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Ten Race-Day Essentials for Triathletes

gearBy Jacque Crockford

As a veteran triathlete and coach, I have collected a multitude of tri gear that has found its way into my training bag. This same bag goes with me to all my races and is my lifeline to anything tri-related. Occasionally, if I have two-a-day workouts planned, my tri bag begins to look more like a large Sherpa pack instead of the very portable over-the-shoulder. This “Humpback of Notre Dame” look, though necessary for a long day of running all over town, is not functional when walking into a race expo and transition area. How do you condense your Sherpa pack?

Here are my top 10 triathlon essentials for a great race day and a size-effective race pack that will leave your competitors wishing they didn’t have to “check their luggage.”

When preparing for an upcoming race, whether long or short, veteran or newbie, there are ten items that you will need come race day.

Essential #10: Race belt – You don’t need anything fancy here, so a get a race belt from a running store (or a shoe string, if that’s your style) that you can put around your waist for the run. Your race number goes on here and it must be displayed on the front of your body!

Essential #9: Body glide/petroleum jelly/baby powder – It’s up to you which one(s) you feel comfortable using during a race. Use the body glide to avoid any chafing (a real problem when you're wet from the swim!). The petroleum jelly will help on your feet to avoid blisters. Socks take too long to put on, so just put a few globs on the inside of your shoes where your feet rub and in combination with a few puffs of baby powder (to absorb moisture) your feet will be nice and comfy on the run and bike!

Essential #8: Quick laces – These are also a matter of preference, but they can save you time in transition. Instead of wasting time playing the bunny ears game with your shoes, just slip them on, give a little tug and off you go!

Essential #7: Sunglasses – Eye protection can truly make your race much more comfortable. Have your favorite pair of sports shades ready at T1 and enjoy. (But maybe steer clear of racing in fashion shades; there’s nothing funnier than watching someone cross the finish line in cop shades or their new Dior’s.)

Essential #6: Transition towel – Because your Sherpa pack will not carry a full shower and towel rack, simply place a small towel on the ground to ‘mark your territory’ at transition and wipe those feet off before sliding into your bike shoes. You can use the same one to wipe off that wonderful lake or ocean water before you head out, but you never know how rough the terrain might be from the swim exit to your transition area. Watch out for rocks!

Essential #5: Water bottles – If you’re racing in South Florida, you know how important water and electrolytes are for your performance. But even in colder climates, having liquids on hand at your transition area, on your bike or fuel belt is essential to making it through the race sans cramps, stomach issues and headaches.

Essential #4: Shoes – As silly as it might sound, don’t forget your shoes! If you’re using different shoes for cycling and running, put both pairs in your bag the night before to ensure you’ll be prepared. Just a tip – never use new shoes for a race! No matter how short the race, you can get painful blisters and chaffing if your footwear is not properly worn in.

Essential #3: Helmet and Hat – Not only is your bike helmet required in order to complete the bike leg of your triathlon but along with a visor or ball cap, it can help shade you during a heated race. A well ventilated, light colored hat will keep you feeling cooler in the heat.

Essential #2: Swim cap/goggles/wet suit – Let’s face it, without your goggles you would not make it through the swim! A colored swim cap is required for most races and a wetsuit or speedsuit can decrease swim times by a considerable amount if used in the right temperature. Just be sure you’ve practiced with all of the items you will use during your race prior to the start!

Essential #1: Timing chip – Even if you remember all of the essentials 2-10, if you forget to put on your timing chip, it was like you never did the race at all! Be sure and put it on your left ankle as soon as you can the morning of your race, whether you have your own chip or the race director provides one to you.

You may be wondering, with these essential items, what am I leaving at home? Well, be sure to veto supplies like large beach towels, lawn chairs, socks and water buckets. You may need a change of clothes after the race, but you can leave those in your car.

When getting ready for a race, you can keep these items in your transition bag. That way, everything is ready to go for a training session or race at any time. With these ten essentials, you will be well prepared for any triathlon-related situation. Good luck!

Jacque Crockford is a USA Triathlon Level I certified coach and has a master's degree in Sport and Exercise Science with an emphasis on Strength and Conditioning from Florida International University. She is also certified as a NSCA strength and conditioning specialist, an ACSM health fitness instructor and an ACE personal trainer. She has competed in a number of different sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons and hopes to someday compete in an Ironman.


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