Race-Day Triathlon Checklist – Be Prepared

Triathlons are a great challenge for athletes because they have to swim, bike, and run in one race.

The triathlon race-day list can vary greatly depending on the racer’s goals. Some may want to finish the race while others may be focused on winning. Additionally, things like race conditions can also affect what somebody brings on race day.

Here is your basic triathlon gear guide to begin your multi-sport journey:

1. Wetsuit

A group of athletes competing in a triathlon

A triathlon-specific wetsuit has more flexibility in the arms and legs than a regular swimsuit so you can swim more easily, and usually has a smooth skin exterior to reduce drag in the water. A triathlon wetsuit will also keep you much warmer than a regular swimsuit, which is especially important when you’re swimming in colder open waters for a long time.

Choose a wetsuit that is designed specifically for your gender, as they are each anatomically designed for either a woman’s or a man’s body.

There is a great variety of styles for women’s triathlon wetsuits. These wetsuits come in different lengths, with some extending all the way down to the ankles and wrists, while others are sleeveless above the shoulder or cut above the knee.

Your choice of triathlon wetsuit should be based on the water temperature.

There are three main styles of men’s triathlon wetsuits – full suits, sleeveless suits, and one-piece suits. Full suits have sleeves and legs, sleeveless suits have sleeves but no legs and one-piece suits have neither sleeves nor legs. The main difference between men’s and women’s wetsuits is that men’s wetsuits are anatomically built for men’s bodies to maximize the range of motion. You can even find big and tall-sized wetsuits such as these at Wetsuit Wearhouse to accommodate larger athletes!

Make sure to pick up a stick of lubricant specifically meant to avoid chafing in your wetsuit when you purchase it. You might want to consider lubricating your neck, wrists, and ankles when you swim. This allows you to swim more comfortably and also allows for an easier entry and exit during transition stages.

2. Warmth

If you’re training for or competing in a triathlon in colder waters, you may want to invest in some additional gear to keep you warm. Neoprene caps, gloves, and swim socks are some of the essential items you can buy. You can find more information about what gear is available to help you perform your best in all environments on the internet.

3. Gear

Free A Woman Wearing Swimming Caps Stock Photo

It’s important to have a brightly coloured swim cap so you can be easily seen by swim rescue crews should you be swimming in an open water situation. A basic latex cap is sufficient, but notes that these caps can sometimes tear unexpectedly. Consequently, it’s always recommended to have a backup swim cap on hand. Finally, it’s worth noting that while most organized races will provide participants with a swim cap, it is still a good idea to come prepared with an extra one.

Goggles are an important tool for swimmers. They protect your eyes from the water and allow you to see clearly. There are many different types of goggles available, so it is important to find a pair that fits well and does not leak.

4. Race Belt

A race belt is an elastic belt with a race bib attached to it. It is useful for triathletes because it saves time and frustration in the transition area.

5. Tri Kit or Swimsuit

If you are new to triathlons or racing in warm water, you can compete in a swimsuit for simplicity. Many short John/Jane style one-pieces are great for certain athletes.

A triathlon kit consists of a spandex shirt and spandex shorts that are specifically made for triathlon racing. The shorts have a small pad in them to make the bike portion more comfortable, and the shirt often has special pockets for any nutrition you want to stow for long rides and runs.

6. Bicycle

If you’re just starting out in a triathlon and testing the waters to see if you like it, you can use any functioning bicycle like a decent road bike. It will give you the basic speed you need to stay competitive and simply enjoy your event.

If you don’t own a road bike, try asking around local triathlon clubs to see if anyone has an extra bike that they would be willing to lend you just for the event. Most members of these clubs are usually willing to help grow the sport and often have bikes that they used when they first started.

If you are planning on competing in a long triathlon and hope to win, it is worth the money to invest in a tri-specific bike. These bikes are designed for endurance and will be more comfortable for you during the long race.

Triathlon-specific bicycles have frames that are designed for maximum efficiency and comfort, even though they have the same skinny tyres as road bicycles.

A quality triathlon bike can cost thousands of pounds. It usually has a carbon frame and a cockpit designed specifically for triathlons. This cockpit will have aero bars, which allow you to lean over the handlebars and rest your body on the bike frame while pedalling.

You should go to a bike shop with a qualified bike fitter to get the best experience. The bike fitter will put the tri bike on a trainer and have you ride it stationary. Then, they will adjust the bike to fit your body specifically, giving you a more comfortable ride and a better chance of finishing the long bike ride.

DONT forget your tyre pressures, it can and will make a big difference.

7. Bike Helmet & Sunglasses

It’s a priority to be safe! All triathlons require you to wear a bike helmet. You just need a basic helmet that fits securely on your head.

An aero helmet is designed to make cycling easier by reducing the amount of wind resistance you experience.

Cycling sunglasses help keep your eyes and vision safe from wind, debris, and sun while you’re biking quickly.

There are many options available to meet every style of cycling helmet and glasses! You can stand out in the race with your own unique combination.

8. Running Shoes and Biking Shoes

You should get a pair of good running shoes before the race so you don’t have to worry about your feet during the run. Go to a running store and get your gait and foot strike analyzed so you can get the best pair of shoes for you.

If you’re looking to get into running or are having issues with running-related injuries, consulting a running specialist can help you figure out what kind of shoes will be best for you. A good pair of shoes will help you run your best and stay injury-free.

If you’re interested in doing multiple triathlons, you might want to look into buying biking shoes and clip-in pedals for your bike. Having your shoes attached to your pedals can help you generate more power because you can pull up on the pedals as well as push them down.

