Frequently Asked Questions 

International & Sprint

General Questions 

Approximately 5,500 competitors will participate in Sunday’s races.

No. Each participant is required to pick up their own packet. No exceptions! You must have a valid photo ID to pick up your packet.

No. All race packets must be picked up prior to race day at the Expo at the Hilton Chicago.

No, each member of the relay team needs to show their ID in order to pick up their own packet.

A valid photo ID (current driver’s license, certified state ID or passport) is required at Packet Pickup. We do not require a USA Triathlon one-day or annual member license.

The Chicago Triathlon is far from a one-size-fits-all event. Race weekend is composed of a variety of special programs and competitions, each designed to accommodate participants of every ability, interest level and goal. Click here to learn more about the divisions.

Relay teams consist of 2-3 athletes who collectively complete all three triathlon disciplines. In a two-person team, one athlete will complete two of the three disciplines. In a three-person team, each athlete completes one segment of the race. Relay team members should wait inside the special Relay Pen, located at the Swim In/Run Out end of the Transition area. The ankle strap and timing chip must be passed from one teammate to another at this area.

Race tattoos are to be applied by the athlete themselves before arrive on site for their race. Sharpie body markings will not be allowed.

No. Each race packet contains two temporary tattoo numbers, which can easily be applied to each shoulder at home. On race morning, volunteers will be available between Transition and the Swim Start to write the age on participants’ calves (using permanent marker). There is no need for athletes to body mark themselves.

Swim Questions 

Lake Michigan is a large open body of water. Temperatures can vary dramatically from the high 50’s to the low 70’s. The average over previous years is between 65 – 74 degrees. The official water temperature will be measured on race morning.

Swim caps (provided in the race packet) and swimsuits are required for the swim portion. Goggles or a face mask are optional, as are wetsuits.

Athletes may wear wetsuits if the water temperature is 78.0°F or below. Inflatable, swim fins, snorkels and propulsion devices are not allowed. See the Event Rules for full details

The water is 10’ to 12’ deep. Athletes will not be able to touch the bottom.

No. You may stop and rest during the swim, but you must not interfere with the progress of other swimmers. You may hang onto the guard boats, kayaks or the buoys, as long as you do not advance your progress with your hands. We recommend athletes avoid the sea wall because of possible sharp edges and zebra mussels.

Each athlete’s individual race time will start when they cross the swim start timing mat, under the swim start arch.

The swim will have a rolling start:

  • Athletes are set off in groups of approximately 5-10 athletes for the swim start and will be sent off every 5-10 seconds. In effect, this will create a “time trial” dynamic for the race and for the determination of the results.

The Swim will take place in Monroe Harbor, which is closed to boat traffic during the event. The start is at the Lakefront, at Balbo Drive at the Lake.

International swimmers first head south, swimming parallel to the sea wall for 380 yards. They then make a 180 degree left turn and continue north, passing the start area and exiting the water just south of the Chicago Yacht Club. Sprint swimmers head directly north, swimming parallel to the sea wall and exit just south of the Chicago Yacht Club.

Yes. Swimmers are encouraged to stay in the water through the entire swim portion, for the safety of all participants and the accuracy of timing results. If you exit the Swim Course before the Swim Exit and progress on foot, your timing chip will be pulled and you will be disqualified. This is a non-negotiable rule.

International athletes have one hour to complete the course from the start of the last International wave. Sprint athletes have 30 minutes to complete the course from the start of the final Sprint wave.

Standard swim goggle and masks will be allowed in the Swim.  Swim snorkels are only allowed with a verified medical condition and approval by the Head Official in advance of the race. Use of flotation devices, flippers, paddles or other aids is strictly prohibited.

Waves are assigned to division, gender, and age group. For larger age groups, there are multiple waves. Some smaller groups are combined into waves.

Wave assignments cannot be changed. Persons “sneaking” into a wave not assigned to them will be subject to disqualification.

Wave numbers are approximate and are assigned to facilitate timing and ensure accuracy and safety. On average, swim waves vary from 100 to 150 people.

Warm-up and pre-race practice swims are not permitted.

Since we will have a rolling start, a new wave will start shortly after the last athletes in the previous wave is in the water.

Yes. Water is available in the Swim Start chute. Additionally, water, Gatorade and more will be provided at the Fuel Station.

