Plan & practice with gear: race belt
Updated: Dec 14, 2017
A race belt doesn't have to be Batman's belt to help you win battles!!!
As is the case in many aspects of life, planning is paramount to success in fitness events such as 10Ks, triathlons, or full marathons. Talk to anyone who has participated in an organized fitness event such as these and they will tell you about a number of things that they did or did not do in preparation for it that had a significant impact on the results and on their overall experience. Case in point, my experience last weekend during the Tri Aggieland Triathlon in College Station, Texas. I can pick out quite a few things that I know I could have done better when it comes to having planned and practiced for that race, but for the sake of this post’s brevity and simplicity will select just one: The use of a race belt.
A race belt is quite a simple and yet valuable piece of athletic gear. It is designed to hold a number of items such as your assigned race bib and number, energy gels, keys, etc. during either an entire racing event such as the marathon or at least in portions of it such as in the triathlon. You can find race belts in most reputable running, cycling, and triathlon shops as well as in online sites that sell fitness gear such as Amazon. Their cost is typically in the range of about $10 to $25.
Despite the fact that I have used this handy race belt made by Asics for a number of years, the night before Tri Aggieland 2017 I failed to properly plan and diagnose whether I should use it or not. Why? Because I had not practiced the transitions enough.
As I was laying out my gear at the hotel to make sure I had everything ready for the race, I asked myself why to even bother with my race belt. The tri shirt I would be wearing has a couple of back pockets that are the perfect size to store the two energy gels I planned on taking, so I definitely didn’t need the race belt to store them. I could also use safety pins to secure the bib to my shirt—again, why bother with the race belt? So, I made the decision, I’d leave it at the hotel and have one less thing to worry about. After all, less is always better, right? Wrong, that is not always the case.
Fast forward to race morning. I run approximately a quarter of a mile from the pool to reach my bike and transition mat. In a desperate hurry to get through, I try to towel off as much water and sweat as I can before attempting to put on my sleeveless shirt with the gels in its back pockets and the race bib pinned on the front. After about 30 seconds of a mighty struggle trying to put the shirt on, it is clear to me that I had made a serious mistake in planning and practicing. Not only was I unable to put the shirt on still partially wet from the pool and sweat, but in the process, I also managed to rip one of the safety pins keeping the bib on the shirt, so it was now hanging upside down from its corners, something I would definitely have to fix before getting going. I ended up having to towel off even more thoroughly, taking it easier putting the shirt on, and re-pinning the bib to the shirt. Needless to say, I ended up with a lousy T1 transition time for the race.
Had I simply taken the time to rehearse and practice my transition plan on the weeks or days leading up to the race, I would have encountered the challenge at least once, reasoned through it, and made the decision to use a race belt to hold my bib instead of pinning it on my shirt. Without a bib being pinned to it, I would have also decided to wear my shirt for my swim and would not have worried about toweling off so much since it was already on, just quickly over arms, head and legs, and then easily grab and clip the race belt around my waist and be done with it.
So, lesson learned: On a triathlon, use a race belt to hold your bib and energy gels. It will save you quite a bit of hassle and time on your transitions.