As the season is unfolding in front of us, some people already having put in one or two races, if you haven’t done your first race of the year, now’s the time to think about checking out your equipment. I posted an Equipment Checklist awhile back, so if you’re not sure what you should be packing in your transition bag, that’s a good place to start. I suggested a subset of items that need your attention in Things That Wear Out, so have you kept up with the maintenance of your gear?
The first place to start is your wetsuit as any major repairs might require shipping it back to the manufacturer for them to fix. Check your wetsuit’s outside for nail marks and other digs (like from when you step on it to get it off your legs), and for seams that are starting to split open. After that look inside for threads coming loose that indicate that the underlying seam (which are all glued and then stitched) is now without support and can come apart. The newer, softer, and more flexible wetsuits (that way because of more air bubbles in the neoprene) wear out more quickly than the older or less flexible suits, so you really need to stay on top of this. Small tears can be fixed with wetsuit glue, a.k.a. rubber cement, but I wouldn’t mess with seams that are starting to separate.
As far as sending a wetsuit back for repair, my only experience is with the people at Quintano Roo and De Soto, and I can only say good things about their customer service. I called in advance to make sure it was okay to send the suit back, shipped it, and got them back pretty quickly, and without charge. I’m not sure if that’s the case these days, so check their websites or give them a call, but if your race is soon you’d better get on it. I’ve had two wetsuits burst seams on me just before an event and I was sure that I had been checking them for possible splits, so beware; even the best products wear out.
Goggles get scratched and foggy over time so it’s a good idea to just buy a new pair for your races to make sure you don’t have issues. If you use any kind of lubricant to avoid chaffing, like Body Glide, make sure you’ve got enough left or that it hasn’t dried out.
The next big item to focus on is of course your bicycle. If you’re not mechanically inclined then it’s better to drop a few dollars and have your local bike shop do a once over with a tune up. I like to work on my own bikes, to a point, and have had a couple of issues over the years that I just wasn’t paying attention to. At one race one of the links on my chain broke on one side so I was lucky to finish without it breaking. I knew beforehand that it was making noise, but it kept working so I didn’t think it was an issue, my mistake. Another long training ride (a double brick before a half IM race), was ruined by shifting issues again, after I did pay attention to it and tried to fix it. Hum, maybe I need to drop my bike off for service more often?
A friend of mine replaces his tires before every big race, while I typically just put on a fresh set on my race wheels at the start of the season. Either way, new tires will give you confidence as you’re bombing down the hills and why risk having a tire issue in a race after putting in all those training hours in the saddle? Replace the tubes as well, check the shifting, have somebody “smart” fix it if it’s making noises even if it’s shifting okay, and you should be good to go.
Hopefully when you put away your drink system after your last race of the season you did a good job rinsing it out, scrubbing it and that no icky things grew in it since then. If not, well it wouldn’t hurt just to give it another quick cleaning, just in case. My rule of thumb is if it smells it needs attention!
If you’ve got a pair of tri shoes for the bike that you don’t wear all the time, make sure to give them a couple pre-race rides to make sure the cleats are still in good working order, and/or check them to make sure they don’t look worn out and need to be replaced. We take for granted that these things just keep working, but they’ll fail at the most inopportune time.
Anything that you’re going to use on race day that uses batteries, like your HRM, the chest strap, bicycle computer, power meter, Di2 shifters, etc., need to have their batteries checked, charged, or replaced. Some days I wonder if all this electronic gear, plus our smart phones, which all need to be checked before we head out the door, are really making our lives better. Yeah I’m a techie and use the information, but sometimes I actually head out without any of it for a ride or a run and get just as much enjoyment, if not more. But on race day, yeah, I’m all wired up and ready to go, so best to make sure you are too.
If you run in a different pair of shoes than you train in, when was the last time you ran in them (so are your feet still used to them?), and when was the last time you replaced them? Racing flats do not last as long as most trainers, so the 250-500 miles to a pair rule does not apply. Do your feet and body a favor, save them the pounding of going one race too many in a worn out pair. I personally use the same kind of shoe to race in as I train in, but a newer pair, broken in just enough to be ready to go. After the race season I switch those over to my training pair and go from there.
If you go through all these items several weeks beforehand, hopefully you’ll have time to fix or replace the items that need attention and you’ll be ready to race, one less thing to think about on race morning. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail!