April 26, 2016

Packing for a Triathlon, Transition reminders, tips, and tricks

Athlete Question:   Coach Ed, can you offer any guidance about what to use for a transition bag and/or how to pack for T1 and T2, at least at a general level?   I realize we will customize it to our needs, but what are the best practices and lessons learned?

Z:   When you have the chance – please try to attend one of our upcoming race strategy, rules, and transition clinics. Trust me – It is much easier to review this in person with you. BUT the info below will help I’m certain. Below are some reminders, and IF you did not attend the clinic, we would probably start with having you review the slides from the presentation (in clinics file on the team z yahoo group).

Link: https://members.triteamz.com/files/?dir=%2FClinics%2FGeneral%2BRace%2BPrep%2BClinic  (Click on the presentation after you get to this file).  There are a few other resources in there that may be helpful to you.

What is In this email:

A.   General Tips on packing for a Triathlon

B.   Sample Check List

C.   Text from “old” transition Clinic Document (the presentation is newer)


A.   General Tips on packing

What goes in YOUR bag depends on the length of the race, the weather, and any special needs you might have that others don’t consider.   It always pays to be over prepared, ALWAYS.   As you gain experience, you will start to carry less and less gear with you to races.   That’s a promise.


  • A large backpack with a lot of pockets usually works best. If you have to ride your bike to the transition area from your hotel or the parking lot, it is much easier to do so with a backpack rather than a cumbersome bag.
  • Race apparel ”“ be sure to bring extra gear for “just in case” scenarios.   Like a cold front blowing through.   You might be happy if you had those booties and a long sleeve shirt under your race jersey just in case (Tupper Lake Example).
  • Sun screen ”“ EVERYONE.   I don’t care if you do tan “well”.   You will regret regret regret those race tan lines for the rest of the season.   Put sun screen on after you have been body marked so your numbers don’t wear off.   Your back and neck are the most important places, have a teammate help you.   Baby sun screen works well (no sting, stays on better)
  • Sport slick to prevent chaffing ”“ body glide.   Wherever it is needed.
  • Towel(s)   – one to put your gear on, and another to clean yourself after the race if you don’t want to use the same one.
  • Water bottles ”“ Fill them before the race – do not expect there to be water at the race. Make sure you take enough bottles for pre-race AND post race recovery, in addition to what you need during the race.   When packing for long trips, sometimes people put the powder in the bottles and just fill them up when they get to their hotel.   Some people bring a thing of Gatorade (whatever) with them.
  • Nutrition ”“ again, make sure you think about what you will need for PRE race and POST race”¦not just during the race.   You must graze as you prepare for the race.   You’ll be hungry (nervous energy).   Keep that fuel tank topped off.   Team Z breakfast/lunch at our tents eliminates the need for much of this at “Team” races.
  • Dry socks, shoes and clothes for after the race ”“ don’t over look this.   You will love having something that is “not” your running shoes to wear when you are finished.   Don’t forget to consider weather, do you need a sweatshirt for after the race?   Or just a clean t-shirt and a baseball hat.

1. Start with your equipment checklist

2.   Lay out everything on your bed, as you check it off the list

3.   Then pack the bag in the reverse order of how you want to pull it out.   (Eg.   towel for gear to lay on comes out first, shoes etc/next, wetsuit last – unless you plan to do a practice swim the day before).

4.   Multiple bags can work, especially at a Team Z race.   At our races, we have tents and big tarps (place for you to leave your bags vice having to cram them into your transition area).   So you can have your Transition bag, and your “post race” bag if you like (includes comfy clothes, back up gear, etc).

For types of bags – they sell super nice transition bags on the internet, and at Bonzai.   But honestly any back pack that is big enough should work.   Even a duffle bag with big enough “loops” for handles that you “could” use it as a back pack is fine.   Think – what if you had to ride your bike a mile from your car to transition?   Could you carry the bag?   You can spend good money on a really nice bag with special pockets that make packing easy, spots for wet stuff, etc.   But – a normal back pack or duffle bag will work.


