Frequently Asked Event Questions
The YWCA Women’s Triathlon is better organized and more enjoyable when participants know as many details as possible.
If you don’t see an answer to your question, please email us.
What is a triathlon?
A triathlon is an endurance event that typically involves three disciplines: swimming, biking and running. There is usually a central transition area where you keep your bike and gear, and can switch between the sports. The swim-to-bike transition is often called T1 and the bike-to-run T2. Your total time, including the transitions, determines your finish place.
How does the triathlon work?
In the days before the race, you will be required to pick up your race packet, which will include your timing chip, swim cap, and race numbers (bib, helmet and bike). To save time and reduce race-day stress, you may wish to put your race numbers on before you come to the race.
After parking or getting dropped off, bring your bike and race gear to the transition area. Find the bike rack that includes your race number and set up your bike and gear on that rack. You will then need to proceed to the timing chip tent to pick up your timing chip and get body-marked. Have your race number available. Your race number will be marked in pen on your arm, leg and hand, and your age will be marked on the back of your calf.
The transition area is where you will keep your bike and gear and “change sports.” Set up your gear in a small area next to your bike. Space in the transition area is limited; please be courteous of other athletes and don't infringe on another person's space. Only athletes and race officials will be allowed in the transition area. The transition area will be open from 5:30 to 7:30 am before the race. A mandatory pre-race meeting will take place near the swim start at 7:40 am. During the meeting, the timing mats will be activated, so you will not be allowed back into the transition area.
There will be lifeguards on the swim course, and if you get tired, disoriented or scared, you can hang onto a boat, buoy or noodle for as long as you want without being disqualified, as long as you aren’t making forward progress. You can use any swim stroke, but swimming aids like flippers and "floaties" (unless deflated) are not permitted.
After exiting the water at the "Swim Finish," you will return to the transition area and locate your bike. Strap on your helmet, walk or run your bike to the "Bike Out" -- riding is not permitted inside the transition area -- and head out on the bike course. Helmets must be worn whenever your bike is off the rack! Be sure you have a full bottle of water or sports drink on your bike.
After completing the bike course, you will return to the transition area and rack your bike in the SAME place it was before. Make sure that your race number is clearly showing on the FRONT of your body, and head out on the run at the "Run Out" exit.
When you have finished, you will be given your Finisher award. Take the time to stretch and partake of the free food and water! Join in cheering for the other participants as they finish. Finishers will not be allowed back into the transition area until the final biker has returned from the bike course and left the transition area on the run, ensuring a fair and safe event for all participants. This will take place at approximately 10:30 or 11:00 am.
Stay for awards and prizes! Our sponsors are providing many great raffle prizes! The awards ceremony will begin shortly after the Final Finisher crosses the finish line, and awards are scheduled for approximately 11:30 am.
What should I wear?
The primary rule is to practice in it! Do you swim well in it, does it dry quickly, is it comfortable for the bike and the run? There are a couple primary options. You may choose to wear a quick-drying sports bra under your swimsuit. You may decide to pull on shorts or a shirt after the swim. A second option is to buy a tri suit. They come as one-piece and two-piece options. They swim reasonably well but dry quickly, and have a small pad in the crotch for some comfort on the bike. If you prefer more support, you might try a tri top underneath a one-piece tri suit. Regular bike shorts are generally not recommended as they are uncomfortable for the run.
Is there medical support?
If you require medical assistance during the race, visit the medical tent by the finish line. It is staffed by volunteer doctors and staff from the Women's Orthopaedic Center and Sports & Orthopaedic Specialists, the official medical team of the YWCA Women's Triathlon. In addition, medical staff will be on the course and emergency services on notice.
How can I contact YWCA Minneapolis?
YWCA Minneapolis Women’s Triathlon
2121 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Please see the Registration page for information how to register, our refund and transfer policy, our wait list, USA Triathlon sanctioning and membership.
If I’m a USAT annual member, do I have to bring it with me to packet pickup?
Yes. Without it, you must pay for a one-day license ($15) to be allowed to race.
If the race is closed, can I still get in if I come to packet pickup?
No. Once the maximum number of entries has been reached, no further registration will be allowed. If openings occur, we will offer spots to athletes on our wait list first.
If I didn’t make it into the race, can I still participate by using the course?
No, anyone who is not officially entered in the event will be removed from the course. This is an issue of fairness and safety.
My friend signed up, but now she can't race. Can I use her number?
