If you continue racing triathlons for a long time, in various locations, in different climate situations and varying race distances, you may find that you need to bolster your packing checklist for racing.
Athletes that live and race in locations where the temperature rarely changes will wonder what all the fuss is about for some of the items on the list. Those of you that race at northern latitudes or in mountainous locations will know exactly why these items might come in useful—even in summer.
Here are eight tricks-of-the-trade items to consider for your race gear checklist:
1. Neoprene Swim Cap
In cold water conditions, a neoprene swim cap can help you retain body heat and prevent hypothermia during a cold water swim. What one athlete finds comfortable, another may find cold. Try to find out water temperatures for your practice swims and for the event-day swim to determine if you need to wear a neoprene cap or not.
If the swim water is cold, ear plugs can keep the cold water out of your ear canals and help you stay warmer. Some athletes have post-race issues with ear infections after a cold water swim, and earplugs can help prevent that problem.
3. Pre-Swim Hydration
For event with a long swim, and particularly for athletes that sweat profusely, drink 16 to 32 ounces of fluid within the last 15 minutes prior to the swim start. This helps you begin the race with plenty of fluids on board. Drinking so close to the race start keeps you from needing to void the fluids before the race begins. The fluid can be energy drink or water with electrolytes.
Drinking hot liquid of any kind before a race can keep your core temperature warmer if the morning temps or the water is cold. Some athletes prefer hot tea, while others enjoy heated energy drink. You can combine this with item number three when you're competing in longer events.
5. An Extra, Extra-Large Backpack
This is for your support people to carry all of the clothes you wear right up to the last minute (including that thermos). This bag can also be stocked with extra sunscreen, spare goggles, water, anti-chaffing balm, moist towelettes, and any other items you may need at the start line.
6. A Long-Sleeved Shirt
Include this in your run special needs bag. By the end of an Ironman-distance race, some people feel chilled. How cold you feel is a combination of your own internal temperature regulation, ambient temperature, your energy levels, wind and humidity. A white shirt is also useful for keeping the sun off of you in hot conditions.
7. Chemical Packs
Those nifty little chemical hand warmer packs. You can use them to keep your hands warm in cold morning temperatures, or you can put these in your special needs bag to use if the run is predicted to be cold for a long-distance event. If the event weather is both cold and rainy, you can keep the packs in the pockets of your jacket shell to keep you warm.
8. Spare Lip Balm
If you have any worries for potential chaffing, lip balm can be used to stop small problems before they become big. For long events, carry lip balm with you on the bike and the run. Of course it can be used as sunscreen for your lips, but it can also be used to prevent hot spots from turning into foot blisters.
A minute or two spent to stop and apply balm to a foot may keep your average run speed higher than if you limp your way through a half or full marathon. The balm can be applied during the event, with no loss in time, to arm-torso interfaces where chaffing can be a problem. For the guys, it can be used to help prevent nipple chaffing caused by singlets.
Racing in varying conditions is fun because a great race goes to the person that is most fit and is an undeterred problem solver.
Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Games in Sydney. She currently serves as one of the World Cup coaches for the International Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow cycling and triathlon training plans. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.