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The Good and the Bad of Triathlon Outfits

by Meghann on August 3, 2011

My choice of gear for triathlons has sort of been a game of trial and error the last couple of years.

Moss Park Sprint Triathlon March 2009

My first sprint triathlon in 2009 involved a night-before purchased wetsuit from BJ’s


And tiny shorts and a tank top.


The Good:

  • The wetsuit kept me boyant and warm(er) in the cold water
  • The tiny shorts and tank top were comfortable

The Bad:

  • The wetsuit was NOT a tri specific wetsuit – it was hard to swim in and hard to take off
  • Taking the wetsuit off, then adding the top on cost extra time in Transition 1
  • The shorts had no padding and even the short 12 mile ride was a bit uncomfortable without extra cushion

Baldwin Park Sprint Triathlon May 2010

A warmer course meant I could go with less gear in the water. I kept it easy with a night-before purchased pair of tri shorts (apparently I have a bad habit of this) and a white Lululemon sports bra (which is now discolored, thanks to the lake water).


The Good

  • Not having to change my clothes meant faster transition times
  • The outfit worked well for all three events
  • The tri shorts ended up being a great investment

The Bad

  • Tri shorts are about as unflattering as the come. The tri shorts and sports bra combo pinch and pulled my skin and all the wrong places and I ended up hating the majority of my photos. πŸ™
  • I wasn’t comfortable enough in my skin to pull this look off – too much jiggle going on

Moss Park Olympic Triathlon June 2010

For my first Olympic Triathlon I started with the tri shorts/ sports bra combo for the swim


And put a tank top on for the bike and run

The Good

  • I was MUCH more comfortable biking and running in a tank top.

The Bad

  • Messing with the top added time to my transition

Siesta Beach Olympic Triathlon July 2011

I tried to cheat the system by creating a ‘poor girl’s’ tri suit. I was hoping a sports bra + one piece swim suit + tri shorts would do the trick.

The Good

  • I was very comfortable in the water and on the run.
  • Faster transitions
  • Shirt wasn’t folding up and I wasn’t worrying about jiggles

The Cons

  • CHAFING!!!!! (In a not so fun area…)

Basically, all of that lead me to this.

I. Want. A. Tri Suit!

I’ve been lusting after one since day one of tri training, but didn’t have it in me to fork over so much $$ for a casual hobby that I would only compete in once or twice a year. Clearly I was getting by with my own home remedies, but I was never happy with what I wore and always had something to complain about or try to tweak for next race. Not having a tri suit was saving me money, but it was also messing with my sanity.

After the chafing issues in Siesta key, I knew I had to figure something out before the Augusta Half Ironman in September. I can’t imagine going the double the distance in any of my previous outfit combinations. They were great for what they were at the time, but I need to step it up a notch.

So, I started to google options.

And found this.

Screen shot 2011-08-03 at 10.26.34 AM.png

A Zoot Sports Women’s Endurance Tri Lush Racesuit for $75.00.

$75.00? I could do that. Most tri suits I looked at were $150+, $75 all of sudden seemed pretty reasonable.

I left the tab open for a couple of days to let it sink it, then sometime last week I entered my credit card info and hit the checkout button.

Two days later it arrived on my front door and yesterday morning I took it for its first spin.


I ordered the medium, but probably could have gotten away with the small. It was very light, very comfortable, and very easy to get on and off. I also found it to be very flattering to my figure.


I loved that it had a built in sports bra shelf. The shelf was my only source of support for my 5.5 mile run yesterday and it held up well. At no point did I feel excessive flopping (yes, that’s a technical term) or pain in my chest.


I wanted to test the trisuit out on the bike yesterday, but we all know how that went. However, I am happy to report that it did survive the run test. The suit is so light, I really felt like I was wearing nothing the whole time. It breathed well in the sun and heat (major plus!).

The only concern I have is how very lightly padded the seat of the suit is. I’m afraid this might cause problems for the 56 mile bike ride in Augusta, but the only way I’ll find out is if I put it to the test on my next long bike ride (on Friday). I have my fingers crossed it will pass! πŸ™‚

What has your experience been for finding the perfect race day gear? Any trial and error?