B.   Sample Checklist

My bag list:

  • USAT Card
  • ID
  • Race Directions (packet pickup, race location, start time) (Team Z email)
  • Race Jersey
  • Race Shorts
  • Goggles
  • Cap
  • Run shoes
  • Run (and bike) socks
  • Run Hat
  • Bike Shoes
  • Bike Helmet
  • Bike Gloves
  • Baby Sunscreen
  • Race Number Belt
  • Chip Strap
  • Transition Towel
  • Race Nutrition (bottles, bars, gus) (bring your water bottles FULL – do not expect to have water available)
  • Pre Race Nutrition (extra bottle, bar – but you can leverage Team Z grub/etc at our tent)
  • Body Glide
  • Sunglasses
  • Race Watch/HRM
  • Road ID

Other Considerations:

  • I wear to the race my pre/post race “comfy and clean clothes” – keep in mind you want this with you.
  • Consider additional race gear if the weather is chilly, wet, etc – arm warmers, jacket, layers you can remove.   Bring extra in case you “change your mind” – don’t “wish” you had it.
  • Bike Pump
  • Something “throw away” to wear on your feet to swim start ($2 flip flops, with old socks – if a cold day)
  • Back up goggles
  • Back up tube, co2
  • Plastic bags for transition gear (if raining)
  • Big Plastic Bag for transition bag /post race clothes (if raining)
  • Extra towel (if raining)
  • Money/Credit Card
  • Safety Scissors
  • Electrical Tape/Duct Tape
  • Back up contacts
  • Medication (bee sting, advil, whatever)
  • Deodorant
  • Baby wipes
  • Phone
  • First Aid Kit
  • Money


C.   Text from “old” transition Clinic Document (the presentation is newer)

General Notes for setting up your transition area:

  • Find your rack ”“ are they pre-numbered or not?
  • If you have a choice in where to rack, always consider your position for EZ in EZ out access
  • Does your bike fit on rack by the seat or handlebar?   If yes, no issues.   If no fit get permission from a USAT official on where to rack your bike.
  • Grass, mud or sand going to be an issue for you?   What path would you run to avoid the mud if raining?
  • No glass allowed, must have bar end plugs!!!   DQ DQ DQ. Do not take glass into a transition area.   And, make sure you have bar end plugs in your handlebars.   USAT officials look at EVERY bike for these violations.   If you are missing a plug, don’t panic.   I have extra’s in my tool box and most races have bike companies there to support and they bring tons.   If in dire straights, use a quarter and a piece of black electrical tape.

Lay out your gear in the order you will need to use it, last to first. (Run Shoes and equipment at the back of the towel, bike stuff closest to you, swim stuff anywhere.

  • Towel down next to your bike (which is racked).
  • Shoes open ”“ socks inside/rolled up ready to put on.
  • Race belt w/# on top of the running shoes.
  • Running Hat on top of that
  • Bike shoes open in next pile, closest to you.   Cycling socks open and in the shoes too.
  • Helmet ON BIKE if you can (you want it secured safely, not able to be kicked on the ground by a running triathlete)
  • Sunglasses, in helmet
  • Do you have your nutrition planned?   What is going on your bike?   What is going in your tri jersey?   What are you going to leave/need for the bike, the run, and “just in case”.   Do you have fuel for before the race, and back up in case you drop something?

What to wear when:

  • ½ ironman and down – my opinion of one outfit all day.
  • full ironman – be comfortable it is a long day
  • Wear as much as you can under your wetsuit. (HRM, tri shorts, tri shirt, watches, bike/run number and belt, gu’s in pockets already, etc). Do NOT forget your sunscreen before you get suited up, but AFTER the race numbers are put on.

