Beginner Triathlon Gear Guide - Part 4: Other (Unexpected) Gear
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The final installment in this four part series focuses on the other, sometimes unexpected, gear requirements to train for and execute a triathlon. We've listed the core staples (necessary for a successful training block & race day) along with some popular ‘add-ons.' Given we’re trying to remain budget-conscious, the ‘must-haves’ that you should prioritize are in green!
Nutrition / Gels ($-$$): Nutrition is often thought of as the fourth discipline of triathlon. A race with poorly executed nutrition won't be very enjoyable. One of the most common nutrition consumption methods on race day is in the form of gels. These gels are designed to deliver quick, easily digestible carbohydrates into your system to keep you fueled on race day. While there are other means for race day nutrition (bars, chews, bananas and even solid food), this bullet focuses on gels due to their popularity. Gels come in many different forms, flavors and nutritional profiles. Some have caffeine and some do not, this is important to check to ensure you purchase what's right for you! There are two main points to consider when purchasing gels (1) try several different types of gels in training to see what works best for your body and (2) try to use the same types of gels that will be offered on course during your race. It is vital to train your stomach during your training block, just like you train your legs and cardiovascular system. No one wants to encounter GI issues halfway through their event. While this can’t be 100% avoided, you can minimize the chance of running into this issue by practicing with the same nutrition you’ll consume on race day. These are some of the crowd favorites when it comes to energy gels.
Fluids ($): Race day will be a rough experience if you don’t hydrate properly. Similar to all other aspects of triathlon, practicing hydration prior to race-day is very important. Find out what works for you. Do you sweat a lot? How many electrolytes should you supplement with? Every athlete is different when it comes to specific hydration needs, but we all sweat and need to replace those lost fluids and electrolytes during exercise. Most athletes will consume some balance of water and carbohydrate drinks (Gatorade Endurance, for example) on race day. In order to establish a hydration plan that works for you, chat with your coach or get started on your own by watching GTN's guide here. Similar to gels & nutrition, it's important to practice with the same hydration that you plan to use on race-day. Often, athlete guides released for each event will detail the types of drinks available at aid stations. Try to use what will be available to you on the course.
Electrolyte & Salt Tablets ($): Electrolyte or Salt tablets can be vital to your race experience by helping you supplement your body’s needs during a long endurance event. Sweating during exercise results in electrolyte loss. Again, everyone is different, so specific electrolyte losses will vary, but it’s important to replace these electrolytes nonetheless. When you sweat, sodium is leaving your body. This can lead to muscle cramps and fatigue.
Sunscreen ($): Racing in the sun? Don’t forget sunscreen. It takes an extra 30 seconds at transition and could save you a major headache. For me, some racers actually put it on the night before race day (gross, right?) and do a super quick touchup at T1. Forgetting sunscreen on race day is not fun … specifically in the days after the race!
Coach / community: Lastly, ensuring your training is productive and fun is an important thing. Endurance sport can be isolating, but there are tools to make it much more interactive and community-based. While local tri clubs can offer a social benefit and a private coach can give great advice, both come at a large price point and accessibility can be an issue. We have our own example in Zipper's Discord of a triathlon community of athletes spread across the world. Feel free to join and chat with some likeminded triathletes, get your questions answered and share the highs and lows of the training and racing process!
Did we forget anything? Let us know some of your favorite tri gear and we'll continue to add to this guide and make it a living document.