Borris Viaduct

Borris Viaduct
Borris ViaDuct

Friday, 18 May 2012

Triathlons - an Expensive Hobby!

The arrival of my bike on the 17th of May, marked the completion of my accumulation of gear in the build up to my triathlon. This process was spread out over 7 months, but it was amazing to see just how much I had invested in this. At the start it didn't seem like I needed that much (I am using the word 'need' loosely here - I could have completed a triathlon with less - better to assume 'to complete my goals' as an extension of 'needed' in this case), but as time went on, I found I always 'needed' something else!

1st, I needed need a tri-suit. This is like a one piece lycra get-up that has the appearance of swimming knee-length jammers, but a full body version that zips up over the shoulders. You wear this throughout the race, under your wetsuit, it has light padding for the cycle, but the padding is light enough for you to run with without feeling like you're running around wearing a nappy! These should have back pockets stitched in to carry energy gels (or whatever race day nutrition you need) - unfortunatley, weary of all the expenses I would have to make, I opted for the 'cheapest' trisuit, with no back-pockets. Needless to say I would recommend investing that little bit extra for the backpockets - i used the back pocket of my cycle jersey but everything bobbed around like crazy in there when I ran!
I also opted to invest in a decent cycle jersey, I had a few lidl ones but wanted something better quality and more breathable and invested in one that was so good at wicking moisture from the body, that it would help dry me quicker as I cycled after my swim. (also tri-suits are not the most flattering pieces of kit in the world, so wearing a jersey made me feel a little less self conscious!).

2nd, I needed a wetsuit! Most triathlons in Ireland make it compulsory to have one so this is very important! (Also if you are a weak swimmer, this helps enormously with your floatation in the water). And not just any wetsuit you may have previously got for surfing - you need a special sea swimming or triathlon wetsuit, with thin neoprene and designed for ease of leg and arm movement (the more you spend, the more panels and therefore flexibility you get in the design). This needs to be as body hugging as possible, as any airbubbles in wetsuits can fill substantially with water and cause drag or even get weak swimmers into a lot of difficulty. I would recommend going into a triathlon shop and trying on anything before buying.
Ideally with this you get tri-slide and body glide. The first is a lubricant spray that you apply to your wrists and ankles before putting on your wetsuit, this helps you slip out of the wetsuit easier in transition as opposed to battling with it! Body glide is an anti-chafe roll-on that you apply to your neck to prevent some pretty nasty friction burns! Being really short-sighted (literally, not figuratively), I also decided I needed to invest in some prescription goggles. Contacts were an option, but I could see potential problems with me blinking them out mid-race, and I needed to be able to see for sighting my destination during the swim and finding my bike in transition!

3rdly, I needed a bike! I already had the hybrid which in fairness was pretty fast, and nobody will stop you from cycling a mountain bike or whatever as long as the bike, brakes and gears and deemed to be safe by the race marshalls, but I wanted to do this right (by my own personal standards) and have all my hard trained energy used as efficiently as possible, and a road bike would be a lot lighter and have the much more aerodynamic drop bars. Long story short, I was always going to get a road bike!

Other things I got were a new pair of swimming jammers (knee-length speedos) at the start of my training and a new pair of runners (bought at the start of my training also, so they were well broken in), lock laces for the runners (these are elasticated laces, locked in a tied position, so you can easily slip in and out of them in transition), a race belt (so you're not using safety pins to stick your race number to yourself, and you can also freely rotate your race number from your back on the cycle to your front on the run), and ankle strap for the timing chip (turns out I didn't need to get this - they are pretty much provided in most race goody bags), a running cap (mainly realised I needed this during training, but used it in my race too), a sweat band (because sweat getting into your eyes behind your glasses while cycling or running literally is a pain in the face!). a new toolbag and spare tube for 'just-in-case', and a transition bag (something for keeping all my various race gear in on race day)

Now these costs were spread out over the year (particularly the smaller things, with one big expense every month or so) as I found out new things i needed, but needless to say this all added up!
Tri-suit:                                                €50
Decent Cycle Jersey:                           €40
Westuit:                                               €250
Tri-Slide:                                             €15
Tri-Glide:                                            €10
Racebelt & Racechip strap:                 €15
Sweat Band:                                       €10
Running Cap:                                      €15
Iphone armband (training):                 €10
Sports Headphones (training):            €10
Sensa Road Bike:                                €600 (worth €1200 - I got a good deal on this through a work contact!)
Asics Runners:                                    €85
Lock-Laces:                                        €10
Swimming Jammers:                           €25
Prescription Goggles:                          €60
Prescription Sunglasses:                      €180 (yup, that stung)
Maintenance Bag & Spare Tube:        €20
Transition Bag:                                    €65
Grand Total:                                     €1470

Now don't get me wrong, you can turn up on race day with swimming togs under a standard wetsuit, battle through the swim, change at your own pace with a towel in transition area into standard t-shirt and shorts and do your cycle on that raleigh activator mountain you had since you were 12, and be all set for your run and nobody will laugh at you - plenty of people do it that way and are all running their own race. I'm just not wired that way - aerodynamics aside, I wanted to get all the right stuff to ensure I flowed from one discipline to another, and I wanted to do a good time. Obviously I also got completely sucked in too. I rationalised it as I would do tri-Athlone once a year, so this was an investment and I would not have to spend this money again! I never realised just how much my spending would continue! ie this does not include my purchases since of €150 on tribars, €30 on aero drinks bottle for tribars, €120 for combination of tri-cycling shoes and clip-in pedals, €90 on new club tri-suit and jersey, my current wishlist includes a €120 aero helmet and a €350 multi-sport gps training watch, and god help me if I decide to upgrade my bike or even parts of my bike! And when you have your gear, you still have your race fees, which range from €45 for a sprint distance triathlon right up to €400 for a full Ironman (or more if you start going to the big international events, like Kona).  Pick a figure, you can spend all you want on triathlons!

I guess, to counter that, all I can say is that it became my passion and my life after work. It gave me a spare time occupation when my social life was dwindling due to friends leaving the country during the recession, and it was my weekly motivation booster when I was not working in my qualified profession for a long,long time. When you compare it to the annual expense of just running a car or looked at the avg man in his 20s' annual spending on beer or even gym memberships, it puts things in a better perspective!


All in all, personally I think it was worth the expense, and still just about is!