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November 30, 2020

The Best Gear Upgrades for Every Triathlete

Upgrading your triathlon equipment can increase training effectiveness, enhance comfort, and improve speed where it counts. On this episode, TriDot coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James outline triathlon gear upgrades for the swim, bike, and run. Learn what ‘key items’ you might be missing and get recommendations for which premium products make the biggest impact on performance.

TriDot Podcast .062 THE BEST GEAR UPGRADES FOR EVERY TRIATHLETE Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together. Andrew Harley: Hey, what's up everybody! Fun episode of the TriDot podcast today! Competing in three sports at the same time takes a good amount of equipment, and it always feels like there is some new toy, gadget, or piece of gear that we want to buy next. So today I have a few of our esteemed TriDot coaches here to guide us through the endless labyrinth of triathlon gear buying decisions. Joining us for this conversation is coach John Mayfield. A successful Ironman himself, John leads TriDot's athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first-timers to Kona qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. John, how's it going today? John Mayfield: Going good! It's been awhile since I've had the opportunity to be on a podcast, so looking forward to getting back at it! Andrew: Next up is pro triathlete and coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth came to the sport from a soccer background and quickly rose through the triathlon ranks using TriDot. From a beginner, to top age grouper, to a professional triathlete, she’s a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us! Elizabeth James: My pleasure, Andrew! I just love being here, and I've already told my family to be listening closely to this episode for my Christmas list, so it's gonna be a good one! Andrew: Smart, very smart thinking ahead. Well I'm Andrew the Average Triathlete, Voice of the People and Captain of the Middle of the Pack. As always we'll roll through our warmup question, settle in for our main set topic, and then wind things down with the cooldown. Lots of good stuff, let's get to it! Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving. Andrew: So here at TriDot we have the official I AM TriDot Facebook group, and there are thousands of athletes in this group. It's a very active triathlon community that I know I personally love being a part of. Guys, there are just some funny athletes in this group, and throughout the year, every single week, there's humorous posts that get a chuckle from me and our other athletes. So as this 2020 calendar year that we're recording this podcast is coming to a close, I know that you two, as two of our TriDot coaches, are very active in this group. So let's just give a quick little shout out to what is one of the funniest post you've seen on the I AM TriDot Facebook this calendar year? John, I'll start with you. John: Mine is not so much a singular post but more of a recurring theme that we'll see from different athletes, and there's always the lamentation of a particular set. Oftentimes it's Big Gear Work, that's one of everyone's favorite workouts to loathe and then talk about afterwards. It's great with the baby giraffe GIFs that oftentimes follow that set, because Zone 5 on the bike, hopping off and doing a bunch of squats, nothing will make the legs feel like jelly than doing that big gear work. There are others, sometimes it's the long threshold sets, sometimes it's 30‑30's, whatever the case may be. Those are always fun. It seems to be kind of a love-hate thing with some of those sets, and I certainly identify. Sometimes you see that coming up on your training plan, you're like, "Aw, this is gonna hurt," but it's gonna hurt so good. Those are always fun to see how everyone reacts to some of those sets. Andrew: Yeah, there was a post in the group about Big Gear Work just this week. Particularly when a new athlete comes on and joins the group and gets Big Gear Work for the first time. It always elicits a fun response. John: Yeah, like "What is this??" Andrew: "What is TriDot trying do to me??" Elizabeth, what about you, what's one of the funnier posts you've seen this year? Elizabeth: Gosh, for this year in particular, I'm not going to remember the exact wording of it, but it was a meme to the effect of comparing 2020 to oatmeal raisin cookies, and something about how you bite into the cookie thinking it's chocolate chip, something you actually want that's good, and then it turns out that what you thought was chocolate was actually raisins. That just seemed like a pretty accurate post, something that stuck with me and made me smile. Andrew: Elizabeth just offended all the raisin oatmeal cookie truthers out there. The few people that actually enjoy those cookies are like, "Wait, people don't like those?" Elizabeth: