Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just a plain old novice, the sport of triathlon requires a certain amount of “must have” tools required for the trade. There are, of course, a whole whack of other “nice to have” tools as well. Let’s take a quick look at the basics equipment needs when it comes to preparing properly for the sport.
Essentials – Transition Area Checklist:
• Bike – This of course is a no-brainer, but you will hear many stories of athletes forgetting to pack their bikes before leaving home.
• Cycle Shoes – This is as important as the bike. Don’t forget to pack this tool. Besides the all important correct fit, the fact that you run with a certain brand of pedal on your bike that require a certain brand of cleat, make this a must have when it comes to laying out your transition area.
• Helmet – No Helmet, No Ride is the rules at all triathlons (and cycle events) so pack it first, along with the bike and cycle shoes.
• Running Shoes – Most of you will travel to the event in the running shoes, so it is highly unlikely that you will miss out on this one. The more seasoned professional would normally have 2 pairs of running shoes. One to travel in and a lighter, faster racing pair that they will use for the run discipline.
• Wetsuit – Most triathletes, whether new to the sport or not, are bad swimmers. The wetsuit is almost more important to them than the bike. If they cannot finish the swim, there is no need for a bike is there? The wetsuit has long been used for buoyancy purposes and better swim proficiency. The days of needing it purely for cold water swims have long since disappeared. Most triathlon events are wetsuit legal, so pile this into the kit bag along with the above 4 essential items.
• Other – Costume, Tri-suit, Swim Goggles, Race Belt, etc..These go hand in hand when you cross check the list of last minute essential items.
Non Essentials – But good to have:
• Sunscreen – With the high amount of skin cancer cases prevalent world-wide these days, it makes sense to take some time out to apply sunscreen before you start any race. Often you set up for race start in the early hours when it’s still dark, almost forgetting that you could be in for a few good long hours spent in the sun.
• Vaseline/Chafe cream – Depending on your body composition and body profile, some athletes chafe more than others. Salt water also tends to aggravate the situation, as does extreme heat and excess sweating. Cover your chafe spots well in advance of race start, but please do remember to clean off your hands properly. Any grime and grease left on the hands could play havoc with your swim stroke and “feel” for the water.
• Socks – The pro or seasoned triathlete will generally not run in socks, but may change his or her mind depending on the running distance involved, as their feet are used to running without socks. If you do tend to suffer from blisters, take the extra 30 seconds to put on a good pair of quality socks before you head out onto the run. It may cost you a slower transition time from bike to run, but it could prevent you from walking like a cripple for the next few days after the race has come and gone.
The Bring if you want but not needed items:
• Towel – There are those triathletes that like to be neat and tidy when they lay out their equipment inside the transition zones. A chunky clean towel on which to lay their stuff adds flavour to this train of thought, however, most transition areas are built up on grass and since triathlon is a summer sport, the grass is more often than not, a suitable replacement for a towel that is going to get totally trashed and dirty during the course of one’s race.
• Plastic foot bath – Some athletes like to wash off their feet before putting on the cycle shoes. They fill it with some water and take a quick foot bath before proceeding on their way. Once again, this just adds unnecessary bulk to your entire set-up needs.
• Change of clothing – You will find the odd ball that prefer to swim in a costume, bike ride in cycle bibs and a top, and run in shorts and a vest. One good quality Tri-suit or a two piece race outfit will eliminate the need for three prop changes, cutting down the hassle of changing fast when you’re wet and sweaty.
• I-Pod, compression socks, and hair gel – I know your having fun, but you still want to cross that finish line sooner than later. Leave these items at home and zone in on the essential part of actually having to swim, bike, and run to get through this race without trying to impress the crowds in attendance. These items are great for pre and post race requirements, but are not a key ingredient to succeed in the sport of triathlon.
The above lists could go on forever and you most probably could add a few more to my list. Just keep it simple, make your checklist and keep the essentials down to the bare minimum.