Member Question: Improving an Ironman

author : mikericci
comments : 0

I just finished my first Ironman - New Zealand, sub 12 hours. I am looking to improve my performance through training but wondering what equipment would help me towards a better performance?

Member Question


I just finished my first IM - New Zealand, sub 12 hours. I am looking to improve my performance through training but wondering with being on a limited budget what would help me towards a better performance: a tri bike, Zipp wheels or a wetsuit? I did this Ironman on an Avanti entry level road bike, Amercian classic 420 wheels and with a Orca P Flex wetsuit. I found the bike to be tough into the wind, I did a 3.59 run, 1.12 swim and 6.25 bike.

Answer from Mike Ricci

USAT Level III Coach


Great question! There is a lot to consider in your question. Please keep in mind, that in every instance, better training is always going to be your easiest way to improve. If you only have ten hours to train, the way you approach those ten hours will have a lot to do with how your race goes. So, no matter how much money you dump into equipment, training will always be more important.


Hopefully you already own a heart rate monitor and that will help you with your training program as well. Don’t skip the heart rate monitor as the first piece of equipment you should own. Ok, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the fun equipment side of things: A triathlon bike will most likely be lighter and more aerodynamic than what you are currently riding. On top of that, the bike’s geometry will set you up in a position that’s more conducive for running off the bike.


The next most important thing is going to be an aero helmet, a front aero wheel, and then a rear aero wheel. I am going to assume that aero bars are included with the new tri bike, or the aero bars are going to be the number one piece of equipment you should own.

From the numbers, it would be my opinion that the biggest bang for your buck would be on the bike. A sub 4:00 run on that course is outstanding, and the swim looks solid too. Did you look to see where you finished in regards to the rest of the field in each leg of the race? A new wetsuit could definitely help you improve without having to work harder. My opinion would be to maximize the swim in order to help your run. "What is he talking about", you may be asking yourself? When you have deep swim fitness, that’s pretty much free endurance without having to work as hard as you would if you were running for the same amount of time. It’s been my experience that athletes with a deep swim fitness usually run very well late in the IM race.

Last and maybe most importantly, having the right training plan is the key to getting faster. Investing into hiring a qualified, certified coach in your area may be the best thing you can do to help you improve. You can learn things from a coach that you can take with you for the rest of your triathlon career, whereas a wetsuit will wear out and a triathlon bike will become outdated. Getting some professional coaching may help you make leaps and bounds in your training and racing – going beyond what you thought was possible and that’s really something you can’t put a price tag on.


Good luck with your decision!

Mike Ricci
USAT Level III Coach
USAT National Coaching Commission


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date: May 20, 2008