And by that, you mean I offended like, two people, because that's just not the popular cookie of choice! Andrew: You're gonna hear about it on the Facebook group! John: I was going to say, I like the oatmeal raisin, but I will say oatmeal chocolate is better. Elizabeth: But do you like it if you're still expecting chocolate chip? That's a whole different thing. John: No, I am outraged. Kind of like Big Gear Work, like, "What is this??" Andrew: One recently that I laughed at really hard came from athlete Bill Talley. He wrote just a few weeks ago, "When doing squats, how loud are the crunchy sounds from your knees supposed to be?" And I laughed SO hard, because I'm 32 at the time we record this, and I have that as a problem, and it's like you're doing a particular strength workout and something's creaking and crunching and making noise every single time, and you're like, "Should I keep going, or should I stop??" What's the threshold of there being something wrong where I should stop doing this workout, or am I just getting old? So I know that some of our more seasoned veteran athletes probably deal with that more than I do, but I at age 32 laughed pretty hard at that one. John: Especially when it's not even doing squats, more so when it's like getting out of bed in the morning. Everything makes noise and hurts. Andrew: Climbing on and off the bike trainer causes that response. Hey, I want to encourage everybody listening today: if you're in the I AM TriDot Facebook group, thanks for the fun posts, and thanks so much for adding so much color and variety and flavor in life to our Facebook group. If you’re an athlete who listens to the podcast, you're in the podcast family, and you are not in that group, go find us: I AM TriDot on Facebook. Whether you use our training or not, it's just a really great community and a great place for you to learn more about the sport and get involved with some like-minded folks. We're going to post this question out to the group. Every single Monday we do that: we take the warmup question from the podcast and put it to all of you in Facebook Land to get your responses. So today this question's gonna be out there, and we want to hear from you: what was a post on the group that you remember from this year that made you LOL? Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1… Andrew: Our main set today is brought to you by our friends at Garmin. In the fitness and multisport market, Garmin products are the gold standard. Known for their compelling design, superior quality, and best value. As a triathlete, Garmin can be and should be your very best friend. They offer best-in-class GPS watches that can track your every swim, bike, and run with ease. When you are out on the bike, Garmin’s Vector Power Pedals can measure those all‑important watts, while their Edge cycling computers conveniently display all your data in real time as you ride. You can also bring Garmin into your pain cave with their Tacx indoor trainers and accessories. I tell everyone who will listen that my Tacx FLUX Indoor Smart Trainer is the best investment I have made in my own triathlon training. The best part is Garmin is fully integrated with TriDot. So your Garmin Connect and Garmin health data seamlessly streams to TriDot and your training is continually optimized. So head to Garmin.com and check out all the cool tech they have to offer. From swim goggles and wetsuits, to running shoes, smart watches, and every bike-leg-related item in between, triathlon certainly presents athletes who like to shop with plenty of opportunities to do so. But when we scan the possibilities for our next triathlon purchase or gear upgrade, how should we prioritize where to spend our money? How can we navigate getting new shiny things without blowing our budget? And in what order should we most benefit from equipment upgrades? All that and more today, so if you're a shopaholic, please do not hate me if today's episode triggers you to buy something that maybe you shouldn't, okay? Be responsible out there, people! I'm kidding, but not kidding. John, Elizabeth, as we head into this discussion, I just want to remind our athletes that are newer to the sport we do have Episode .24, "Gearing Up for Your First Triathlon: Essential Race Day Equipment", and there we highlight what folks need to get started in the sport. You don't HAVE to have a ridiculous amount of stuff from Day One. I would encourage listeners that are newer to triathlon to check out that episode. But for the purposes of THIS conversation, where we're talking about: you've got all the gear, you're looking for your next upgrade, you're trying to figure out where to get faster, how to improve as an athlete. What would you say to the beginner athlete as we head into this conversation? Elizabeth: Well, Andrew, I guess I'd just echo what you said there, that as we're talking through this episode and all the gear upgrades that are available, certainly we'll throw out