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Beginners Guide to Race Day Kit for Triathlon


Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to enter and race a triathlon without needing to re-mortgage your home in order to raise enough funds for the race entry and kit.


True enough, you can not race for a fiver (unless you are taking part in one of the club races which, incidentally, are the best value for money events available), but there are alternative local club organised open races which generally start at £25-30 (check the race calendar or ask a fellow club member for details).


This page is designed to cover all your kit requirements from absolute basics for a pool sprint up to everything you might be likely to need for an open water Ironman event.


Obviously you are going to require a bike for the cycle section. The minimum requirement is that the bicycle is roadworthy, which will (should) be checked by the race officials prior to the race. Other than that, for your average age-group non-drafting triathlon, the rest is up to you according to what you want to get out of the race and the sport. Mountain bikes, hybrids and even Bromptons have been seen at many a triathlon lined up alongside the more traditional road or time-trial cycles.


The remainder of the kit is covered below. (Hover over the items for more detailed information).

Beginners Guide to Race Day Kit for Triathlon

Essential Items


This image shows the bare minimum items required to complete a pool-based sprint triathlon.


There is no point spending money on expensive equipment and clothing only to find the sport is not for you after your first race.


In the highly likely event that you enjoy the experience, the two images below give you a good idea of what is required for both pool-based and open water triathlon from sprint distance to Ironman.



Comprehensive Kit Inventory

 


With thanks to Nick Dennes, the first picture below shows the kit laid out for an open water non-wetsuit 70.3 (Half Ironman) race. Apart from the volume of nutrition, the same items could be used in a pool-based sprint or olympic distance race.


The second picture Nick has laid out her kit ready for an overseas full Ironman race for which a wetsuit is required. In the UK the likelihood is that you will require a wetsuit for any open water race from sprint upwards.

 


Click here for an even more comprehensive checklist

A comfortable pair of running shoes is essential for the run section of a triathlon.

These should be well tested before use in a race and can be worn with or without socks according to comfort and time saving priorities.

Unless you have already invested in a separate pair of cycle shoes these can also be worn for the cycle section.

Notice the use of ‘lace-locks’ which will save time over tying laces.

A cycling helmet of ANSI Z90.4, SNELL B90, EN 1078 or equivalent national standard must be worn during the cycle section of any triathlon approved by British Triathlon.

NB A CE mark is NOT an approval mark.

Your helmet will be checked prior to the race either at registration or entry to transition.

A well fitting, comfortable pair of swimming goggles is an essential piece of kit for both pool-based and open water triathlon.

There is a wide variety of make and models available so ensure you try these on for size and sealability against your face before purchasing.

A comfortable pair of running shoes is essential for the run section of a triathlon.

These should be well tested before use in a race and can be worn with or without socks according to comfort and time saving priorities.

A cap or sun visor is useful for the run section of a triathlon on a sunny day. As well as keeping the face shaded it can help keep long hair and/or sweat out of the eyes.

On hot days a sun visor has the advantage over a cap of providing ventilation.

You are required to wear a latex swim cap for the swim section of a triathlon.

Most races will provide one of these for you but it is always worth taking your own just in case.

In colder open water swims it is advisable to wear a second swim cap (this can be neoprene) to retain warmth.

Energy gels are a concentrated form of carbohydrate designed to provide fast energy when you need it.

There's a huge variety of tastes and textures, so it’s worth testing a range of gels in training runs to find a product that you like and does not cause stomach issues.

You will be issued with one or (more commonly) two race numbers at registration.

You are required to display your race number on your back during the cycle section and on your front during the run.

You can use safety pins to attach the numbers to your clothing but the more commonly used method is to attach the number(s) to an elastic belt which can be rotated to show the number correctly at all times.

Once you have decided triathlon is going to be the sport for you, one of your first purchases is likely to be a triathlon specific suit (trisuit). This may be a one or two piece garment depending on personal preference and can be worn throughout the event from start to finish, thus saving vital time changing clothes in transition.

As a member of Farnham Triathlon Club it is hoped your trisuit will look similar to this one.

Fingerless cycling mitts have a number of functions such as providing warmth on chilly early morning starts, preventing hand slippage from sweat on very hot days, preventing hand numbness by cushioning road vibration on long races.

Electrolyte tabs or salt capsules can help to maintain the correct sodium and mineral balance on very hot days where over-hydration can potentially be as much of a problem as dehyration.

Energy bars provide a more substantial source of nutrition than gels on longer cycle sections.

