For Women Only – Triathlon Issues

At a recent women’s triathlon clinic, attendees wrote down their fears or concerns about training and completing a triathlon. There are definitely a few things about triathlons that aren’t pretty or feminine. Let’s explore a few.

First, I hate the woman who shows up to race with hair, makeup, lipstick, nails and jewelry. Your bling could attract sharks or alligators. The rest of us hit “snooze” at least one, crawled out of bed, skipped a shower (deemed not necessary before OWS) maybe brushed our teeth, donned our tri kit so carefully laid out the night before, and rushed out the door. Are you wearing your tightest sports bra that keeps the girls from even the tiniest bounce or are you going to be the one that spectators are nodding their heads up and down with each stride as you bounce your way to the finish line?

But just as you are ready to leave you remember what you forgot to do BEFORE putting on your tri kit. Those of us with a bit more “body” need to smear an anti-chafing product with sexy names like “Butt Butter” in those areas that will experience friction. Sweat plus friction equals painful chafing, blisters or boils. So, prior to donning that tri gear, generously lubricate with “product” to armpits, under the twins, inner thighs and butt cracks.

When you arrive at the race site, like a felon on probation, you are issued fashionable ankle bracelet with a timing chip attached. Next is body marking, a ritual resembling marking cattle headed to market. For sophisticated triathlons, this might be accomplished with temporary race tattoos, but for common sprints, you are marked with your race number on one or both arms by a Boy Scout volunteer who has never played with a permanent black marker before. Wait until after your body marking experience to apply sunscreen or you’ll have a smeary black mess on your arms and legs. Remember to remove your markings after the race with baby oil, alcohol, or lots of elbow grease before work the next day when someone asks you late in the day why you have a number on the back of your leg.

women-only-e1480301490827-300x300.jpgAlright. You racked your bike and meticulously set up transition. Everyone is taking pre-race selfies. If you’re lucky enough to have a wetsuit, you now look like a stuffed sausage in black casing. There’s still about 20 minutes to race start, so it’s time to find a bathroom – – or portapotty alley. Darn, should have done that BEFORE the wetsuit. Everyone else has the same idea, so you start to panic as you nervously stand in line for a stall. If you are lucky, there might even be toilet paper, but it’s not a bad idea to bring your own roll to every race. Don’t count on washing your hands either, did you bring hand sanitizer too?

You head to the swim start where the beach is now littered with triathletes in waves of USAT_Nats_16-160048-5-19colorful swim caps. Again, for most of us, swim caps and goggles are not flattering, so you’re glad you don’t have your phone, but all the spectators do, so it’s another opportunity for that last pre-race photo, and don’t forget to wave to the drone.

Your wave is called and a herd of splashing women attack the water like a Black Friday sale at Macy’s. Women will usually at least attempt to apologize for kicking or hitting you, but that’s all part of the sport. Hopefully you survive the swim leg, and drag yourself out of the swim like a drunken sailor and attempt to jog to transition. Like a busy day at the mall, do you remember where you parked your bike? You recklessly attack your meticulously arranged transition setup with discarded swim gear, and take off with your bike, helmet and shoes. But where are you going? Bike out? Mount past the line, and you’re off.

The best time to eat and hydrate is during the bike. But that means you have to pee again. Do you stop? As gross as it may sound, you have limited options. One is to pee while pedaling. Because blood travels away from the digestive tract to support working muscles when you swim, bike or run, proper digestion is reduced, which can lead to intestinal discomfort and emergent bathroom needs. While that bike seems to last forever, you are relieved to see transition again.

Off the bike, you’re off on the run, and darn, you still have to pee. Many women have a little issue here with stress urinary incontinence. It’s okay, let it flow, let it go! At the next water stop, take two cups of water, drink one and just pour the other water over yourself. No one will notice. Stay hydrated.

USATriathlon_NationalsNow is the most important part of the race, approaching the finish line. With your wet, matted hair, in your sweaty, peed on tri-suit, in soggy, hot, blistery shoes, approach that finish line like you are on a pageant stage. Even if you’re in pain, smile like a princess. Celebrate, dance and cheer! And if your hair, makeup and jewelry still look perfect, I still hate you.


Elise Enloe is a triathlon coach with Tri with Us and a Sunshine leader for the USAT Florida Region located in Oviedo, FL.  You can reach Elise via email at

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