“What If I Have To Poop?” – Answers To Six Of The Triathlon Questions You’re Too Embarrassed To Ask

Six Embarrassing Triathlon Questions

Picture this: You’ve been training for months and your triathlon is finally here! You arrive at the race site and then disaster strikes… you have to poop. Or worse than getting a flat tire… the urge hits during your bike ride. AHHHHH!!!!

I think that the human body is absolutely incredible, even though it does some pretty disgusting stuff. Talking about bodily functions may gross you out, but as an ER nurse, I deal with bodily functions all day.  That may or may not be a good thing, but let’s be honest here… everyone poops.

And the distance of your tri doesn’t matter! Whether it’s a sprint triathlon or an Ironman, nerves and pre-race jitters can cause your insides to churn. So without further ado, here are some (uncensored and possibly gross) solutions and answers to your most embarrassing triathlon questions.


6 Embarassing Triathlon Questions Answered |

Question #1:  “I have to pee during the race.” 

You’re trying to be a good triathlete and so you are staying hydrated and drinking lots of water during your training, and especially the week before your race. Yay for hydration but boo for small bladders. The dudes have it easy here and can just “take a leak” behind a tree or something. Us ladies have to do the dreaded squat. And after your legs already feel like jello from biking and running, your squat may not be so successful. What’s worse than having to squat behind a bush to pee? Having your legs give out and falling in it… not that it’s ever happened to me… just sayin.


Try to use the outhouse as close to your race start as possible. If you still have to go during your race, try to make it to the next aid station or porta potty. It honestly won’t affect your race time that much. But if you can’t make it to a bathroom or porta potty, look for a bush or a cluster of trees to hide behind… just don’t pee in someone’s yard.  Also a former surfers, Davey and I know that it’s totally normal to pee in your wetsuit. Now, we’re not officially telling you to pee in the water, we’re just telling you what surfers do. What you decided to do is up to you 🙂

6 Embarassing Triathlon Questions Answered |

Question #2: (Literally #2, he he…) “What if I get a poop attack during my race.”

The dreaded number 2. A poop attack usually strikes at the most inconvenient time. Not only is hard to swim, bike and run when you have poop on your mind, but poop cramps hurt!


Go before your race! If you’ve been training in the mornings, you probably have a good system down and since your body is used to waking up early, you will probably go just like usual. If not, wake up 1 hour before you have to leave to give yourself enough time to go. Drinking warm water with lemon really helps get things moving. Also, don’t eat anything the night before your triathlon that you know will give you the runs or will irritate your digestive system. Stick to your usual carbo loading meal that you ate during your training. If that doesn’t work, then try to locate a Starbucks, Wal-Mart, or public bathroom to use on your way to the race. It’s SO much nicer to use a public restroom than a gross porta potty. Still have to go during your race? Find an outhouse. Just like peeing, a quick bathroom break will not affect your overall race time that much.

Question #3: “My nose is running faster than me.”

This is more common during colder weather, but it’s still annoying to have to sniff every time you breathe.

Solution: Unless are wearing long sleeves or you are carrying a tissue like I did during my 1/2 marathon, you kinda have no other option other than a snot rocket. Davey does these ALL. THE. TIME. And it used to gross me out so much that I’d stop running and glare at him. (If looks could kill…) Well don’t knock it till you try it because now I’m a snot rocket queen. Just press your finger over one nostril, close your mouth and blow out your other nostril forcefully, like you’re blowing your nose in a tissue. Repeat on the other side. PLEASE  just make sure there are no other triathletes in your path. Alternatively, you can blow your nose on the bottom of your shirt if you don’t want to so a snot rocket. Here is Davey demonstrating a snot rocket after the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run through Central Park.

6 Embarassing Triathlon Questions Answered |

Question #4: Chaffing

You’re probably familiar with the areas that you experience chaffing while swimming, biking and running. The constant rubbing of your clothes and wetsuit against your body can ultimately lead to skin irritation (aka: chafing) and it can be really painful! The


Nothing a little body glide or Vaseline can’t fix! Slather it on your trouble areas before your triathlon and then again during your transitions. If your chafing gets really bad, then you can put band aids or tape over the area to help your clothes and skin to slide instead of rub. Chaffing can be prevented by wearing moisture wicking clothes (no cotton) that pull the sweat and moisture away from your body. We also recommend testing out your wetsuit and race day clothes before your triathlon to try to find any possible areas that might chafe.  You can prevent race day chaffing by drying off with a towel during your transitions and by apply Body Glide or Vaseline to those hot spots.

