Triathlon: What I Save on vs. What I Splurge on

For this Question of the Week, we’re asking some of the FBGs: What do you splurge on and where do you save when it comes to fitness? See Susan’s answer below!

As a general rule, I like to keep things on the thrifty side when it comes to Ironman triathlon. The sport isn’t a cheap one, but it doesn’t have to break the bank, either. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a total cheapskate. There are things worth spending money on, for sure.

Splurge: Comfort Items

Because I spend a lot of time in the pool, on the bike or pounding the pavement, it’s important I’m comfortable while doing so. That means buying tri tops that don’t chafe or dig into my shoulders (I’m a devotee of the Smashfest Queen tri tops with built-in sports bra), Hoo-Ha Ride Glide (it’s just as fun to wear as it is to say!) to keep my lady bits intact over eight hours in the saddle and a steady rotation of good running shoes.

My big splurge item, however, is a pair of prescription cycling sunglasses from SportRx. Recently, I got the “you’re getting older” talk from my eye doctor, and it wasn’t fun. Like most people, as I’ve — ahem — matured, my eyes have become cantankerous. Last season, I noticed these changes gradually — leaves on trees were fuzzier, I couldn’t read street signs from far away and I had a headache at the end of long rides and runs.

The squinters are happy, and so am I!
The squinters are happy, and so am I (I swear, I’m smiling on the inside)!

Since I’m not a fan of contact lenses, especially while training and racing (if one falls out and you can’t find it, it’s not fun trying to find your way home), prescription sport sunglasses have proven to be a valuable solution. SportRx offers the best variety, in my opinion, and their customer service is outstanding — just contact them with your vision prescription, and they’ll walk you through the process to find the right pair for your peepers. They’ll even help you with insurance reimbursement, if you have a plan that supports eyewear.

Save: “Free Speed”

Beware of products promising to unlock the secrets of speed — they’re everywhere in triathlon. I’ll let you in on a secret about getting faster — there is no secret. You can drop a lot of money on expensive gear, but it won’t get you to the finish line if you don’t work hard and recover well.

Where some people spend $11,000 on a carbon-fiber bike, claiming “lighter is faster,” I’m more apt to spend a fraction of that for an aluminum bike and lose five pounds — good for the body and the wallet! The same frugal philosophy goes for cycling shoes (I’ve worn the same pair of shoes for four years) and wetsuits, which I buy used from a local triathlon shop at the end of the season.

They see me rollin', they hatin'...
They see me rollin’, they hatin’ … tryin’ to catch me riding thrifty …

When it comes to triathlon, where do you splurge? —Susan

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2 Comments

  1. Sometimes I wonder where the line is with triathlon, when is it common sense to spend more (or at all) and when does it make sense to hold back? I just bought pool equipment because many of the drills that I’ll be starting call for a kickboard and pool float but are these truly necessary to triathlon success? I don’t have aero bars or an aero bottle yet…. The list of equipment and spending feels endless!

  2. The list does feel endless, but it doesn’t have to be. You do want to consider your goals and how that equipment fits in. If your goal is to improve your swim, then yes, it’s worth the investment, but you may not have to buy top-quality stuff. I actually use my pool buoy as a kick board, and use an old bike tube for band work in the pool (because if there’s anything we have a lot of in our house, it’s flat tubes).

    As for aero bars and an aero bottle, it’s really not necessary unless you are trying to qualify for the world championships. If your “A” race is short, takes place on a hilly course, or has lots of turns, you’re likely not going to use your aero bars much anyway. If it’s flat and long and straight, then aero may be for you. But if you’re averaging less than 16 MPH on your long ride, or if you’re not doing anything over Olympic distance triathlon, being in aero position is not really worth the investment.