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Unlike the Ironman mass swim starts seen on television, USA Triathlon sanctioned events begin in "waves." Typically, these waves are based on age group and depending on the size of the race, there may be more than one age group per wave. Below is an example of how a wave start may be organized.
Wave Time Age Group Color Swim Cap
#1 6:15 Women 30-39
#2 6:25 Women - All Others Yellow
#3 6:30 Men 25-29 / 55+ Light Blue
#4 6:35 Men 50-54 Royal Blue
#5 6:40 Men 30-34 Day-Glow Green
#6 6:45 Men 30-34 Red
#7 6:50 Men 35-39 Purple
#8 6:55 Men 35-39 Orange
#9 7:00 Men 40-44 Yellow
#10 7:10 Men 45-49 Royal Blue
#11 7:15 Men 15-24 / Relays Red
When you enter a race make sure you know your age group start time. USA Triathlon rules state that participants must start in and with the appropriate wave or group. One consequence of violating this rule is disqualification. Another possibility is that the officials allow you to start between waves or with the next age group. However, your official time begins with the start of your wave. In the example above, if you are a male in the 25-29 age group and you miss your 6:30 am start by two minutes, then you are already two minutes behind competitors in your wave. In a triathlon, the clock waits for no one!