The only exception is if an athlete has a medical exemption (such as Raynaud’s Disease).  A doctor’s note providing proof of diagnoses is required and must be presented to the head referee.  The gloves may not aid in propulsion (e.g. webbing between fingers) and must be inspected for legality by the head referee.

Can I wear a personal flotation device during the swim?
No, a participant may not wear a floating object such as a personal swim buoy; however, a participant may wear an item such as a Swim IT or Restube, which is legal as long as it is not deployed but once deployed (inflated) it is considered illegal equipment and would result in a disqualification. 

Can I use the breaststroke or flip over and use backstroke during the swim?
Yes, the rule allows the use of any stroke including treading water in place.

Can I push off the wall in a pool swim?

Yes, you may push off the wall, using flip-turns if you like (unless specifically forbidden by pool management) or open turns.  You may not pull on the ropes.  

Can I swim to either side of the swim buoys?

Swimming to either side of a “sight buoy” is allowed but one must always turn to the outside of a “turn buoy” in order to complete the prescribed course.

Can I rest during the swim?

Yes, but you may not use anything (except the bottom) to gain forward progress. Swimmers may stop and rest by holding on to a rope or other inanimate object without penalty, as long as the participant does not gain forward progress.

What happens if I receive assistance during the swim?

A swimmer who has received official assistance, whether voluntary or involuntary, must retire
and withdraw from the remainder of the race unless such assistance did not aid the swimmer in making forward progress. No swimmer shall return to the race if the official rendering assistance requests that the participant withdraw from the race or receive medical assistance. 

What happens If I go off course, or if a volunteer directs me off course?
Participants and course monitors may make a mistake, but the rule does not allow for any time adjustment for the mistake.  You must re-enter the course at the same spot you left it.
It is imperative that the participant review the course and be aware of the turns and any changes in the course.

Can my overall time be adjusted if I go off course or become delayed on the course? 
No. Under the Competitive Rules it is the responsibility of the participant to know and follow the prescribed course. No adjustments in times or results shall be made for participants who fail to follow the proper course for any reason. Adverse effects on overall time caused by delays on course due to traffic, accidents, trains, weather or straying off course are considered part of the participant's time and may not be mitigated by adjustment.  

Can I walk in the water during the swim?

Yes, if the water is shallow enough to do so.

Can I leave shoes or other items at the edge of the water?
If a race director chooses, they can designate an area at the swim exit to T1 where participants may leave items. This does not mean someone could stand in this area and hand items to a participant, unless of course, they are event staff.  

If the race director does not designate an area, any participant who leaves items at the swim start or exit would receive a penalty for 3.4h Abandoned Equipment.

Can I play music without using headphones, headset or earbuds?
No. Radios, headphones, headsets, earbuds and personal audio devices are illegal.

Bike FAQs

Do I have to wear a helmet?
Absolutely! And to comply with the USA Triathlon Competitive Rules, it must be a CPSC approved helmet, with the sticker visible inside the helmet. 

Buckle your helmet anytime you are on your bike.  You will be disqualified if you are on your bike without your helmet buckled anywhere on the course. 

Can I wear a smart helmet?
If the helmet meets CPSC Standards and has the CPSC sticker inside, it is a legal helmet; however, the built in accessory speakers make it subject to a variable time penalty under 5.8 Illegal Equipment.

Can I take my helmet off after I dismount and carry it to T2? 

Yes, once an athlete has dismounted the bicycle, the helmet can be unfastened or removed and carried to T2 without penalty.

What constitutes properly “mounting” and “dismounting” the bicycle?

Mounting the bicycle:
When arriving at the mount line, make sure both of your bicycle tires are fully across the
mount line prior to mounting your bicycle. The point at which “first mounts the bicycle” occurs when the participant’s leg crosses the vertical plane extending up from the top bar of the bicycle. 

Dismounting the bicycle:
When arriving at the dismount line make sure you dismount your bicycle prior to your front bicycle tire touching the dismount line. Dismount shall be defined as the point at which the participant is completely off the bike and both feet have touched the ground.

Why do I need bar end plugs?
So, you don't give yourself or someone else a nasty biopsy. The rule requires that bar ends (drop bars and aerobars) must be solidly plugged. 

Are bar end shifters legal?
Yes, bar end shifters are legal and also substitute for bar end plugs.

Are disc brakes legal to use?
Yes, disc brakes are legal.

Are bar end mirrors legal to use? 

Yes, bar end mirrors are legal and also substitute for bar end plugs.

What is the allowed rim depth for bike wheels?

We have no rules on rim depth.

Are recumbent bicycles allowed?
No, recumbent bicycles are never allowed.

What happens If go off course, or if a volunteer directs me off course?

Participants and course monitors may make a mistake, but the rule does not allow for any time adjustment for the mistake.  You must re-enter the course at the same spot you left it.
It is imperative that the participant review the course and be aware of the turns and any changes in the course.

Can my overall time be adjusted if I go off course or become delayed on the course? 

No. Under the Competitive Rules it is the responsibility of the participant to know and follow the prescribed course. No adjustments in times or results shall be made for participants who fail to follow the proper course for any reason. Adverse effects on overall time caused by delays on course due to traffic, accidents, trains, weather or straying off course are considered part of the participant's time and may not be mitigated by adjustment.  

