There is nothing worse than getting half way through the bike leg of a triathlon to find your front changer coming loose and jamming your chain so that you can't pedal anymore. Or putting on your goggles on the start line to find the nose bridge break. Planning and checking all your equipment could be the difference between reaching your goal and dreaming about what might have been.Put together an essential equipment list.
For an Olympic distance triathlon you could pack the following:
Running Training Shoes
Track Suit, Gloves, Beanie
Swim Cords (for cold days)
Drink (Sports Drink)
Pre race food if required
Swim suit and Race Top or race clothing you will wear under your wetsuit
Race number belt with race number
Hair Brush, Blow dryer and Generator
Your Bike with Race Wheels
Drink Bottle with Sports Drink
Food for the ride
Drink Bottle for a quick drink
Other things you might like to take are 'post race' food and drink - how often do you wish there was something other than sausages and sports drink? Don't forget to pack sun screen if you are likely to be exposed to moderate UV, the last thing you want after a hard race is sunburn on top of the muscular aches and pains you may have! The ever handy plastic shopping bags are extremely useful for wet clothes and also for getting your wetsuit on so if you want to keep your gear dry, pack 3 or 4 of these. And lastly, don't forget to take a change of clothing for after the race as there's nothing worse than having to walk around and travel home in your smelly race gear.
Think about all the "what if's"
Now list the gear that you may need in extreme circumstances - in this I would list things like spare wheels and backup equipment. What if the coldest day every recorded hits town? What if it's really windy? What if it rains? What if the local road crew digs up a 2km stretch of the road? What if it hails? What if there is a frost? What if the swim is cancelled and replaced by a run? What if the start is delayed by 60 min? You get the idea.
Heres a list to get you started for the "what if's":
For the cold "what if's"
A cuddly teddy bear
Alternative racing clothes
For the hot "what if's"
Extra drink bottle (for a hot day) Additional sweat proof and water resistant sunscreen
Alternative racing clothes
For the Mechanical "what if's"
Allen key Set - have a full set (4,5 &6mm are essential)
Multi Tool - get a mountain bike 14 piece tool
Chain Oil (what if it rains on the day before?)
For the Spare Parts "what if's"
Spare inner tube
Spare folding tire
Spare Spokes (if going overseas)
Spare Bottle Cage
Quality frame mount pump and pressure measure or Foot Pump with Gauge.
It is essential to at least have some basic repair tools when going to a race - also a very good idea to have some idea how to use them for certain repairs!! Even if you don't know how to use one of the tools having them you are more likely to be able to find someone who does and can fix it for you, using your tools.
Check your equipment
Have a system that you can use at all races. I recommend that you start with the equipment that you will use first in the race and work through to the equipment that you will use last.
Check your goggles, check that the strap and nose bridge are not going to break on the start line or during the swim, check that the seals have not perished. If the lens is scratched consider a new pair for racing and keep the old pair for the pool.
Check your wetsuit for potential tears, check the seams are not frayed and likely to split, if so get it fixed in enough time. Also look for holes and cuts, these can be glued and stitched to prevent water entering the suit and to make the suit streamlined.
Check Your Bike. There is a lot to check here so if you don't know what to do, get down to your local bike store (and try to learn). Nothing is worse than athletes arriving at the pre race inspection needing a new frame or another wheel for safety. A bike store can teach you how to check a bike for safety. Inspect the frame for dents and cracks at the joins - a key place is the head tube welds and the welds at the bottom bracket. Check your tires for cuts that go through the rubber and have sliced the underlying canvas - replace tires like this. Check the side walls of the tire, any cuts through the canvas indicate that the tire needs replacing. Check that the wheels are true by spinning them. Check that each spoke is tight, check the rim spoke junction - if the junction is cracked replace the wheel. Check the hub runs smoothly by spinning the wheel in your hands; check that the cluster can spin freely on the rear wheel and that it does not have any excessive sideways play. Check tubular tires are glued on firmly. Check the chain for tight links and check that the cranks and bottom bracket are tight and can spin freely, check the pedals are attached and spin smoothly, check the cleats on the shoes are fixed firmly, have all screws and are not worn excessively. Check all bolts but especially those on the handlebar stem and seat post if these break they can cause major injuries. The financial cost is minimal for these so if in any doubt have them replaced, I would recommend replacing stem bolts every 2 years. Check gear and brake cables can move freely through the housing and are not frayed especially at the ends.
Remember if you are traveling by air to a race, get your bike assembled as soon as you can on arrival. Check that nothing has been crushed or broken during the travel, it happens all the time and the only defense is good packing. I recommend that athletes use a fork packing spacer that bike stores can supply or an old hub to protect the fork and rear stays.
Check your helmet, the plastic shell needs to be firmly affixed to the foam and the strap should not be frayed and needs to fit firmly. Check that there are no cracks or dents as these will likely not pass in a pre race check.
Check your running shoes. Look to see that they are not worn out of alignment or that the midsole is crushed. Also check that the elastic laces or the laces and toggles are working well. Check that they are washed clean and dry.
Remember no one is immune to a mechanical but if you follow this advice you limit the number of events that you won't finish!