The Zen of Code Yellow: Voiding in Triathlon


Let me start this article by pointing out that I am an extremely clean person.  It is a long-standing joke in my family that I was destined from an early age to be a physician because of an obvious obsession with hygiene.

However, endurance racing, especially triathlon, is a different thing.  After having survived many dozens of less-than spotless port-a-potties before and, yuck, during races, I have learned to accept race-day hygiene as unavoidably separate from normal-life hygiene.

Another important issue is efficiency.  In triathlon we spend hours practicing transitions and buy expensive slip-on shoes, easy-entry cycling shoes, and other gear all in the interest of saving, truly, just a few seconds.  Well, how much time is “wasted” with a visit to the port-a-potty?  How much ill-will is generated when an athlete pulls over to the side of a race course, in a neighborhood, to void? Think about it.

This brings me to the slightly sensitive topic of this article: taking care of “business” during a race.  How does someone do it?  Are there accepted codes of behavior?  I will share my wisdom and perspective and you can decide for yourself.

The swim:

Is it OK?

It is never, ever, acceptable to void in a pool.  However, a lake or a river is an entirely different story.  As I learned at Med School at Duke: “dilution is the solution to pollution.”  The volume of water in a lake is simply too great for any amount of triathlete-derived urine to create unsanitary, or even noticeable, conditions.

How do you do it?

Just relax, slow down your swim stroke a little bit, and let it go.  With a little practice (in a lake or river, not a pool), you should be able to do this with minimal drop-off in the pace of your swim.


Don’t tell your significant other.  My wife will never touch my wetsuit now, even after I have thoroughly cleaned it…

The bike:

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Is it OK?

Generally speaking, voiding on the bike is just fine, with some caveats.  There is the possibility to create some spray behind you.  Therefore, always check behind before going Code Yellow. Also, this activity can, for some people, be a little public.  Public nudity/self exposure is not acceptable.

How do you do it?

This is much harder to do on the bike than during the swim. My suggestion is to find a portion of the race in which there is some degree of separation between you and other athletes and, especially, spectators.  Pedal a little harder, then sit up or stand, then relax.  It can take a few tries to find the Zen of Code Yellow, but it gets easier with practice.


Once you start Code Yellow, you will have a damp crotch.  If the weather is cool, this, by normal human reflex, may lead you to “go” again and again.  Be prepared. Also, since your bottom will be damp for, potentially, hours, you are at risk for nasty chafing: “baboon butt.”  If you plan to void on the bike, be very liberal with the Body Glide, or similar product, over broad areas of your nethers.

The run:

I have read accounts of professional triathletes who are able to achieve Code Yellow while running.  This is an expert-level accomplishment and, I am sorry to say, I have no guidance to give.  If you have information to offer, please share it in the “comments” to this article, so we can all learn from your gift.

The Zen of Code Yellow is, with some guidelines, an acceptable way to enhance your triathlon experience.  I hope that this information is entertaining and helpful to you.

Race and train safe and clean.

Photo Credit: <a href=””>BCooner</a> via <a href=””>Compfight</a> <a href=”″>cc</a>

2 thoughts on “The Zen of Code Yellow: Voiding in Triathlon

  1. Lauren @ Lauren Runs

    I aspire to the run! Otherwise, I think you’re spot on. Once you’ve started on the bike, it’s hard to stop. But YES Stop in transition at T2 to add more lube to your butt– your behind will thank you on the run and later in the shower!!!


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