Your first sprint triathlon is fast approaching. Your training is going to plan. You’re mentally prepared. Time to take a quick inventory to check that you have everything you need. The chances are that you will already have most of this, accrued through your training period, but there’s no harm in double checking that there isn’t something you’ve not thought about…
For the swim
Tri-Suit (an all-in-one outfit designed specifically for triathlon) – now this isn’t essential as you can opt for a swimsuit/trunks under your wetsuit (if it’s an open water triathlon) and then you could change into your bike gear at transition. However, a tri-suit is great as you can wear it under your wetsuit and it reduces your transition time as you don’t have to change clothes, you simple peel off your wetsuit and you’re ready to ride.
You don’t need to wear underwear under a tri-suit (but a sports bra is a good idea if you usually wear/need one for running). Your underwear will retain water and counteract the quick drying properties of your tri-suit.
Goggles – now these are essential whether it’s a pool or open water triathlon. Goggles protect your eyes and improve visibility, so you will struggle if you don’t have them. You don’t have to opt for the most expensive pair on the market, but you should road test them before your event. Make sure that they’re comfortable, stay in place and that the water doesn’t seep in.
Swim Cap – your race organiser will issue you with one of these, as they are a must and are used by the organiser to identify competitors in the water. You can buy a cheap swimming cap in most sports shops if you do want to purchase one for practice swims.
Wetsuit for the majority of open water swims, a wetsuit is essential. You can buy a shorty wetsuit, but if you’re going to make a purchase then it’s well worth getting a full length suit. You can read more about hiring or buying a wetsuit here, getting the right fit, and getting your wetsuit on. British Triathlon Federation competition rules state that wetsuits are mandatory in water temperatures below 14°c and forbidden in water temperatures above 22°c. You will find that the majority of competitors will wear a wetsuit when the temperature is anything below 22°c. Your wetsuit will keep you warm and increase your buoyancy, making swimming easier.
Towel – a brightly coloured towel on the ground can help you quickly identify your transition spot (note that actually marking your position in some other way is not allowed) but it is not essential and you shouldn’t be thinking of using a towel to dry yourself – you will dry very quickly. You can stand on your towel to get any debris off your feet before you put your shoes on.
On to the bike
Bike – completely essential. You do not need a triathlon-specific bike at this stage. Any bike will suffice, although you will fare better on road bike rather than a mountain bike. Ensure your bike has been serviced, check the tyres and inner tubes and make sure your brakes and gears are in good working order.
Helmet – this is mandatory.
Inner tube and tyre levers. If this is your first triathlon then you will want to finish it! Carry a small pack with an inner tube and tyre levers. And a pump or gas canister. You can find out more about replacing an inner tube here.
Footwear. You don’t have to have cycling specific shoes, you can even ride in the trainers you’re going to run in, if you choose to. Cycle shoes that attach to the pedals do improve stability and power, but if you opt to go for these then be sure to have practiced riding in them beforehand as a lot of accidents are caused by athletes not being able to detach their feet from their bike! The most important thing is to wear shoes that are easy to get on and off during transitions. Whether at the bike or the run stage, elastic shoelaces are ideal for this and well worth the two or three pounds!
Water bottle – it’s worthwhile being able to have something to drink on the bike.
Sunglasses – these are totally optional but do keep the wind (and bugs!) out of your eyes on the bike, and make the run more comfortable if it’s a bright day.
Race belt – again, not essential but worth the small investment. Most triathletes tend to use a race belt so that you can attach your race number then spin it around your body to either be on the front or the back (different positions for the run and the ride).
For the run
Running Trainers are the most important bit of your running kit. This is an area that is well worth investing in a decent pair of trainers that are fitted to your foot type and running gait. Many run specific sports shops will offer a trainer fitting service where they assess your gait and advise you on the correct shoe. Elastic laces in your shoes, will shave seconds off your transition time – you need these.
Socks are not essential but always stick with what you are used to. If you always train in socks and trainers then do not forgo socks in your race. You need to protect your feet and try and do as little damage as possible.
Clothing – as long as you have chosen something comfortable, whether it’s a tri-suit or cycling shorts and a technical t-shirt, then you should be good to run in your cycling gear. There’s no need for specialised running gear at novice triathlete level. Always an idea to do a few test runs in what you will be wearing, so you can make sure that nothing chafes or causes any discomfort.
Once you have all of the above, just add in your enthusiasm, combine with all the training you’ve put in and you’ll be good to go!