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Triathlon Race Day: What to pack, How to prepare?

What to pack, How to Prepare for your Triathlon Race day?
What to pack, How to Prepare for your Triathlon Race day?

For a person that has been through 5 triathlons and going for my second Ironman 70.3 this coming weekend, one would think I would have perfected the art of packing. And yet, I still made amateurish mistakes in the most recent triathlon event in Penang. (Forgot to put in my water bottle on my bike).

This weekend, in my second Putrajaya Ironman 70.3, I’ve listed out what I think is a complete but simple packing list.

What goes into my bag?

What goes into my packing bag depends on the length of the race, weather and terrain as well. I’ve learnt that it always pays to be OVER prepared though it means over packing sometimes. With experience, you will then start to carry less and less gear to races, but personally I’ll want to highlight that, some gears are worth packing more than just one piece.

To keep it simple, and true to my engineer profession, I’ll break down my items into the following:

PRE-Race: Items to use before the swim start

  • Headlamp – (Seriously regretted not carrying one in my earlier triathlons as the transition area is very dark when you set up your bicycle)
  • Light jacket – with hood if the weather is cold in the morning
  • FlipFlops/Sandals – a cheap one will do as you’ll probably won’t be seeing it again when the race starts
  • Bicycle pump
  • Sports watch and RoadID – an ID tag is very important as Triathletes usually do not race with any ID, not good for emergencies.
Prepare a spare pair of googles and wear some identity tag for emergencies.
Prepare a spare pair of googles and wear some identity tag for emergencies.

SWIM: Items needed before swim

  • Goggles – (always have a spare, in case the strap breaks)
  • Swim cap – (usually provided by event organiser)
  • Nose strips or ear Plugs – personnel preference but I don’t use them.
  • Timing Chip – (wear it on the LEFT leg to avoid clashing with the bike chain)
  • Race number tattoo – (should already been done the day before race)

T1: Items needed after the swim, and before cycling

My personal order as below when I come out of the water:

  • Race belt
  • Sunglasses
  • Helmet – (with race number)
  • Socks – I always put in talcum powder inside my socks
  • Cycling Shoes
  • Sunscreen /sunblock
  • Cycling gloves – (again it’s a preference. Usually I don’t wear then for sprint and Olympic tri events)
  • Towel
  • Nutrition and food

T2: Items needed after cycling, and before running

  • Running cap
  • Running socks – (if needed, but always have talcum powder inside)
  • Running shoes
  • Sunscreen / sunblock
  • Nutrition

Bike Gears:

  • Bicycle – (obviously)
  • Spare tube/CO2/Small pump
  • Race number on bike
  • Bike water bottles
  • Tool kit
  • Bike computer


Post Race: Items needed after the race ends. 

Yes, you don’t just stopped doing anything after the race. A mistake I made in my maiden IM70.3, I was too happy to finish that didn’t do any post-race ritual which I subsequently regretted.

  • Post-recovery drink and food – protein shake/recovery drink
  • Clothes for changing / shower
  • Slippers
  • Aloe vera lotion / after sun cream

Important Notes

On preparing for a Triathlon and Ironman 70.3 Race

  • Remember to prepare masking tape/bandage tape as you’ll need it for taping the power gels/bars to the bike.
  • Antifog swim goggles a day before the race. I usually use regular toothpaste
  • Avoid using new gears on RACE day e.g: shoes, cleats, pedals. I made a mistake to use a new bicycle in 2014 and suffered two punctures due to poor quality tires that came with the new bike.
  • Clean and service/tuned the bicycle at least 7 days before the race day.
  • A day before the race, during bike check-in, spend some time walking around the transition area to familiarise with the swim exit, bike out, bike in, and run exit. Know the traffic pattern of the transition area and keep a look out for any landmarks. Always know where your bike location.
  • Lastly, LABEL all your gears (if possible) with your name/contact details (phone number or email). E.g.: shoes, transition bags, drop bags, helmet, etc.
Race Day Nutrition
Race Day Nutrition

Race Nutrition:

Nutrition is really a personal preference and base on one’s intake and intensity of training. Generally, there are a few tips on nutrition that all endurance athletes (cyclist, marathon runners, triathletes) follow.

  • Nutrition and carbo loading 10 to 7 days before the RACE event. I slightly increase my protein (chicken, fish and protein powder) intake and up my carbo intake (soaked oats, banana and sweet potato).
  • Totally avoided fried items, legume, beans or large amount of nuts 7 days before the event.
  • Eat one pack of bar and gel daily for 7 days prior to race day to set my stomach and body ready to receive them during RACE day.
  • 2 days before RACE day, avoid foods with high fibre. If possible, abstain from eating any fibre base foods a day before the race.

RACE Day Nutrition:

  • I usually freeze my bike water bottles with high concentrated of electrolytes drink a day before the event. (Half bottle only). On race morning, I will add on with water to top it up.
  • Eat breakfast 3 hours before RACE starts. 1 bar and soaked oats.
  • 1 hour before race, I’ll munch one more bar.
  • Before entering to swim start pen, I’ll squeeze in a gel.
  • Swim out at T1, I’ll be munching a bar while guzzling in water.
  • On the 90km bike, I will start eating my next bar 45mins after bike start and the next bar an hour later. All the while sipping from my bottle at 15 ~20 mins interval.
  • Entering T2, I’ll eat half a bar will keep it with 3 gels together with me on the run.
  • 30 mins into my 21km run, I’ll eat one gel, 30 mins later my remaining half bar and 30 mins later my gel. Usually my 3rd gel is for spare purposes and if needed, will take it at the next 20 mins mark.

Race Day tips:

  • Apply Vaseline to everywhere of the body where chaffing will occur. Reapply during T2 if needed.
  • Always wipe the feet after swim before putting socks. I had some sand during the bike leg which was very uncomfortable.
  • Coming out from the swim, do not sprint, take your time as your blood is in your upper body from the swim and your legs will start to feel weak at the first few steps (maybe for beginners like me). Keep calm and remove your goggles/swim caps and rinse your body at the shower.
  • Always remember to put on your sunglasses and helmet before you touch your bike. It’s a penalty in Ironman and sanctioned events.
  • 5km before the bike leg ends, spin your legs to get rid of the lactic acid and to prepare for the run.

All in all, remember to have fun and have a good race!

More about the author

Richard Lee is on his life-changing journey from XXL to M. First dabbling into cycling, trail running and now triathlon, Richard sets out to inspire and improve himself and others along the way.

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