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10 Holiday Gifts for the Newbie Triathlete

Updated: Dec 11, 2018

This 2018 Holiday Gift List is for those who are new to the sport and don't want to spend a lot of money.


1. Zoot Race Belt -- This is a necessity. A good race day belt keeps your transition fast and easy, and doesn't constrict your stomach during the run. I've seen belts that can hold cell phones and gels, and for me, those things bounce up and down and distract me. The best race day belt is one I don't know I'm wearing. I've bought several over the years at race day expos for $15 when I've left them at home by mistake. Now I always have two packed in my transition bag. The Zoot race belt meets all the criteria for me: it's lightweight, simple, and cheap. It's $2.67 right now on Amazon. Think about buying two so you're not scrounging around the race day expo like I've done!

2. Neoprine Timing Chip Ankle Strap -- My first triathlon used a Neoprine timing chip ankle strap as standard equipment, and I thought all triathlons did it this way. Wrong! Then I went to one which didn't, and ended up with a nasty sore on my ankle. I have purchased them at races for a few bucks, and now have several, because they are so very nice to have. The Zoot option listed here looks like all the others, so make you you price check before a purchase.

Lake Placid 2018 Sunscreen
Coach Craig and David at Lake Placid 2018. Make sure you have sunscreen in your T2 bag.

3. Aloe Gator Sunscreen -- I do love sun screen. Getting burned is not fun. When Mike Dunlap and I did the Croatian Gravel Vanish route at Bikepacking I got fried. But let's face it, having a sunscreen that works all day is hard to find. The Aloe Gator brand sun screen works well for triathlon because it stays on even after a 2.4 mile swim and needs soap to come off. Coach Craig from New Zealand told me about it 2 years ago. Even my 13 year old daughter knows how good the stuff is when she told me she liked it because, "At camp, when the counselors ask us to reapply, I don't have to." If your new triathlete is doing a full Ironman distance triathlon, they will need a refresher running out of T2.

4. Elastic Laces -- For any distance under a full distance Ironman, elastic laces are free speed. If you get out of transition 45 seconds faster because you don't tie your shoes, that equates into an extra 15 seconds per mile faster for a Sprint! Wow! I like my shoes to be tight, so I have a love/hate relationship with my laces. These from Lock Laces are the current ones I love/hate.

Arm sleeves? Check! Neoprene ankle strap? Check!

5. UV protection/Cool sleeves -- I've always had a fondness for cool sleeves, and have been wearing them in hot weather triathlons for a long time. It used to be you had to get the "right ones" because you simply couldn't find them unless you went to a speciality store. Now, it seems everyone has one, so I'm not going to recommend a particular brand. I wear them under my wetsuit without a problem, so I'm not trying to put them on at while I'm wet in T1. They will keep your arms cool when the water evaporates off, and they will protect your arms from the sun. De Soto even has the cool wings which cover your back as well.

6. Transition Bag -- You might see folks show up a $3 bucket from Lowes with all their stuff crammed inside, but if you want to see your newbie's face light up, consider a real triathlon transition bag made by a real triathlon company. I still have and use my 1st generation Zoot Sports Ultra Tri bag (there's now a new version,) but now I'm in love with my Zipp Transition 1 Bag because it won't crush my helmet like the Zoot bag and I can use it for cycling events as well. Make sure the bag you ultimately purchase has a separate wet section so nothing gets soaked on the drive home. I use cloth tape to write my name on my bag because they all look alike.

7. Triathlon Specific Watch -- Having a good, reliable, triathlon specific, multi-sport watch is nice to have. There are many to choose from, and there are many different price points. I recommend DCRainmaker's site for an in-depth review. Personally, I like the Garmin Forerunner 935 because it has an optical HR sensor (so I can finally ditch the HR strap I've been wearing since the early 90's) and it uploads to my phone so I can immediately analyze my performance. I've had mine for 18 months and haven't had a single problem. It even helped me find my iPhone last night (I left it on the treadmill.)

8. Black Diamond Spot Headlamp -- Getting ready in T1 in the dark is no fun. This Black Diamond Spot Headlamp is the Cadillac of Headlamps. It's small, and can put out 300 lumens, and comes with an instruction manual which I recommend you read!

9. Serfas Thunderbolt Bike Lights -- It might seem odd to request a bike light for a newbie, but I've never been as scared as I was riding my bike from the race hotel to T1 in the dark, and my bike light had died earlier that morning. Everyone who was on the road that morning was going to the race, but that's no excuse. Because I have an aero bike, lights don't attach real well to the frame, so I attach and dangle the Serfas Thunderbolt Red Tail Light off my transition bag instead. It's rechargeable in 3.5 hours and puts out 35 lumens, so I know I'm well seen.

10. Rudy Wing57 Aero Helmet -- I'm in love with my Rudy Wing57, and there's lots of reasons a newbie triathlete would be too. It's small, it's got tons of vents so it doesn't get hot, it's very popular on the scene (number one helmet in Kona 8 years in a row), and it's fast. Also, Rudy Project North America is one of our team sponsors, and with our team discount, it's not expensive.

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