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What kit do I need for an Ironman race?

Aka how much will it cost to train for an Ironman race? Or a Half Ironman, triathlon or marathon.

What kit do I need for racing?

If you’re thinking about doing a triathlon, or building up the distance, it’s important to consider the costs of clothing, kit and other things you will need for training up front.

If you’re new to tri, then my philosophy is not to spend (too much) money before you know that it’s something you want to do more of, so start off with the minimum, and then invest more if you get a taste for it.

Here’s more on what you need for your first tri -

Pretty much essential kit for Ironman and Half Ironman

For sprint and standard distance not all these are essential but if you’re picking up the distance to anything over Standard distance (so Half Ironman, Ironman and ultras) then given how much time you’ll be spending training, it makes sense to invest a bit more so that you get more out of the time you put in/ you make things easier on yourself.

If you’re doing a race that just involves running, or just cycling, or aquathlon/ aquabike/ duathlon etc obviously just remove the kit not relevant for your discipline.

Race entry

  • Swim suit, goggles

  • Wetsuit (for most races, and for training even if race likely to be wetsuit free)

  • Trisuit / tri top and shorts

  • Sports bra

  • Bike (definitely doesn’t need to be a TT bike, but recommended road bike rather than hybrid etc for anything over Standard distance. NB you might be able to borrow a bike for racing but I strongly recommend also doing the majority of your training on a race bike)

  • Bike shoes and cleats

  • Basic bike maintenance kit – multitool, tyre levers, pump

  • Bike Glasses – personal choice but useful for longer distances

  • Helmet (doesn’t need to be TT)

  • Run trainers

  • Tri laces (you may decide not to use these for longer races when you want more support from your shoes) and tri belt

What I recommend in addition for my clients

These are not essential but I strongly, strongly recommend them if you’re going above Standard distance/ have stretch goals - you will get much better value from your coaching, and more progress from your training.

Training watch that will upload your training to Training Peaks – see / (sorry, it is not possible to transfer data from Strava to Training Peaks, so it needs to be able to upload directly to Training Peaks) – more here

Power meter on your bike or power based turbo trainer * – it is far more effective to train in power based structured intervals, either using a power meter on your bike outdoors or on a ‘dumb’ trainer, or using a power based turbo. If you are choosing between, my recommendation is dumb turbo and power meter on the bike as this also gives you a powerful tool for racing, but you’ll have to work a bit harder in turbo sessions to change gear to get the required power, rather than relyng on ERG mode (this is also great practice for out on the road!). More here . A wattbike is also great for power based training (check if your gym has one). Other power based bikes in the gym can be useful a stop gap but based on my experience, don’t work nearly as well.

For indoor turbo sessions you’ll also want a fan, and depending on the type of turbo, either a spare training wheel or a new cassette to go on the turbo. Read more.

Bike computer* – not quite an essential unless you’re using an outdoor bike for your structured power intervals (because you need to see the power you’re putting out) but a) allows you to see HR and power to judge your efforts b) is really useful for following routes so you don’t just rely on the same ones each time.

Bike fit – not quite an essential but highly recommended, especially if you experience pain when riding or are seeking a very aero position

Chest based heart rate monitor* – although wrist based monitors are great for resting heart rate, they are notoriously inaccurate for any movement based training, especially running, and I strongly recommend you know your HR for any given training pace, so that you know if you are going too hard or easy or if you’re getting ill.

Swim toys fins are really useful for the majority of swim drills (check your pool allows them), plus pull buoy. I rarely use floats in my drills and usually the pull buoy will do or they have them at the pool.

Tempo pro – not essential but really useful for structured swim sets, wait to buy this and see if it would be useful, some watches will also have this function.


* I don’t make specific tech recommendations but recommend the DC Rainmaker blog for impartial and (very!) thorough testing and reviews

Other costs to factor in

  • Spare inner tubes

  • Nutrition (for training as well as race day)

  • Something to store nutrition and hydration in (top tube bag for bike, run belt/vest etc)

  • Massages and physio

  • Race entries including practice races as well as goal race (I recommend doing a few shorter races in the run up to get used to race day, to save costs you could do TTs instead but usually you’ll need to be a member of club that is a member of CTT)

  • Gym entry / kit for S&C

  • Swimming pool entry

  • Travel and accommodation for races

  • Tri/ bike club membership (absolutely not an essential but makes training far more fun if you can train with others, and often gets you access to coached pool sessions for not much more than pool entry)

  • Training Peaks premium membership – you absolutely don’t need this, but if you want to be able to move sessions in Training Peaks then in some cases you’ll need premium access. Wait til we’ve got started to decide if you want this.

  • Bike maintenance (the more you invest in ongoing bike maintenance, the less you’ll have to spend when things fail)

  • Training kit – depending on how often you train you’ll probably want some spare kit, plus winter (more here - and / summer options

  • Bike lights - depending on when and where you train, these vary in importance

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