No, for both safety and fairness reasons. Anyone caught using the number of another participant will be sanctioned by USAT, the sport’s governing body. Sanctions could include being banned from the sport for up to two years.
If I can’t make the race, can I give my entry to a friend?
No, you must notify us of any changes to your entry. Because our timing and scoring is dependent on gender and age groups, if you give your race number to someone else, it will affect the timing and scoring of the event. And you may be subject to sanctioning by USA Triathlon.
Why is packet pickup mandatory?
Every athlete must attend packet pickup to sign a race liability waiver. This is also when we hand out race materials (race numbers, t-shirt, swim cap, etc). We do this before race day so participants have time to prepare and so we can start the race on time.
What is the minimum age?
The minimum age for the SuperSprint is 11 years old. The minimum age for the Sprint is 14 years old. No maximum age!
Relays, Buddies and Teams
Are there relays?
Yes! A relay may be made up of two or three members. The timing chip is used as your "baton." A special section of the transition area will be designated for relays and their exchanges. Please note that the relays are different than the family teams (mother-daughter, sister-sister and life partner teams).
Can there be more than two buddies in the Buddy Wave?
Yes! Be sure that all buddies list the other buddies when they register. Or email us your buddy list as soon as possible and before June 30.
What is the difference between Buddies, Teams and Relays?
A triathlon relay is when one person does the swim, another does the bike and a third does the run. Occasionally, relays are made up of two people, in which one swims and runs and the other bikes. Relays have a separate awards category. A relay is a great option to be a part of the event if someone is unable to do one of the sports because medical reasons or skill.
Buddies are placed in the same transition area (at the same bike rack) and are in the same swim wave (usually the final swim waves). If there is an elite option, they will have a separate swim wave and transition area as well. Otherwise, all racers are organized by age group in both the transition area and swim waves. Buddies are still eligible for any of the awards.
Family teams compete for prizes and places (first through third) in three categories: mother-daughter, sister-sister and life partners. It does not matter which swim wave they choose. In fact, they can be buddies with other people, if they wish. The top two times (if more than two sisters or daughters, for example) in their category are added together for their place.
What kind of timing will you use?
We will be using chip timing, professionally managed by Pickle Events.
What is chip timing?
A computer chip encoded with the athlete's name and race number is attached to a strap that the athlete must wear securely around her ankle. A "scanner," located under mats and positioned at each transition (swim finish, bike start, bike finish, run start and run finish), "reads" the chip and records the time as each athlete steps on the mat. Each timing chip is very valuable. Replacement cost in case of loss is the athlete's responsibility and is $30.
For this reason, athletes must be careful to always cross the mats at each transition and the finish. In addition, an athlete who starts in any wave after the first swim wave begins must take care not to step on a mat in or around the transition area accidentally as she waits for her wave to begin. For this reason, athletes are not allowed back in the transition area after the pre-race meeting, as the mats are activated.
Can I wear the chip wherever I want as long as I have it with me?
No. The strap with the timing chip should be worn on the left ankle. Wearing it on an ankle helps ensure that its signal is properly read when you cross a timing mat. The left ankle is important because if it is on the right ankle, it may rub or get caught on your bike’s chain ring.
If I lose my chip, will I be timed for the race?
If you lose your chip before the race starts, see race personnel to see if a replacement chip is available. You will be billed for the $30 replacement cost of the chip. There are backup manual timers; however, it is impossible for them to always catch every participant. Thus, if you do not have a chip during the race, please do not expect to be timed.
I'm a first-timer. Can I really do this race?
We encourage all potential athletes to have a complete physical examination prior to beginning training for a triathlon. Provided that your physician has approved your participation, most amateur women will be able to complete this race in 1-1/2 to 3 hours. Most women -- even inexperienced athletes -- should be able to prepare adequately with a minimum of 12 weeks of training.
What is the best way to train for my first triathlon?
There is not a "best" way to train because everyone has different levels of experience, schedules to accommodate, strengths, weaknesses and goals. We provide a beginner, 12-week training plan each year that you may wish to modify to meet your needs. This training plan is designed to be a solid, beginner program that, if followed, will help you arrive to the start line confident and prepared. We also encourage you to incorporate other training support.
Where do I find training information?
YWCA Minneapolis offers a variety of triathlon-related training. Watch for announcements of training classes on our Endurance Sports page.
Can I be placed in the same wave as my friend/mom/sister/training partner?
Yes. You may request to be placed in the Buddy Wave, which will be the last wave to start. The deadline to do this is August 1. If you are in the same age group, it is possible that you will be in the same age group wave, and can request this.