Yes. The Swim Gear Check is located just north of the Swim Start. Gear check opens at 5:00 AM. This area closes at 10:00 AM when all gear bags are transported to the Finish Festival area for pickup.

Extra caps will be available at the Information Tent, near Monroe St and Lake Shore Dr, and at the Swim Solutions Tent at the Swim Start.

Due to timing and safety considerations, it is critical that every athlete start in the swim wave to which he/she had originally selected during registration. Each athlete is pre-assigned to a specific wave start. There will be no switching waves to accommodate athletes who wish to race with friends.

The event organizers do not provide nor source equipment rental. We strongly discourage anyone from using unfamiliar equipment.

No, however the helper will not be allowed in the Swim Exit and must stand behind the fence lining the course. The race provides a “Special Needs Table” at the Swim Exit, on which athletes may place glasses, inhalers or other medication prior to their race start.

Bike Questions 

A bike and a bike helmet are required. Your bike must be in good working condition, with two functional brakes and your bike race number properly attached. Your bike helmet must be professionally certified, and it must have your number sticker properly attached. We recommend having your bicycle checked through a reputable bike shop prior to the event. We also advise to bring equipment for changing a flat tire or making minor bike adjustments.

No. You must stay five bike lengths behind the rider in front of you. When passing, you need to complete the pass within 20 seconds. If you are being passed, you must drop back four bike lengths from the person passing you before re-passing them. Riding side by side with another rider is also illegal. See the Event Rules for more information.

Yes. You may use a mountain bike, hybrid/city bike, road bike, single-speed bike or triathlon bike. No motorized bikes, fixed-gear bikes or recumbent bikes are allowed. Fairings (windshields) are not allowed.

No. Please come to the race with a full water bottle. There will be water available for filling-up your bottle in the center of the Transition area, accessible by both Sprint and International participants.

Yes, mile marks will be placed at each five (5) mile increment.

Only Paratriathletes are allowed to use non-standard bicycles. Should you wish to utilize another style of bike, permission must be granted from the Head Official prior to the race.

Yes, the bike helmet must be certified by one of several organizations, including ANSI, CPSC and SNELL. Most helmets purchased in the US within the last 4-5 years are certified. See the event rules for a complete list of acceptable certifications.

No, but it is highly recommended. Many people experience technical problems on race day that could have been easily avoided if the bike had been inspected prior to the race. In order to avoid disappointment on race day, we urge all competitors to have their bikes inspected no more than three weeks prior to the event. Please contact your local bike shop for additional information.

Yes. Bike Techs will be located at the north and south ends of Transition, at the Hollywood Avenue turnaround, and roving throughout the Bike Course.

Yes, more than a dozen Bike Support Crew will patrol the course on Sunday (with roving mechanics on Saturday). A SAG vehicle will also be circling throughout the race and return you to the Transition area. If you break down, please move to the side of the road (off the course) and fix the bike yourself, or wait for the Bike Support Crew.

Run Questions 

Yes, there are four Aid Stations on the Sprint course, and seven Aid Stations on the International course. All will be serving water and Gatorade Endurance.

It is required to have your race number and timing chip during the run. Race numbers are to be attached on the front of your body and the timing chip must be securely strapped to your left ankle.

Headphones, headsets, iPod, mp3 players and personal audio devices of any kind are not to be carried or worn at any time during the race. Mobile phones may be carried, but must be stored out of sight and only used during emergency situations.

Transition Questions 

The Transition Area is a common area where participants rack their bike, run and swim gear before and during the race. It is also your assigned spot where you will Transition from swim to bike and bike to run. Relay teams have a designated region outside the Transition Area where they exchange their timing chip strap from swimmer to cyclist and cyclist to runner.

Only race participants (with attached wristband), Transition Volunteers and Race Officials are allowed inside Transition. Family members and friends are unable to access this secured facility.

All Sprint, International and Triple Challenge participants have the option to check their bikes into the Transition area on Saturday between 2:00 – 6:00 PM. Use the south entrance near Monroe St (the north entrance will remain closed). Only bikes are permitted at this time (with race numbers affixed), no bags. Full bike bags/covers and wheel covers are not allowed. The Transition area will be secured through the duration, with lighting and security provided.

