Lesson learned. Know the rules. In my 7th season of triathlon, and 60+ races, I got my very first penalty at yesterday’s Rock n Rollman Half Iron in Macon, Georgia. Was it for drafting? No. Blocking? No. It was a “Placement of Equipment” violation. That’s right. I actually received a penalty essentially before the race even started and I didn’t even know it. For long course racing, that’s whopping 4 minute penalty!
After the race, when I realized I got the penalty, I went and discussed this with the head referee. Not to dispute the penalty, but to figure out what I did wrong. I assumed that my bike was racked incorrectly, but it was actually my transition bag. I had an end spot on the rack, and I placed my transition bag underneath the “A” framed end poles like I have for 6 years. Close to my bike, and out of the way (so I thought). There was also a garbage can at the end of each rack. The referee told me that because part of my bag was actually outside the perimeter of the racks, it was a violation. It was still very close to my bike (probably several inches), but it was still considered to be too far out and could possibly interfere with athletes running through transition. Essentially a safety issue. Next time I will just place my bag along the fence completely out of the way.
I am not at all mad about this, nor do I disagree that I should have received a penalty. It is the rules after all, and though there is no mention of bags in transition, here’s the actual rule and the penalty I was cited:
“7.2 Placement of Equipment. All participants shall place equipment only in the properly designated and individually assigned bicycle corral and shall at all time keep their equipment confined to such properly designated areas. Any violation of this Section shall result in a variable time penalty.”
While we all worry the most about drafting and blocking penalties, there are much more to the rules than that. Even little known rules like the one that impacted me. And this penalty came very close to costing me the top podium spot. The time for the person who came in 2nd in my age group was only 54 seconds behind my time including the penalty.
What was the lesson? That USAT Rules are there to keep it fair and safe. Do refs always get it right? Just like in football, no. Do they do their best under the circumstances of the sport? Yes, I think they do. And as an athlete who takes this sport seriously, I must also make it my responsibility to know the rules… all of the rules.