My very first triathlon race was a day to remember.
Apart from the sheer excitement on race day I also remember not having a clue what to do, where to go or even what to wear.
You learn a lot the first race you compete in and usually, it’s the difference between how fit you think you are and how fit you actually are. 🙂
I had a million questions I didn’t know the answer to and one of them was what to wear under your triathlon wetsuit. Now, this might seem like a simple question to answer but remember this was my first race and I went alone so didn’t have anybody to ask in advance.
Turned out I was ok as I had invested in a dedicated tri suit so was covered. The one thing that I didn’t know and maybe that was me being a bit stupid but because it was my first race I had never trained in the full setup. As in, wearing my tri suit under my wetsuit and going for a swim training session.
At the time I was under the illusion that my wetsuit would keep everything dry. Well, it didn’t and I got soaked to the skin. My very basic tri suit cost little or nothing so didn’t really dry out during the bike ride. I upgraded my basic tri suit to something a little better quality before the second race.
The reason for this? I wanted something that was quick dry. Wear a soaking wet tri suit on a 40k bike ride in the wind and you will know why this is so important.
What should you wear under your wetsuit?
On race day it will either be a dedicated tri suit or tri specific shorts and a tri top. Remember to invest in something that is quick dry or you will end up numb in places that shouldn’t be numb.
If you decide to go with dedicated triathlon shorts then check out these reviews here.
When you are training you should also wear your full kit. You want to feel exactly the same on race day as you do when you are training so make sure everything is the same with your setup.
I train with a group of guys now and we all follow the same pattern. In fact, you would nearly think we are heading to a race when we are training. But that is part of the fun. Getting used to everything is much easier during a training session as you have enough to be worried about on race day.
One of the big advantages of this approach is you get to try everything out before the pressure of the race. For example: At one point early in my triathlon racing career I tried to use tri shorts and a separate tri top. Everything looked and felt great until I tried going for a long training swim with it all under my wetsuit.
After the first 500 meters or so I ended up nearly ending my career as a father because the shorts had moved about so much under my wetsuit that they ended up in places that no shorts are designed to go. I had no choice but to stop the training session and change into something else.
If this had of happened on race day I’m not sure if I could have continued on.
Why should you wear your tri suit under your wetsuit at all
The main reason for this is speed in the transition area – T1 – where you transition from the swim to the bike sections of the race.
If you had to take off your wetsuit, wrap a towel around yourself and get dry before you put on your shorts and top you would waste very valuable time in transition when you should be out on the course.
Go to a race as a spectator and watch the athletes as they come out of the water. Most will have their wetsuit half off before they even reach the transition area. You will then see a fine array of tri suits and tops already on the athletes.
They just remove their wetsuits, clip on their helmets and off they go…
Putting your wetsuit on
Another thing I wish I had known on race day was what is the best way to put on your wetsuit – especially when you are already wearing a tri suit or singlet and tri shorts.
I must have had my suit on for an hour before the race started – I was a bit over-enthusiastic, to say the least. Putting on your suit too early actually hampers your performance on race day so leave yourself just enough time before the starting bell to get into your gear.
What you are wearing under your wetsuit doesn’t really have that much to do with how you put it on other than to make sure you don’t let your singlet roll up you back or drag you tri shorts up into your ‘undercarriage’ too much as this helps nobody – ever.
Spread some bodyglide around the neck, pits and cuffs of your wetsuit and use plastic bags over your hands and feet when you are putting the suit on. This saves your nails tearing into the neoprene material. Yes, it does happen a lot so protect your suit every time.
Here is a very handy video by Triathlete showing you the best way to put on your wetsuit.
We hope this quick guide helps you get set up properly before your first triathlon race.