With all the essential Ironman gear sorted its time to think about the more useful items. Things that really pull their weight. My criteria for this is items I’ve bought that I would replace straight away should they fail. Things I may have ummed and ahhed about prior to purchase but afterwards fell I couldn’t do without. But also Items that should they fail or break or I forgot them on race day the show would go on.
These Items are completely optional but also HIGHLY recommended.
Race belt: Such a simple idea. The problem with Triathlon is the Race number that is normally just pinned on to your clothing has a few issues in multi sport. First is the fact number must be displayed to your rear on the bike but your front on the run. The free solution is to just pin an muber on to both your back AND your front, simple. However its quite a faff, and not something I would relish on race day. Its also compounded by the swim. I would certainly not attempt to pin on after the swim as that is precious time wasted in transition. Pinning before means they must survive the swim! And what about change of clothes? Its all just a big pain and there is a simple solution. The race belt.
With one of these You simply affix the number to the belt. Store it in your transition bag. after the swim you just pop it on, which takes 5 seconds, on top of whatever clothes you wear. If you need to take a layer off or add a layer its not a problem. After the Bike you simply move the number round to the front. Its such a perfect elegantly simple solution Its hard to ignore.
Top Tip: You are normally provided two race numbers, use both of these race numbers back to back on your belt so if they flap up the number is still visible, albeit upside down.
This can be a delicate and painful subject. And ignoring it can be painful, because of the delicacy of the items in question! Spending a long period of time sat on a bicycle or running can lead to dreaded chafing! As material rubs repeatedly against skin it causes abrasion, after along period this leads to pain and discomfort, and even severe blistering. This is both unpleasant and distracting. It can lead to poor performance and ever in severe cases infection to the Chaffed areas. It really is something to be avoided. Especially when you consider the area in question is normally your undercarriage.
I’m going to opt out of adding images here. But Google images will furnish you with plenty should you desire.
The solution is Chamois cream.
There are many brands available and all are probably perfectly good. But I have always found a cheaper option to be the most effective. Sudocrem this widely available (any pharmacist, most supermarkets) cream is just great at providing protection against Chafing and saddle sores. The cream is very thick and water proof and easily provides protection for the whole race. Honestly I have to spend quite a while in the shower after a race removing it! Being cheap you are more inclined to use a lot. Rather than skimping on your expensive specialist cream. Its also antiseptic so helps in the case of you do accidentally get some chafing. I just liberally apply it anywhere I may get rubbing. Armpits, inner arms and most importantly down your shorts, covering your whole groin area.
The other Lubricant you may want to consider is bodyglide. The only problem with Sudocrem is its Oil based. And most wetsuit manufacturers tell you to avoid oil based lubricants due to possibility of them “eating” the Neoprene. So I use Body glide to lubricate all wetsuit join areas. Arms, legs and Neck line. This is great for wetsuit removal. Neck lines are a particular problem area, especially in salt water. I have seen some very bad chafing from people who have neglected to lube their neck line.
I personally often just use Sudocrem and have never had a inverse reaction with the neoprene and the oil, but is goes against manufacturers guidelines and could invalidate the warranty. So I would only do that outside of a warranty and at your own (wet suits) risk.
Readers in pleasant sunny climes may wish to look away now, Get out side and enjoy the beautiful weather on you bicycle. For the rest of us living in the gloomy, wet, darkness of a northern climate winter want to seriously consider indoor riding on a turbo trainer.
These are essential a bike stand with a roller attached that applies resistance to the rear wheel. This allows the cyclist to ride the bike indoors as the rear wheel just spins against the roller. This opens up a huge window of training time unavailable to riders who only train outside. Especially during the winter.
It may be possible to train outdoor most of the time, however its often more dangerous and unpleasant. Riding late at night or early morning on a typical UK winters day is really no fun at all. If its not fun its not sustainable. Some days you will wake up and look out side and the last thing you will wan to do is head out on a bicycle. Another factor is the clothing/equipment required to allow this misery is normally more costly than simply buying a turbo trainer.
Turbo Trainer riding is also VERY time efficient. Getting all kitted out and ready to ride takes time. So does soaking in a hot bath for two hours afterwards trying to get warm again. An hours turbo training can take as little as 1:10 including shower, couch to couch.
Unfortunately its not all good news. Training on a turbo is undeniably boring. There are ways to alleviate this boredom but non are 100% I don’t think I know anyone who actively enjoys turbo training. Its just a small sacrifice to make for the immense benefits.
