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Triathlon Race Day Checklist – A Beginners Guide

To help you avoid forgetting any vital triathlon gear when you take on your first triathlon, here is our race day checklist for beginner triathletes.

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Taking on three sports on the same day, in the same event, requires preparation. To help you avoid forgetting some vital triathlon gear, and to give you the best chance of having a great race day experience, here is our triathlon race day checklist for beginners.

In short, getting ready and packing for a triathlon requires preparation. You have trained hard and are physically as ready as you can be for the race, you don’t want an administrative error or packing omission to derail your day. Do not worry, the triathlon race day checklist for beginners has you covered!

Gear & Kit To Pack

Any good triathlon checklist will set out the kit you need for race day. However, in addition to the kit you need, to give you the best chance of having a great race day experience the ultimate triathlon checklist for beginners also includes the extras you might want.

Swim

Triathlon swims can vary greatly – location, time in water and temperature can all impact the type of kit you should or are required to use. Fortunately, despite these factors the gear required is fairly limited.

Essentials

If you can take two pairs in-case one pair breaks and ideally with different tinted lenses, so you can react to different light conditons.
Essential whether you are wearing a wetsuit or not. Don’t get caught out (or disqualified) in transition…!

Extras

Not always necessary or permitted. For example, a pool swim will not allow or need a wetsuit; there are temperature thresholds for open water events where a wetsuit must be worn or cannot be worn.
Likely to be provided by the race organiser. However, necessary if the event organiser does not provide a swim cap or if you want to wear an extra cap to keep your head warm.
In case you want to walk down to the swim start without standing barefoot on stones or other sharp items.
Choose a wetsuit safe lube that to apply liberally to assist with chafing and wetsuit removal.
Put over your feet and hands it will help you to put on your wetsuit without snagging it with your nails.

Bike Gear

The bike section of a triathlon requires by far the most gear, and provides the greatest jeopardy – if you forget a crucial element and your bike does not work, you cannot complete the race.

The list below includes the startling obvious items, such as your bike (even this can cause challenges, such as forgetting your wheels), as well as crucial things you may not have initially considered.

Essentials

We don’t really need to say anymore do we….?
Sounds obvious but you do not want to get to the race to realise you have left a wheel at home.
If you have removed them for packing or any other reason, make sure they make it to the event.
Without one you won’t be racing.
The race should provide hydration options but the bike will be your longest discipline and you don’t want to be caught short.
A kit that includes tyre levers, Allen key set, spare inner tubes or a puncture repair kit and small pump or gas cannisters.
To inflate your tyres on race morning (you don’t want to be using your hand pump).

Extras

A good idea even if not a sunny day. They help keep the wind, bugs, and debris, out of your eyes.
If not wearing a tri-suit (or a swimsuit covering your torso) you will need to remember your clothing to cover your top half on the bike. Include warm options (arm warmers / gloves / jacket or gilet), depending on the climate and should the weather be worse than hoped.
To carry your bike tools and puncture repair kit, if you don’t have anywhere to carry them on your self.
The race should provide hydration options but the bike will be your longest discipline and you don’t want to be caught short.

Run

The run is the most straight forward of triathlon’s disciplines. However, even this involves some gear you may not have considered.

Essentials

These are obviously the primary piece of kit for the run. It may be worth bringing a second pair if there is time to warm up, leaving your race pair in transition.
Unless you have practised running without socks, it is strongly recommended you pack some socks to put on in T1 or T2.

Run Gear Extras

If you are blessed with good weather it will help to keep the sun off your face / neck
If you plan to use elastic laces, check they are already fitted, don’t leave lacing up your shoes until race morning.
You may want to consider longs, a jacket or jersey if you encounter bad weather

General Triathlon Gear

There are some items that do not fit nicely into swim, bike, or run categories, and simply apply to the whole triathlon. Again, some such items are fundamental to your race, whereas others are certainly ‘good to haves’.

Essentials

Make sure to check what requirements your race has. A photo ID is usually the minimum.
If applicable, print off the race pack, including race numbers.
A set of clean clothes and shoes that you can change into will make your post race relax all the more enjoyable.
To carry to and store your kit in transition. It can be far too easy to lose kit during the chaos of the racing.
Prepared drinks, food, and gels, for before, during, and post-race, as applicable. It is recommended that you don’t try anything new on race day.
Whatever the weather its worth embracing the protection.

Extras

A belt to which you attach your race number. You position the number on your back when cycling and simply move it round to your front when running.   If using a number/race belt you will not need to attach a race number to both the back and front of your jersey.
If you are not using a number/race belt, to attach your race number to your jersey.   Often provided by the race organiser.
Always useful, for example to tape items to your bike.
Often the toilets will run out of supplies.
Races often start very early in the morning and you will appreciate the illumination when sorting your kit in transition
A or multiple towels can help to identify your spot in transition (garish designs for the win), drying yourself post swim and changing post race.

