Packing for A Triathlon

by Stephanie on June 17, 2012 · 0 comments

in Triathlon

I started writing this post last Friday while packing for my first triathlon of the year but I didn’t finish it because I needed to get to sleep for my 4:30 AM wakeup call.  Even after deciding not to race, I figured the post was worth publishing.  So here it is!

Packing for a triathlon is always tough.  I’m always afraid I’m going to forget something because it seems like there’s a lot to have.  It’s three sports in one, after all!

Disclaimer time… this is NOT meant to be the end-all be-all guide to triathlon gear.  Everyone who has ever done one will tell you something different.  This is just the stuff I generally pack for a sprint distance and more accurately, what I packed for last weekend’s race.

The Outfit

This is what I start the day wearing.  Sexy, huh?

There are lots of options for what to wear for a triathlon but I prefer triathlon shorts.  They are made of quick-dry material and are lightly padded to make biking more comfortable.  For the swim/bike portion I wear a sports bra and a triathlon tank that I can unzip a bit on the bike if I need to cool down.  For the swim of course I have to wear the race cap and my awesome green swedish googles.  They help cut the glare from the early morning sun when sighting during the swim.

The Transition Setup

You only get about 2 feet tops of space for your transition area and you need to have everything to switch from swimming to biking to running in that space.  I like to use a brightly colored towel to help me find my stuff and keep it organized.  It’ll look something like this.

Since the first transition is from swimming to biking, I put my biking gear towards the front of the towel.

Biking Transition

  • Socks
  • Biking shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Biking gloves
  • Helmet

When I run into transition I put everything on in the order listed above.  I step on the towel to quickly clean and dry my feet before putting on my socks.  This is usually necessary because you have to run from the lake to the transition area over sand and/or wet grass.  You want clean, dry feet in your athletic socks so you aren’t uncomfortable later on in the race.  Otherwise I make no attempt to dry myself off.  It’s a waste of time and the wind on the bike ride will dry me off plenty.

Obviously I don’t show the bike in the picture above.  It will be on a rack right by my transition towel.  Once I put on all my biking gear I grab the bike and go, go, go!

Running Transition

  • Running shoes
  • Running shirt with race number already pinned on

The second transition is from biking to running.  I put my bike on the rack and quickly strip off my helmet, gloves, and shoes.  I quickly lace up my running shoes.  The next part is to ensure I have my race number on.  In a triathlon you only need your race number on during the run.  I’ve done this two different ways.  For this triathlon I pinned the number on a running shirt.  That way I can strip off my triathlon tank (sports bra underneath… can’t be shy!) and throw on the shirt while running out of the transition area.  For other races I wore the triathlon tank for the run and had my race number pinned to a race belt.  That way I just clip the race belt with the race number around my waist.  Both methods have worked well for me.

The Race Fuel

Fueling for a race is important and what I use to fuel changes for every race.  For this race I decided on the following elements:

  • Quaker Oatmeal to Go Bar
This was my breakfast before heading to the race.  I took a second one in case I wanted it closer to race time but I have a nervous stomach so I don’t normally eat much.  Other times I’ve eaten a yogurt and a banana or an english muffin with peanut butter.


  • GU Brew Electrolyte Drink Mix
I really like the GU Brew drink mixes.  They aren’t too sweet or sugary.  I’ll already have this mixed up in a water bottle on my bike.  I drink the whole thing during the bike portion to ensure I stay hydrated.


  • Sport Beans
These are my running energy of choice lately.  I find GU and Hammer gels too thick for my liking.  I have used e-fuel gels before and I do like them as well.  They are less thick and easier to get down.  I’ll open these up early in the run and eat half the package, then eat the other half later in the run.


  • GU Brew Recovery Drink Mix
This drink is awesome.  I keep a bottle of water in my transition for the sole purpose of mixing up this bad boy.  It gives me a good mix of protein and carbs to help my body recover.  The first time I used this drink I had barely trained for the triathlon and expected to be really sore afterwards.  I credit this drink with preventing almost all post-race soreness.


For my first olympic distance triathlon in September I’ll have to put together a more extensive fueling plan.  Having never raced that distance before, I’m not sure what I’ll need to keep me going strong.  More to figure out in the next 11 weeks of training!


What did I miss?  What do you pack for a triathlon?


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