Now that everyone has seen the triathlon light and signed up for a race, what can you expect on race day? Triathlons require a little more planning and gear compared to running, and race morning is typically more involved.
The night before the race: Set out your gear! I stress this with running as well, but it is vital with triathlon! With 3 events, it is easy to forget something important, like goggles or running shoes. I like to make a list and mark things off as they go into my bag. Goggles, bike shoes, gloves, and helmet, socks, sunglasses, running shoes, a visor or hat, sunscreen, water bottles and nutrition, an extra tube, and a towel are the main things you will need. Most triathlons supply a swim cap for racers (each age group will wear the same color), but bring one just in case, if you require one to swim.
The morning of the race: You are well-rested, perfectly trained, and had a balanced breakfast. Now, it is time to head to the race site!
-First is packet pick-up. To participate in triathlons, a membership to USA Triathlon (USAT) is required. You can purchase a one day pass for $10, usually with race registration, or an annual membership for $39. Go to www.usatriathlon.org for more information. You will need to bring your annual member card and a photo ID to packet pick-up. You will receive 3 numbers in your packet – a sticker for your helmet, a number for your bike, and a bib to wear during the run.
-Next is body marking. Take your number to the nice people holding Sharpies. They will write your race number on both thighs and arms, and your age at the end of the calendar year on your calf (I had a 31 on my leg at my last race, despite it being a couple of weeks before my birthday). Tip: Fast Orange is a great product for removing permanent marker or bike grease. It’s found in the automotive section at stores like Walmart.
-After you are all marked up, take your numbers for chip pick-up. You will wear your chip on a band around your ankle for the whole race. They sell dry fit bands for roughly $5 or races will provide disposable bands for you to use that day.
-Set up your transition area. This is very important! You want to have everything you need, arranged in a manner that makes sense to you. You will have all of your required gear, like shoes, helmet, etc. Anything else you want to bring is based on preference. I cannot run without gum and Chapstick, so I leave those out at my transition area. I bring 2 towels, one to briefly dry off with and another to set all of my gear on. Just remember – be mindful of those around you. There is a limited amount of space for hundreds of triathletes, so use as little space as possible.
-Remember where your transition area is located! It sounds silly, but when you are running through the transition area after the swim and bike, it is very easy to pass your transition and have to backtrack. Some people will bring balloons or old swim caps to put on the end of the rack to make their location easy to spot. Whatever works for you!
-Now, it’s time to start! If you are doing an open water swim, be mentally prepared to hit and be hit. With that many people in the water at once, it is just going to happen. On the bike, drafting isn’t legal in the triathlon world, so either pass or stay back.
Triathlons are a great way for runners to try something new, get some awesome cross-training, and most importantly, have fun!