All things considered purchasing a turbo trainer is a very wise investment. Most people almost give up cycling for the winter, focus moves to running and swimming, with them picking up the biking come spring. This approach is perfectly ok, but the cyclist who spend the winter doing 2-3 turbo sessions a week will have a huge advantage come spring.
Technology is everywhere these days, it pervades every aspect of our life so it seems. And the way it enters Triathlon life is through the now obligatory GPS Watch. Specialist running watches and Bike GPS units are available but the GPS Manufactures thankfully recognize triathlon as a sport deserving of its own specialist watches. Enter the Multi sport GPS Watch. In truth these were the market leaders as Triathletes as is often the case were the early adopters of the technology.
A GPS Multi-sport watch is a watch you can wear for all 3 events that tracks your position using Global Positioning Satellites to provide data on your speed, distance and pace. They are able to track a dizzying amounts of different metrics to provide a wealth of data and feedback, both in real time and post event analysis. Very few people have the time, knowledge or inclination to fully utilise these watches but even in their most basic use they are invaluable. letting the user know the basic, how far I’ve gone, how long that took, how fast I’m going now and there for how much is left. Along with recording benchmarks for certain activities to track and chart progress.
They cannot be considered essential. plenty of people don’t use them and people were completing, and winning Ironman race long before they were available. But I find the data so useful I wouldn’t be without on. Indeed my Garmin watch suffered a melt down, two thirds of the way into my Lanzarote bike leg, which caused me a mini mental break down. I still finished, but it still irks me I don’t have the GPS data for posterity*
the world of GPS watches is a large and complex one, worthy of a page all to themselves. Indeed I intend to write one, or several in the near future. For now its worth knowing these are incredibly worth while tools.
* Its worth noting it was my own error that caused the issue and not the actual device failing
SPD/Clip-less Shoes and Pedals:
I briefly mentioned pedals and said you are free to use any pedals you like. and this is completely true in terms of essential kit to get around. SPD or Clip-less shoes Pedals provide such a great advantage they are well worth looking into.
SPD, SPD-SL and Clip-less systems are one and the same. SPD is essentially Shimano’s brand name for their Clip-less Pedal systems and the name has become synonymous with the system Like Hoover has for vacuum cleaner (And Ironman has for Iron-distance!). The name is confusing as they are shoes with a Cleat that you attach to the pedal so you are essentially clipped in. So why are they called clip-less? because the older fashioned pedals had what was called a clip. These are the pedals with cages and straps to hold your foot to the pedal. Clip-less systems achieve much the same as Clipped pedals but in a far more efficient and less complex way but they do require you to buy specialist shoes.
If you choose Clipped pedals or just plain pedals with now attachment features that’s fine. But you are denying yourself a large improvement in efficiency. Clip-less systems and clips offer a large improvement in pedal efficiency over normal pedals. Most of the power of a pedal stroke comes from the downward pressure. this force is pretty much equal through all 3 systems. however I said MOST of the power. Some power is derived from the other portions of the pedal stroke across the bottom on the up stroke, and across the top. With standard pedals this is almost completely lost. So you are throwing away free power.
With clips you are able to gather some of this power but the design is just not as efficient as a Clip-less system. The difference may be minor. But the average pedal stroke is 90 revolutions per minute. and a ironman bike leg can be 8 hours. that’s over 43,000 pedal strokes. Small inefficiencies really add up!
Apart from the cost the only downside is the learning curve. Every person I know, including myself, has at some point come a cropper while learning to use Clip-less pedals. Normal a Slow motion embarrassing fall sideways when you came to a halt unexpectedly and forgot to unclip. You will only do it once or twice and you can rest easy knowing pretty much every cyclist has fallen foul of this learning curve.
So there we go for my list of Very Useful Ironman Gear. Using the above in addition to the essential kit will mean your day will go better and your training will be more productive. Moving on to the next section can really help improve your performance. This is all gear designed simply to make you faster. Performance – Ironman Gear.
You will get round fine without but if fast time bragging rights are what you are after look here. Also if you are worried about cut-offs it may be the difference between you beating them or getting pulled from the race!
Think I have missed anything? Let me know in the comments below. Or if you think any of the above are essential or just performance. Or if you have any further questions just post a comment and I’ll get back to you.