I'm about 7 weeks out from my third (and longest) triathlon. I am by no means an expert, but I have learned a lot on my journey from a runner to a triathlete. One thing that I overwhelmed me when I had signed up for my very first triathlon was knowing what I needed and what I could live without. I was also not sure that I would ever do a second triathlon, so I didn't want to invest a lot of money.
A lot of my current "must haves" are things that work great, but are not perfect. I put this list together to help anyone who has signed up for a tri and doesn't know where to start, or who is overwhelmed by the idea of one. I came to the triathlon from running, and there are a lot more pieces and parts involved in triathlon compared to running.
1. A good swimsuit and goggles that don't leak
I'm failing in the area of swimsuits. I haven't found one that I like yet. I have a long torso and finding one that is long enough to fit me but isn't too big has been a challenge. I'm still working on it. Please let me know if you have any suggestions!
As far as goggles go, I'm working on a post about them because I think they are one of the most important parts of triathloning, but also one of the most challenging (followed a close second by a comfortable bike seat). I seem to have relatively good luck with my goggles not leaking (with all the goggles I've tried), but they are not all comfortable. A lot of folks in my swim group have a terrible time with leaky goggles no matter what they do. I suppose the shape of your face makes a difference.
My current favorite goggles are the Roka R1 in vermillion. I like them both for open water (bright sunshine) and in the pool. They have great field of view which is super important in open water swimming.
2. A comfy pair of tri shorts
You are going to spend a lot of time in your shorts, so it's important to have a pair that is comfy. I also advise wearing them while you are training, because there's no way to know if they are comfy unless you wear them...a lot.
My current shorts are these by Zoot. They work just fine, but I am looking to upgrade. Recently, as I have been on my bike more, I have become more aware of the edges of the chamois, which is not an ideal situation. I have had my eye on these shorts by Coeur Sports because the chamois goes all the way down the leg.
3. Running shoes that make your feet happy
As I said before, I was a runner before I was a triathlete. That means I've tried my fair share of running shoes. Having shoes that make your feet happy is important, because you are going to be spending a lot of time with these shoes on your feet.
I tend to like a more minimal shoe. My current shoes are the Inov 8 Terraclaw. They are a trail shoe, but they work really well for both trail and road. That was something that was really important to me because I run on a variety of surfaces during any given run and didn't want to be stuck with a clunky trail shoe on the road or a wimpy shoe on the trail.
4. A good bike fit
A good bike is important, but not as important as a good bike fit. Find a bike that is within your budget and fits you and then make an investment in your bike fit. They can be pretty spendy, but they are worth it. It can mean the difference between dreading your bike rides and actually enjoying them.
Also, make sure you have a bike seat that doesn't make you want to cry. I'm currently in the want to cry when I ride my bike camp and it's not very much fun. I'm working on fixing it, but it's kind of a process.
5. A plan, a backup plan, and alternative plans
I saved this for last. Having a training plan and a race plan is extremely important. What is also important is knowing when to alter the plan. This doesn't mean making excuses to not follow your plan. If you body will allow you to follow your plan exactly, that's amazing! But that isn't usually how it works. Sometimes you need a rest day. Sometimes your schedule changes and you need to get on your bike at 5am when it's still dark out instead of going for a run.
Sometimes taking an extra rest day can be a hard decision. Are you just tired and feeling lazy? Or is your body trying to tell you to take a break?
If you need a little guidance or motivation, give Aaptiv a try. It can a great way to mix up your training a little bit. There are all kinds of workouts available, I did one of the bike workouts in the middle of my long ride on my trainer last weekend so I wouldn't get bored. I know sometimes when I'm not feeling like doing whatever is on my training plan, having someone else tell me what to do and doing something different can be just the thing I need to get motivated.
Other things that are good to have
The things I listed above are the things that I feel are essential to training for any triathlon (of any distance). Here are a few other things that are not quite as essential to training/racing, but are good to have!
- Foam roller to help keep your body feeling good
- Good running socks. My favorite are these Darn Tough socks.
- A high quality sports drink, this is mostly if you are training for a longer race, you'll need to be sure to replenish your electrolytes as well as get some calories in on your training runs and rides. My favorite is Skratch Labs because it's made with real ingredients and has a good amount of carbs for fuel. It also tastes good!