If you do experience chaffing, clean the area with soap and water, pat it dry and apply an antibiotic ointment and a band-aid to help prevent further irritation or infection.


Question #5: Blisters

A blister may be small, but like chaffing, they are one of the most annoying and painful things ever!


First and foremost, make sure your sneakers fit properly and that you are wearing moisture wicking socks (no cotton)! You can prevent blisters the same way you would prevent chaffing, by applying Body Glide or Vaseline to your blister prone areas before a run or long bike ride. If you do have a blister, try not to pop it because that increases your risk of infection. Wash and dry the area and apply a band-aid or Moleskin.  Moleskin is a padded piece of tape that you can apply to your blister to provide cushion and to prevent it from getting worse. If your skin is too sweaty and the moleskin won’t stick, use a piece of duct tape. Sounds crazy, but it works!

Question #6: “How should I do my hair and makeup?”

You may be embarrassed to ask how to do your hair and makeup for race day in fear that someone might roll their eyes and tell you, “who cares how you look, you should be focused on the race, not your makeup”. But let’s just be honest with ourselves here. We want to look good in those race day photos… especially if it’s your first triathlon! Even if the photographer captures a less than flattering facial expression, at least your hair will look good. ALSO, it is no small task to fit a big head of hair in a tiny little swim cap! And while we can all agree that blisters and chaffing are painful and annoying, having your hair flap in your face on your bike is equally annoying!


How To Do You Hair For A Triathlon |


 Solution: I find that wearing my hair in a low braid is the easiest way to fit it into my swim cap. It also is a perfect swim and bike style because it doesn’t obstruct my helmet.  I prefer a braid to a ponytail because it keeps your hair together and there are no strands of hair flying in your face while your biking downhill or into a headwind. However, I can’t stand having a braid constantly hit my back while running, so as I’m running out of T2, I quickly throw my hair up in a bun. Multi-tasking at it’s finest! If you’re going to put your hair in a bun mid race, make sure you bring extra hair ties. I can’t tell you how many times they’ve snapped in half while trying to put my hair up. If you have bangs, bobby pin them back before the race or make sure you bring a headband to keep them from flopping in your eyes. Another alternative is to simply cover up frizzy swim cap head with a hat!


How To Do You Hair For A Triathlon |


As far as makeup goes, keep it simple. A coat of waterproof mascara, sunscreen and chap stick work great. Terrified to leave the house without your normal makeup? Wear sunglasses! Viola! Goggle marks and tired eyes are hidden from the cameras!

Do you have any tips for peeing, pooping, blisters, chaffing, snot or race day hairstyles? We’d love to hear them! 

Do you have any embarrassing race day stories?


About Author

Trainer DaveyTrainer Davey is an Orange County personal trainer at heart, but has since moved to Nashville and taken on the new challenge of triathlon training. Of course, he misses his home of Surf City...but Music City ain't so bad either!View all posts by Trainer Davey →

  1. Axel Kussmann (@apkussma)
    Axel Kussmann (@apkussma)01-09-2013

    Cross-country skiing has taught me how to snot rocket. An important tip is to really lean forward and to the side to make sure it clears your arms and body. Consider that it might come out in a cone-shaped spray (rather than a rocket) and aim accordingly or else you’ll be wearing that snot after all. And of course, check behind you first.

    • Jess

      @apkussma, thanks for the tips! We’re all going to be snot rocket champions thanks to you!

  2. Hilary

    I do the same hairstyles during triathlons! I do have a question! Any tips on helping hair avoid being damaged by chlorinated pool water while training?

    • Jess

      That’s awesome! The volunteers in the transition area always laugh when I run by while trying to put my hair in a bun at the same time 🙂

      And that’s an awesome question! I think I’ll do a post about hair/skin tips because chlorine sucks the life out of my skin and hair!! (Confession: sometimes I won’t swim because I don’t want to get my hair wet). I usually try to do a deep conditioning hair treatment every few weeks. (I like the Garnier Fructis Fortifying Deep Conditioner – Sleek & Shine 3 Minute Masque).

      Also, I try to not rip my swim cap off when I’m done with my workout because in my haste to get that horribly tight thing off, I usually end up with a handful of hair.

      Thanks for your comment! Good luck!

    • Katherine Graves
      Katherine Graves02-18-2013

      On the hair and chlorinated pool water, make sure you get it wet before you get in the pool. It will absorb less of the chlorinated water if it’s already wet with shower (normal) water. I also like to use a leave in conditioner spray after I’m done showering from a pool workout

  3. Mike

    A tip for your #2. Imodium pre-race. If it worries you that much, it’s better to plug it up 😉