some bigger-ticket and higher-dollar items, but not all upgrades have to break the budget. In fact, I know in our brainstorm before we started recording, we mentioned a lot of smaller items that would make great stocking stuffers for the upcoming holiday, some things that are going to be geared more towards the beginner as well. I think as we're talking through the upgrades, there's going to be an upgrade available for everybody from today's episode, from the beginner all the way through the gadget guru. Andrew: Yep, that's a great note, great stuff. So folks, again there's so much in the gear purchasing world, there're so many things out there. So the way we're going to start today, guys, we're going to start for all three sports: swim, bike, and run in that order, because that's how it goes, people. We're going to identify what we're calling the "Tier 1" items, and what we mean by a Tier 1 item is if you are in the sport and you're looking to get serious about the sport, looking to continue developing in the sport of triathlon, you need these items. These aren't luxury items. They're not dream and get it when you can finally afford it. These are if you're an aspiring, serious age-grouper even, these are the items that you need to start investing in. After we talk about those and identify what those are, we're going to get into what we're calling "Tier 2" items. Tier 2 items are your luxury items. If you can afford it, go out there and get it. If you need to save up for it, take your time saving up. You don't have to have them to be a serious triathlete, but they are nice and helpful and shiny (and carbon, often). So that's how we're going to flow today. We're going to start with the swim. John, Elizabeth, for someone out there looking at the different swim stuff that's out there, what would you identify those as Tier 1? You're wanting to get serious about the sport, you've maybe done a few races. What are the swim upgrades that we're saying people should go out there and get if they're serious about the sport? Elizabeth: One of the things that first comes to mind that's a little bit beyond the essentials would be a good swim cap. When I think of somebody new going to the pool, they need goggles, swim cap, suit. But a GOOD swim cap is a fantastic little upgrade. One of the things I've found that has been so helpful for me is that they make swim caps specifically for long hair, which is why I wanted to recommend that. I know that there have been athletes that I've coached that have just been using the race swim caps and are trying to get their ponytails into the swim cap and struggling with it, and they have to stop frequently in the middle of their set to readjust everything. It may be more of a convenience item than anything, but I say get yourself a good silicon swim cap. Worth a little bit of investment there. John: I think I would be remiss here, if Jeff Raines were on this podcast, we all know he would be making a jab at MY hair, so there's that for Jeff Raines. I'll echo that. For years, when I had short hair, I didn't swim with a swim cap, and so my only experience ever with swim caps were just the race day, cheap latex, and if I was ever doing an assessment or something I may throw that on just for a little hydrodynamics, but it wasn't until I tried a silicon swim cap years into swimming, I was like, "Man, they really are different." So that's a great recommendation. Elizabeth: Moving on from there, one of the things I would say in terms of swim upgrades that would be really important are some good swim tools. We mentioned the importance of swim drills and practicing proper technique in quite a few of our previous podcast episodes, so swim tools such as fins, a buoy, a snorkel that can help you properly execute the swim drills would be a very important upgrade. Andrew: That's a great point, especially when in your workouts you're prescribed those drills. I have a swim workout later this afternoon, and there's a couple 100's where it says "choice of drill", and without having the tools in your arsenal…They're not expensive; that's the beauty of the swim bag, is you can fill out your swim bag with all the essentials, the pull buoy, snorkel, fins, without spending a whole lot. Then you can have it at the pool, and it just widens which drills you have in your arsenal that you can do in the pool. On our YouTube channel, TriDot Triathlon Training on YouTube, we have all of the swim drills that folks are prescribed in their TriDot training on YouTube, and you can see a swimmer doing them and learn how to do them. I know for me, I've very much been able to vary what swim drills I do now based on those videos and now having different tools in the kit. So that's another good call. If you're getting serious about the sport, get the swim tools, get a nice swim cap. You're gonna be in the pool a lot. Are there any bigger items besides the swim training session items? Elizabeth: Yeah, I'd say a wetsuit would