These vary in taste and composition so it is important to get used to consuming them in training before using on race day.

Chamois cream or vaseline can provide comfort and prevent chafing in those ‘nooks and crannies’ when applied under cycling or tri shorts.

A pair of sunglasses is part of the uniform in the world of triathlon.

Apart from looking cool and providing eye-shade on sunny days, they also protect the eyes from flying objects such as dust and insects.

Interchangeable lenses enable yellow or see-through options to be used in dull light.  

A comfortable pair of cycling shoes combined with cleats and pedals will make a big difference to the cycle section of a triathlon.

These should be well tested before use in a race and can be worn with or without socks according to comfort and time saving priorities.

There are many forms of nutritional products on the market such as ‘beans’, ‘shots’, ‘coffee treats’ to provide an energy or caffeine boost which can be used as an alternative to the more traditional gels and bars.

Variety is the spice of life!

There are many forms of nutritional products on the market such as ‘beans’, ‘shots’, ‘coffee treats’ to provide an energy or caffeine boost which can be used as an alternative to the more traditional gels and bars.

Variety is the spice of life!

If you are racing in the UK or over long distance overseas, the likelihood is that you are going to have to wear a swimming specific wetsuit.

Aside from a bicycle, this will be the most expensive item of kit required for a triathlon.

You can hire or buy according to budget and as with most kit there is a wide range of options available.

Specialist triathlon stores may have an ‘endless pool’ which will allow you to try different suits for size and comfort.

A watch or Heart Rate Monitor is a standard piece of equipment used by triathletes.

The heart rate monitor is generally used as a training tool but can be useful in longer races to keep pace optimal and prevent ‘hitting the wall’ in the latter stages.

An electronic timing chip is now the standard way of recording each individual’s race splits for each discipline and overall result which is then instantly available to view on completion of the race, often immediately uploaded to the internet for friends and family to look up on the organiser’s website.

This is usually issued at registration, worn on the lower leg and returned at the end of the race.

Don’t forget the sunscreen!

This may be provided on course in big overseas Ironman events but generally it is up to you to remember.

Always carry a spare tube in case of punctures. Other items which can fit in a small saddle pack are patches, punture repair kit, allen keys or multi-tool, mini-pump and/or Co2 cannisters.

One or two drinks bottles are essential for the cycle section of any triathlon. The bottle cage(s) are normally situated on the bicycle down-tube, alternatively these will be attached behind the saddle.  

Once you have decided triathlon is going to be the sport for you, one of your first purchases is likely to be a triathlon specific suit (trisuit). This may be a one or two piece garment depending on personal preference and can be worn throughout the event from start to finish, thus saving vital time changing clothes in transition.

As a member of Farnham Triathlon Club it is hoped your trisuit will look similar to this one.

A cycling helmet of ANSI Z90.4, SNELL B90, EN 1078 or equivalent national standard must be worn during the cycle section of any triathlon approved by British Triathlon.

NB A CE mark is NOT an approval mark.

Your helmet will be checked prior to the race either at registration or entry to transition.

An electronic timing chip is now the standard way of recording each individual’s race splits for each discipline and overall result which is then instantly available to view on completion of the race, often immediately uploaded to the internet for friends and family to look up on the organiser’s website.

This is usually issued at registration, worn on the lower leg and returned at the end of the race.

A watch or Heart Rate Monitor is a standard piece of equipment used by triathletes.

The heart rate monitor is generally used as a training tool but can be useful in longer races to keep pace optimal and prevent ‘hitting the wall’ in the latter stages.

You are required to wear a latex swim cap for the swim section of a triathlon.

Most races will provide one of these for you but it is always worth taking your own just in case.

In colder open water swims it is advisable to wear a second swim cap (this can be neoprene) to retain warmth.

A well fitting, comfortable pair of swimming goggles is an essential piece of kit for both pool-based and open water triathlon.

There is a wide variety of make and models available so ensure you try these on for size and sealability against your face before purchasing.

You will be issued with one or (more commonly) two race numbers at registration.

You are required to display your race number on your back during the cycle section and on your front during the run.

You can use safety pins to attach the numbers to your clothing but the more commonly used method is to attach the number(s) to an elastic belt which can be rotated to show the number correctly at all times.

A comfortable pair of cycling shoes combined with cleats and pedals will make a big difference to the cycle section of a triathlon.

These should be well tested before use in a race and can be worn with or without socks according to comfort and time saving priorities.

