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  • Writer's pictureMatt Fisher

Race Day Checklist (Triathlon)

So you’ve entered your first triathlon (or maybe it’s not your first, hopefully the information below will still be useful!), got your competitor pack and it’s time to get ready to race. But what needs to be in your kit bag for race day?

Below is a breakdown of everything you might need to take with you to your race. In this example, I’ve tried to include everything you’d need for a full-blown Ironman triathlon (I haven’t gone into nutrition specifics, that needs to be the individual’s choice). If you’re racing a sprint or short-course triathlon, it’s quite possible you won’t need everything, but better to ignore certain things you don’t need than to forget the ones you do!

I’ve tried to break things down logically so you can identify what you need for each portion of the race, with additions for transition area and post-race.

The Basics & Setting up transition

Let’s start with the very basics…

- Trisuit or race clothing – most people race in trisuits now, but if you’re not using one, think about what kit you need for the swim, bike and run

- Racebelt – I seem to always spend the day before a race panic-hunting for a race belt. Don’t forget yours! For newcomers, a race belt is an elastic belt you attach your race number to – this allows you to swivel the belt so your number is showing at the back for the bike and then swivel it to the front for the run.

- Garmin or Watch – I wear a 910XT throughout the race (in addition to a separate Garmin Edge on the bike). Don’t forget yours if you do the same!

I did a full write up on setting-up your transition area quite a while ago [add link]. I think most, if not all, of it is still relevant – so take a read! In terms of kit specific to transition, you might want:

- Towel – to lay on the floor. Although ‘marking’ your racking space in anyway (brightly coloured towels are a favourite) is illegal under British Triathlon (and other federation) rules, a lot of people still do it. Some people will like to stand on their towel while changing shoes, others use it just to stop their sunnies and gels lying on wet grass or concrete. Personally I can’t be bothered, it’s just another thing to have to remember, but I seem to be in the minority!

- Talcum powder – steal it from your granny if you must, but talc can help wet feet more easily slide into dry bike and run shoes. Like track pumps, talc is probably the second-most ‘borrowed’ item in transitions (just ahead of elastic bands!)

The swim

It’s all pretty obvious, but let’s go through each item:

- Goggles – and a SPARE pair! Believe me, I’ve seen goggle straps snap on the start line…

- Wetsuit – unless it’s a pool swim or the water is too warm for wetsuits, most amateurs WILL swim faster in a wetsuit

- Lubricant – don’t forget your Bodyglide or other lubricant to prevent chafing, especially around the neck area. It’s also a pretty good idea to apply some lubricant to areas where your tri suit or race clothing might chafe (groin, armpits, neck).

- Swim hat – most races provide a swim cap these days, but you might want your own as well, a second swim cap can be a life-saver on cold open water swims. Neoprene hats are generally acceptable under ‘race caps’.

Note that gloves and booties are generally NOT allowed as they contravene British Triathlon rules. Some races will allow them in extreme conditions, but generally they are not BTF-sanctioned events.

- Pre-race gel – I often take a gel 15 minutes or so before the start of a race. If you do too, don’t forget to take it with you when you leave transition!

The bike

Okay, so it goes without saying you can’t ride without a bike, so let’s take that as a given. Here are the other essential items:

- Helmet – like the bike, you can’t race without it. It must be in good condition and you should expect it to be inspected when you put your bike in transition.

- Shoes – most people will race using bike shoes, some will put them on the bike pedals, some won’t. This is discussed in another article. If you’re cycling in trainers, respect!

- Water bottle(s) – very much personal choice, but you should at least consider what hydration you want on the bike and plan accordingly.

- Nutrition – personally I use a ‘bento box’ to store my gels for 70.3 races and will normally put the appropriate amount of gels into the box before I arrive at the event. I use SiS gels and normally partially-cut the tear off strips to make them easier to consume mid-race.

- Elastic bands – if you plan to have your bike shoes on the bike, you’re probably using the elastic band trick described in this article. But it only works if you remember the elastic bands…

- Bike computer – if you have one, you’ll want it. Many units can be started before you finish racking up and will auto-pause until you start wheeling the bike out of transition in the race (saves you fumbling)

- Sunglasses – obvious really

- Track pump – the chances are you will be able to borrow one, but why risk it. Take your own pump to the race

- Spare tyre/tubes – whether you put these on the bike is up to you, but you’ll become familiar with the ‘BANG’ of exploding tyres and tubes on bikes parked in transition on hot days. Buggered if you don’t have a spare to fit in an emergency, eh?

- Tyre ‘gunk’ – for anything more than Olympic distance racing, I carry an aerosol can of tyre gunk as an emergency repair kit (taped to the frame). I accept the risk that it might not work and I also accept that on a short-course race, a puncture means your ‘race’ is over anyway (you might still want to ‘complete’ the race – in which case take spares on the bike!)

The run

We’re into Transition #2 and it’s time to swap the bike for the run. Simples!

- Run shoes – obvious…! If you haven’t already, try swapping laces out for elastic ones so you don’t look like a complete noob tying laces in transition. I don’t bother with socks for anything shorter than a 70.3 race, but if you need them, don’t forget them!

- Sunnies & visor – personal choice again but I usually run in sunnies no matter what the weather and use a visor on 70.3s to help keep sweat out of my eyes

- Gel(s) – if you need a gel on the run course, better to take your own (unless you already know you can stomach what’s being offered out on course)

- Watch – if it ain’t waterproof and you didn’t wear it on the bike, now’s the time

I suppose one final point. Please don’t be THAT person that arrives in transition with a massive plastic Ikea box full of stuff. People will hate you, I promise you! Space is at a premium in most transition areas, so you the less you bring with you, and the less you spread out, the more your fellow athletes will love you.

If you must bring a box, please store it out of the way, not under your bike or where it might interfere with other athlete’s kit and racking space. I prefer a soft bag which I then try to store at the edge of the transition area (in big races like Ironman-branded events, you’re usually not allowed to have ANYTHING on the floor by the bike – everything is stored in transition bags, but that’s a subject for another day!).

So there you have it: a fairly comprehensive (but I’m sure I’ve forgotten something!) kit list for race day. I hope it helps and by all means send me you suggestions for anything else you think should be on the list!

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