The Ugly Underbelly of Triathlon

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The Ugly Underbelly of Triathlon

I suppose most sports have aspects to them that are not spoken about much. Personal, private kind of stuff. Like, ever wonder if bull riders put shammy cream in their pants before jumping on that 2,000 lb. killing machine named Bodacious trying to withstand his vicious, crotch busting attempt to throw them?  It seems like it might be a good idea…but you never hear about that kind of thing.

Here are a few issues that, ahem, triathletes typically don’t talk much about, but are definitely part of the sport.

  • Getting #2 taken care of before the race starts. So, the night before, if you’re concerned about this, take one – that’s ONE stool softener (not a laxative.) Then, when you get up immediately drink a cup of coffee. That’ll get things moving. Listen carefully now – practice this during your training. Find out exactly what works for you. Do not try anything new on race day. Usually, coffee and nerves take care of this issue. Also, have TP in your gear bag and take it with you along with the headlamp when you hit the porta-potty. Both can be very helpful!
  • Going #1 in your wetsuit while waiting for the race to start. Well, your obvious best choice is hitting the porta-potty before walking down to the water, but hey, sometimes those nerves get to you and you’d like to not feel like going during the swim. So, you just let it go. No problem. I’d be afraid to know the % of athletes that do that while everyone is standing around in waist-deep water waiting for the horn to blow.

  • In longer races, what about “going” on the bike? There’s no real need to do this IF you’re just trying to complete the distance. Usually, there are porta-potties by the aid stations along the bike route and you can stop, but, if time really matters…if you’re going for a PR or podium spot and don’t want to stop, then it’s an option. Might sound gross, but you need to practice this. That’s right. Don’t wait to try this in your first 70.3 or Ironman. There is a technique. Hmmmm…should I go there? 

    Yeah, OK. Have a bottle of water ready to rinse when you’re done. Don’t rinse with a sports drink! Sheesh, you’d be a sticky mess! Scooch to one side of the seat and unclip that foot from the pedal. Reach down and grab your ankle and pull your foot up so your knee is the lowest part of your leg. Then, coast along letting ‘er rip and it’ll fall right off that knee to the ground. Keeps your shoe(s) a lot cleaner. When done, clip back in and rinse. Presto. You did it. Nice job. Before doing this in a race, practice just unclipping and grabbing your ankle until you can do that with no risk of crashing. Also, again stating the obvious, don’t try this going up a hill or in a group of riders.
  • Chaffing down where the sun don’t shine. Of course, during cycling workouts, using some shammy cream on the bike shorts pad is part and parcel of riding. (And of course, you know not to wear underwear under those padded cycling shorts, right?) Typically, tri kits don’t have nearly as much padding as cycling shorts and so putting some sham cream down there before the race start can help with the chaffing possibility in a big way. In longer races, chaffing under the armpits and in the upper, inner thigh area can be painful. Be prepared! I’ve carried a small tube of Vaseline in my race belt or use it if it’s passed out at aid stations (typically only in Ironman races.)
  • Barfing. Yeah, it happens. Usually, because the athlete takes in too many calories in too short a period. The stomach can’t process it, so it sloshes around. The athlete often keeps putting more nutrition down and, boom! Up it comes like a volcano! How many calories I take in per hour depends on serval things, but I use the “less is more” approach. Don’t try to replace the number of calories you’re burning because that’s a recipe for disaster. I try to get in between 150 – 200 calories/hour, again, depending on a number of items. If you do barf, try to do it just as you cross the finish line. Everyone will be impressed with how hard you pushed! Ha!
  • Flatulence. Yep, it also happens. It seems like when we take in a lot of carbs, well, gas is produced. My only suggestion here is just be careful when…like not when someone is right behind you…unless you’re trying to beat them. You with me? Thought so.

OK, that’s enough gross stuff for one blog. Sorry, not sorry. Give me a shout if you have questions about other issues that triathletes don’t talk about much. Over 25 years of doing this sport, I’ve pretty much experienced every challenge possible, spoken and unspoken.

Lincoln Murdoch
Lincoln Murdoch
As an accomplished endurance athlete, Lincoln has been competing in running events for 40 years and racing in triathlons for 25 years. He is a 3x USAT National Champion, 14x USAT All-American and 3x ITU World Championships Top-Ten finisher. Lincoln is passionate about helping athletes meet their goals through books, online resources, coaching and motivational speaking. You can learn more at
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