A pair of sunglasses is part of the uniform in the world of triathlon.

Apart from looking cool and providing eye-shade on sunny days, they also protect the eyes from flying objects such as dust and insects.

Interchangeable lenses enable yellow or see-through options to be used in dull light.  

There are many forms of nutritional products on the market such as ‘beans’, ‘shots’, ‘coffee treats’ to provide an energy or caffeine boost which can be used as an alternative to the more traditional gels and bars.

Variety is the spice of life!

A cap or sun visor is useful for the run section of a triathlon on a sunny day. As well as keeping the face shaded it can help keep long hair and/or sweat out of the eyes.

On hot days a sun visor has the advantage over a cap of providing ventilation.

Energy gels are a concentrated form of carbohydrate designed to provide fast energy when you need it.

There's a huge variety of tastes and textures, so it’s worth testing a range of gels in training runs to find a product that you like and does not cause stomach issues.

Fingerless cycling mitts have a number of functions such as providing warmth on chilly early morning starts, preventing hand slippage from sweat on very hot days, preventing hand numbness by cushioning road vibration on long races.

Chamois cream or vaseline can provide comfort and prevent chafing in those ‘nooks and crannies’ when applied under cycling or tri shorts.

Carry tools and spares into transition for those last minute adjustments and emergencies.

A comfortable pair of running shoes is essential for the run section of a triathlon.

These should be well tested before use in a race and can be worn with or without socks according to comfort and time saving priorities.

Energy bars provide a more substantial source of nutrition than gels on longer cycle sections.

These vary in taste and composition so it is important to get used to consuming them in training before using on race day.

Electrolyte tabs or salt capsules can help to maintain the correct sodium and mineral balance on very hot days where over-hydration can potentially be as much of a problem as dehyration.

If you are racing in the UK or over long distance overseas, the likelihood is that you are going to have to wear a swimming specific wetsuit.

Aside from a bicycle, this will be the most expensive item of kit required for a triathlon.

You can hire or buy according to budget and as with most kit there is a wide range of options available.

Specialist triathlon stores may have an ‘endless pool’ which will allow you to try different suits for size and comfort.

A towel is a useful item to have in transition even if you are not going to dry yourself off between disciplines.

By standing on a towel while changing you can avoid picking up grit and/or grass on the soles of your your feet and causing problems on the bike or run.

A brightly coloured towel can also serve as a handy landmark when searching for your place in a crowded transition area.

Additional number stickers should be supplied for marking bike, helmet and transition bags.

Check race details carefully for where to apply these.

A cycling helmet of ANSI Z90.4, SNELL B90, EN 1078 or equivalent national standard must be worn during the cycle section of any triathlon approved by British Triathlon.

NB A CE mark is NOT an approval mark.

Your helmet will be checked prior to the race either at registration or entry to transition.

It is a requirement of a triathlon race that the torso should be covered at all times during the cycle and run sections.

Unless you have already invested in a trisuit (see below), male competitors must don a t-shirt or vest on completion of the swim section.

Your race number(s) supplied at registration should also be visibly pinned to the garment unless you are using a race number belt (see below).

Although not a mandatory item of equipment, a well fitting, comfortable pair of swimming goggles is an essential piece of kit for both pool-based and open water triathlon.

There is a wide variety of make and models available so ensure you try these on for size and sealability against your face before purchasing.

Unless you have already invested in a trisuit (see below), a pair of swimming trunks, shorts or swimsuit is all you need for the swim section of a triathlon.

Depending on weather conditions and/or personal preference, these may also be worn for the cycle and run sections.

A good breakfast is an integral part of race day nutrition, particularly when racing over long distance.

With the usual early start it is vital to plan this the night before and consume at least an hour or two before race time.

A high carbohydrate, low GI option such as porridge and dried fruit is ideal.

Breakfast of champions!   

A ‘bento box’ is ideal for carrying your nutritional items on the bike during long distance races.

The narrow mesh fabric bag sits discreetly over the top tube using velcro straps for easy access.

It is up to each individual to decide whether the time spent in transition putting on a pair of socks is worth the extra comfort they provide.

The general rule of thumb is that for anything over Olympic (Standard) distance, comfort is key. For short races those 30-60 seconds could be vital!

It is important to keep all your kit left in transition in a neat and tidy manner both to avoid losing items or causing obstruction to fellow competitors.

Some events such as Ironman will provide labelled bags for this purpose but for other races you will need to take a bag or small box.