Race Day Checklist

You want to keep the morning of race day as simple as possible.

First, it is highly recommended that you have set out and checked-off all of your triathlon gear the night before, rather than leaving it to the morning of race day.

You should aim to give yourself enough time to have breakfast, prepare and pack your vehicle, to travel to the event, and get ready for your race start, in the most relaxed way possible.

Below is a triathlon race day checklist setting out what you need to consider on race day, from waking up to the race start

Before Leaving

If are driving to the race and you cannot or do not just put your bike inside your vehicle, make sure you know where your bike rack or similar is, and that it is in working order. Many race day mornings have been made more frantic than required due to wondering where the bike rack is!
Pump up your tyres the night before the race, that way in the morning you will know whether you have a slow puncture that needs repairing before the race. If it is likely to be very hot in your vehicle on the way to the race, let some air out of your tyres and re-inflate at race HQ.
Get up well before your race start time, irrespective of your travel time (see below). You should aim to be awake at least three to four hours before your start time.
Being hydrated is important. However, you want to avoid needing the toilet once the race has commenced, so it is advisable to stop drinking around two hours before your race start, however, you can keep sipping as needed.
Nutrition-wise, don’t try anything new on race day. You should eat your normal breakfast or at least food you are used to eating before exercise.

Race Arrival

Consider where registration is and whether you need to take all your kit or whether you can leave it at your accommodation / transport / with friends and family. Expect there to be queues!
Before leaving your tools in your car and making your way to transition, double check you have built your bike correctly. For example, check your saddle is at the correct height, that your quick release skewers are secure, and pump your tyres to the desired pressure.
It is inevitable that before the race you will need the toilet. Ensure you have enough time to go to the toilet before the race, and it is strongly recommended you do so before you have spent time putting on your wetsuit! You can sometimes find nicer toilets away from the bank of Portaloos (temporary facilities) and avoid substantial queues!

Pre-Race

The queue to get into transition can be lengthy. Further, some events require you to have attached all of the necessary stickers (to your bike, helmet, and bag) before entering transition. Account for this and the likely time it will take you to set out your equipment in transition. The earlier you get to transition the better.

Before the race starts it is worth spending time checking where your bike is located in relation to: where you enter T1 after the swim, the bike exit, bike entry, and run exit. Some people carry out a pre-race transition walk-through to familiarise themselves with the surroundings. Make mental notes to help you recall your position, for example a noticeable tree or sign, and count which row of racking you are on – when rushing into transition it is easy to become flustered.

Lay out or set up your kit in the most logical way. For example, you may decide to place your helmet upside down on your handlebars with the straps undone so that you can quickly place it on your head before touching anything else; equally, position your running shoes facing the direction you want to put them on, with your hat close by.

In addition, make sure your bike is left in a suitable gear for the start of the ride.

It is easy to get caught up in the hysteria and atmosphere of a race, and before you know it you have five minutes to complete a 10 minute walk to the swim start or race briefing. Always make sure you have enough time to make it to the start line well in advance of your start time, and aim to arrive at the start-line five to 10 minutes early!

The route to the start-line may not be suitable for bare feet. Consider bringing some flip-flops that can be left near the race start.

If possible, you will want to have a short warm-up in the water, and/or may want to have a brief run warm-up. At some events it will not be possible to enter the water prior your start, so a brief run before you need to put on your wetsuit may be advisable.

Post Race

You have completed your race. You are now a triathlete! As you cross the finish line you are likely to have a medal placed around your neck and have access to a banquet of post-race fuel.

After basking in the congratulations of your supporters and fellow competitors, you will need to collect your kit and load your vehicle. When collecting your triathlon gear from transition, remember that to leave transition you will need to present a race number that matches the number on your bike.

If you left flip-flops, or other footwear, near the swim start, remember to collect them before leaving.

If it is a particularly hot day, to prevent any exploding bike tyres, you should consider letting some of the air out of your tyres before putting them in your vehicle.

On Returning Home

On returning home, it is advisable to unpack your triathlon gear as soon as possible to avoid leaving damp triathlon gear in a bag.

In particular, if applicable, you should wash/hose down your wetsuit and then hang it up. Regarding your bike, if it has been a wet race or you road across dirty surfaces you should give the bike a clean.

It is also a good idea to give your bike a once over when you have unloaded it to check there are no issues following the race (for example, your bike may have been knocked by another competitor in transition). Otherwise, you may put your bike away and only notice an issue when you next wish to head out on a ride.

Now, having made use of the triathlon race day checklist for beginners, all that is left is for you to race. Good luck!

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Written by
Chris Hovenden
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