Hey guys! This is my 2nd post in a 4-part series about training for my very first triathlon. If you missed my first post about making a sprint triathlon training plan then you can find it here! Today I am focusing on my gear- what to wear and other things needed for race day.
This post is near and dear to me because I was so confused about this topic as a triathlon newbie! What do I wear? Do I have to get a wet suit? Can I wear a bra? Actually, I think part of the reason I never did a triathlon when I was younger is because the entire idea of needing all of this ‘stuff’ seemed intimidating. The good news about a sprint triathlon is that the distances are so short that you really can get by without a bunch of fancy gear and still race a comfortable race.
Let’s get started! (p.s. please note that this post is about my experience racing in a sprint tri, and you will probably need additional items for a longer tri. p.p.s. this post contains some affiliate links… thank you as always for supporting this blog!)
The same outfit is typically worn throughout the entire event, so you will need an outfit that will work for the swim, bike and run. I noticed most people in my triathlon wearing either a one-piece triathlon suit or a tri tank with tri shorts. Here are the benefits of these:
- Tight top so it doesn’t create drag during the swim
- Don’t need to mess with changing clothes during transitions
- Shorts are lightly padded for the bike without being uncomfortable for the run
Here are a few links to some triathlon apparel I looked at:
I tried on several tri outfits in my local tri store but nothing fit me well. So I ended up swimming in a pair of triathlon shorts (link here) and a sports bra (Moving Comfort Rebound Racer– AWESOME support for larger chests!), and then threw on a workout top during my first transition. I thought this might be the most cost-effective option for someone who didn’t want to invest in a tri suit. The shorts were purchased from Amazon and had good reviews. They got the job done… they did not ride up, the padding didn’t get in the way during the run and most importantly? No chafing! I would definitely recommend them if you’re just looking for a one-time event type short. My only complaint is that I am spoiled and mostly work out in LuluLemon, and it was hard to get past the comfort and fit difference between the two.
I saw people swimming and racing in all types of clothing to swim suits, regular shorts, tri gear and tops and outfits similar to mine. So I think for the sprint triathlon that anything goes! And in my opinion, padding in your shorts is not a “absolutely must-have” type of thing for a ride that is less than 1 hour., so don’t feel like you absolutely must have a pair of triathlon shorts to complete a sprint triathlon.
My outfit worked out completely fine for my first triathlon because I went into the race with the mentality that I was probably never going to do another tri. Now that I did one and definitely want to try to do one again, I wish I had just purchased a better outfit to begin with. It would have saved time to not have to worry about putting on a shirt after the swim and I would be able to reuse the outfit. Oh well!
USAT has specific rules about water temperature and when you are allowed to wear a wet suit.
- Water temp 78 degrees or lower- can wear wet suit
- Water temp between 77.9 and 89.3 degrees- can wear a wet suit but will not be eligible for an award
- Water temp 84 or above- may not wear a wet suit
I had already seen from previous years that the water temperatures were going to be too warm to wear one in a North Carolina September. so I didn’t even think about this with my outfit. If you DO want to wear one but don’t want the expense of buying one then check out renting it or look on Craigslist. I saw a lot of Charlotte Craigslisters selling triathlon gear!
Next up is what is needed for the swim part of the triathlon! The great thing about the swim is that you don’t really need too much:
- Towel to dry off after the swim
- You will get a swim cap in your triathlon race packet that is color coded for your swim group.
My hair is super thick and and was long at the time, and I envisioned my swim cap ripping on race day. So I ended up using my regular long-haired cap and putting my tri cap over that. The bonus to that was that my goggles were in the middle of the two caps and seemed less likely to get kicked off of my face during the swim
My favorite pair of goggles are the Speedo Vanquisher goggles. I wore these in swim team when I was younger and bought a new replacement pair when I started swimming again a few years ago. I preferred to use my old light pink pair for the race because my new pair was too dark to see in the lake.
I think everyone has their personal preference when it comes to goggles so don’t be afraid to try a few pair out!
It’s nice to have a back-up pair of goggles in case something happens to yours on race day.
The great thing about the sprint triathlon is that the bike distance is not too long. And while there were plenty of competitive racers with fancy bikes, there were also a lot of people with plain road bikes. There were even some mountain bikes and hybrid bikes.
If you are worried about the bike being a barrier between you and race day, local bike shops usually rent demo bikes that can be paid for by the day.
You are also required to wear a bike helmet during the cycle portion of the race. Pay special attention to your mount and dismount areas because you can be disqualified from the race if you unhook your helmet too soon getting off of your bike. I would recommend going to a local bike store to get fitted for a helmet. A quality helmet will come in different sizes and feel comfortable when you are wearing it.
Be prepared for a flat
In addition to the standard stuff, you will want to bring some materials to prepare a flat tire. I’m not sure what resources other triathlons have, but there was not a lot of assistance out on the cycling course and those with flats were left to fend on their own. Here is what I have to fix a flat:
- Extra tube
- Hand pump
- Tire levers
- CO2 cartridges
I actually purchased a kit where you could screw your pump and CO2 cartridges to your bottle cage, but you can always buy a kit that goes into a saddle bag as well. Here is a link to an example, although I prefer to buy these types of things from my local bike shop!
Here are some other things I found helpful for the cycle:
- Insulated water bottle
- Water bottle cage
- Cycling gloves
- Saddle bag
- Clipless Pedals
- Cycling Shoes
I was very hesitant use my clipless pedals during my first triathlon (I was in a bike accident at the beginning of my triathlon training) but oh man, I’m SO glad I went with them!! I was so tired after my swim and cycling took less effort being clipped in. There was also no worry about having to quickly clip out for cars and stop lights.
If you do not already have a pair of running shoes then I would recommend getting fitted at your local running store. Running in a pair of shoes with the inappropriate amount of support can lead to injury.
Running shoes are SO specific to each person. This should be one of the first investments you make if you want to race in pretty much anything.
It seems funny to be talking about socks on here but I thought it was worth mentioning. Be sure you are wearing socks made out of moisture-wicking material to prevent blisters and for better comfort. Avoid 100% cotton. My favorite socks are Balega Hidden Comfort.
This is not a necessity but it’s nice to attach your racing number to a belt so that it can easily clip on during transition.
Here’s a list of a few other items you may want to bring on race day:
- Hat or visor if you think you’ll need it
- Water to rinse your feet off (some people brought buckets to step into)
- Water to drink
- Fuel (gels, sports drink, etc.)
- Extras of anything you might need (hair ties, goggles, etc)
- Fuel / water
- Racing watch
- Extra towel
Final Thoughts on Tri Gear
You can probably tell this from my post, but I am a huge fan of my local sporting goods stores to purchase items that are needed for training and races. I really appreciate the personal attention that I get from shopping local, and I feel that I end up with items that are a better fit for me. It may be a bit more expensive at first but I think that pays off in the long run in terms of comfort and injury prevention. It’s also a great way to connect with other athletes and get great advice for race day!
If you are a triathlete- what are some of your favorite items for race day? Did I forget anything??