Today Rachel walks you through the equipment and packing tips needed to execute a successful and efficient 70.3 triathlon. Whether you’re doing a half Ironman or a local race, these tips will help you prepare and feel confident in your race day equipment.
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Wetsuit or swim skin
Swim cap given at check in
Garmin and charger
Heart rate monitor (if not in your watch)
Bike charger – if applicable
Rear bottle cage (2 bottles)
Repair kit (1 tube, 1 adapter, 2 co2)
Tri tats – or marker
2 hair bands
Breakfast- oatmeal and banana
Safety pin for timing chip
Packing for a 70.3 can be almost as overwhelming as hauling your body across those 70.3 miles. Please join me, I’m going to talk about my top tips and equipment that I use, and how I pack for a 70.3. I’ve also thrown in some tips for 140.6 as well. Join me, leave comments, let me know what you guys think, and good luck, and be proud of yourself for entering on this journey.
Hey guys, Rachel Brenke from FitLegally, and I know how hard it is to train for a Half Ironman, 70.3 distance. But I feel like the training and the nutrition and getting the rest and the recovery is really only a smallish portion of what you need to do in order to get prepared for your race.
Packing and making sure you have all the right equipment is crucial because 70.3s are extremely long days. We’re looking at between four to eight hours, depending on how fast you are. If you try to get your money’s worth it’ll take a little longer, which I completely did in my first few years of the sport.
You are out there for a long time, there’s a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong, for you to get tired, for you to need more nutrition, and so having the right equipment is crucial. And sometimes you just want little comfort things, and this can provide it for you.
Now, you can also use this video as a foundation for the 140.6 packing as well. I’m just going to double up on a few things when it comes to 140.6s, but for 70.3s I’m not having to worry about nighttime type stuff because I’m starting in the light and I’m finishing in the light. I’m not going to have to worry about headgear and safety stuff like that, as well as reduced amount of nutrition, because it is half the amount of distance.
But I’m going to walk you guys through my entire list of what I take to a 70.3. I have gone through and really tried to make it about what the average of what you need to take, if not the minimum. When I say minimum, it’s because I talk about the comfort stuff. There are some things you just absolutely need, and some things that you really want to have. As I go through I’ll kind of talk through some of these items.
Obviously there’s non-negotiables, like the bike and your goggles, other things like that, you are non-negotiable, have to have these items. But know that all of this equipment didn’t just show up for me when I first started in triathlon. I have incrementally gathered it and saved up and invested in it over the few years that I’ve been doing this sport, so don’t freak out if you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have all of this.” Parse through, feel free to leave a message in the comments, PM me, we can talk through kind of what you need for your race.
Now, I understand that … I’m going to give you guys a structure of just what to take. Depending on what type of race you’re in, it will also make a difference on how you pack for it. The race that I’m running into tomorrow is all centrally located about one transition point, so I don’t have to worry about point-to-points.
If you’re doing a point-to-point race, and I can do a video on that later on because I’ve done that in North Carolina, Raleigh, I think those were the only two, that does add an extra layer of logistics. And that actually is more of a packing like you do for an Ironman because you use a lot of different bags. It’s easier when you’re doing a 70.3 if you’re coming back to the exact same location. You start in that same location, your bike’s there, all your stuff is together at the bike rack, you don’t have to worry about breaking it all out.
But as you can see, I’ve laid everything out between swim, bike, and run, and then I have the good-to-have stuff, the extras like sunscreen and all of that. You can still take these, lay them out, I do this every single time and I walk through the entire race myself, in my head. I walk through and go, “Okay, what am I going to need? I’m getting dressed for the swim, I’m coming in from the swim, I’m getting ready for the bike, I’m getting off the bike.”
That’s how I walk through all of this, and you can also divide these up into bags. I use the big Ziploc bags, we’re talking the big ones, if you want to have point-to-point races or 140.6 or beyond of distances. Because they’re all going to be located and dropped in different locations.
Let’s do the swim stuff. This is probably the least amount of equipment that you’re going to have. Like I said, I walk through and lay out everything while I’m getting ready to pack based on the order that I’m doing the event. So, for example, the major things that I need to be concerned about is getting dressed in the morning.
Start with a sports bra, obviously, because I need that, and then the tri-kit as well. I have moved to one-piece tri-kits, I started with two pieces in the very beginning, a lot of it was a vanity thing, and I’ve actually found that the utilitarian of one-piece is way better than two-piece.
But we’re not going to get into all that, I just bring that up to say that if you do have a two-piece kit, I’m a huge proponent, depending on your body type, as I have larger hips and thighs down here, I button down the top of the shirt into my shorts so that it doesn’t ride up and flip up. That happens to me a lot just from my body type.
So if I’m going to have a two-piece kit, I want to make sure obviously I have both pieces, and then if I haven’t sewn in the buttons, I want some sort of safety pins or something to keep them down. Not a requirement obviously, but just for your comfort and stuff.
I always choose tri-kits that are going to have pockets in the back. I actually relatively don’t utilize these as much as I probably should, I’ll show you the ways that I do it as we go along. But for the most part I’m going to have a sports bra and my tri-kit for the day. I wear the Brooks … I don’t recall what the name is, I’ll link all of this underneath the video for you guys. I like the fact that they are adjustable, so I can tighten down the girls if I need to. I find that they don’t chafe like other sports bras that I wear, they’re super secure. So, tri-kit and you’ve got the sports bra.
Obviously I’m going to want my Garmin, so I want to make sure I also have a Garmin charger. Even if you fully charged it at home, if you’re traveling the way to the race, always bring your chargers with you. You never know what will happen, or you might be able to help another triathlete. So I fully charge it before I leave, and then I also make sure I bring the charger.
At the swim itself, I’m going to have my tri-kit on already, and then I’m going to run through that I need my goggles, I’m going to receive my swim cap at packet pickup. I don’t know of a single race that doesn’t do that, but if they don’t, then you’re going to have to bring your own swim cap. But you’ll get your swim cap, and you’re going to have a pair of goggles, and you’re either going to be in a wetsuit or a swimskin, I’ll talk about that here in a second.
I have two pairs of goggles here. For shorter distances, I don’t carry two goggles with me. For anything that is 70.3 or beyond, just because 1.2 miles is a fairly long amount of time, and especially if I’m swimming in salt water or brackish water, which we have up here in the Maryland areas, then I want to make sure I have goggles. The reason I do two is because if one gets kicked off, falls off, or I have a complete problem with one of them, I can switch it out.
So I shove one of them, you can either put it in your small pocket here, shove it in your wetsuit there, or in your tri-kit, sports bra top works as well. So I have another one spare for me, and I wear one as well.
My last race a couple weeks ago I actually wore a pair of goggles that I’ve worn for I don’t know how long, but whatever it was with the temperature, the air temperature versus the water temperature, it was making them fog up so bad. I could not even see the people’s feet that were in front of me, and it was a shorter distance so I didn’t have an extra pair of goggles.
It was Olympic, and I kind of wish I had another pair, but I’ve never carried another one so I just toughed it out and dealt with it. But yeah, definitely I don’t want to do that for 1.2, and definitely don’t want to do that for 2.4 miles, which is for the 140.6 distance. So, two pairs of goggles.
A pair of flip-flops. Since this is a race where I’m able to easily hand them off at the swim start to my husband, I wear a decent type of flip-flops. Most, especially Ironman branded races, or the larger brand races, they’re going to collect the flip-flops and attire that you drop at the swim start and they’re going to donate it.
So what I like to do is when Old Navy rolls around during the year and they have their two-dollar flip-flop sale, I go and buy a bunch of the two-dollar ones and then that way I can wear it around in transition, body marking, and all of that to the swim start, and right before I get in I can flip the sandals just in the volunteers’ bag as they’re collecting that.
Again, point-to-points, definitely you’re not going to get it back, you’re not going to get your flip-flops back. The only reason I’m taking nicer ones tomorrow is the Old Navy sale hasn’t happened yet, and I’m out of flip-flops from last season, and also these, I can hand them off to my husband, that’s just the way the race is laid out.
So, wetsuit. Obviously this is going to be dependent upon whether or not the water is wetsuit legal. And I’m not going to get into the numbers here, always check your athlete guide and see what the requirements or the cutoffs are. For me, I already know it’s going to be a wetsuit legal race, and I am a big fan of sleeveless wetsuits.
I do have wetsuit sleeves that I can wear with it, but I’m opting to go without it I think for tomorrow. You can do long-sleeve wetsuit, I just never honestly used a long-sleeve, and as a swimmer I just fear the lack of ability. And this way, also I don’t have to have multiple.
If I’m ever going to a race, especially when I race up here at Ironman Maryland and Eagleman, it’s in June and then September/October, sometimes it’s always right on the line. We don’t know if we’re going to have a wetsuit or not, that means the water is warmer, and I don’t necessarily want to overheat with long sleeves. All of it’s going to be a personal preference, people say it’s faster with sleeves, probably is, but personal preference for me.
Now, if you’re in a race where you cannot utilize a wetsuit, you either will just have your tri-kit, and you just swim in your tri-kit, or you can do your tri-kit and put over top what’s called a swimskin. It looks like a tri-kit, but the material is so superthin, and if you splash water on it, it beads up.
The water kind of soaks up a bit into tri-kits, they do dry fairly quickly, but swimskins, you can tell immediately they have a different type of material and the whole point is so that the water can just roll off of you. And that goes on top of the tri-kit, and just like the wetsuit, I put it on before I swim, I take it off when I come into T1, and I either put it in my bag if it’s a longer race or I leave it at my location in transition.
So swim is fairly to the point. Minimum, what you absolutely need to do in order to do a race would be something to cover your body and probably your goggles. You don’t necessarily need a watch, you don’t necessarily need a wetsuit or any of that, those are good to have, but the minimum basics that you have to in order to compete is going to be … You could even do it without goggles, but would be this. The bra, kit, and goggles, bare minimum. The rest is just everything that I pack. So the swim is fairly quickly packed, put into a bag, and ready to go.
So obviously after the swim we have the bike, and the most important item you’re going to need is your bike, making sure you have everything on it that you absolutely need. Bare minimum is your bike, your tires, make sure they’re inflated and in good condition, your cassette, and your pedals. And that’s bare minimum what you need to have on your bike.
For me, since I have gotten this far in my quote-unquote career, I also make sure I have a hydration system, make sure that my power meter is charged, and my bike is charged. That is the name of the game, which sounds funny that I need to say bring your chargers and charge your stuff, but I see it inevitably at races in Facebook groups all the time, people saying, “Oh my god, I need your charger for such and such.”
So make sure you charge your stuff before you leave, and also make sure that you take a charger with you just because you don’t want to foil your whole race because you have low battery in your power meter or your gears, et cetera.
I’ll come back to the bike on all of that, but the other item that is non-negotiable that I need to have is obviously going to be my nutrition. Normally when I travel I utilize pop-top disposable bottles, not these kind. I can go to any store locally, gas station, and get a water bottle that’s 12-18 ounces, and then it has the pop-top on there, because I’m going to be pitching them.
In this race, I’ve moved to utilizing reusable ones, I’m trying not to use plastic as much as possible. And so for me, since this is a 70.3, I have one that’s going to fill the top up here, I’m going to stick two in the back, so those will travel with me, and I’ll probably leave this bottom one open so that I can grab water from aid stations and I have an open cage, and then I’m able to complete my race with almost everything I have except maybe that one plastic water bottle. You can do that with disposables as well, I’m just trying to get a bit more green and use reusable.
When I did Kona, I kept this bottom one open, I was able to put Coca-Cola in there, I was able to put water, and I kept all the bottles, all the reusable bottles, in my back cage, pulled them out, refilled my hydration system, put them back in. So I had less amount of waste on the island.
So obviously nutrition, I utilize on the bike INFINIT. I do a custom blend on the bike, I much enjoy it. It took a few tries figuring out what works best for me, I had to practice it in training, had to practice it in racing, and I think we’ve come to a really good mixture, they customize it. They are a partner of mine, and that’s because I decided I really enjoyed them. I had used multiple other types in the past, and just was not that thrilled as far as how it responded to my body. Nothing wrong with those products probably, it’s just how it worked with my body, which is what’s most important.
So nutrition, absolutely non-negotiable, need to have. I don’t typically … Sometimes, I don’t typically eat on the bike. I used to do peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the bike, and it kind of depends on how my stomach feels going into the race. I’ve gotten to where I’m mostly sticking to INFINIT liquid nutrition with calories, and then GU or Honey Stinger gels.
So I’ll keep two extras in my little bento box, just in case I drop one of these on the back. That’s probably a bit more important for a 140.6 when it’s 112 miles of the bike, for me to make sure I really have backup nutrition just in case I drop it, or something happens.
The last race, even though it was only Olympic, this hydration top had popped off and I almost didn’t have … If it had been a half, I would not have had enough nutrition to last me the race because every time I hit a bump it was splashing everywhere. I had INFINIT up my arms, on me everywhere, this thing was almost empty. Good thing it was only 24 miles for me to ride. If it had been any longer I wouldn’t have had enough nutrition.
They don’t necessarily provide nutrition at the aid stations, it typically might be bananas if anything, it’s mostly water. So when I say nutrition and I’m talking about INFINIT, it’s the amount of calories that I need to take in, and I primarily do liquid because I’m also able to get in my salts and my water at the same time.
So what I did for this event, and I typically always do since I’m using reusable bottles, I went ahead and put my scoop of INFINIT in there, so, that morning of, I just fill it up, don’t have to worry about it. Obviously you’re going to need to have a helmet. I recommend having a helmet with some sort of guard or wear glasses, either one you can do.
I’ve done races where I have not had either, and my eyes stung and hurt really bad in the cold and the wind. So I definitely recommend, it starts to make you bleary eyed and can get into your head if you don’t have that. Your bike shoes, and if you’re using clipless pedals, your cleats.
Now, as far as a bike repair kit, I have it on the back of my bike. I’m not going to unpack it because I already have my tube, my tools that I need to take off the tire, I have … Did I say tube? Yeah, tube. I have CO2, and I always make sure I have extras with me. I typically carry two CO2s and one adapter. I did want to pull these out and show you guys what I’m talking about. This is for, if I have to change my tire, I’m going to have two CO2s and an adapter. I have another type of adapter as well, but these are great.
Two items that I keep in my bag for the morning, when I go into transition, I obviously don’t need these extras to take on the bike because I already have a tube in the bike repair bag on the back of my bike. But I’ll take another tube with me just in case, because you might find that you need to change your tire before that morning, and also a bike key.
Even though I went through last night and I’ve already tightened pedals, I’ve tightened cleats, I’ve tightened my hydration system on the back, you might run into that you need it. It’s good to have it, so I just throw it in my transition bag. Some places let you keep the transition bag in transition, but at least it’s the bag that I’m taking to and from transition.
So for bike, major things that I look at, obviously I want to make sure that it’s all cleaned up, everything is looking good, the cassette’s in good condition. Typically, if I’m going into a 70.3 or a 140.6, I will take it to a bike shop and have them take a look at it. She’s actually looking pretty good, I had her looked at after Kona, she’s gotten a bath even though her tires are a little dirty.
The hydration system’s good to go, I’ve already tested it out. It does not have any hydration in it or any nutrition, I have an extra bottle for that, I’m going to fill it in transition that way because I lay my bike down in my car. Plus, if your bike’s on the back of your car, you’ll have bugs or something getting into it. So I wait to fill up the nutrition till the morning of, in transition.
I do have DI2 gear shifting, so I make sure I have my bike charger. And then I have power meters, it’s a triple A battery, and I just changed it in the last few weeks, so we should be good to go on that one.
That’s pretty much everything for the bike. This is just a bike helmet bag for me to carry it. I could clip it just onto this, but this way I can keep it nice and it doesn’t get all jostled when I put it into the car.
So that is the bike stuff. The bike portion is the portion that has the biggest amount of cost investment and knowledge investment that you need to have, as far as equipment goes. Swimming’s fairly straightforward, running’s going to be straightforward as you guys know. So I really encourage you, if you’re newer in this sport, don’t be scared of the bike. I think that was one of the biggest things for me, is I just didn’t understand bike maintenance.
I walked right into the bike shop and I said, “Please teach me. Charge me by the hour, please just teach me everything I need to know.” I asked questions, and it was much more efficient and interactive than obviously sitting and looking at YouTube for 10 hours. And now I’m able to fix things relatively on my own. So that’s bike, I feel like I’m missing something, but I totally hope I’m not. If I do, I’ll come add it back.
All right, so getting into the run, it’s fairly, fairly, fairly straightforward. The minimum that you need to run are your shoes and your bib. You need to be able to attach your bib in some form or fashion, I typically do it with a race belt that already includes my gels.
You can get a race belt that lets you put stuff into the belt itself, or into a pocket. I have lost gels before by putting them into the little zipper part on the … I’m sorry, the elastic part on the side or in the back of my kit, so I like the zipper portion here, and it also helps to keep the bib from bouncing.
What I’m going to do is I will have my bib ready to go on this, and so when I come into T2, off the bike, hobbling like a baby giraffe. I’m going to throw on my shoes, you can put socks on for the bike or for the run if you want, I prefer to cycle without socks, kind of depending on the distance.
For an 140.6, I’ll probably put socks on, I’ll do some sort of ones like the Feetures that I have on here, or leg up. But for 70.3, I think I’m going to go without socks. Because it’s supposed to rain, and I just don’t like the feeling of it between my toes, so I’m going to opt out of socks.
I’m going to have my race bib with my nutrition already, I’m going to have my bib on the race belt, my shoes, and then glasses if needed. It’s not supposed to be sunny, so I might opt out of those, but I always take a hat or a visor.
