What to Wear?

What to Wear to a Triathlon
by Shannon Spann Puphal on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 10:18pm ·

Had this question asked awhile back and again, thought it might be helpful for anyone considering a tri in the future! :)

What to wear for swimming, biking and running all at the same event was was my biggest question when I started and I'm still tweaking things depending on the weather. However, after a few go-rounds, what I found works for me is a layered approach. I don't wear an actual swimsuit during a race. I wear:

1) A tri short (which are basically spandex with a little bit of padding in the crotch and elastic around the thigh). These are probably the most important thing you can invest in. Your girly parts will thank you for a little padding during the bike and the spandex thigh keeps them from riding up during the run. I like shorts that hit about mid-thigh. I think they're about a 6" length. Not a fan of anything too long and don't want to worry about chaffing on the bike with something too short. 2) Sports bra - I have barely any boobs, so I can get away with a simple one, but find one that is going to be as supportive as you need. 3) A tri tank/jersey. I've added a link to a sample of one below. There are some that have zippers in the front and some without and fit more like a long sports tank. I prefer something that's not super tight, but fitted. 4) Wetsuit for open water swim.

Ok, so now how I wear that makes a difference on how cold it is. If the weather is going to be warm on the bike, I will wear the tri short, sports bra and the tri tank under my wetsuit. As you're coming out of the water, you strip your wetsuit off and off you go. The tri tank and shorts are going to stick to you, but you'll dry off quickly during the bike. It's weird, but everyone else looks weird too.

If it's cold... then I only wear my tri short and sports bra under the wetsuit. I leave my tri tank/ jersey laid out over my handlebars of my bike in transition. (This is where it's important not to have a jersey that's too tight, because it's ridiculous trying to put something on that is tight when you're dripping wet.) Putting on a dry jersey will make a heck of a difference when you hit the wind as you start the bike portion. If it's really cold, you may want to consider a light wind jacket or arm warmers, which you can find on any tri site - they're like long tube socks for your arms. They fit tight on your arms and then can just be pushed down to your wrists when you warm up. For a sprint, you're probably going to be ok to be cold for about an hour or so, so dress as little as you possibly can get away with, without worrying about hypothermia.

I've tried a full tri suit, which is basically a unitard (the shorts and the tank are all one piece) and honestly, I felt like a 'tard wearing it. To each is own, but it wasn't my thing.

As far as changing goes, you'll set up your transition with your running shoes (bike shoes-- if you have clipless pedals?), helmet, sunglasses and hat or visor. You come in from the swim... (T1) as soon as you get one foot on the ground, take off your goggles and cap and start stripping off the wetsuit and head towards where your bike is. Best to have a hand towel laid out to put your feet on and wipe off any gravel you might have picked up on the way. Finish stripping off the wetsuit. You should have your helmet resting on your handlebars with your sunglasses in it. Put your sunglasses on and then put your helmet on and fasten it. Before you even remove your bike from the rack, fasten the helmet. The judges will DQ you faster than anything for helmet issues, so it's just best to get it out of the way. Put your socks (if needed) and bike/ tennis shoes on and walk/ run your bike to the marked mount line. Get on your bike before that line and officials will start screaming at you.

Depending on the set-up, you may have a bit of a distance to get to that line. Off on the bike and then come back to the dismount line. Get off the bike before crossing that line or again.. screaming officials. Rack your bike (T2)... then take off your helmet.

The best piece of advice I got from a pro at a pre-race talk was that you shouldn't even be touching your bike without your helmet on and fastened. So, once your bike is racked, take the helmet off, put your run visor/ hat on and your race belt with your race number on it.

A race belt is super cheap (like $6) and I highly recommend getting one. They are a stretchy belt with clips that hold your paper race number on it. That way you don't have to mess with safety pins or it flapping on the front of your jersey during the bike. Most races don't require you to wear your paper race number on the bike (you'll be marked with your race number on both arms, back of your calf and typically will have a sticker with the your race number that goes on the front of your helmet). If this one does require the paper race number on the bike, you just put the race belt on when you leave T1 and spin the number around so it's on your back for the bike portion. When you're out for the run, you can rotate it around to the front. Love, love, love the race belt. So, that's about it. I know... long winded, but I hope this helps!!

Here's a link for clothing.

Race Belt-  My favorite is the  SPI Belt

There's lots of different options available. I personally like Zoot, so that's what I linked you too, but TYR, DeSoto, Orca and heck, even Danskin make some good tri-specific clothing.

For training on the bike, you may want to consider purchasing a pair of actual bicycle shorts. These are spandex too, but have a much heavier padding or gel insert in the crotch. They feel like you're wearing a big ol' diaper, but definitely worth the investment. You won't want to run in these, though -- awkward.

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