My First Race: The Guy who Didn’t Know the Rules.

In my first race, the cross wind on the bike was terrible. I often felt like I was pedaling to nowhere, and I was getting passed by faster cyclists at an embarrassing rate. But on the homestretch, I found myself pushing to pass someone. Anyone. Passing in a triathlon can be a tricky business- per the rules against drafting, you cannot be within 7 meters of a cyclist in front of you, and if you intend to pass, you must cover that distance and pass the person within 15 seconds. So I was hesitant to pass someone who might be faster than me lest I get caught in the draft zone. Finally I found someone- a somewhat heavyset man about 60 feet in front of me.

Come hell or high water, I was going to pass that man.

It was a slog, but eventually I drew next to the guy and smiled. He glanced over at me, and I, reciprocating the verbal pats on the back I had received earlier in my ride, said to the guy, “Keep it up, man!” The man laughed and said, “I only practiced one day for this! Not bad for one day!”

I suddenly did not like this man. I had trained for 8 solid weeks for this race. I had worked on my swim for weeks before that. And this man had spent ONE DAY?

I pedaled faster. But this guy would not get off my tail. He stuck right behind my wheel, letting me block the wind for him. I kept thinking to myself, “What is he doing?? He’s going to get in trouble. Doesn’t he know about the drafting rule??”

5 minutes later the guy pulled up next to me again. I glanced at him, bewildered. He said, “Here! I rode behind you for a bit, took a break from the wind. Now you ride behind me and I’ll block the wind for you!”

Clearly, he had not read the drafting rule.

I’m not a rule breaker. In fact, I have a rule breaking phobia. So I slipped out to the left to stay out of his draft zone and bidded my time. Eventually I caught him on one of the final turns and left him behind, but I kept shaking my head.

Even if you’re doing a triathlon for fun, it is still a competition, and as such you should be aware of the rules and do your best to respect them, for the fairness of the sport and the safety of everyone participating.

This week I’ll be sharing some basic rules you’ll want to be aware of before competing in your first tri. Stay tuned!

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