How is my wave assigned?
You choose your swim wave when you register. If you wish to make a change, please do so as early as possible. The deadline to change is August 1. There are three wave categories; Elite, Age Group and Buddy. The Elite wave starts first and is generally for athletes vying for overall awards. Athletes that start in the elite wave are not eligible for age group awards but are eligible for all other awards. The age group waves are organized by the participants' ages. Larger age groups may be split into more than one wave. Smaller age groups may be combined with other age groups. The Buddy wave is for participants who want to start with a friend. The buddy waves will go last.
Can I switch my wave?
Once the waves are assigned, the week before the race, it is critical for safety and fairness that every athlete starts in the swim wave to which she has been assigned, as it disrupts timing, announcing and so on. Persons "sneaking" into a wave not assigned to them are subject to disqualification. The deadline to request wave changes is August 1.
How many people will be in my wave?
Wave numbers are approximate and are assigned to facilitate timing and ensure accuracy and safety. There will be approximately 50-75 people per wave.
How many minutes apart do the waves start?
Waves will start approximately three minutes apart.
When will the wave assignments be finalized?
Waves will be finalized before packet pickup. With a participant list, they will be published on the race website. The wave schedule will also be available at packet pickup. If last-minute adjustments and fine tuning are necessary, we reserve the right to make changes.
What time does my wave start?
Wave start times will be posted at packet pickup. The race begins at 8:00 am, and waves start every three minutes thereafter.
What is the water temperature?
The average water temperature of Lake Nokomis in mid-August is approximately 77-78 degrees.
Do I need a wetsuit?
No. But if you are a novice swimmer, you will find that a wetsuit can provide you a great deal of buoyancy, thus potentially enhancing your comfort in the water. See the Rules section on the Race Info page for further information about wetsuits.
Can I rent a wetsuit?
Yes. Gear West Bike & Triathlon, one of our sponsors, rents wetsuits from Wednesday to the following Tuesday. The cost is $40 and is first-come, first-serve!
Can I use any stroke in the swim portion?
How deep is the water?
The water is between 10 and 25 feet deep in most areas of the swim.
What additional equipment will be permitted in the swim?
Aqua socks, masks and goggles are allowed. (Most triathletes wear goggles). Snorkels are allowed, though they are highly unusual in a triathlon. However, flippers and flotation devices (unless deflated) are strictly prohibited.
Can I rest on something during the swim?
Yes. You may hold on to a lifeguard’s board, safety boat, buoy or a Noodle Swimmer’s noodle. You will not be disqualified as long as they do not provide you forward motion.
What if I have a flat tire on the bike course?
Learn how to fix a flat tire by yourself before the race. If you don't have a friend who can teach you, watch for our free women-only flat tire clinics. We are able to do these with the assistance of our Bike Partner, Gear West Bike & Triathlon, who also offer some deals on flat tire essentials at the class. If you are unable to fix it yourself, walk to a volunteer at an intersection. They will contact one of our vehicles, which can try to help you fix the flat or transport you and your bike back.
Is the bike course hilly?
The course has only a few short and moderate hills. We still strongly recommend that you are familiar with your bike's gearing to be prepared for the hills, wind and your energy level.
Can I use a tandem or recumbent bike in the race?
No. You may use any regular upright road, triathlon, hybrid or mountain bike. A road or tri bike is much faster and saves a lot of energy. However, many first-time triathletes use a mountain bike because that is what is available to them. If you ride a mountain bike, we recommend you replace the knobby tires with smooth and skinnier tires (sometimes called slicks).
Do I have to get my bike inspected?
No, but we strongly urge you to be familiar with how to care for your bike or have it tuned up regularly. Many people experience technical problems on race day that could have been easily avoided. You are responsible for your bike’s safety and maintenance. Our partners at Gear West Bike & Triathlon offer a $42 “Pre-Race Tune-Up” to all registered Women’s Tri participants.
Are there specifications for the bike helmets?
Yes, the bike helmet must be ANSI-, CPSC- or SNELL-certified. Please confirm this by checking for a sticker indicating its certification on the inside of the helmet.
Can I rent a bike?
Not many local shops rent bikes, but Gear West Bike & Triathlon has a bike rental program. Check their website for more information and make reservations early. If you are a novice, we would caution you from using equipment that you have not used in training.
Do I need cycling shoes? And clipless pedals?