1 Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter) August 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I feel like I’d feel claustrophobic in a tri suit! Or any one piece type item… Although I used to wear one piece swimsuits back in the day (like, when I was 6), so maybe it’s just the same as that?
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2 Caitlin August 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I LOVE MY TRISUIT. It was expensive ($150?) but so so so so worth it.
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3 Caitlin August 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

oh but i do put a sports bra on over the trisuit for the run, otherwise i get the floppage.
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4 allison @ thesundayflog August 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

loved this post! for my race on sunday i’m doing the sports bra-tri shorts thing for the swim, and then pulling on a tank for the bike and run. i think for the distance im doing it will be justtt fine. it’s hard to find pieces with enough padding in the seat for the bike, but not too much so that you feel like you’re running in a diaper πŸ˜‰
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5 Gina @ Running to the Kitchen August 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

$75 sounds like a great deal! Hope it works out on the bike ride.
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6 Hillary August 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Yowza—that’s a science you have going on right there! I’ve never done a tri, but it looks like that suit might actually end up being the best option. Hope it works out!
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7 Chloe (In Fine Feather) August 3, 2011 at 1:36 pm

When I did a few spring tris I found that a tri short & top worked well for me, and just sucked it up in the cold water πŸ™‚
Looks like you found a great option though, and one that hopefully will last you for a while!
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8 Laura (Cookies vs. Carrots) August 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Looks like you were able to find a good option! I’ll be interested to hear how it holds up on the bike ride. I have very little natural padding (if you know what I mean), so I feel like i would want a lot of padding for a long ride.
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9 michelle August 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I usually race in clothes that I have been wearing during training. I don’t want any surprises on race day. During my second marathon in May, I wore clothes that I have raced in before but I had some major chafing issues in some private areas and that was no fun at all! Taking a shower after the run was more painful than the marathon in a lot of ways.
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10 Courtney @ The Granola Chronicles August 3, 2011 at 1:41 pm

It seems like you got a great deal on the suit – I hope it’s comfortable to ride in!
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11 Army Amy* August 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm

The tri suit is super cute! I don’t bike, but if the suit doesn’t provide enough padding, could you put additional padding on the bike? Like bike seat cover?*
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12 Brittany @ Itty Bits of Balance August 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I’ve never had to buy a tri- suit, but not gonna lie– they look pretty hardcore πŸ˜‰
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13 Ali @ Ali Runs August 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Yay for the new tri suit! That’ll be perfect for your Half Ironman! πŸ™‚
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14 Theresa August 3, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I’ve been yearning for a trisuit for months now! I’ve been thinking seriously about getting one since you tweeted about the deal you got last week! My problem is that I’m still smack in the middle of my weight loss journey (30 lbs to go!) so I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on one NOW, only to have it be too big when I get to my goal weight. I could totally see spending $75 now to get me through my next several races & go for the gusto when I hit my goal.
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15 Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat August 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Wow, you were very brave to wear a white sports bra for a race!! I love your new suit, especially the built in bra part! I don’t do tris, but for the half marathons and marathons I’ve done, I’m all about the Lululemon gear – so soft and NO chafing!
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16 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife August 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Wow, that was really REALLy informative! I used a one-piece swimsuit with shorts on top and a sports bra underneath, and it was totally fine!

Love the new suit!

17 Donna August 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I see people in the 1 piece tri suits and I so wish I could pull one off… sometimes. I do like the 2 pieces though, for the port-a-potty. πŸ™‚ This way I don’t have to get practically naked! I know… strange hang-up, being naked in the port-a-potty. I am glad to see that you purchased something NOW, rather than the night before your race! I don’t generally have chafing issues, but on race day I use body-glide anywhere there is potential! One of my favorite pairs of tri shorts are my Zoots. You’ll be surprised how you’ll become accustomed to that thinner pad, over time. Now if I try to ride with regular cycling shorts, it feels like a diaper! You may find you’ll need to adjust your seat tilt a little if you’re changing shorts. My Zoot shorts are only second to my LG shorts that came with my club’s tri kit. I sooooo wish I could get these separate from their custom ordering. They are called TriTek. If you find the Zoot pad to be too thin, or you can’t get used to it, you might try LG’s tri short or Desoto’s 400 mile short. I know a lot of IM folks who go the distance in 400 mile short. Sorry to ramble! Oh and congrats on the tire change!
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18 Meghann August 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Thanks Donna! Great information to share! πŸ™‚

19 Rae August 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I’ve raced a HIM in a trisuit…regarding chafage, I would recommend body glide or aquaphor. Some on the fronts of your underarms, back of neck, and, um, bits…good to go for chafage. And if you sit far enough fron on teh bike, youre good to go for any other uncomfortables. Its weird to say, but the more you bike, the more you “toughen up” your seat area cause it gets used to it!
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20 Faith @ For the Health of It August 3, 2011 at 2:37 pm

All of your posts about the tri’s are making me want to work towards one incredibly badly! I always thought a marathon would be my ultimate goal (and of course I’d still love to do one…way in the future!), but the swimming and biking components look like a straight up BLAST (let’s ignore the fact that I haven’t been on a bike or in a pool for years…haha)

21 Mary August 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Love the trisuit! I think that your tush will be fine on the 56 mile bike. I remember when HB did his half iron last year he had a pair of thin tri shorts he raced in and he said that he had no problems on the bike. πŸ™‚