Notes for transition strategy:

  • Before the race starts (day before, or day of)”¦.
  • Walk from the swim exit to your bike.
  • Walk from the bike to the bike exit, and from the bike finish back to your bike.
  • Then, walk to the run exit.   KNOW the traffic pattern of the transition area BEFORE the race starts so you don’t have to think about it.
  • Look for land marks to help you find your transition area.   Think about it.   When you come out of the swim, what are you looking for”¦your bike right?   Well, what are you going to look for when you finish the bike and your bike is in your hand? Hmmm?   How bout a tree?   Or a fence?   Think about it before the race starts.
  • Don’t forget to put on your sunscreen before you get all suited up.

Exiting the swim:

  • Before you leave the water, as you run up the shore/beach/parking lot towards your bike you want to start pulling your wetsuit   to your waist.
  • As you run, take your goggles and cap off   (and store them in the sleeve if you have a long sleeved wetsuit)

Getting to the bike:

  • Run steady think about what you are going to be doing in the transition before you start the bike. DO NOT SPRINT, your blood is in your torso from the swim and your legs will start demanding O2.   Be steady and sure, trying to keep your HR down. Likely, standing and running will make you anaerobic.   Get it back down to Z4 or below as soon as you can.
  • Get a drink? Salt water in mouth…rinse and spit but don’t chug.   Wait until 10 minutes into the bike to start consuming liquids/solids (blood issue again, there is not enough blood to do everything”¦recover upper body from swim, fuel the legs that are warming up on the bike, and digest food)

At the bike:

  • Out of wetsuit ”“ sit if you have to.   I’ve seen people bend over and get dizzy/lightheaded.   Be safe.
  • Wipe/wash feet? Step on your towel and clean them off”¦ignore what you don’t think will bother you (a blade of grass, but what about a pebble?)
  • Put on your socks/shoes.
  • Stand up, grab your glasses from your helmet. Put them on.
  • Grab your helmet, SNAP IT BEFORE YOUR TOUCH YOUR BIKE (penalty).
  • You are on your way. You already have your HRM, watch, run/bike number on as well as your tri shorts and jersey.   YOU ARE FAST!

Bike mount line:

  • Know where it is, and mount AFTER the line. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO RIDE YOUR BIKE IN TRANSITION
  • No USAT rule anymore, however may be enforced by the RD (his/her discretion, you can ask if you like)
  • If you are going to mount cautiously, do it from THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.   DO NOT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD AND TAKE YOUR SWEET TIME. You risk being run over by a FAST moving 200 + pound triathlete doing a flying mount.   Styles: Flying mount like tonto or Super Man, foot front/leg swing, or step over.   Most people just calmly get on their bike like “normal”.   But – stay to the side of the road when getting on so you can allow the flying start people to “fly by”.

Before Bike Dismount:

  • Getting ready ”“ start to lighten up and spin in a higher gear with 1-2 miles left in the bike. You have to try and prepare yourself for the run.   Stand and stretch your calves, and hammys.
  • IF YOU WANT ”“ losen your shoes and put your feet on top of the shoes (that are still clipped in) with 1/8th ”“ ¼ mile to go.   Wiggle your toes and continue to loosen your legs.   Get the blood flowing well.
  • If you don’t want to do a running dismount, still stretch and loosen your shoes.   Get those toes wigglin.
  • Bike Dismount   – again.   DO NOT BE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD when you come to a stop if you are doing a safe, slower dismount. Please stay to the side else you risk being dismantled by a flying 200+ triathlete that is going 15 mph.
  • Be safe. You must completely dismount the bike before you cross the dismount line.

Bike to run:

  • Do you need to reapply sunscreen?
  • Grab your running hat and put it on.
  • Change your shoes
  • Gells/backup fuel needed?
  • Lace locks/elastic laces
  • race belt #
  • Rock and roll.

After the race finish:

  • Smile.
  • Throw up.
  • Grab your change of clothes if you want them and come back to the tent and cheer for the rest of the team.
  • Depending on the race, you may or may not be able to remove gear from the transition area until a certain time.