There’s a lot of planning that goes into packing for a triathlon. Factors such as distances, temperatures, and weather conditions can help you choose what is essential and what gets left at home. Some people think you just need some swimwear, your bike, and some sturdy shoes and you’re in business. But if you’re bringing your A-game, you might want to go to battle with some additional items for your triathlon bag.
Triathlon Designed Active Wear
Triathlon wetsuits are slightly different than ones worn for surfing, in that they’re designed to offer a greater range of motion for your arms for swimming. For your biking and running, consider gearing up in tri suit (shirt and shorts) so you can go directly from swim to bike to run without having to stop for an outfit change.
Tri shorts have the appearance of cycling shorts, but are made of much thinner material and won’t weigh you down in your race. Tri suits are so thin that you wear them under your swim suit and transition into them at the start of the cycling section. Don’t forget to include them in your triathlon bag on race day.
You know the kind I’m talking about, the really cheap ones you can sometimes get for a dollar. Why have flip-flops? When you’ve made your transition spot, you’re usually not allowed reentry there before the swimming session gets going, so you’ll want some flip-flops to kick around in until your start. And if your flops get lost in the extreme activity of athletes, you won’t feel bad since they were so cheap in the first place.
MP3 Player and Headphones
Some people like to listen to the crashing of waves as they contemplate the start of the triathlon. While that works for some athletes, if you personally wanted to listen to “Eye of the Tiger” on repeat, you’ll get nothing but high fives from us. You could also get some last minute advice from your favorite triathlon podcast before zipping up your triathlon bag and heading for the start line.
WARNING: Some races don’t allow you to wear headphones DURING the race. So, where that’s the case make sure you take them off after you get pumped and leave them at transition.
Chafing from your wetsuit or racing shorts can make each swimming stroke and stride an exercise in agony. Bodyglide gel helps stop those rashes that appear from friction, and can lessen the amount of pain you’ll face after crossing the finish line. As one athlete explained, “You can’t tell when it’s there, but you can definitely tell when it’s NOT there.”
If you find yourself out in the sun too long without adequate sun protection, you can add sunburn to the numerous pains you’ll be feeling later. Sport sunblock will keep protecting you through swim and sweat, long after a normal sunblock would’ve washed off.
When you’re cycling or running, having to break your stride and concentration just to reapply your sun protection may not be incredibly fun, so get sport sunblock that will put in as much effort as you are. Also make sure your sunblock is unscented, or has a scent you enjoy, as you’ll be treated to that fragrance throughout your triathlon.
Extra Swim Goggles
Having swim goggles on hand (or on your head) might seem obvious before diving into your triathlon. Having a second set in a darker color can shade your eyes if the day’s starting off with bright sun. If it’s more overcast when you begin, you can always switch back to your clear goggles. Plus, there’s almost always someone who forgot to bring their own pair, so you could help someone out and make a new friend at the same time by having an extra pair in your triathlon bag.
When you’re racing on the bike section, or running into the heat of the sun, the elements going to be doing a number on your eyes, unless you have an excellent pair of sunglasses at the ready. Ideally triathlon sunglasses should be lightweight, have full UV protection, and have wide enough lenses to allow you to see everything comfortably.
Whether you like old-fashioned granola bars or the new favorite nutrition gels, have a few extra in your triathlon bag to keep you going through the miles. It should be something light, but substantial enough to keep that hungry feeling at bay. Stick with tried and true favorites that you know you’ll love. Race day is a horrible time to test a new snack and discover that it doesn’t quite agree with you.
Miniature Bike Pump
If you’re pumped before your triathlon, only to discover your tires are less so, have a small bike pump to refill those temperamental tires. If temperatures or anything else is affecting your bike tires, give them a last minute blast of air to keep them at optimal PSI. Hopefully that low tire isn’t a slow leak, but you may bring along additional bike tubes and CO2 cartridges if you have a blowout while in the cycling section of your race.
Plastic Water Bottles
Have a couple of plastic water bottles, as glass is usually not allowed either in your transition spot or on the course. Fill a bottle or two with some sport drinks or recovery supplements to keep you hydrated. Be sure to have a bottle filled with plain water, even if you only use it to rinse off sweat and your sandy feet after swimming before putting on your bike shoes.
Reflective Tape/Moleskin Tape/Duct Tape
You might go through all these tapes before you go through the finish tape. When running, reflective tape can be a literal lifesaver, and is a requirement in many triathlons. Moleskin tape can work wonders on places you may have rubbed skin raw, like the back of your feet from your cycling shoes. And if something falls off your bike, or the sole comes off your running shoe, only the quick fixing power of duct tape can save the day. A must in every athletes triathlon bag.
As you compete in more triathlons, you’ll discover that what works for some athletes might not work the same magic for you. But don’t be discouraged, and don’t be afraid to try new things in your quest for faster times, as experimenting is part of the fun of being a triathlon athlete.