22 Cait's Plate August 3, 2011 at 2:57 pm

WOOHOO!! Congrats πŸ™‚ You look rockin’ in it!
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23 Donna August 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Oh… favorite cream to avoid chafing *down there* (LOL) Assos chamois cream. It’s the only stuff I’ve found that I can slather on me and the pad and it’s still there for the bike. You should try a couple out to see what works for you. Don’t be alarmed… the Assos (if you try it) is kind of cool feeling. LOL. My P.I. tri shorts do it to me too — I think the edge of the pad is what is bothersome — not the pad itself.
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24 Kate (What Kate is Cooking) August 3, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I wore a cotton sports bra during a marathon last year- my chest was actually BLEEDING it was so chafed! Never again πŸ™

25 Ashley @ Thefitacademic August 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm

If the suit doesn’t work well padding-wise, you could always consider buying a padded seat to put on your bike. They’re relatively inexpensive and it would add zero time to transition since you can put it on ahead of time. Just a thought…

26 Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio August 3, 2011 at 4:14 pm

This is such a great post. Thanks for writing about the good and the bad.
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27 Katie G. August 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm

GREAT post Meghann! I am doing my first triathlon through TNT and they give us a tri-suit, so I’m excited about that! It’s not the most flattering though (bright purple with Team in Traning all over it), but it will work for the race and practices. I am definitely going to invest in a tri-suit for my next tri (if i make it through this one!). Good luck and I hope everything works out!
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28 Cicely August 3, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Do you think padding was necessary for a sprint tri? I have my first one in a few weeks and while I know the bike miles are short I am not a biker by ANY means!!

29 Yolie @ Practising Wellness August 3, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Wow! The tri-suit looks so cool, and is so flattering! You look fantastic! πŸ™‚ I would have felt so uncomfortable about running in a sports bra and short shorts…I’m a bit shy like that, and would’ve been self conscious. I LOVE how you are rocking all your outfits! πŸ˜€ Did you get any funny stares running in your tri-suit? In England you would definitely have got a few curious looks – if I saw someone running in one I would be very impressed, and thought that they obviously meant business πŸ˜‰ xyx
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30 April @ Marathons N Martinis August 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I like the tri suit! The only downside I can think of would be if you need to go to the restroom before or during the race – more to get on and off, but I’m sure it’s something you can get used to.

I agree regarding the tri top/tri shorts combo being relatively unflattering. I was pretty upset looking at my photos from my recent sprint tri. The pictures were not.good. I will definitley explore other options for my future tris, so I’ll be curious how the one-piece works out for you.
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31 Theodora August 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm

The tri short/tops combo is just awful. I felt so self-conscious in it. With that said, I did like my tri shorts. They’re DeSoto and they’re a medium length–not super long or super short.
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32 SaraRM August 3, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I dont know anything about tri suits but it is most definitely very flattering on you!

33 Mary August 3, 2011 at 6:57 pm

This is so funny that you post this today. Just last night I was looking at tri/bike shorts and sports bra combo to throw a tank over for my next sprint tri on Aug 13. It is sitting in the checkout box right now as I type. I am not sure what I am going to do yet regarding that purchase, but the price on your tri-suit is making me rethink my options. The padding for the bike is what I am looking for now. By the way, you totally rock going for the half iromnman!!! I hope to do one someday, too.

34 Allyson August 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I would say do all your super long rides in that tri suit get used to the less padding. Once you build a tolerance (chaffing and other gross bike sores) you should be good. Training for my ironman I fouls that putting aquaphor “everywhere” helps more than you can imagine. $75 is an awesome deal, i lOve all zoot clothes.

The only bad thing I have heard about 1 pieces is having tummy/bathroom issues.

35 Jane @ Jane's Addictions August 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Looking good in your new suit! I’m still figuring out what works well for running. Last week I wore my usual Nike dry fit t-shirt and Adidas capris and got really bad chaffing on the back of my thighs/glutes. I guess even when you think you’ve got a good outfit, things can turn on you.
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36 Jane @ Jane's Addictions August 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Looking good in your new suit! I’m still figuring out what works well for running. Last week I wore my usual Nike dry fit t-shirt and Adidas capris and got really bad chaffing on the back of my thighs/glutes. I guess even when you think you’ve got a good outfit, things can turn on you.
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37 Donna D August 4, 2011 at 6:57 am

After trial and error, I’ve finally wound up with:

– DeSoto 400 mile shorts (great for both long rides as well as triathlon through swim-bike-run, I wore them on my MS150 ride and have done sprints and olympics in them, love them).
– A Shock Absorber (either sports bra or swimsuit tank with built in sports bra)
– A Zoot Tri Top with built in sport bra (yes I double up the bras, I hate bounce)

I don’t like the single piece of clothing look or feel of a full tri suit.

My question – what about socks? I am searching for a new great sock solution…

38 Jess@atasteofconfidence August 4, 2011 at 4:02 pm

That suit looks nice! Love the built in bra
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