Friday, November 15, 2013

What's in your race bag?

Most of us have enough stress on race day without having to worry about dealing with unforseen inconveniences. While we all know we need to pack shoes for a running race plus bike & swim gear for a tri, the contents of your race bag can really help to make your whole race day experience more pleasurable with the inclusion of a few items that may have hitherto escaped your notice.

1) A towel for post-race. If it rains, or even if you're just a heavy sweater, it's nice to be able to dry off. You can also use it as a privacy shield if you choose not to participate in the seldom-discussed 5th discipline of triathlon known as "inappropriate parking lot nudity".

2) Space blanket for post-race. Not all races provide them, but there is always the potential for getting chilled after a hard effort. Can also be used as privacy shield as in #1.

3) Wet wipes for post-race, or even a bar of soap/bottle of bodywash. Some race venues offer showers, and if you've got the gear (including the towel from #1) you can have a much less fragrant ride home!

4) Warm, dry clothing  for post-race. I am always cold. I will happily crawl into a giant hoodie and pants in 25c/77f weather after a race.

I'd be cold on the surface of the sun after a half iron tri.

5) A rag for wiping your hands. Between chamois cream, chain grease, sunblock and pre/post-race food, I almost always end up a mess at some point. It's nice to be able to clean up.

6) Plastic shopping or garbage bags for sweaty, smelly gear post-race. Nobody really wants that mus, sweat, grease and general gank lingering in their favourite race bag, so keep it safely contained. Tanker and I call this the "Haz-Mat Bag".

7) Safety pins. Sometimes they've run out, sometimes the pins they're giving out suck, and sometimes you just need an extra. Didn't use the ones from your last race? Great - dump them in your race bag.

8) Pre/post race snack. I have a metric buttload of food allergies, and can't rely on being able to eat whatever is provided by the race directors. Rather than go hungry (and get angry), I make sure I have my own stash of happy snacks.

9) Nail clippers. I always seem to break or tear up a nail on the way to races, or realise I've forgotten to clip them. Rather than risk snagging expensive race kit, tearing up my wetsuit or just ratching my feet from an overlong toenail, I keep multiple sets of clippers stashed around.

10) A stool, for putting on shoes or a wetsuit. It's way easier when you can sit down! I have a little 3-legged folding camp stool that fits in my transition bag, and Tanker always appreciates having a place to sit while he waits for me to finish.

Just make sure you clear it out of transition before the race.
Officials will remove it if you don't.
They may try to remove it even if you plan to do so.

11) A big, fat permanent marker. I often either can't be stuffed to wait in line for bodymarking, or have forgotten to put sunblock on first, which melts the numbers right off my skin. If I have my own marker, I can touch up or apply at my own convenience.

12) Extra goggles. If you keep one smoked and one clear-lensed pair on hand at all times, you'll have a spare in case something happens to one, or can choose the best lenses for sighting in that day's weather conditions.

13) Recovery apparel. If you're changing out of wet and smelly things, you might as well put on some stuff that will speed your recovery - I have compression quad sleeves, compression full socks, and recovery footwear. As comfortable as my running shoes are, I seldom want to remain in the same kicks I wore for racing once I'm off the course - my feet are always delighted to slip into something that cradles them just right and lets them breathe.

The full dork - quad sleeves, compression socks and recovery shoes.
Wearing full pants post-race can reduce the impact on your dignity, if you still have any.

14) Contingency stuff. I keep a big ziploc bag packed with a tube of aloe, a pot of petroleum jelly, a little bottle of minty foot balm, a sterile gauze bandage, medical tape and a sling. You just never know.

15) A plastic shopping bag or cooking oil spray. Some people like to use these things as aids to putting on a wetsuit, though as a caveat the latter is contra-indicated by pretty much every wetsuit manufacturer out there. There are more suggestions here if you want to try something like that.

16) Anti-chafe and chamois creme. For the love of gawd, don't be conservative about this stuff. I'd rather look like I was attacked by some manner of huge, creamy monster than deal with chafing during a long race. Embarrassment only lasts a few hours at most - the pain from skin that's been rubbed raw can go on for days.

17) Extra warm things. You can never be sure exactly what race morning will hold, and racing cold can be miserable or downright dangerous. While I don't suggest trying to pull full garments on in transition (it's an exercise in futility when you're wet - noone wants to be stuck halfway through a long-sleeve jersey), a pair of rolled-up arm warmers and/or knee warmers can be put on fairly quickly, as can a wind vest. You can leave toe covers on most cycling shoes and still be able to get them on or off. These small things can make a bigger difference than you might think in trapping body heat and keeping your blood circulating to the working muscles while racing, as can a pair of little dollar-store stretch gloves in a running race. See this post for some other cheap & efficient ideas for cold weather triathlons.

18) Sense of humour - mandatory for a great race experience!


Got any other suggestions for race bag essentials? Let us in on your ancient Chinese secrets in the comments!

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