Race Day Nutrition and Support for Your Young Triathlete


Youth triathlons offer all the ingredients for a fun, memorable experience. Young triathletes love the sport’s variety and constant change. After crossing the finish line, kids understand that it is a true accomplishment and they feel the pride from completing the challenge. The Chicago Kids Tri is a wonderful way to experience triathlon for the first time. Parents play a big role in determining whether the day will be fun or frustrating. Here are some tips for first-time triathlon parents.


Before you sign you kids up for a triathlon, be sure that they are ready. Kids should be confident swimmers – skillful enough to complete the swim course in a lake without feeling terrified. At the Chicago Kids Tri, kids ages 7-10 will swim 100 meters and kids ages 11-14 will swim 200 meters (parallel to the shore) in Lake Michigan. Practice swimming in the weeks leading up to the race and make sure that a couple of those practices are in a lake.

Kids are ready to bike in a triathlon when they can safely ride their bikes on a trail and/or road amongst other riders.  Make sure that they have a helmet in good condition that is certified for biking and fits them well. Check their bike for loose bolts, flat tires and effective brakes before sending them to race. A tune-up from a bike shop can help make sure that their bike works on race day. Chicago Kids Tri bike distances are 3.5 km or 7 km depending on age.

Once kids get to the run, most can safely handle the distance (1-2 km) with a combination of running and walking.


Your family will be up very early to get to the race venue in time to park, pick up packets and set up the transition area. Eating any sort of pre-race breakfast can be a challenge for a sleepy, excited triathlete. Don’t worry if your kid doesn’t eat much before the race – they will still make it to the finish line. For those that do eat, stick with familiar foods that are easy to digest – along with some water.  After the race, make sure that they do eat and drink. Post-race foods and familiar snacks like fruit and sandwiches can help a triathlete feel re-energized after their effort. If it is hot, make sure that they are drinking plenty.

Make it FUN!

It can be very nerve-wracking to be a triathlon parent. Your nervousness might be obvious to your kids and can make the experience less enjoyable for all of you. Keep reminding yourself that this is supposed to be fun. This kid’s triathlon will not be an indicator of your child’s future success and happiness. It is merely supposed to be a fun challenge that they get to do with your positive, calm support and love. Enjoy the morning so that they will as well.

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Chris Palmquist is an USA Triathlon Elite Coach, USA Cycling Elite Coach and Youth/Junior Coach with 19 years of coaching experience. She has written for Chicago Athlete Magazine for more than 20 years. As a Team MPI Head Coach, she has coached athletes to regional, national and world class success. She is a USA Paratriathlon National Team Coach and Team USA Coach at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, ITU World Paratriathlon Series and High Performance Camps at the Olympic Training Centers. Chris coaches youth and junior triathletes as Head Coach for the MMTT Youth Triathlon Team and for USAT at national Junior Skills Camps. In 33 years as an athlete, she has raced several sports including triathlon (13 Ironman), collegiate rowing (Cornell 83-87), canoe/kayak, cross country skiing (20 Birkebeiner) and road bike racing. Chris is married with two kids. Favorite Quote: “Do Simple Better” ~Joe Maddon


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