Part 3: Equipment Advice From a Newb. Guaranteed Accuracy and Brilliance!

author : peteo
comments : 4

Honey, great news. I just spent our kids’ college fund on a new bike! The sales guy said it will shave at least 3 seconds off my 40K time. Umm, honey why do you have a knife in your hand???

Equipment! Man, where to start on this one? The first thing is I am still very much a beginner, so I am really not qualified to speak on much, if anything. One thing I can bring is the perspective of a complete newb beginner.

There is just a real flurry of information on equipment. It really is overwhelming to try and make a decision about what you need and what can be left for later down the road. Obviously, cost is a big factor in any decision you make. If you have friends who are trying to get you to train for a tri, then they will probably tell you that you don’t need too much to start out and that it is really not going to cost you a lot of money. Well this isn’t exactly truthful. Probably to me and you a “lot of money” is $1000-$2000. A “lot of money” means an ENTIRELY different thing to a hard core triathlete. $10,000-15,000 is not an uncommon amount for a hardcore triathlete to have invested. Taken in that context, $1000-$2000 is not a “lot of money.” So when you hear “not a lot of money,” this does not mean you are going to invest $150-$250 and be happy with your equipment, especially if your wife/husband/partner starts training with you! Realistically, especially for two people, you need to be prepared to spend at least $1000 to get started. Ok now let’s get to what you should expect as far as equipment purchases.

The Must Haves:

Shoes. This is without question your most important purchase. If you are a beginner triathlete, then there is a really good chance you are somewhat out of shape and possibly overweight. Cheap or ill-fitting shoes are a one-way ticket to pain and (possibly severe and long-term) injury. I made this mistake, and luckily I only caused myself short term foot pain. You need to go to a professional running or triathlon store and get evaluated by someone who fits shoes for a living. Your local big-box retailer with a part time high school kid working the shoe department does NOT count. There are very specific ways that our feet strike the ground, and the type and fit of shoe you purchase should be specific to your type of foot strike.

Unfortunately I live in a cow-college town so there are more custom saddle shops (several) than professional running stores (zero), so a trip to Austin was in store. Austin is chock full of hippies and other undesirables, so of course there are plenty of running/tri shops. Our local resident tri-god/hippie Brett advised me to go to Run-Tex. What an eye opening experience! I had never seen shoes done like this!! There was a young lady in the store who was getting ready to run her first marathon. The sales-dude must have had 12-15 boxes of shoes out for her. She was there before I came in and was still trying on shoes 25 min later when I left. These guys really care about getting it right!

Anyhow, I get another sales-dude to help me. I am not young, hot, and female like the wannabe marathon runner, so I wondered if I would get the same service. Not to worry! First thing he does is he had me take off my shoes to walk and run around the store. Once he determined my foot strike, he disappeared into the back and came out with six pairs of shoes. I tried all of them on, some several times, until I found a pair that felt very comfortable. Then he took me to the front of the store were they have a treadmill. He let me run for over 10 minutes just to make sure the fit was correct. The shoes were expensive, and I had to drive over 150 miles, but I have been pain free in my feet and knees since then. Once again, I cannot emphasize enough, spend the time and money to get correctly fitted shoes! And get yourself some more expensive running/tri socks. These socks were thinner but for some reason were much more comfortable than my regular cotton socks

Now for the other must-have: a bicycle. This is one area were it is OK to scrimp, especially at first. The bike snobs will disagree, but two tires, a set of pedals, handle bars and a seat will get you started. In fact, as far as I am concerned this is the only way to start out. As you will soon find out, a good road bike is EXPENSIVE. Train on your “beater” bike until you are sure you want to really be a triathlete. There’s nothing worse than spending a lot of money to then decide this is really not your cup of tea.

If you keep up with your training for several months and are making progress, then it will probably be time to upgrade. This is where the debate really begins. Money equals speed when it comes to bikes, but how much do you really want to spend? The top end bikes are for elite athletes and chances are you’re not there yet. I just looked on Craigslist and within a month I was able to find a Giant OCR3 for the wife (Sharon) and a Trek 1500 for me, all for under $900.00. The Trek is especially FAST. I could spend thousands more and shave a couple of minutes off my times, but right now it just isn’t worth it. So if your wallet is fat, go for high end. If not, you can get plenty of bike for a reasonable rate if you are patient.

Ok, the last must-have: Body Glide. If you are like me and not exactly a sculpted Adonis, then there is a pretty good chance that while exercising that “parts” will rub together. This causes the “parts” to become chafed. I don’t like my “parts” becoming chafed. Put Body Glide on and around your “parts,” and it will be better. ‘Nuff said.

The Probably Should Haves:

Tri shorts. It is fine to train swimming with board shorts, but they are a drag, literally. Also, you are not really going to be able to wear them during the race. They would be hard to bike and run in, and I am pretty sure if you got naked in the transition area something might be said. (Tri-god Brett says, however, that in Europe they do this all the time. I will have to do a race there and see) Anyhow, I broke down and bought a pair. They are actually VERY comfortable in all three events, although the padding for the bike is minimal.


As I mentioned above, I am not exactly the Adonis body type, and I was worried about what I would look like in the shorts. It was actually not as bad as I thought. My wife only raised her eyebrows slightly, and no one mocked me to my face while at the local pool. And don’t worry about race day. As long as you didn’t buy a pair of “Speedo” style shorts, no one is going to be paying any attention to you. Everyone is just WAY to nervous to notice.

Yankz! These are shoelaces that you adjust once, and from then on you can just slip your shoes on or off. I found them to be very comfortable in addition to making it very easy to put my shoes on. It doesn’t seem like tying your shoes would be a big deal, but during stress the first thing to go are your fine motor skills. In addition, if the water is cold or your hands go numb from riding the bike, it can be EXTREMELY hard to get your laces tied correctly. Sharon was VERY cold after the swim and it took her several minutes to get her shoes tied right. You don’t have to have these to race but I would HIGHLY recommend them.

Heart rate monitor. They are not that expensive and it really helps you run at a pace that you can sustain. Often times, when we first started out on a long run, we really had to make an effort to go slower and keep the heart rate in the target zone. It just seemed like we are not going that fast. Over a long distance, however, we would not burn out and especially at the end you could see that we had been following the correct pace.

Well there you go. Hope this helps a little in getting through all of the chatter about what you need to get started. Next up, RACE DAY!


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date: July 28, 2008


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