Yes. The Transition area, located in the grassy area near Randolph and Lake Shore Drive will be accessible from 4:00 to 5:45 AM for both Sprint and International participants.

A secondary check-in will be available for SPRINT PARTICIPANTS ONLY from 6:30 – 8:00 AM, using a special East Gate. Consult the Transition map for exact entrance. Arrive early due to increased security precautions. Anyone arriving after Transition closes will not be allowed to race.

Transition is divided into sections by event (Sprint, International, Triples, Paratri, First-Timers’ Program). There will be a diagram of the Transition area at the Athlete Briefings. Racks will be numbered by wave and bib numbers. You must return your bike to the same location in the racks.

You will not be able to pick up your equipment until the last Age Group participant in your assigned area has started the Run. In order to ensure the security and safety of our competitors and their equipment, there are NO EXCEPTIONS to the above rules.

No. Balloons and signage are not allowed, as they often hinder visibility to event directional signs. We reserve the right to remove any materials that will interfere with the safety/security of our competitors and their equipment.

The exact time is to be determined by the Race Director and is dependent upon when the last competitor completes the Bike Course and has set out on the run. International athletes are typically allowed to enter at approximately 10:30 AM, with Sprint distance participants soon after. You will need to show your wristband in order to re-enter the Transition area. All equipment must be picked up by 2:00 PM. Event organizers will not be responsible for any unclaimed equipment after that time.

Look for color-coded, numbered signs placed at the end of each bike rack that correspond to your wave color/number. Each wave will offer 15-18 individual bike racks for you to choose from. Rack space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Approximately 10 bikes will fit on each rack.

Why do I have to wait to claim my Transition gear after the race? To ensure fairness and the safety of all athletes, we must insist that the Transition area be closed to all but racers-in-progress from the first wave through the last athlete to start the Run. Instead of leaving right after you finish, we invite you to cheer on your fellow athletes and enjoy the Finish Festival area.

Chip Timing 

A computer chip encoded with the athletes name, race number and wave start is attached to a strap that the athlete must wear SECURELY around their ankle. A “scanner” located on mats positioned near Transition (Swim Start/Finish; Bike Start/Finish; Bike Turnarounds; Run Start; Run Turnarounds and Finish)“reads” the chips and records the time as each athlete steps on the mat. For this reason, athletes much be careful to step/ride near the mats along the course.

In addition, an athlete who starts any wave after the first swim wave begins, must take care not to step on a mat in or around the Transition area accidentally as he/she waits for their wave to begin. The chips go “live” after Saturday’s mandatory Packet Pick Up and will record every instance an athlete steps on a mat; if such a time is recorded that is earlier than an athlete’s scheduled wave, accidentally or intentionally, the chip will automatically disqualify them.

No. The strap with the timing chip must be worn on the left ankle, specifically to avoid any contact with the drive train on a bicycle.

You must have a chip to participate. If you lose your chip before the race starts, see race personnel at the Swim Solutions Tent (located at the Swim Start chute entrance) for a replacement. Each timing chip is very valuable. Replacement cost is the athlete’s responsibility.


There are port-o-lets outside the south end of Transition, between the Swim Start and Swim Finish (on Queen’s Landing), at each Run Course Aid Station and at the Finish Line/Finish Festival.

Yes. There will be medical tents and personnel available for basic first aid at Transition, Swim Start, Swim Exit, at every Aid Station along the Run Course as well as at the Finish Line. In addition, Race Guards will provide supplementary medical support to the existing medical plan for an added level of race participant safety by running along side the participants. They will patrol the course and help out where needed. They will be easily identifiable with Red Medical bibs located on their back.

The Sunday Award Ceremony will begin around 12:00 PM, contingent upon results being finalized and will be presented at the Awards Stage, located in the Finish Festival.

Yes. Trolley Service will be available on Race Day for athletes and spectators, from 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM. The trolleys will transport athletes and spectators from the Transition area to the Finish Festival. Pick-up and drop-off will be located at the northeast corner of Balbo and Columbus Drives as well as the southwest corner of Lake Shore Dr. and Monroe Street.

During the Expo the Lost and Found will be located at the Information Booth. During Sunday’s race, Lost and Found will be located at the Information Tent located at the SE corner of Columbus & Balbo.

Please review registration changes and cancellation policy here.