Planning your first Ironman triathlon? There are a few extra bits you might want to add to your tri gear collection.
However much us triathletes love our unitards, your beloved all-in-one tri suit might have to stay in the drawer for your long-distance race. Think about it: you’ll be racing for anything from nine to 16 hours, eating and drinking all the way through – you’re going to need a toilet break, and no one wants to be wrestling out of a tri suit in a portable toilet or, worse, stripping off in some bushes when you’re caught short. Separates designed especially for long distance will also be more practical and comfortable, like these Orca 226 shorts (£64.99) and top (£59.99), with extra pockets and a plusher pad on the shorts for long-bike-ride comfort.
In training, fancy GPS speed-and-distance monitors that measure your heart rate are brilliant, helping you plan routes and analyse training. On the day itself though, you need minimal distractions. If you’re experienced, know your power meter inside out and you’re racing on the line, then by all means take a bells and whistles computer with you. But for first-timers we’d say go for a simple, small stopwatch that can record laps and give you interval beeps to help pace your run effort. They’re less likely to go wrong mid-race, lose signal and leave you stressed at having to ‘find your way’ all of a sudden. And they won’t provide any terrifying heart-rate data courtesy of extra adrenaline, caffeine and heat on race day. They’ll just tell you how you’re going and fit under your wetsuit neatly. The classic Timex Ironman Sleek 50 Lap watch (£54.99) is a great example.
You don’t want to spend time stuffing your pockets in T1 at a long race. Pre-pack your bike with a few essentials and emergency spares so you’re ready for anything that 180km throws at you. You’ve probably got a saddle bag already from your long training rides – something like this Topeak Aero Wedge Pack (£10.99) fits neatly under your saddle and will carry one spare inner tube and a multitool easily. For long races like Ironman, double up with a ‘bento box’ for your top tube, like this Topeak Tri Bag (£9.99). Stuff an extra spare inner tube in there and then fill with your personalised snacks for the bike – anything you won’t find on the aid stations, like jam sandwiches, cold pizza, or whatever you know will work for you.
From the second you leave T1 you’ll need eye protection – that could be up to 14 hours of wear. Make sure your sunnies are up to the job: you could go for multi-condition lenses if you know you’ll be out for a while (like Rudy Project’s ImpactX photochromic lenses, above in Rydon frames, which start clear and darken as the light gets brighter; £149.99) and make sure you go for good-quality lenses with super-sharp vision, so your eyes don’t get fatigued from wearing them.
You’re probably planning to neck your share of energy gels during your Ironman or long-distance race, but think about replacing one or two of them with gels that contain caffeine, like Accel Gel, SiS Smart Gel or Gu caffeinated gels. Caffeine has proven performance benefits, reducing your perception of effort when you’re racing – and that will come in really handy when every step feels like climbing a mountain in the second half of your Ironman marathon. It’ll be even more effective if you cut down on caffeine for a few weeks before the race.
This article was first published in Triathlon Plus magazine – click here to subscribe.