No, you may not abandon your bike and run to transition then continue on the run.  The bike must be pushed or carried if it no longer can be ridden.  Finishing the bike course without your bike will result in disqualification. 

Can I use disc wheels?
Disc wheels are only allowed on the rear of the bike, and (unlike any other rule in the book) are subject to the race director’s determination whether or not they are allowed.  A ban may when a course is known to have high winds.

Can I use a bike with only one brake, or no brakes at all?
No, bikes with only one brake or no brakes at all, cannot be used.  There must be one working brake one each of the two wheels.

Do I need to wear my run number on the bike?
No, an athlete does not need to wear the run number while on the bike. The bicycle frame number attached to the bike is all that is needed while on the bike course. Your bike number must not be altered and must be visibly displayed on your bike. 

How far to the right must I ride?

Stay as far to the right as possible, but generally about the width of a standard bike lane – about a meter. Pass on the left, then return to the right.

Can I mount a Go Pro Camera on my bike?

Yes, you are allowed to mount a Go Pro Camera on your bike.

Can I mount a Go Pro Camera on my helmet?
No.  USA Triathlon is bound by the standards of the US Consumer Product safety Commission for helmets.  The CPSC requires helmets to be tested in a specific manner and approves them for use by meeting rigorous standards.  Attaching a camera to a bicycle helmet constitutes an impermissible alteration of the helmet, as tested.

Can I use a helmet mirror?
Yes, this is legal.

Can I pass on the right?
No, pass on the left. If someone is blocking you, ask (loudly!) this person to move to the right, so that you may pass.

What is the draft zone?

The draft zone is a rectangular area 7 meters long and 2 meters wide around each bike, and 30
meters behind and 15 meters next to a moving motor vehicle. As a practical guide, keep 3 bike
lengths of clear space between you and the biker ahead of you. 

What happens if I enter the draft zone of the biker ahead of me?
You must progress forward and complete your pass within 15 seconds.

If I enter the draft zone of the biker ahead of me do I have to pass?
Yes, once you enter the draft zone, you must exit from the front, so be confident of your pass.

If I'm passed, do I have to wait 15 seconds before I can re-pass?

No, but you must drop back completely out of the draft zone. Do not attempt to "catch up" by
getting up out of the saddle and pedaling fast. You will be called for an overtaken penalty.

Can I drop my water bottle, gear or gel packs anywhere?
No. Toss trash in a receptacle, or in the drop zone within sight of an aid station, or you may be cited for abandoned equipment.

Can I accept help?
Only accept help from race organizers or race volunteers. Accepting it from others, including other competitors, is considered unauthorized assistance, and you may be penalized.

Can I put my bike anywhere I want?
No. Rack your bike and put all of your gear in the space that race management has designated for you. Rack with your “wheel down” on the side of your assigned space.

Can I use a skateboard helmet? 

Yes. Many skateboard-style helmets are dual-certified for bicycle and skateboard use. As long as a "skateboard" helmet is certified as meeting the CPSC standard, it can be used for bicycling.

Can I use a helmet with an elastic chin strap? 

No. Elastic chin straps are illegal. Helmets meeting the CPSC standard are not manufactured or sold in the United States with elastic chin straps. Any helmet with an elastic chin strap would constitute an alteration of the helmet under Section 5.9a and would result in a disqualification.

Can I play music without using headphones, headset or earbuds?
No. Radios, headphones, headsets, earbuds and personal audio devices are illegal.

Do I have to wear a shirt on the bike?

No. Shirts, are not required.

Run FAQs

Can someone pace me?
No. Pacing is illegal. You may have someone provide you with split times.

Do I have to wear my run number?
Yes, you must wear your run bib number. Run bib numbers do not have to be worn on the front of the body. However, wherever they’re worn they must be clear and easily seen by officials.

Can I carry my own water bottle?
Yes, but it must not be a glass container.

Can I use a cadence watch/metronome?
Yes, these are legal to use; however, if the device were to go into your ear, that would be a violation.

Are dogs allowed on the course?
No, dogs are not allowed on the course.

Can I wear leg braces when I race? 
Yes, you can wear leg braces during the race. 

Can I push a baby stroller on the run course?
No, this is not allowed.

Can I drop my water bottle, gear or gel packs anywhere?
No. Toss trash in a receptacle, or in the drop zone within sight of an aid station, or you may be cited for abandoned equipment.

Can I accept help?

Only accept help from race organizers or race volunteers. Accepting it from others, including other competitors, is considered unauthorized assistance, and you may be penalized. 

Can I play music without using headphones, headset or earbuds?

No. Radios, headphones, headsets, earbuds and personal audio devices are illegal.

What happens If go off course, or if a volunteer directs me off course?
Participants and course monitors may make a mistake, but the rule does not allow for any time adjustment for the mistake.  You must re-enter the course at the same spot you left it.
It is imperative that the participant review the course and be aware of the turns and any changes in the course.

Can my overall time be adjusted if I go off course or become delayed on the course? 
No. Under the Competitive Rules it is the responsibility of the participant to know and follow the prescribed course. No adjustments in times or results shall be made for participants who fail to follow the proper course for any reason. Adverse effects on overall time caused by delays on course due to traffic, accidents, trains, weather or straying off course are considered part of the participant's time and may not be mitigated by adjustment.  

Do I have to wear a shirt on the run?
No. Shirts, are not required.