9. Wear your triathlon clothing and shoes

Bring your tri shorts and top, and your running shoes and socks. Speed laces are fine if you’re used to them, but don’t try anything new on race day. You’ll probably get a race shirt that you can change into after the event.

10. Bike Carrier

You’ll need a bike rack or carrier if your car can’t fit your bike inside of it. Make sure you can easily find it and that all the pieces are there before race day so you don’t have to scramble to find a small part on the morning of the race.

11. Swim Goggles


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We recommend a brand new pair of swim goggles for your race. New swim goggles will help reduce the glare from the sun. Be sure to buy a model you have used before and test them before the race.

12. ID

You will need to bring your ID with you to certain races. It is better to be safe than sorry, so make sure you have your ID on you before you go.

13. Water

You should always bring water with you in case you have to wait a long time for your turn. Dehydration is not something you want to experience. If you are used to training with Gatorade or another sports drink, bring that instead of water.

14. Nutrition

To be safe, it’s ideal to bring along food that you’ve already eaten during training, like cliff bars or bananas. If you prefer gel shots, make sure to bring a few of those too. Sport drink powders or capsules that mix with water to create a sport-specific drink are also becoming popular among athletes. We’re not telling you what to eat in this article, but don’t forget to bring food with you.

15. Race packet

If you are checking in the day before the race, do not worry about this advice.

16. Phone

Don’t forget to bring your cell phone with you. You’re not allowed to take it with you during the race. It is the 21st century after all. You can leave it locked in your car during the race, although most transition areas are generally pretty safe. It can be nice to have it in your bag for camera access. If there is a chance of rain, put it in a ziplock bag to prevent it from getting wet. Besides, you probably need it for directions to the race, anyway.

17. Race Address or Directions

Having the exact location of the race is probably less important in the age of smartphones, but it is still a good idea.

18. Bag

This text is discussing what kind of bag to use for storing your gear during a triathlon. Some people buy special triathlon transition bags, while others just use an empty gym bag. It all comes down to how much money you’re willing to spend and what’s most important to you.

19. Spare Tube, CO2, and Tyre Changing Supplies

We don’t think you should give up or drop out of the race if you get a flat tire on the bike course. You should carry whatever supplies you would normally carry on a ride. If you get a puncture, fix it and keep going. You don’t need to bring your entire gear kit, just what you would bring along on a good training ride.

20. Towel

Many people also use their towels to sit on in the transition area. Many racers like having a towel handy to dry off after the swim, primarily to help dry their feet. Some like a towel with a bright colour as it can serve as an easy-to-spot marker for their transition spot. Towels can have the added benefit of giving racers something to drape around themselves if they want to change before or after the race. Many people also use their towels to sit on in the transition area.

21. Sunscreen

It is a good idea to apply sunscreen to the head and neck if you will still be racing after 10am. Make sure the sunscreen is waterproof so it doesn’t all come off during the swim.

22. GPS Watch

A lot of triathletes use watches that are designed just for triathlons because they can be worn during all three parts of the race. If you use a GPS watch like a Garmin watch that’s not good for swimming, you should have it ready in your first transition so you don’t waste time calibrating it when you’re going fast. If you use your Fitbit to help you pace yourself, don’t forget to bring that too.

23. Sport Guard

This is a roller that helps to prevent chafing. These types of products are often advertised as an “anti-chafe” cream or roller. Sport guard can be critical in longer races, but it also helps your wetsuit come off more easily if you apply it to your ankles before the swim.

Don’t forget that…

The basic gear you need for a triathlon as a beginner is simpler than you’d think. All you need is a wetsuit or short John swimsuit, a bicycle, a helmet, and running shoes. You can always upgrade the quality and variety of your gear over time.

Here’s a list of what to bring

For the Swim

  • Tri shorts, swimsuit, or tri suit
  • 2 sets of goggles (i.e., one tinted and one normal)
  • Brightly-coloured towel
  • Wetsuit

For the Bike

  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Cycling shoes and socks
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Nutrition
  • Tool Kit: tube, CO2, tyre levers, multi-tool or spanners
  • Floor pump with gauge (pump up your tyres before you leave home but leave the pump in your car just in case)

For the Run

  • Running shoes (2 pairs if you have a late start time. One to leave in transition and one to warm up in)
  • Race belt
  • Hat/visor

Miscellaneous Items

  • Training device (Garmin, Timex, etc.) and heart rate strap
  • Body Glide
  • Sunscreen
  • Vaseline, powder, bandages
  • Bluntnose scissors for sticker origami
  • Warm change of clothes for after the race
  • Post-race recovery drink/snack with a 4:1 ratio of carbs vs. protein

Race Day To-Dos

  • Wake up early and eat 3-4 hours before your start time. Eat only familiar, easily-digestible foods.
  • Stop drinking fluids about 2 hours before your start time. Continue sipping as needed. Pee, pee, and then pee again — don’t worry, everybody pees in their wetsuit!
  • Get to the race early to secure a good spot in transition. Ideally, this is a spot on the end of the rack close to the bike in/out.
    • Make a mental note of landmarks to help you easily find your rack.
    • Use a brightly-coloured towel so your area stands out, and be courteous. NO BEACH TOWELS!
    • Leave the balloons at home. You will not make any friends if your balloon is tangled around someone else’s bike.
  • Organize your gear in the order you will use it — run through transitions in your mind.
  • Complete a good 10-15 minute running warm-up about 45 minutes before start time.
  • Put on your wetsuit and hop in the water for a good swim warm-up 15-20 minutes before your start time. Be on the start line 5-10 minutes before the gun.
  • Remember that this is why you put in all those training hours. Believe in your training, do your best, and have fun!

If you fall in love with the sport, you can start buying other equipment that meets your needs and budget.


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