go in that category for me. While this might be a little more of an expensive item, you certainly can find some good deals, and many brands are going to have a number tiers and options at various price points. If you are going to be doing a race where the water temperature is cool enough to be wetsuit legal, then you're definitely going to want a wetsuit to wear. That would be a good investment. Andrew: Yeah, so good swim cap, get the tools for the pool bag, the wetsuit, Elizabeth. If you're getting serious about the sport, you're going to encounter races that are wetsuit legal, and my gosh, it makes a world of difference to have a good wetsuit. John, what about from you, are there any items that you would add to this Tier 1? You're getting serious about the sport, you need to consider these for your triathlon swim journey? John: You've got to have the right goggles, one that fits you, fits your face, that are comfortable and don't leak. You also need the right goggle for the race situation that you're going to be in, so test out those open water goggles and even your clear vs. tinted so that you can be ready for anything. It depends on the conditions, low light vs. sunrise, that sort of thing. It's not just about having one pair of goggles, it's not just necessarily the pool goggles that are going to work for all the training, but also having the right goggles for those other situations that you may encounter on race day or when you're doing your open water swims. Something else that's important to do and a big benefit early on is getting a stroke analysis. This is a great shortcut to making big gains. When you can have someone look at your stroke and identify one, two, or three things that are holding you back or your biggest opportunities for improvement, that's going to go a long way. That can offset months of training, when you have somebody come in and identify that. That's something that our resident swim guy, Jeff Raines, does a lot of. TriDot coach Joanna Nami does a lot of those. All our TriDot coaches are really qualified to do that. That's a great opportunity to reach out. It's relatively simple, generally takes just a little bit of filming, maybe a couple laps in the pool, you send it via email, it's a very reasonable rate to do that, and really can provide some great insights for improvement. What to focus on, what to fix, and oftentimes you're going to cut a huge chunk of time just by fixing a couple little things that you may not even know that you're doing. That's what we see oftentimes, athletes don't realize they're doing these things that are really holding them back. But when you have somebody that can look at a stroke and see you're doing this, you're not doing that, and then provide some ways to work on it, that can be a huge benefit. Andrew: Yeah, when you're the one swimming, your head's in the water, you're looking down at the bottom of the pool. You can feel what you think your arms are doing, but you can't see what your arms are actually doing. That's a great point, John. The thing I'll say about goggles, I almost view goggles like I view running shoes. You need to have a couple in your rotation that serve different purposes, and then once you find them, you've got them and you're good to go. All good points there. So that rounds out the essentials when you're getting serious about triathlon, get those items. Are there any Tier 2 luxury items that you don't have to have to be a serious triathlete, you don't have to have them to have success in your training and racing, but they're just nice to have, good to splurge on if someone's got the budget? Elizabeth, what are those Tier 2 luxury items for our swim training? Elizabeth: For those open water events that are not wetsuit legal, I would say a swim skin would be one of these items that you could invest in, maybe more of a luxury. I know it was a number of years ago that I would do the non‑wetsuit swims in just my tri kit, but after upgrading and making the investment in a swim skin, you can 100% tell the difference. They're going to reduce your drag in the water, making you faster. I love my Roka swim skin. That was the first thing that came to mind. As we're talking about more of these luxury things, the other thing was Form goggles. That upgrade might be more for your gadget guru, but the Form swim goggles are a cool upgrade. They have a smart display that will show metrics, viewable as you're swimming, so you can see your split times, stroke count, distance per stroke, all of that in real time as you're swimming. One of the guys in my masters swim group has these goggles, and he has found them to be super helpful, particularly as he's near the end of the set, and he can see what metrics are falling apart as he's getting more fatigued. Some really good real-time feedback available on those. The last one I'll throw out there, this might be like Tier 4, not necessarily Tier 2, but a Master Swim Spa. That's always gonna be