Run: What you need
This is the easiest part of the “6 Disciplines” of triathlon from a gear perspective, but also the most overlooked. Even though everything you need for running is cheap, it’s very important you spend the time to get what’s right.
Shoes – If you’re just starting, one pair is enough, but if you’re really into racing you may need a bunch. The important thing to remember is that shoes wear out at different rates and all fit according to discipline. If you’re new, go to a running store or New Balance store and get your walking/running evaluated. There is usually no fee for this, but it is very necessary to get you into something that will help with your mechanics and comfort. As your speed and mileage build, then your shoes will change. For example, I have a pair of “athletic” shoes for training, short course racing, long course racing, off-road racing/obstacle races, winter training, lifting/gym work, and daily use. Most of them are from different brands too. Just make sure to get evaluated and that the shoe is comfortable.
Socks – This is also dependent on type of training and the season. I use regular running socks with very little padding for most of the year. For me though, they need to be high enough in the front and back so I don’t get friction from the tongue or heel cup of the shoe. During the winter I may use wool socks. Just make sure they fit correctly and breathe. Take those old tube socks and throw them in the “can be used to clean up a mess” bin.
Shorts/Pants – Depending on the year, you may need to wear something a little warmer on your lower half. Depending on speed and duration, you can easily get away with shorts for most of the year. (especially if you’re guy with hairy legs) You don’t need running specific shorts, just something that is light and won’t bunch up in all the wrong places while giving you total mobility. Something that’s too heavy can build up heat and resistance very quickly, even on the coldest of days, which will cause you to sweat and become uncomfortable very quickly. Guys, you may want to take underwear into account when it comes to keeping your goods comfortably in control.
Shirt/Top – So, you think a tight piece of Under Armour will make you a “badass”? It may also cause unwanted friction, chaffing, and compression. Find something that’ll breathe and flow with your movements. Make sure you wear bright colors so people can see you whether it’s night or day. Cotton/Poly blends are usually best for wicking away moisture and not falling apart. You’ll find that a lot of “tech” clothes will pick up the stank fairly quickly, so don’t use them often without a good wash. Every piece of tech clothing will also have its own washing instructions, I’m not anal enough to follow those rules, so I wash as normal. Ladies, there are many tops with bras built in, but you need to try things out to see what works best. If you do enough races, you’ll get enough shirts that throwing one away every once in a while won’t be a big deal. Also, you can layer long sleeve and short sleeve depending on the weather, but don’t put too much on if you heat up quickly and have nowhere to ditch extra clothing on your run. At that point, it might be best to deal with being a little chilly for the first few minutes.
ID – Forget the keys, the watch, and the music because you can have a great run without it, but if you get hurt, none of that can save you. Carry some form of identification with emergency info on you at all times. I use a Road ID bracelet that I wear all day. You can get a shoe tag, a wrist wallet, or just a card with info in your pocket. You just need something that can speak for you when you can’t speak yourself.
Journal – This can be done on paper, in a spreadsheet, or online, but without one, you can’t track anything you do. What’s the point of doing something if it’s making you worse?
Run: What you may want
Hat/Visor/Bandana – It’s always good to keep something on your head to prevent sweat from getting in your eyes. This could be different from what you race with. I race with a visor usually because it’s a great backup if I have a sunglass failure, it doesn’t over heat me, and it keeps the sweat off my face for a time, however, I am bald so if it’s a very sunny race, I may get burned depending on how long I’m out there. I usually train with a bandana all year inside and out because I heat up fairly quick. Either way, get something that breathes. A thermal cap you wear when walking around, might cause more sweat than you can deal with while working out.
Sunglasses – Always remember to protect your eyes. Get a pair that’s nice and light, has some type of polarization, and allows for air flow. It’s annoying to go running during the winter only to have your sunglasses keep fogging up. If you’re a triathlete, try these on with your helmet too. You don’t want to have to switch between two pairs for no reason. Also, you’ll use these for more than just working out if you get a nice pair, so they don’t have to be super loud colors to match your running and cycling kit.
Music – Here’s where things get interesting. The important part about music is that it won’t keep your from being aware of everything around you. Just make sure you have headphones that fit comfortable, the cables don’t stick to sweaty skin, they can pop off easily if caught on something, they’re sweat resistant, they won’t fall out, and the player they’re connected to is light enough to carry. It doesn’t matter if you use an iPod, iPhone, Smartphone, or radio headset, just don’t let it keep you back from being able to focus on training. Be very careful with the music you select. Many people, myself included, all ow music to dictate pace, cadence, and effort. Use a music analyzer to help you create playlists for individual activity depending on effort needed. This is also a great chance to listen to an audio book or podcast if you’re on a treadmill, elliptical, bike machine, or at the track. Try to avoid these types of things if you’re out on public roads. Sometimes music is something you don’t want. If you have a very specific high intensity workout, stay focused, or maybe a walk through the woods. The sounds of nature have been shown to reduce stress and fatigue very well.
