By Paul Johnson, guest blogger
Paul Johnson is the founder of www.triathlonwetsuitstore.com, a source for tips and product advice on triathlon wetsuits and gear.
You are signed up for your first race, you are training, and the race date is fast approaching. Now your mind shifts to the race-day logistics. A common question from newcomers to triathlon is “what do you wear during the race?” The good news is that there is more than one right answer to this question, and here are a few thoughts that can help you properly gear up for your training and race. HITS races occur throughout the country and in a variety of climates and weather conditions, so there might be a few ways to answer this question. While we realize that everyone will have their own budget as well as a different desired performance level when they race in a triathlon, here are a few hard and fast rules when it comes to triathlon clothing:
- Be comfortable. This is rule number one, and if the clothing you are wearing doesn’t feel good when you are training, return it and get something else. You should have plenty of range of motion, and be able to do all three sports comfortably. In short, the clothing should be so comfortable that you really forget about it during your race.
- Function is more important than form. There are a few features in tri clothing that you will want to focus on. You need to be sure that whatever you buy doesn’t chafe, dries quickly, and provides you what you need in the fewest possible garments. Having to shuffle more garments on race day will slow your transitions and cause you to be distracted by your own clothing.
- Think about quality. Many triathletes have purchased bargain-basement clothing, only to have seams come undone or have poorly-constructed spots that chafe badly. While not everyone has a premium budget, try to get into a tier of garment where quality is excellent and fits your particular cost needs. The good news is that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to buy clothing from quality manufacturers that will last a long time and feel great.
With those tips in mind, here is an overview of what you will see most men and women wearing in a typical HITS triathlon.
For men, the most common setup begins with a good pair of tri shorts, which resemble bike shorts, but have a lighter pad and dry faster, with an all-purpose athletic top. In this scenario, the top would only go on after you are out of the water, and you would remain shirtless under your wetsuit. Some racers who go this route choose to use a triathlon-specific singlet as their shirt, which is a top that is made to be on during the entire race, including the swim. For those who may be more serious or have a higher budget, the higher-end option is to buy a triathlon suit. These suits come in both one-and-two-piece varieties, and are meant to be on the entire race. They are often engineered with more precision and compression than a typical pair of tri shorts or a singlet, and the price often reflects that.
Women have similar options to men, although they obviously need a different solution to transition 1 than coming out of the water shirtless, as men are able to do. The most common answers are to either use a singlet, as mentioned above, or an all-purpose support top. The only downside of support tops is that not all are intended to be used in the water, so they may not be designed to dry as quickly as tri-specific apparel. However, if your goal is to finish and you are not in the elite wave, a support top will work just fine. Just be sure you having used some anti-chafing sport stick around key contact points so the wet fabric doesn’t rub and cause a blister.
Keep in mind that you will need to wear a number throughout the race, in addition to an ankle timing chip (both of which will be provided on race day). Many racers use a simple race belt to hold their number so they can avoid pinning it to their shirt. If you don’t have a race belt, no worries, you will just need to pin the number to a garment much like you would in a local 5K running race.
As for footwear, the answer really depends on the rest of your bike gear. If your bike has pedal clips as most serious cyclists tend to use, you will obviously need to use your cycling shoes during the bike leg, and then switch in to running shoes for the run leg. For those who may prefer cages or are going to do the race simply with pedals, they can use their running shoe for both the bike and run, saving some time in transition 2. Many racers will go sockless, but only do this if you have practiced it and your feet are familiar with that running style. With your shoes, be sure to get the stretchy laces (such as those made by Yankz) for the ability to slide your shoe right on when it is time. Such laces are commonly available at running or triathlon stores, or can be found online.
With just a little planning, preparation, and investment, you will have the right clothes for your race regardless of your skill level or budget.