Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What to Wear to Your First Triathlon

A person's first triathlon can be daunting.

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There's the open water swim with people kicking and fighting for space. And the ingestion of lake water. There's the pressure of transition and doing it quickly. Biking seems as easy as, well, riding a bike but doing it with others around might be more challenging. Running on wobbly legs after exercising is tons of fun on its own, or so I've heard.

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But deciding what to wear can be just as overwhelming. There are so many options, and it's easy to think that you need the wet suit, tri suit, clip shoes and fancy glasses for a short event that you aren't even sure you will like. Before you know it, you've spent triple the race fee for a one-time thing.

Here are some budget-conscious options procured from my local triathlete friends and the internet.

Swimsuit/swimsuit combo. A sports suit is a must if you are doing any kind of tri training, and it can easily get repurposed for the event. Swim in your training suit and pull on a pair of shorts - running or tri - in transition one. There's no need to change after that. For the brave, it's possible to do a sprint in just the swimsuit.

Sports bra-short combo. A one-and-done choice, women comfortable with bare mid-driffs can don a sports bra and tri or compression shorts for the swim. Beware of built-in padding, though, as it is sure to absorb water and make for some interesting bounce on the run. For a bit of modesty and sun protection, throw on an athletic top in transition one.

Running shoes. Clipless pedals and shoes allow cyclists to have a more efficient stroke. For a sprint triathlon, though, the time gained might not be worth the cost, which could be up to $100 for the pedals and more than $200 for shoes. Choose a racing flat or lightweight running shoe and wear it on the bike.

Rent or borrow. There are myriad websites that offer wet suit rentals, which can come in handy for early season races or those in cooler areas. It can also be advantageous to make friends with experienced multi-sport races who have gear they are willing to share ... or even part with. I was the lucky recipient of a new with tags tri top, which was given to me by a local photographer and friend.

Online outlets. REI, Sierra Trading Post and Swim Outlet often have gear marked down. Sizing can be hit or miss so you may need to check the sites regularly for what you need.

What did you wear to your first triathlon? What tips do you have to save money?

Note: If I thought I could get Pro Compression's latest sock of the month on after the swim, I would totes rock them at Go Girl. Maybe I'll save them for Fort4Fitness. Use code COOL to save 40%. Free shipping on orders more than $20.


  1. I lucked out and got a tri top on clearance, and found some not-too-terribly-priced tri shorts. Sports bras are a necessity for me, so I had to find a top that would let me wear my "racing harness." I swam in it, too, because it made me FEEL streamlined, and just threw on a race belt (that I made!) in T1.
    My cycling shoes are velcro, as are the running shoes I wore that day, so I don't think I lost time there.
    Best tip: use what you have, skip the wetsuit if you can, and take great pride when you pass someone on a $$$$$ bike with your entry-level Giant. :)

    1. I am going to look for some tri shoes this weekend and pick up some Locklaces.

      I love your tip! Peaches and I are going to cream those fancy bikes.

  2. My first tri I did by some of the triathlon shorts as I figured I could use them for riding my bike in general with a little bit of extra padding. The first one I did was a sprint but it was in a pool so the swim was extra short. I just wore my sports bra with the shorts but then I had a top laying on the bike that I threw on for the rest of the race for modesty's sake. Since then I fell in love with doing triathlons and have bought a tri top. I love it! It is pricey if you don't plan on doing more but I also use that for training bike rides. Even though I did end up buying a road bike instead of using a mountain bike, I have never bought any cycling shoes as I figured it would just take more time in transition and wouldn't be worth the effort of changing shoes again. Triathlons are so fun and rewarding when you finish! Have fun!!

    1. Thank you! I think I might be able to sell Mark on the tri shorts if he knows I can wear them again. Forty-five minutes or so in the saddle will not be fun without a little protection.

  3. The only tip I would encourage people against is putting shorts on over a bathing suit in T1. I've seen people do it and struggle like heck to pull tight shorts on over wet legs. It's horrible. Just skip the bathing suit and swim in biking shorts/tri shorts/whatever shorts and sports bra and throw on a top in T1.

    I personally think buying a tri top is worth it. I wore a regular tight workout tank in my first tri and was SO embarassed when I saw pictures of me on the bike. My boobs were hanging out for the world to see. I love my tri top with the zipper that zips comfortably up past my cleavage on the swim and bike and then I can unzip it for some cool air on the run. Totally worth it! And I wear them to train in on the bike too. You won't catch me on a bike in a regular tank anymore.

    1. Great advice. And the boobage part is noted. I don't have much but what I do have, I'd like to keep to myself.

  4. For my first tri, I bought an inexpensive tri outfit (one piece) online. Otherwise I just wore regular running sneakers for the run. Shoe tying doesn't take too long.

  5. I think that I just wore a tri top and shorts. Nothing fancy. Nothing that even matched! I did have clip in pedals but that is quick to change out of those and into run shoes!! I am fast in transition anyway!! :)