Watch – A watch can be a very handy training tool, but also a detractor. If you’re headed out for an easy run, leave it at home and just go, but if you’re on the track, this can be the difference between being fast and being on the podium. Learn how to use your watch properly and get something that’s not too complicated. For me, I like having something that I can swim in and see easily in any condition without being too bulky or heavy.
Heart Monitor – Like a watch, the heart monitor can be an invaluable training tool. I always use mine on training runs. I can see what my actual power output is and keep that recorded to see how I’m improving. Again, leave this at home if you want a fun run.
GPS – Many watches and smartphones have this ability built in. I use it to track my miles during training and to keep myself from running too fast at the beginning of races.
Tights – Sometimes the weather can be at that in between temperature where’s it’s not too cold to stay inside, but shorts just won’t cut it on the long run. Make sure you look for something highly breathable, not too tight, not too loose and the right length not to bunch up in spots. I like to find things with some wind resistant panels in the front and grippers at the ankles.
Anti-Chafe – Once you start building up your speed and intensity, this may save your feet from a very uncomfortable training season. These can be creams, roll-ons, sprays, rubs, etc. Find something that you like and isn’t too mesh. I use a spray called tri slide. I spray it on my feet for runs and bikes, into my shoes for races, and on my body where friction can build like under the arms, crotch, neck, and legs for getting my wetsuit off.
Pumice Stone – Keep it in the shower and use it every day you do any intense or long distance training. Hard skin is what develops the most friction which in turn causes blisters. If you lift or crossfit, use it on your palms.
Training Plan – If you’re serious about competing or reaching goals quickly, then find one. There are hundreds of books, apps, and online systems than can tailor a training plan for you depending on your goal. These can be very cost effective too, but they only work if you follow their instructions to the letter and don’t deviate. If you know what you’re doing, then you may be able to play around with the configuration, but for the most part these pre-made plans are inflexible.
RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, elevation. Yeah, it works. Keep some dixie cups of water or ziplock bags of ice in your freezer to pull out when necessary. I have a nifty ice pack bag with elastic wrap that velcros together.
Run: What you probably don’t need but might
Headlight – If you do a bunch of 24 hour races, especially off road ones, this is a must. Find something that’ll fit your head, over a hat/cap, and will work with a bike helmet. Make sure battery life is long enough for your event.
Facemask – These are great for robberies and going fast in cold weather, but these can impede breathing, buildup ice and moisture, and fog up your sunglasses. If you’re gonna be doing something where you’re breathing heavy, jus leave this one at home.
Arm Warmers – Armwarmers are great for early spring and late fall long distance races in the morning, because they’ll help with keeping you warm without adding layers that you can peel off easily on the go or roll down when not needed anymore. Some also have a little pocket for things like money, keys, ipods, etc. Studies show that some arm covers also help cool the body during long distance endurance events.
Reflectors/Lights – Wear these if you run at dusk or night. Don’t worry about them during the day, unless you run in very congested areas, and then it may not hurt.
Running Belt – I see so many people with these for no reason what so ever. It’s like the guy on a group ride with 2 bento boxes on his bike stuffed with gels, food, and whatever else he thought would help him survive. That’s they key, only take with you what you need to get through it. A heavy belt with two loaded water bottles, a gel flask, and a snack pocket will not be useful for a 3-10 mile run. If you need a gel, carry it in a pocket or your sock. If you’re worried about water, carry a handheld bottle or plan your running route near a fountain.
Hydration Pack – Just like the running belt, this is probably a no. For 24 races or 50K/100K, then you might find some value. For everyday runs, you might not only take too much water with you which is just added weight, but you might also drink too much water which can cause cramps, vomiting, hyponatremia (basically too much water and not enough sodium), and death.
Compression Gear – Most compression gear is for recovery or maybe active recovery. I will wear compression socks or sleeves on high intensity interval runs not exceeding one hour. I will also use them in non-wetsuit tris because they add a little leg buoyancy and are shown to reduce drag on the bike. I will wear compression tights/shorts on non-training recovery bike rides after a hard training day. Compression gear is not supposed to be used for long training efforts. It can actually hurt you.
