Triathlon is very much a completely different game to running. Running, is for the most part, an honest sport: all you really need are the shoes on your feet and the motivation to better yourself. That is not to say that runners are blissfully unaware of the technology surrounding them. Garmin has done a brilliant job at designing fancy watches with an excessive number of features, that (while maybe 90% unrelated to running) have been a huge talking point – they really get people excited. Another case in point is the controversy surrounding the Nike 4%. A few minutes saved over the course of a marathon is a huge talking point for runners, but it is almost laughable to triathletes when you take into account the time trial bikes, which look like something straight out of the future – they’re banned in most cycling events – and will eat anyone alive that dares trying to pass them on a plain old road bike.
The technological advantages in triathlon go waaaay past time trial bikes. Significant performance gains can also be made from disc wheels, aero helmets and skin suits, just to name a few. That’s, of course, if you don’t mind taking out a second mortgage on the house…
For the same amount of power, with a ‘kitted’ out time-trial bike and aero helmet and wheels you could go 3-6 kilometres an hour faster over the course of an ironman bike – that could be a good 20-30 minutes in some cases. As a result, triathletes tend to invest heavily in the latest and greatest gear. A new Garmin may seem like a huge investment for a runner, but for a triathlete: what’s a few hundred dollars on a Garmin, when you could spend thousands on a new bike?
New bikes and running shoes may seem cool, but the technology that offers the most potential gains is often underutilized. A professional bike fit can measure, down to the millimetre, the optimal position for comfort and aerodynamics while riding. It could be compared, in terms of potential efficiency gains, to a gait/running form analysis. A bike fit not only delivers huge performance benefits on the bike but also translates across to the run. Imagine coming off the bike realising you have to run a marathon when your legs are cramping, and your back has completely seized up from riding in a less than ideal position – that’s going to be a looong day! Getting a decent bike fit will benefit you much more than selling your soul for the latest time trial bike.
The amount of attention your average triathlete pays to the latest gear can also be their downfall. Runners tend to focus a lot more on the quality of training and workouts than they do on investing in technology. They know that the biggest gains they are going to see are not from some fancy new shoes, but from hitting those hard sessions week after week. Triathletes may be distracted by the shiny new technology and can often forget that what it really comes down to is the consistent hard work and training. It can be easy for them to slack off on the bike training, thinking that their $10,000 triathlon bike is going to make up the minutes. However, a triathlete on a second-hand road bike who has spent hundreds of hours training is still going to smash the athlete with all the fancy gear who has done the bare minimum. At the end of the day, technology can only get you so far. If you want to realize your true potential, you also need to put in the hard yards.
- 220triathlon.com – Nine Gear Upgrades for Long Distance Triathletes