on my list. Dreaming. So no excuses not to get to the pool, get your swim session in. You can do it from your house. We'll say that would be the luxury purchase there for your swim training. John: This coming from the girl who loves her trainer and loves her treadmill. She just naturally needs the swim version of those. Andrew: That kind of takes care of swim land. It's not the most gear-heavy of the three sports, but the one that IS the most gear heavy is obviously the bike, so let's get in that a little bit. If someone is a triathlete, they've been doing the sport for a little while, they're getting more serious about it, what are the Tier 1, go-out-and-get-these items? I will say this, because there's going to be quite a few of them, don't think that to be a serious athlete in triathlon you have to have all these items right away. It probably took me four or five years of being in the sport before I had most of the items we're about to talk about as Tier 1, please-go-get-these items. I do want to throw out that disclaimer: don't feel pressured to overspend right away. That's the beauty of this sport, is you can collect these things over time. Guys, what are the Tier 1 essentials, yes-go-out-and-get-these for your bike training and racing? Elizabeth: I'm trying to think of this in terms of cost and moving our way up a little bit. This first one, Andrew, is for you. Your Tier 1 upgrade, very budget-friendly, is a razor. I'm somewhat kidding, but with all the money that triathletes are willing to spend looking to save minutes on their bike split, probably one of the easiest things that some of the guys could do out there is shaving their legs. I know that Jesse Frank, our wind tunnel engineer from Specialized, when he was on and we did an episode with him, he talked about that. Gear upgrades for the bike Tier 1, let's start with just a couple dollars for a razor. In terms of an inexpensive upgrade to save you some minutes, that's certainly cost-effective as well. I know that quite a few our listeners are already doing this, but definitely want to throw this out there as well: if you don't yet have clipless pedals and cycling shoes, that is a great upgrade and a very worthwhile investment to make. Just being attached to the bike makes a cyclist so much more efficient. It allows you to recruit and utilize more muscles for the full circle of the pedal stroke. So if you're an athlete out there getting into the sport, you've got some of those essentials, maybe your next upgrade is some clipless pedals and cycling shoes just to make you more efficient on the bike. Then along those lines, another thing that I would really highly recommend is a bike fit. That may end up including some specific parts of the bike itself to be upgraded depending on the athlete's current ride, so maybe some clip-on aerobars if you're riding a road bike. But really, just looking at bike fit, and what is going to make you comfortable and more aerodynamic on the bike, that would be a very worthwhile upgrade there. We could probably list forever all of the little parts and upgrades, like good tires. High-quality tires are going to roll faster, they're going to be constructed form lighter rubber compounds. From a cost perspective and how much your dollar can save in terms of making your bike lighter, maybe upgrade your saddle. I guess I'll throw those out there too, but certainly not an exhaustive list of those little upgrades for the bike. Andrew: I'm glad you mentioned the saddle, because comfort on the bike can add speed on race day, right? An aero position is only as good as long as you can hold it. If you're getting uncomfortable in your saddle and you start fidgeting a lot toward the end of a ride because your bike fit is off, your feet are falling asleep, or the handlebar grip tape isn't to your liking, all of those touch points on the bike can add to your comfort. And being more comfortable, you're going to be able to hold an aero position longer, and that just adds free speed. Good point. I finally found a saddle I like after trying, like, 14 different ones. That's not an over-exaggeration, I wish it was, but it's made a huge difference. John, what items would you add to this Tier 1 list of bike training and racing upgrades? John: So first is the bike. If you are going to be racing triathlon on a regular basis, my rule is you got to go with a TT/triathlon bike. Road bikes are great for what they're designed for, and that's riding either solo or in a group. Adding aerobars onto the road bike is not necessarily the same as a true time trial or triathlon bike, the geometry is different. So for me, that's the first step. If you're going to be racing triathlon, or if you're going to be racing long-course triathlon, you're really setting yourself up for a big disadvantage by taking those on a road bike, it's just not the same. Your aerodynamics, your muscle recruitment, your comfort, all that's going to be different. You're going to