I have found that hats are a better option because I can throw ice in it if it’s hot and put it on my head. When you have a visor, you don’t really have anywhere for that ice to go, and the central locations that I want to be able to throw ice to are going to be my head or my core. I’ve got that covered with the sports bra or the tri-kit.
In extremely hot races, I highly recommend always doing a hat, because when I run through an aid station, take the hat off, have them dump ice, put it back on, and I can keep going, helps to keep the sun out of my eyes, and also helps me to focus a bit more, just these blinders to keep me from getting distracted from other things.
That’s swim, bike, and run, fairly straightforward. There are extras you’re going to need to think about. I always bring a towel into transition, and I use it to define the space that I’m going to be laying my stuff out in, kind of keeps people from shoving your other stuff around, it allows you to know where your spot is, you can just orient yourself with it.
But I also like to be able to wipe my feet off with it while I come in from the swim into the bike. So I’ll stand and I’ll wipe my feet on the towel while I’m either getting the rest of my wetsuit off, or putting on my helmet so I can do multiple things at once. But that way I can get the grass off my feet, especially since I’m not putting on socks and I’m gonna be going right into cycling.
Other things that are good to have, we talked about chargers. Obviously I got to have my DI2 charger, she’s already fully charged, but I’m going to take it with me just in case. Other things to have, I like to do TriTats for longer races as opposed to marker, they just look better in pictures. I like them, and it also keeps me from having to show up to transition even earlier and stand in line for body marking. I’ll know my bib number ahead of time, so I utilize TriTats.
For my body and everything else, obviously Body Glide, I always glide underneath the sports bra, inside of the legs, and maybe on the feet if needed as well. You can keep this in transition if you want, and that way you can lube yourself up a bit more if you need to.
Sunscreen, a lot of races do already have sunscreen attendants for you. It’s hit or miss whether or not they’re doing spray or they’re doing lotion type. If they’re doing lotion type it’s going to take even longer, if it’s spray they might miss a spot. So I just do it for myself. You can also keep this in transition if you’re coming back to one central point to load back up on it for yourself as well.
Obviously deodorant doesn’t need to be in transition, I’ll have that for before the race. And then for my hair, I’m a big fan of doing the two French braids or two braids, and so I’ll utilize a hair gel and hair ties, honestly, to help keep them in place. The night before, I get it wet, I spray it with gel, and then I braid it, and then when I get up in the morning I may just throw a little bit more gel on it, and it stays pretty doggone well, even under the swim cap and the helmet and the hat.
So that’s pretty much everything for transition. Oh, another item that you guys might consider bringing with you is your bike tire pump. Don’t rely on other people, although there’s typically either race-provided or other people are going to have bike pumps.
If you’re by yourself and you’re in one of those races where you’re not able to get back to your car and you’re having to manage everything yourself, I wouldn’t worry about bringing the bike pump unless you have one of those little handheld ones that you can throw into a bag. Because it’s going to be one more thing you’re going to have to manage.
As far as bag, I mentioned this earlier, I put everything in here for a one-transition location 70.3, and it has all my other backup stuff, like I showed you I’ve thrown into the bottom. And then I’ll load everything else in here so it’s all in one location, and the only thing outside of the bag is going to be my bike, my wetsuit, and my helmet. And that I can drape over my bike and I can put my helmet on the handlebars and load everything into transition by myself, and I only have one bag to worry about. Then I also have extras.
Safety pins are another thing I recommend, most races have them. Timing chip should always go on your left leg, because it’s the opposite side of where the chain rings are going to be, you don’t want it to get caught. I always safety pin mine just to make sure it doesn’t fall off, as an added security measure. And not a big deal if it falls off, you talk to the race director, read your athlete guide, they have all those tips of what you need to do if it falls off. But safety pins are another item.
Other good things to have are maybe you need some Biofreeze, I have Arnica gel that I use typically after the race. It’s not for during it, so this will go in my regular suitcase with everything else. And that’s about it. I’m trying to think if there’s anything additional.
You’re basically packing for three sports, guys. Three sports plus making sure that you can manage it all. This is as streamlined as I have been in a while, so I’m definitely super excited to get this all packed up. Please feel free, if you guys have any other questions or comments or thoughts, please let me know. I want to be able to update underneath this video and on the blog as much as possible, to help you guys out.
Please don’t feel overwhelmed, feel free to rewind, go to the different sections if you need to take a look at what’s going on. Just know that you need at least the bare minimum for each sport, and lots of training, and your head in a good place. You guys can do it, good luck.