A triathlon start can seem like a daunting prospect, especially for newcomers or beginners. But fear not, we’ve got all the information you need to know about time trial vs wave start triathlon race starts to prepare you for your big event. We’ve also got some tips on how to train most efficiently.
A wave start is the type of start that is most commonly used for outdoor triathlon events. In basic terms, it means that all of the competitors are split into different groups who all start at staggered times. The groups are normally split by factors such as age and gender.
Depending on the size of the event, each wave can feature around as little as 15 people, up to as many as 50. Each individual wave usually has a particular color swim cap, colored number or a distinction of some kind which will identify them as being in that certain wave.
Wave starts can be spread apart by anything from a couple of minutes to even up to 10 minutes, it often will be dependent on the type of race, how many waves there are and how many people are competing etc.
The advantages of performing a wave start in a triathlon is that it is a quick way to get all competitors starting the race. They also allow you to compete against your own age group and gender. A wave start can often be more exhilarating and exciting, as the crowd will cheer and scream for each wave to get your adrenaline pumping!
One specific disadvantage of a wave start is that they can be somewhat dangerous. If each group consists of a large number of people running into a body of water to compete for the front position, it can get a little messy and often there can be a number of injuries due to the clash of bodies.
A Time Trial start is slightly different to a wave start. Rather than a group of competitors starting at the same time, each individual competitor begins on their own. Racers are given a number and they line up in order.
There is normally a 3 to 5 second gap in between each person. After number 1, number 2 waits for their ‘go’ signal after 3 to 5 seconds and begins competing by running into the water.
Time Trial starts are not seen nearly as often as Wave Starts are. In fact, only around 25% of triathlons that take place in the United States use a time trial start. However, they are slowly becoming more popular.
One advantage of a time trial start is that is super efficient, Racers know exactly when to go and it works almost like smooth clockwork. Another massive advantage is that it saves the chaos of a group of competitors trying to run into the water at the same time. A time trial keeps it neat, simple and danger free.
They can take a LONG time. Even though there is normally only a few seconds dividing each competitor, it can take a while for all racers to begin the race. For example, if there are 100 people taking part in the event and they each start 3 seconds apart, then it will take 25 minutes for every person to start.
The second disadvantage is that they are not such an exciting start. The crowd may get bored, especially towards the end of the line, and so may you if you are number 100!
Another disadvantage of a time trial start is that if you are a strong swimmer and start further back, you are now faced with the prospect of having to dodge and go through a whole line of swimmers that are ahead of you, rather than being able to break out in front of a group that all started at the same time.
You will see wave starts as the most common start to an outdoor triathlon event, followed by time trials, but there are also a couple of other (more uncommon) starts that can occur. If you are competing in or spectating at an Ironman event, you will experience something a little different.
Ironman races normally have hundreds to thousands of competitors and they all start at exactly the same time. It can be pretty chaotic way to start but once everyone has found their position in the water and settles to their own individual pace, the craziness does calm down. An Ironman race is one of the most exciting ways to start, and the crowd often goes mad with cheering and support.