Since then, I'd like to think I've gotten a little more independent. In fact, I can now complete the triathlon packing process in under 30 minutes. I may be a mediocre athlete on raceday, but I pack like an effing rock star. (And now that I've put this in print, I'll probably show up at the race tomorrow and realize I've forgotten something really important, like my tri shorts. Short pause while I double-check to make sure these are, indeed, in my bag. Phew. OK.)
One thing that has helped immensely in my race prep is a packing list. I like the TriEssential app for iPhone.
It's free, and it has a great packing checklist you can customize to include any special items you need for your race. (Mine would have kittens, except kittens don't travel well.)
I've honestly never used the other tools, largely because they both would make me feel really embarrassed about my slow-ass raceday performance. The checklist, however, is an absolute go-to. I basically scroll through as I pack, checking off items as I go. The "Edit" button allows me to delete items on the list that I don't need, and the "+" button allows me to add additional items, like Body Glide (to keep the wetsuit neck-chafe away) and Tri Slide (which makes it easier to get my wetsuit on and off).
Another packing tip: Get a tri bag. You can buy an "official" one if you want, like the Zoot backpack I got from Sports Basement for about $65, or you can just find a backpack or duffle bag with enough compartments for your gear. (Finding a large-enough bag can sometimes be a challenge if you are a bigger person -- I'm only 5'0" and I wear a size 7 shoe, so it's really easy for me to fit all of my crap into one bag. Also, the smaller tri bags are less expensive.)
Having everything in one bag makes a huge difference, especially at races where you have to park far away and ride your bike in. So much easier to ride with one bag than with multiple reusable grocery bags slung across your back and hanging from your handlebars!
This is what the inside of my bag looks like. It has a ton of pockets, and I pretty much keep all of my tri-specific items in there at all times -- makes the packing process so much easier.
And then I add all the other items that need to go in, using the TriEssential checklist.
Like I said, being relatively small is a good thing when it comes to packing. All of that crap fits in one bag!
Finally, a few other dorky things I like to do, just in case.
I always cut my gel packets halfway open, to make them easier to tear. (So frustrating when you need to open something quickly mid-race, and it won't open.)
I also pack extra safety pins (in sets of four) and a bike tool. (These pins saved a friend who forgot a race belt recently.)
And though I didn't take photos of this (you know, since it's just that interesting -- ha), my standing bike pump is in the car (actually, it pretty much lives there). I like to fill my tires at the car, before riding to the transition area.
And I'm all set to go! (It probably took longer to put this post together than it did to pack.)
And like I said, I may completely suck tomorrow, but at least I pack like a champ.