Side Hustle Series: I’m a USA Triathlon Official

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(Guest Post by Debbie Forbes, as part of our Side Hustle Series)

In real life, I am a massage therapist. Quite a few weekends from April to November, I work as a USA Triathlon official helping triathletes before and after the race.  During the race, I work to ensure that the competitive rules are followed.

My boyfriend was an avid triathlete.  Like any good athlete, he wanted to give back to his sport and started officiating.  I would often accompany him and hang out while he was working.  Soon it became apparent that if I was going to be there anyway, why not make some money too?

I would tell you that doing at least a short triathlon or two would help you in the officiating realm if you don’t already have a working knowledge of the sport.  There’s a whole subculture and vocabulary that goes with a triathlon, and if you aren’t privy, it’s hard to follow.

How to be a USA triathlon official

Contact the Regional Officials Coordinator via email and get the proper information.  You can find most of the information at: I attended a clinic, was trained, and then worked a race as a CAT5 official and two more as a CAT4 with no pay.  Once I  completed those three 3 races, I became eligible to be promoted to CAT 3, and to get paid for my efforts.

My average day as a triathlon official

While waking up at 4 am for a 6am transition opening isn’t always great, my boyfriend and I have saved up enough over two triathlon seasons to cover our next overseas vacation!  Not bad!

We arrive at the race site shortly before the athletes.  I check for safety issues, making sure the athletes are racking their bikes properly and that their bikes comply with the rules.  Before the race, I help the athletes as much as possible, answering questions about the rules or other inquiries.

Most of my time during the race is spent on the back of a motorcycle on the bicycle course.  At this point I am looking for a myriad of violations, such as: drafting, unauthorized equipment, position penalties, unsportsmanlike conduct and littering, just to name a few.  Then I will go and watch the run portion and watch for running penalties, such as iPods and unauthorized pacing.

There are worse things than being surrounded by the athletes, many of whom are VERY serious about their sport and training, and most of them are VERY nice.  At least once in every race, someone thanks us for being out there.  Yes, it is an early day, but usually if we are close to home we are back by 11/noon and have the rest of the day.  If the race is further away, we are provided a hotel room for one night at no charge and sometimes we will pay for another day of hotel or late check out and bring the wave runners and make a weekend out of it!

Not a bad side hustle.

UPDATE:  I asked Debbie about pay, and here’s what she said: “Once you get promoted to Cat 3 (with approval) base for a regular official, not head referee, pay is $90 per event. Then add in mileage which is about .51 a mile.  And a hotel if you need it….

Debbie Forbes is a Massage Therapist, Chocoholic, Certified Personal Trainer, Cat 3 USA Triathlon Official and wannabe yogi/triathlete/blogger; In that order.  You can find out more about her at Island Massage Online, or her newly minted blog, Black Dog Wellness. ***If YOU have a Side Hustle you’d like to share with us, give J$ a shout ***

Previous Hustles:
— Side Hustle Series: I’m a Lifeguard
— Side Hustle Series: I’m a Mystery Shopper
— Side Hustle Series: I Write Meal Plans

(Photo by West Point Public Affairs)

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  1. Evan July 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    Why are iPods a penalty?

  2. bleu July 7, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    This is great hustle… it has always been my dream to participate in one, but never had time to train. Thanks for the side hustle series J.Money, it inspires me to think outside the box.

  3. The $60K Project July 7, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    Wow, that’s a great side hustle! Much more interesting than mine – CPA exam question writer. Thanks for this series, keep ‘ em coming. It might be time I find a new gig.

  4. 20 and Engaged July 7, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    Sounds like a great hustle. I’d be interested to look into it. I’ve been a support system to a race, so maybe I’ll look into it.

  5. J. Money July 7, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Haha, I asked about the iPod too… and “unauthorized racing”
    Here’s what she sent back :)

    Unauthorized pacing is when someone not in the race is riding/running next to you. Generally speaking, they usually are a safety hazard. You know, the significant other with the camera phone that knocks another racer over.

    Ipods? As handy as they are, they are a HUGE safety hazard. You can’t hear someone saying on your left with the Thump-thump-thump going. Can’t hear ambulances, can’t here peeps calling you. So they are a no no on the course….

    As for pay, here’s what she told me:

    Once you get promoted to Cat 3 (with approval) base for a regular official, not head referee, pay is $90 per event. Then add in mileage which is about .51 a mile. And a hotel if you need it….

  6. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager July 7, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    Love it! I’ve thought about becoming a ski race official just for the free ski pass.

  7. J. Money July 8, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    Ooh that would be fun!