Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tri Basics 101 - Equipment

Advertisers will tell you that you need a TON of equipment to race in a triathlon. Not all athletes are the same.  It comes down to the type of triathlete that you want to become.  There are two types of amateur athletes....competitive or recreational.  So is your goal to be on the podium?  For me?  Not at all.  I will fully embrace my novice status, and while most advertisement is done to attract the true competitors, there are a few things I may need!  Yep, even little ole "just trying to finish the triathlon" me.

I am in no way an expert (after all, I haven't even completed my first sprint triathlon!), but I am a natural I'll share what I have discovered thus far:

  • If you don't know how to swim, get some lessons please!
  • Access to a pool with lap lanes - lap lanes will help define the distance covered
  • Goggles
  • Swim Suit
  • Wetsuit (helps in dealing with cold water and buoyancy which makes swimming a little easier)
  • Just a swim suit and goggles for the swim. If you do not own a wetsuit or are an inexperienced open water swimmer, select an event that is in a pool and does not require a wetsuit. If your event does require a wetsuit, and you don't own one, some retail stores rent wetsuits. A good pair of goggles and a swim suit made for lap swimming, not sunbathing, is all you need for the swim portion of the event.
  • OPTIONAL FOR THE COMPETITORS: Equipment to improve workouts, such as a pull buoy, kickboard, and paddles to increase resistance
  • Triathlon-specific shorts which have a thin padding so that you can hop to/from the bike and water, which helps improve transition time.
  • For the recreational triathlete, any bike is fine. It can be a road bike, mountain bike or hybrid, whether borrowed or owned.  Just make sure it fits correctly and is in good shape.  A mountain bike (with road tires) may be more than ok in these circumstances.  That being said, since even a cheap bike is an investment, think about what type of triathlete you want to become...if somewhat serious, buy the bike you will want to use a year or more down the road.  For me, personally, I'll be using my Specialized aluminum mountain bike with road tires...unless someone can offer a borrowed bike?  I simply can't justify the cost of a new "proper" bike quite yet!  But if you do decide to buy a new bike, a fitness bike is preferred.  What is a "fitness bike" you ask?  Its a road bike with a crossbar for handles, rather than the curved old-school 10-speeds from our youth.  Some triathletes are wiser to use a mountain bike, so it stil all depends.
  • FOR COMPETITIVE TRIATHLETES If you have the desire AND the money, purchase a carbon fiber bike with tri-specific geometry for aerodynamic benefits.
  • Learn how to change a tire!  Most races have a support motor vehicle (SAG support) following the participants to pick up riders who cannot complete the challenge.  If its due to a simple deflated tire...don't let this happen to you!  
  • Pedals.  Yup, you need to make a decision about pedals.  Consider the options:
    • Platform, inefficient but what you are accustomed to
    • Cages, basic pedal with added benefit of pushing/pulling with more force but without fear of your foot sliding
    • Clipless, very efficient = speedy, allowing you to use all of your energy throughout the entire pedal stroke, but you need to learn how to unclip/dismount in a hurry, or else you will be falling along with your bike, which can be a bit scary for some initially.
  • Bike Shoes - if you opted for clipless pedals, you will need shoes that "clip" into the pedal.  Otherwise, any shoe should do as long as its comfortable.

  • Running shoes...real running shoes.  Go to a real specialty store for a quality recommendation.  Its worth spending a little extra instead of buying some off the internet from a discount store.  This doesn't matter if you are a competitive runner or not...remember, real running shoes!  If they don't fit properly OR they are the wrong type of shoe, you can quickly develop some serious knee and foot problems.  Its simply not worth the risk.

As you can see, the "triathlete" magazines and stores definitely want you to think of yourself as the super uber competitor...and to spend that money!  But, its truly not necessary.  Now, I know that there are other little things that I will need, but these are minor and should not be a deal breaker for anyone.  The items listed above are the deal breakers....but as you can see, there are so few that a triathlon is within reach for almost everyone!

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