Race day is quickly approaching and you’ve been doing your best to train and prepare for what will be a memorable day.  If this will be your first triathlon, you may be trying to figure out what the heck you should wear on race day.  If you haven’t thought about it yet, now is a good time to start.  Deciding what to wear can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.  If you follow our guidelines below, you will be well on your way to looking good and feeling great during your triathlon.

What to Wear

Depending on whom you ask, you may get several different answers, but the most important thing is that what you’re wearing is comfortable for you.

You will want to pick ONE outfit that you will wear for the entire race.  You’ll wear it under your wetsuit while you swim.   If you choose not to wear a wetsuit, you’ll swim in this outfit.

There is no changing area in transition.   This means whatever you decide to wear; you’ll swim in it, then bike in it, and finally run in the same outfit.  Please do NOT think that just because this is YOUR race and it is YOUR day that you can get naked on public display.  Please respect the eyes of your fellow competitors and the spectators around you that are cheering for your success.  One outfit…no changing.

It is highly advisable that you do NOT wear any cotton clothing as it will likely cause chaffing and unneeded discomfort (i.e. NO cotton t-shirt, shorts, sock or undies)

Triathlon specific clothing is made from materials that are fast drying and help to wick moisture away from the skin.   This is important, as your wetsuit does not keep your clothing dry—and you will be starting the bike wet.

Your Options

When deciding on what to wear for your race, you will have a few options to choose from.

Tri Suit

This is a one piece “unitard” of sorts.  Traditionally, it is sleeveless on the top with shorts on the bottom.  The bottom half includes a small pad (chamois) for your butt to help increase comfort while riding.  This is a good option IF you feel that your top sometimes rides up.  Typically there is a zipper in the front.  To put it on, you will step into it, pull it up, and zipper it up over your chest.

The down side to this option is that it can be difficult if you need to use the restroom during your race.  You have to pull the whole suit down—versus just dropping your shorts.

Tri Top & Tri Shorts

This would be the other more traditional option.  Tri tops are sleeveless and tri shorts have a minimal pad (chamois).  This is important, as it will give you some cushion from the bike saddle—yet the tri specific pad will not hold onto water after swimming like a traditional bike short pad would.  This is VERY important.  You don’t want your shorts to mimic a wet diaper!  The tri pad will dry quickly and provide a lot more comfort while you are racing.  Again, you want tri shorts, NOT bike shorts.


It is possible to wear a swimsuit for the entire race, but unless you have done this before, it’s not advisable.  The two options above will be much more comfortable.  Swimsuits lack support, encourage chaffing, and provide NO cushion from the dreaded bike saddle.

RTA Post Race

Support For Your Girls

Some tri suits and tri tops have built in bra tops—this is a nice option, although many women find they need additional support.  In this case, it is perfectly ok to wear your own sports bra under the tri suit.  Note: Leave your regular bra at home… it has no place at a triathlon and it will cause more trouble then anything else if you wear it.  ALSO IMPORTANT TO NOTE:  Please, for the love of your hiney,  do NOT wear underwear under your tri shorts or tri suit.  These fabrics are meant to be second skin—and cotton underwear, satin panties, or lacey thongs are NOT meant to be worn under your tri shorts.  They will get sweaty, smelly, and salty…and rub, burn and cause major discomfort during your race.

The All Important Sports Bra

If you think you’ll need a little more support, wearing a good sports bra is smart.  This is very very important for all of our ladies who may need to keep the “girls” in check.  PLEASE do not be THAT girl that goes for minimal support…when you need maximal.

Find yourself a good bra top.  Go to the local run shop and get yourself fitted.  There are a number of great options out there that can support you.  You will want adjustable straps if you feel you’ll need a “lift.”  However, be sure that it is NOT too tight.  You still need to breathe.

The right bra will not only lift and support—but it will also let you breathe and run comfortably.

Lastly, be sure to pick a sports bra that is made with a breathable, wickable, fabric—this is very important so that you don’t end up with serious boob chaffage.  Again, Cotton is SO yesterday’s fabric.   

Where Can I Get This Stuff?

Bike shops, tri shops, and run shops usually carry a line of triathlon apparel.  Give your local shop a call and see what they carry.  Go in—try it on—and model it yourself.  Your other option would be to order apparel online—however you risk the clothing not fitting properly and returns can often be a pain in the neck with shipping charges ect.

How Do I Know I’ll Be Comfortable?

The best thing to do is train in your race “costume”.  Practice swimming, biking, and running in your gear before race day.  Feel it out.  If you have any “hot spots” or areas of chaffing, try using a body glide, tri slide or another lubricant and see if it eliminates the problem.  Then, just don’t forget to use it on race day!  If it still doesn’t fix the issue—nix the outfit and try a new one!  Eventually you will find something that will fit the bill!


RTA - Alsion Post Race  QuassyOnce you find your perfect tri outfit—you will need a few more things to complete your setup.

A visor or hat is very important for the run.  Not only will this help to keep your wet, sweaty, swim swept, helmet hair looking reasonable—it will also shade your face from the sun and keep the sweat from running in your eyes.

Sunglasses are also great for cycling and running.  They will help protect your eyes from dust, bugs or other debris and shade your eyes from the sun.

You will also need a GOOD pair of socks.  Don’t underestimate socks—they will help keep your feet blister free.  Good socks almost act as second skin.  Your local run shop can make some suggestions as to what socks will help wick the moisture and fit your feet the best.  Loose cotton socks will leave your beautiful pedicure in shambles.  I warn you, DON’T skimp on socks.

Lastly, you’ll want to pick up a race belt.  They are fairly inexpensive and they are very convenient.  A race belt goes around your waist—I prefer to wear it around my hips—and your race number will attach to it.  No need for safety pins—which can cause irritation to the skin or worse-can rip a whole in your brand new tri suit.  Go with the race belt—an easy fix to keeping your outfit pin free.

Say Cheese!!

Now that you’ve got the look and have found the right race day outfit, don’t forget Liz - Finishyour SMILE!!!!  EVERY outfit is complete with a smile.  EVEN if you are in pain, are uncomfortable or miserable—SMILE!  Show off your pearly whites and have fun!  Nothing boosts your mood or energizes you more than a smile.

I expect to see all of your smiling faces out there on race day…looking good in your perfectly put together tri outfit!




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  • Bill White says:

    Excellent article. I want to do my first Tri in Oceanside this year but not sure where to get a suit. If it doesn’t fit well after trying it out I guess I’m basically just out the cost for another one. Seems like the two piece is more functional but the one piece is better in the water for warmth? How important is warmth for the swim? Don’t you need a suit that covers the shoulders for the swim and is a tank top for the bike and run? Is 62 deg water considered warm or cold? Do you think the International Tri (.93mi.) swim is ok for a beginner out there in the middle of hundreds of other swimmers?

  • Chris Kaplanis says:

    When you say suit,… are you referring to a 1 piece tri suit or a wetsuit? A one piece (or two piece) tri suit will not necessarily keep you warm in the water. That’s where a wetsuit comes in. For 62 degree water, I highly recommend a wetsuit. That is chilly water! I would connect with your local bike shop to find something to meet your needs. If there is nothing available locally,… order something online EARLY so that you can return it if it doesn’t fit the way you’d like it to. Where do you live?

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