Many participants will choose to wear their running shoes for the bike with platform pedals. They may use toe clips to help hold their foot on the pedal and gain some power from pulling up, especially helpful on a hilly course. It also makes for a fast transition from bike to run because you don't have to change shoes, and our T2 (the bike-to-run transition) has a long section where you have to run your bike. Running your bike can be challenging in slippery cycling shoes.
However, cycling shoes can dramatically improve power transfer to the pedals. One of the main differences is that they have a stiff sole. The purpose of this is so the shoe doesn't flex when you push down. A running shoe will flex, causing you to lose power with every stroke and causing your foot muscles to tire for the run. It is common for triathletes who wear running shoes on the bike to get foot cramps or have sore feet for the run or after the race.
It is possible to buy a flatter cycling shoe with a recessed cleat that makes it easier to walk or run your bike in the transition area. These tend to be touring shoes and are usually heavier. If you didn't want to get clipless pedals, however, a shoe like this could work on a platform pedal with toe clips. You would get the benefit of a stiff sole shoe and be able to negotiate both transitions more easily. These shoes usually have laces rather than Velcro closures, so you might want to consider elastic laces for a quicker transition.
- A "real" cycling shoe will be much lighter and faster on the bike, especially when combined with clipless pedals. (A cleat on the shoe attaches directly to the pedal.) The clipless pedals allow a much smoother and more-circular pedal stroke. While power still comes primarily from pushing down on the pedals, the clipless pedals make "unweighting" the pedal much easier on the upstroke, and allow you to lengthen the power stroke by pushing more across the top and pulling back across the bottom. Clipless pedals also help keep your foot in the optimal position for both power transfer and injury prevention. Yes, you have to learn to remember to unclip when you come to stoplights -- we've all forgotten and fallen over at least once! Practice clipping and unclipping on a stationary bike or empty parking lot.
- A triathlon-specific cycling shoe will have one (maybe two) Velcro straps, and often a heel loop, to help you pull it on quickly (or while on the bike, an advanced tri technique). Experienced triathletes rarely lose any time in the transition area because they often choose to run a long TA barefoot and put their shoes on while at speed on the bike, and take their feet out of their shoes before they stop at the end of the bike.
- Consider the YWCA's Tri Race Skills to help you figure out the best technique and gear for you.
Can we draft in the Buddy Wave?
No. Drafting on the bike is against USA Triathlon rules for both safety and fairness. Most buddies just want to be together in the transition area and be in the same wave for camaraderie and support, but do most of the race by themselves. Some buddies try to stay together and will wait for each other after the swim. They may stay together during the bike, but must stay far enough apart to not be drafting (three bike lengths between), and may not ride side by side (as this blocks other riders).
Is the run hilly?
The run uses the paths around Lake Nokomis and in the park, and is very flat.
Are there water stations?
Yes. There is a water station right out of the transition area and on the course. See the Course and Venue page for more information on their locations.
When will I be able to access the transition area?
The transition area is located in the south parking lot, near the south beach swim start. It will be open from 5:45 to 7:45 am and from approximately 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Can my friend help set up my transition area?
Only participants and race officials will be allowed in the transition area. So, yes, they may if they are also competing.
When does the transition area close?
Before the race starts, the transition area closes at 7:30 am, regardless of what wave you are in. All equipment must be in by 7:30 am. All participants will be required to be at the swim start for a pre-race meeting at 7:40 am. You will not be allowed to return to the transition area after the pre-race meeting, because the timing mats will be activated. Swimmers in the early waves will also soon be coming through.
What time will the transition area re-open?
The transition area will re-open when the final biker has completed the bike course and has set out on the run. You will need to show your bib number in order to re-enter the transition area. We will estimate this time in pre-race materials. We will also share a final pickup time, when we will begin to break down the transition area. We are not responsible for any equipment left after this time.
Why do I have to wait to claim my gear from the transition area after I finish racing?
The transition area is closed to all but racers-in-progress until the final athlete has headed out on the run course. This is in fairness and safety to all participants. It is not safe, respectful or encouraging to participants in later heats who are still racing to have others blocking their path in the transition area. If you are an early finisher, we invite you to spend your time cheering on your fellow athletes, having good eats by the lake, relaxing with a massage and generally enjoying your accomplishment and the post-race festivities.
Can I use decorations, such as balloons, to mark my spot in the transition area?
Yes, we love it! But they should not interfere with anyone else being able to easily and safely access their equipment. We reserve the right to remove any materials that will interfere with the safety and security of our competitors and their equipment.