Foot Pod/Cadence Monitor – You really don’t need one of these. It’s good to have to track distance covered on a treadmill, but you can count in your head for a minute to make sure you’re keeping your cadence high. Studies keep telling us a cadence of 180 is great on a run, but that can be different for everybody.
Elastic Laces – Only needed for triathlons/Duathlons. Even then, don’t make them too tight or else you’re screwed. They also need constant adjusting.
Gloves – Most people can get away with a t-shirt, shorts, cap, and gloves on a cold day, but again, weight and breathability are the key. We all know that feeling of when our hands get uncomfortably sweaty. These are usually only needed for longer runs.
Kinesio Tape – If you suffer from a painful ailment or are recovering from injury through active recovery, then kinesio tape can work wonders. It will NOT fix your running for you. Make sure you either have a trainer, therapist, doctor, or chiropractor, tape you up until you know what you’re doing. The tape is designed to isolate movement to prevent damage or strain. If you don’t have any damage or strain, leave it be, but if you do, seek the guidance of a professional first because you can really mess things up with your biomechanics and INCREASE the likelihood of injury.
Sports Doctor/Coach – This is the most expensive thing you can do, but also the best bang for your buck. No matter what else you buy, wheels, bikes, blenders, supplements, etc., they won’t even come close to what a coach can do for you. Coaches can evaluate body motion and position, create training plans, help with nutrition, etc. I have one, and my coach has made me a better athlete faster than I could have ever done myself.
Apps – Some apps are done well, while others are not. Read reviews and get some that will help with your specific training. The simpler, the better.
Balance bracelet – Yeah, just leave this one alone.
Supplements – This is a Pandora’s Box that I’ll leave alone. there are plenty of websites, podcasts, etc. that you can keep yourself informed with. One thought, find what works for you and carefully read up. Most supplements should be used to help recovery and fill gaps of what your body doesn’t get that it needs from your diet.
Gels/Sports Drinks/Mixes – This is almost as bad as the supplements realm. More than likely, water and the proper fueling BEFORE training or an event will be enough. Only after an hour should you need some energy source, and not a lot or you risk making yourself ill. DO NOT try something new in a race unless the race doesn’t mean anything to you and you treat it as training. If something will be provided at a race, find out what it is and try it out training well in advance. If it doesn’t work, skip it and maybe bring your own fuel source. My recommendation, go to REI and get a whole bunch of single servings of stuff. They usually have a buy 12 and get 10% off deal. Try the beans, gels, chomps, powders, wafers, and whatever else until you find something you like. Check out the ingredients because some have caffeine, amino acids, and different calorie counts. For Sprint distance triathlons, I’ll take a gel with caffeine about 30-45mins before start, and another halfway through the bike so that I’m all good to go on the run. Typically, most people only need water on a training run if they ate a good breakfast.
Number Belt – Only needed for quick transition to get your number on you. Some have a pocket for a gel or two if you need it. Depending on the event, it’s up to you.
Number Stickers – The sharpie they use is fine with me. (My calf sleeves cover up my age usually, so people can’t tell who they’ve been passed by during a race. Makes things interesting.)
Pacing Stick-On Tattoos – No. Get a watch, look for distance markers, and do some simple math. It’s really not that hard.
An Audience – This makes a huge difference. If you don’t like people watching you, tough luck. The bigger the race, the more eyes on you.
Training Partner – Be very careful with this. You want to pick somebody that will push you, but not hold you back either. Friends can sometimes become enemies this way, look for somebody in your local area that is of the same ability level and ask them if you can join them on a run sometime. You might make a new friend, learn some new techniques, and even find a new route. A sparring partner isn’t supposed to take your head off in the ring, but they’ll keep you sharp.
Running Group – Here’s another area of caution. Groups tend to serve themselves. Many times you may find yourself running alone or with one other person. If you’re new to running, this is a great way to stay motivated and find friends in the endurance community, but if you have your training planned out, use a group run as a recovery exercise and time to socialize. Don’t push the pace or somebody’s buttons if you don’t have to. Some running, biking, and master swim groups are very particular of who joins them and can be very clicky. Don’t make waves.
Teams/Sponsors – So, in the about me section, you learned that I’m a member of Team Wheaties. There are hundreds and thousands of different endurance teams around the world. Some are professional sponsorships, some are communities, and some are ambassadorships. These are all great training and networking tools. Most, if not all, have websites to read up on what each teams’ mission is. Some teams have 5 members, and some have 5,000. Each team has a different make up, so do some research and start applying. There’s usually very little downside.
Pepper Spray/Mace/Whistle – Depending on where and what time you run, this could be very necessary.