Triathlon - How to Play?

The rules of this sport are pretty simple and they change from competition to competition. There is no restriction in how to swim, cycle and run. There are two transitions in between the two sports i.e. one between swimming and cycling and second transition between cycling and running.

Race time is calculated in five sections −

  • Swim Time − It is calculated from the start of swimming to beginning of transition.

  • T1 Time − It is calculated from start of transition to end of transition.

  • Cycling Time − It is calculated from the start of cycling to the beginning of second transition.

  • T2 time − It is calculated from start of transition to end of transition.

  • Running Time − It is calculated from start of run to the finish line.

Cycling Time

Transition Change

Players change from one sport to another in a designated place which is called the transition place. The first transition place is between the swimming and cycling competition and the second transition place is between cycling and running. Players change their equipment for the next event in these transition places.

Starting the Competition

Usually the competition starts with swimming. Different methods are followed in order to organize the swimming competition. In case of small number of participants, all athletes enter into the pool simultaneously and competition starts whereas in case of large number of participants, the whole group is divided into smaller groups based on their age or predicted swimming time.

Usually in case of triathlon, there are no pools or markers during the swimming. Instead the players swim in open water stage which makes it really hard for the players to get a proper position during the competition. Players usually try to get advantage by drafting any other competitors.

Start with Swimming

In swimming, competitors use the swimming strokes in a less vigorous way as compared to normal swimming competitions, which enables less pressure on legs as they need more strength in legs for continuing in the race during cycling and running. So they mostly use Dolphin kicking techniques while swimming.

Players follow many altered and modified strokes in order to swim against the turbulent water which helps them in conserving energy for the rest events. During the end part of the swimming, the players go for body surfing, which enables them to use the speed of the wave for their own swimming speed.

Open Water Swimming

In case of open water stage, the players occasionally have to go for sighting, which includes lifting their heads during the swimming to see the landmark of the course. Players often make modified strokes during the swim, which helps them to lift their head above the water for a sight without even interrupting the swimming process.

Transition from Swimming to Cycling

Each group enters into water after every few seconds. Once the participant is out of water, he/she moves to the transition area and changes his/her wet suit to pull on a cycling suit. Here also players apply different tricks to change the suits in order to reduce the transition time. Then the players start racing against each other using their bicycle on a marked course.



The cycling in triathlon differs largely from normal cycling competitions mostly because of drafting. Drafting is a technique, where the players follow the slipstream of the forward player, which helps in reducing 50% of the pedal effort needed and is very much helpful in conserving energy. Drafting is allowed in triathlon whereas it is not allowed in individual competitions.

Usually a group of players choose a leader for drafting who works as the forward player while other players work towards helping him/her stay off the wind. With time, one by one, all the players take the place of the leader while others stay in his/her slipstream.

The whole process of changing the leader with time and drafting together while riding is known as paceline.

In order to reduce their transition time between swimming and cycling, players also bind their shoes on the cycle pedal and instead of wearing it in the transition place, they start riding their bicycle as soon as the marking line for swimming is finished and then wear their shoes in the middle way. They also avoid using socks in order to save more time.

Transition from Cycling to Running

Once the players have finished the cycling, they move on to the racing track by racking their cycle and quickly wear the racing suit and start racing against each other on the racing track. Racing is the final event of triathlon and the players have to pass a finishing line in order to complete the race.


After swimming and cycling, the players while facing running events are literally tired of muscle weakness. The transition between cycling and running has a profound effect on the players which leads to running at slower rate than they are capable of. To avoid that, players go for a special workout during their training phase, which is known as bricks

Competitor must cross the transition line to start their respective races i.e. after swimming and crossing the transition point, he/she can start riding the bicycle only after crossing the transition line and same goes for running. He/she can start running only after crossing the second transition finish line or else this may lead to disqualification.