Anyway, since I had to miss Memphis this weekend, I went out to the Cedars of Lebanon Triathlon to cheer on some friends. Cedars, as it's more commonly called, is a fun, sprint race that is very popular with beginners - 200m pool swim, 10 mile bike, 2 mile run. This was actually my first tri back in 2010, though it was a bit longer (300m swim, 17 mile bike, 3 mile run) when I did it.
One of the things I noticed during the race is that many female racers were wearing some pretty random things, especially during the swim. It could be that they didn't have the time or inclination to purchase "official" triathlon gear. And that's cool. Why spend the money if you don't know if you're going to race again? But it is also likely that they had no idea what to wear, because the main question I'm asked by new triathletes is "What do I wear?" Believe me, I
What to Wear - Triathlon Edition.
Before I get into specifics, let me answer the #1 question I get regarding triathlon clothing - YES, you wear the same thing for the entire race. You swim, bike and run in the same outfit. The exception to this is the Ironman distance, where some people do change. But you also have 17 hours to complete the race. For anything less than an Ironman, you don't need to change.
Secondly - YES - triathlon clothing is tight. Skin tight actually, especially when wet. Deal with it. You don't want a billowy shirt flowing like a parachute while you're on the bike and you REALLY don't want that when you're swimming. It's annoying and will slow you down.
The standard attire for a triathlon is a tri-top. Similar to a running tank top, but generally more form-fitting and pockets in the back for Honey Stinger Gels (yum), or whatever your choice of nutrition would be. These tops are made of wicking material (all tri attire is) so they dry quickly once you're out of the water, and also keep you cool in warmer weather. Some have a front zipper for extra ventilation. What you DO NOT want to do is to wear a cycling jersey or running shirt during the swim. Please, please, please don't do this (yes, I've seen it).
De Soto tri top
Just like the tri top, there are specific shorts for tris. You do NOT wear regular cycling shorts unless you want the padding to swell up from the water in the swim and you do the remainder of the race basically wearing a wet diaper. Tri shorts are similar to cycling shorts, but don't have the bulky padding. Due to this, they will take some getting used to, especially if you have a hard saddle. Don't break them out the day of your race unless you want to be walking funny the next day.
2XU tri short
Wear one. Some of you might think that the built-in bra some tri tops have is sufficient support for a race. For the majority of women, it's not. While there are tri-specific sports bras, you don't necessarily have to use one. A regular sports bra will do unless you don't plan on wearing a tri top (some women choose to just bike and run in their bras). Make sure the bra fits comfortably and doesn't cause chafing anywhere. And please, make sure it supplies the support you need. You'll be a lot more comfortable throughout the race.
2XU sports bra
Again, yes, you're going to need one. For a sprint tri, you can get away without a cap (I didn't have one for my first tri), but for anything longer you're going to want one. Hair in your face while you're swimming isn't fun. I don't care how tight your hair tie is, one strand of hair is going to escape and get in your eye every time you breathe. Also, many (most) open water races require caps so you can been seen in the water. Will you feel silly the first time you wear one? Yes. Will your head hurt? Yes. But you get used to it after a bit. Plus, these aren't your grandma's swim caps with giant flowers attached to the side (though those are still available). They also don't have to be basic, boring black (like mine is). Want to swim like a fish or be fast like a cheetah? Wear it on your cap! Whatever makes you feel fast.
So I think technically this is a kid's cap, but I saw a woman wear it last weekend. Will other racers giggle at you?
Most definitely. Possibly. But nothing will put a triathlete's ego back in check faster than being schooled in the swim by woman wearing a fish cap. (Schooled - fish... see what I did there? Yes, I basically write things to amuse myself.)
Seriously. How awesome is this? I need to get one of these.
I can hear it now. "I won't need goggles because I don't want to get my face wet!" Umm - you're doing a tri. You're going to have to get your face wet. I have a few sets of Speedo goggles that I use in the pool for training, and then a set of Zoggs for anything open water. I switch in open water due to the glare of the sun on the water, as the Zoggs are tinted and polarized. They're so good that I'm half-tempted to wear them as regular sunglasses. Are they more expensive than my pool goggles? Yes, but totally worth it to not be blinded by the sun when you're racing. If you're going to be doing open water races, I'd recommend you getting a pair.
Zoggs - best goggles ever.
What I've listed here is pretty much standard for a tri, but you'll see different things depending on the length of the race. I've worn the above for races ranging from a super-sprint to a half-ironman with no issues. There are a ton of good triathlon brands out there: Zoot, 2XU, De Soto, Sugoi - I could go on. Go to your local store (many running and cycling stores carry triathlon gear now if you don't have an official triathlon shop nearby) and try on several brands and styles of everything and see what works for you. You DEFINITELY need to wear whatever you plan on racing in several times during training prior to your race. This way you'll know what to expect on race day. You don't want to be half-way through your race and realize that your bra strap is cutting into your shoulder.
If any seasoned triathletes have any recommendations / suggestions for beginners regarding tri kits, please comment! I'm always looking for new gear, too!