The world of triathlon can be intimidating but don't let it be. All those competitors started at the beginning just like you and I. The fact you have decided to give triathlon a go is kudos enough without having to deal with the 'gear complex'. It takes years to amass the gear you want and in some cases a very deep wallet.
But enough about that, lets have a look at the triathlon gear you must have and some optional extras. These extras are dependant on what distance you are looking to do and how long you plan to remain in the sport.
- Transition Box or Bag: I started out with an old plastic box like most. This is where you will keep your back-up gear, nutrition, tools and post race clothing etc. Recently I picked up a transition bag and it was one of the best purchases I have made to date.
- Goggles: I always bring two pairs and you should too. Always plan for an upset. I use the Zone3 Attack goggle however, if you are nervous in the water, Aqua Sphere do a beginner friendly product that offers maximum visibility and comfort called the Seal XP.
- Wetsuit: This is one of the areas you can expect to spend a lot of money. I use the Zone3 Vision sleeveless but I'd be one of few who go sleeveless. Most newcomers want as much buoyancy as possible.
- Body Glide: This may not be needed but will depend on the person and the distance your swimming. I use Body Glide and on the days I forgot some, I had the neck burn to prove it.
- Anti-Fog: Totally optional and not entirely necessary but if you want your swim to be as comfortable as possible, no harm in having it.
- Swim Cap: These will normally be provided as waves are colour coordinated but no harm in having spares.
- Flip Flops: I have been in events where the transition area is a hefty walk to the swim start, doing this barefoot can be hard at times. Bring a cheap pair you are happy to throw away or old socks.
- Watch/ Heart Rate: This is a personal choice and time may be of no importance to you in your first race. I use the Polar RC5. The watch will stay on me right through the race as I always race off my heart rate. This will mean getting a HR monitor and watch combination. The Polar RC5 is also GPS ready which is great for analysing data afterwards.
Most competitors are looking to get through transition in the fastest possible time. For those racing their first event, or those doing the longer distance stuff like Ironman, you may want a few comforts in T1 when you get there.
- Water: If you have exited the water from a beach you may want some water to wash off the sand, otherwise you could be enduring a long and painful cycle. Its also refreshing to drink ;)
- Towel: If it is a cold day it doesn't hurt to dab yourself down and get that excess water off.
- Socks: Depending on your distance, some people wear socks some don't. I just use talc in my shoes which I will have added before the race. If you are this way inclined, check out the 1000 Mile Sock, they rock.
- Sun-cream: If its a sunny day or you are racing overseas, this can be crucial.
- Trisuit: You will be wearing this all day so pick one that's comfortable. This will go on under your wetsuit before the swim and will be worn during the bike and run leg too. Last year I raced in a full suit, this year I have opted for a two piece.
- Bike: The first thing that stands out when you enter the world of triathlon are the bikes. This is the area that people can really go overboard in. Do your first triathlon on a standard racer and if the sport is for you then look to upgrade. This year I picked up a Planet X Pro Carbon with 88mm carbon wheels. This would have been total overkill for my first ever race which I did on a cheap and cheerful Carrera from Halfords. Nuf said.
- Helmet: Again, don't be intimidated by the guys who look like tadpoles, unless you are racing the long or middle distance events, aero helmets (in my opinion) are unnecessary. I'm 4 years in the sport and only picked one up this year.
- Runners/ Bike Shoes: Again, depending on the bike you have you may opt for runners or cycling shoes. Runners allow for a faster transition but the cycling shoes make up that time when on the bike. I wear Specialized triathlon shoes with Look Keo pedals.
- Sunglasses: Not essential, particularly in average Irish weather but, have you ever landed a fly in the eye at 40km/h? Bring a set just in case.
- Running Belt: As with your trisuit, this piece of kit will remain with you from start to finish. It must be visible on the bike and during the run. Alternatively you can just use safety pins and pin your number on.
- Energy Gels: Totally optional and dependent on distance. Some people cant race without them some cant stand them. Make sure you train using them before attempting them on race day. I use High 5.
- Water Bottles: Its going to get tough out there so stay hydrated, you have one more leg to go when the cycle is over. Aero bottles look cool and require less moving around but a standard bottle and cage will do the job. This year I have reverted back to bottles after using Profile Design aero bottles for the last few seasons.
- Puncture Kit: Some people will risk it all for the sake of a 'lighter ride' others will plan ahead. Its up to you. I race with Co2 canisters and a spare tube always. These are held in my Zone3 Top Tube bag.
- Pump: Lots of people will have one but don't rely on others. Have your own with you just in case.
- Runners: I have worn Asics Gel all my life and I swear by them. Depending on your race distance, good cushioning can mean the difference between a miserable or enjoyable first race.
- Socks: Again, if I am only racing sprint distance I will ignore socks as time is of the essence. But for Ironman and middle distance I will take the time to put on some nice fresh socks. Its the little comforts that help in races that long.
- Sun Visor: I will usually have my sunglasses on from the bike but lately I have begun wearing a sun visor too. On a hot day it keeps those sweat beads from your eyes.
- Nutrition: Water will usually be available on the course but for the longer distance events I have carried a water belt just for peace of mind. This is totally optional. Just like the bike leg, you may also wish to carry energy gels and trust me, these come in handy late in the game.
If I have left anything out that other people use during a triathlon race, please add in any extras in the comments section below. I hope this post offers you some peace of mind. You can get swept away with all the triathlon gear available, but the basics I have listed above are sure to get you started. Enjoy.