Well, spring is here (in most parts of the country), and the tri/duathlete’s thoughts turn to a variety of things: the race schedule for the upcoming season, the training program that will get you ready for the races that you are planning to do, and yes, equipment. Race schedules and training programs are constants from season-to-season, of course. Thoughts on equipment vary, depending how long you have been in the sport, how much equipment you already have, what kind of shape it is in, and so on and so forth. This column is primarily aimed more at those who are new or relatively new to the sport, but there are a few words of advice that might help out some of the more experienced types as well.
The most important principle, whether you are a beginner or have been doing it for quite some time, is don’t overbuy. It is obvious that equipment is a very important element of multisport racing. In fact, compared with, say, road racing, it is an equipment-centered sport. And not just in what you need to do it, but (except for city races for those who live in cities) either you or one of your racing buddies will need a car just to get to the events. But, it is easy to way overdo it, spend money that you don’t need to, and have equipment that you can’t possibly take advantage of.
If you are not a really good swimmer already, having one of those super-slippery wetsuits is not going to make you into one. What you really want is a) a suit that is comfortable, b) a suit that provides good buoyancy and c) a suit that is relatively easy to get into and out of. As for the bike, a tri bike will help you to go faster only if you can get up to at least 20 miles an hour on it. You also have to think about whether or not the potential discomfort of the bent-over riding position and the possible problems with maintaining your balance in that position are worth it, for you, to pick up a bit more speed. I do have to say that I come at this one from the perspective of one who has tried a tri bike a couple of times, but never stayed with it, for the stated reasons.
In the context that there is a certain basic budget in the $2-4,000 range that you will need to have in order to get into the sport, it is simply not the case that in order to have a great deal of fun in the sport you have to spend a great deal of money on it. Super equipment will simply not make a winner out of somebody who ordinarily runs at a 9-11 minutes-per-mile pace, rides at 14-16 mph and swims 35 45 minute miles. However, good equipment can help significantly to make the sport more comfortable, safe, healthy and enjoyable. On the other hand, if like me you are a "stuff guy or gal," and you can afford it, you can really get into it in this sport. There is lots of "stuff" to be had, if you like having it and can afford to. However, you certainly do not have to have the best of everything and lots of it. And once again, regardless of much money you have to spare, just make sure you don’t overspend on equipment that you simply cannot take advantage of.
Finally, since both triathlon and duathlon require buying and maintaining a bike, likely owning a wetsuit, and paying not insignificant race-registration fees and travel costs to participate in the races even at the entry level, they are not the cheapest of sports. However, compare them to downhill skiing (which happened to be my winter sport for over 50 years) or, even more expensive, sailing, which was my summer sport before I took up triathlon in the mid-1980s. In this context, triathlon/duathlon can hardly be considered expensive.
This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, "101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes" (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Steve’s most recent multisport book is "Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It" (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
His first book on multisport racing, "Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®" 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Dr. Jonas recently was featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.