I thought this month’s theme presented the perfect opportunity to take a good hard look at some of the apparel, tools toys, and gadgets that are often recommended when the topics of multisport racing and training come up. We live in a high tech world and that technology has found its way deep into the swimming, biking, and running communities. So much so that it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine the difference between what you NEED, and what you may WANT.
For starters, you do not need to spend $5,000 on a triathlon specific bike and another $1,000 on gadgets and gear to be able to participate in a triathlon. Especially those just beginning to dabble in the sport. Case in point; I did my first triathlon on a ten year old borrowed bike (a red Peugeot from my buddy Mac to be specific), a sky-diving helmet, indoor soccer shoes, and a goalie jersey. How did I “look”? I looked like I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. But I still had a blast at that race and became instantly addicted to the multisport lifestyle. My eyes were opened to a new world of Lycra, cool sunglasses, and very goofy looking (and sounding) shoes. As my racing resume began to evolve and mature, so did my look.
Over the years I have been through many bikes, countless component and equipment acquisitions and upgrades, and a collection of helmets that could aid a small country’s military effort. Not to mention an impressive cycling shoe collection, a grave yard of old cycle computers, and a wardrobe that has outgrown my storage capacity. And that’s just the stuff that I held onto.
Did I need all of the things that I have purchased over the years? Probably not. But did they make me feel better about myself and provide for a better all around experience? Most definitely. I consider myself positioned more on the conservative end of the scale compared to some of my multisport cronies. I do not become completely enamored with every new product simply because it’s new and sexy. But even my conservatism has led to my acquiring a lot of … stuff.
The truth is you don’t need much to participate in a triathlon or duathlon. You need a bike. But in reality it can be just about anything as long as it is safe and road worthy. You need an approved helmet. You need something on your feet, and if you are swimming, you need goggles and a swim cap. (And the cap would be provided at your race). Those bare bones and old school essentials will get you through your race. And if you are on a tight budget or are unsure of your sustained interest in the sport, then perhaps that is the way for you to go.
But if you want to do more than just “get through” your event, and if you want to feel like you are part of the community, it would be in your best interest to invest a few dollars in the way you look. An upgraded road bike will pay huge dividends in your ability to perform and in your overall experience. And you can easily pick up an entry level new road bike in the $500-800 price range. Padded shorts and a cycling or triathlon jersey or singlet will do wonders for your comfort and even reduce drag making you more aerodynamic on the bike. Add in some decent sunglasses for eye protection, and a new helmet, and you are set. And whatever you do, take no short cuts on the quality of running shoes you put on your feet. Get yourself to a store that specializes in running shoes and get help selecting the shoe that is right for you.
Yes, we are talking about “looking” the part. But the bottom line is the way you look can help determine the way you perform. Part of that is psychological in that if you feel good about yourself, you will perform with a heightened sense of confidence. Additionally, most of the equipment that we have talked about is designed for the sole purpose of making you more efficient, more aerodynamic (And yes – FASTER).
But don’t be fooled. The proof is still in the engine. And that engine is you. NO amount of clothing, gear, or gadgets will take the place of proper training, nutrition, and hydration.
Train safe, race smart, and thank the volunteers.