Stepping up to swim, bike, run also means stepping up your preparation. Three sports, plus two transitions to think about can be overwhelming–especially for beginners. Check out my tried and true tips for what you need to bring to a triathlon.
First off, invest in a good triathlon bag. A triathlon specific bag will have pouches for all of your various shoes, accessories, and even a spot for your helmet. Being organized can help ease the stress on race morning. I’ve used a version of this TYR bag for years and absolutely love it.
Your bag most likely has two side water bottle compartments and a front ‘flex’ sort of compartment for odds and ends. These should be filled with your pre-race, during race, and post-race nutrition. Energy bars, gels, electrolyte tablets, water, sport drink, etc. Nutrition is essential, so bring more than you think you may need.
This is really where your fancy tri-bag comes in handy. It should have a special waterproof wetsuit compartment. Before the race it may not seem like that much of a benefit, but afterwards (when you have an hour drive home and it protects all the rest of your gear from smelling like seaweed) it will be.
The ‘little’ things like goggles, spare goggles (just in case), and a swim cap. There should be a nice pouch somewhere inside your bag to always keep these.
Unfortunately, the bag will not help you with your bike…so just don’t forget it. And while you’re not forgetting your bike–don’t forget your pump. Surly someone at the race will be nice enough to lend you theirs, but avoid the unnecessary stress of seeking one out moments before the race.
A good bag will have somewhere to either store or attach your helmet. Also, there should be a nice compartment for your bike shoes. If not, just throw them in the bag, at this point you probably don’t have anything in the actual, regular compartment. And, if they’re not already on your head, don’t forget your sunglasses.
All that nutrition you packed in your bag needs to make it to a designated spot where you can easily access it during the race. If you have a pouch on your bike, be sure to transfer it there during your pre-race prep.
You could just put your sneakers in the regular compartment with your bike shoes. You may have a race belt to attach your number to as well. You also want to make sure you have nutrition accessible to grab during T2.
There are numerous options for the transition area. If you want to get in and out as quickly as possible, you need only the bare minimum. Lay out a small towel and place all of your supplies on it in an organized manner. If you want to be comfortable and get your bearings in transition, in addition to all the necessities you may want a towel to dry off, a drink or nutrition, socks, etc. It all depends on your goals for the race. Transitions are best perfected by trial and error!
ODDS AND ENDS
Now here, there are an infinite number of items to consider. You will only know what you need by doing a tri and realizing you are missing something. Have trouble shoving your wet feet into your bike and/or run shoes? Try sprinkling some baby powder on the insides of them. End up with a massive sun burn after a race? Don’t forget the spray on, water-proof, sweat-proof sun block. Have trouble tying shoelaces in transition? Get some elastic laces for your sneakers. Keep an eye out early in the morning to get some of the best (albeit quirky!) tips from veteran triathletes to try next time.
Having everything you need on race day will undoubtedly help you focus on the race itself. Part of the beauty of triathlons is that there is always room to evolve and learn. Be as prepared and as organized as possible, but if you do find yourself missing something, embrace it and know that you can count on your fellow triathletes to understand and lend a hand.
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