Friday, April 25, 2014

TriTip #20: Racing on a Budget

Racing on a Budget: For the last two summers, I've raced as an amateur. As a younger athlete, I don't have the funds (I funded all of my training and racing myself) that the older athletes do. But that doesn't mean that I can't make up for it in other places. The key to racing on a low budget is a game of quid pro quo. With that said, here are some of the areas I think that you should be spending money, and areas you shouldn't.
Swim
Spend on: Tri Suit. If you think about it, a triathlon suit is really just a one piece women's swim suit. They're generally made of lycra, the same stuff your swim suits are a made of, but they also have a pad for your sit bones so you stay comfortable on the bike. Using discount websites like The Clymb, you can find them for as little as $75. 

Save on: Wetsuits. This is where scoping out races becomes necessary. Is it in early May? Probably not a great idea to go there without a wetsuit. But in all honesty, if you're just starting out, a wetsuit isn't necessary. Many beginners find them uncomfortable and constricting. If you have the money, great, but don't stress on the wetsuit. 

Spend on: Goggles. They're honestly not that expensive to begin with, but don't go to Walmart for a cheap pair of goggles. Go to a decent swim shop or Swim Outlet and get a decent pair that isn't going to snap on race day. My personal favorite is the Speedo Vanquisher

Bike
Spend on: Sunglasses. Wear them on the bike and run, save your sight, and invest in the future. Assuming you don't do anything too dumb, like lose them, sunglasses will last you many years. They protect your eyes from both the sun and debris. Invest in a pair that is polarized, which will eliminate glare and give you the intimidating Craig Alexander look. Look for 100% UVA/UVB protection, as well as ANSI impact protection and polarization. I wear the Oakley Radarlock Path, which retail for $300 but can often be found on Oakley Vault for considerably less.

Save on: Aero helmets. You'll wear it when you're racing (don't be the guy wearing them on group rides) and toss it back in the closet until next year. Often running in the $300 or above price range, it's not worth spending on, especially when you consider that these are designed to save you maybe 20 seconds on a 30 mile ride.

Spend on: Bike fit. A good bike fit is imperative. It will ensure that you are comfortable on the bike for a long period of time and can help ensure that you don't have some of the typical issues on the bike like knee and lower back pain.

Save on: Fancy aero accessories. I realize that the aero helmet could technically go under this category, but aero hydration systems and other needless trinkets are a waste of money. For example, the X-Lab Torpedo system, which puts a bottle between your arms, is around $70, and saves you a whooping 20 seconds in a 40k time trial. Save the dough for a bike fit.

The bike: I can go either way here. The gains made while riding a triathlon or time trial bike are significant enough, but if you only have the money for one bike, I would highly recommend going with a standard road bike. Slide the saddle forward (this opens up the hips, so you're fresher on the run), and add some clip on aero bars and clipless pedals. 
Run
Spend on: Shoes. With technology making it possible to cut weight, you can now find a high mileage trainer that will still work for you on race day. No, it won't be a 5oz racing flat, but it will serve you for a lot more miles. My personal favorite is the Newton Gravity. At $175, it's pricey, but you can always find last year's model for half that and I've put over 800 miles on a pair.

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