be faster, and you're going to run better off the bike on a time trial bike, and you simply cannot duplicate the geometry, the fit, all of that on a road bike. So I'm kinda going high-budget first, but the good news is I've got some lower-cost things to follow up with. Andrew: But that's a core item, right? I mean, you buy a bike and then you're typically going to have it for years, and so it's an important decision to make. And John, to your point, I was at the point we're talking about, the point where I'd done a bunch of tris, I knew I liked the sport, I wanted to get more serious as an athlete. I had an entry-level Specialized Allez aluminum road bike. I was looking for that next bike purchase to make me a serious triathlete, and I bought another road bike. I bought a carbon road bike and put aerobars on it, and within two races, a couple months on that, I was already wishing I had a tri bike. And now I do have a tri bike, and could have saved myself a little bit of trips in and out of a bike store putting down a credit card if I'd just accepted, "Hey, I wanna be a triathlete." It's just worth having a tri bike, it really is. I think that's a great point. What are some of the little items that you're talking about that aren't as big and expensive as a road bike? John: So almost as cheap as the razor are the latex tubes. This is something that takes a little bit more effort to find, oftentimes the tubes that are just mass stocked at your bike shop are butyl tubes, so it may take a little more digging. I've gotten mine both at a bike shop, they have them on Amazon. These latex tubes – it's been explained to me, I've done the reading, I still don't get it – but something about these latex tubes reduces the rolling resistance and makes you more efficient on the bike. You will roll faster with something that doesn't come in contact with the road, which again doesn't make sense to me. I will trust the experts on this one and trust that these latex tubes are more efficient, have a lower rolling resistance than those butyl tubes. I've been riding them, and I've not had any difference in punctures or flats. They're a little bit more expensive than the butyl tubes, but not much. Speed per dollar, time per dollar, this is a great investment. It's something you swap out instead of replacing your tube with a butyl tube next time. Grab one of these latex tubes and go from there. Another great time saver for the cost is an aero helmet. This is one of those things that's very well documented, both with wind tunnel testing and actual race day, is that aero helmet. They've gotten better over the years. Back in the day, even when I first started racing, they were notorious for being hot because they weren't well ventilated, so it was always a decision of am I going to be fast, or am I going to be cool? But I'll say over the years that the aero helmets have gotten much better ventilated. For me, my last two or three aero helmets, I've not really been able to tell a difference temperature-wise between the aero helmet and my regular extremely vented road helmet. So for not a ton of money you can save a good chunk of time, especially when you're talking 70.3 and Ironman-distance races, just by wearing the aero helmet. Another recommendation for me is good eyewear. This is one of those things that I'll not go cheap on. One of my favorite pieces of gear is some Rudy Project glasses that are photochromatic, so they adjust with the light. It's great for starting out on those early morning rides where the sun is just coming up, so you do not necessarily have to make that choice between am I gonna wear sunglasses or not. You still have the eye protection and it's good for that. But something that's gonna get you there, and a lot of times I'll see folks wearing either their regular running sunglasses or their casual glasses out on a ride, and they are simply better options. That's one of those things that is not necessarily going to make you faster, but it's going to be more of a comfort thing. Then as we get into the bike itself, one of the things I'm a big believer in is going with the ceramic options. This, again, is one of those things that's a little bit more expensive, but is going to pay off in the long term. This is primarily the bottom bracket, the pulleys, and the wheel bearings. You're going to have an option between steel and ceramic in most cases, and you're going to spend more for the ceramic, but out the door they're going to be faster. They have less friction, lower rolling resistance, they're going to be faster from the get-go. The ceramic materials are also going to hold up and last longer than the steel, so it's going to be faster for longer. It starts off faster, and it maintains integrity longer than the steel options, simply because it's going to wear at a slower rate, so it's gonna last longer and be faster throughout. These are not necessarily requirements, but at some point, these things do need to be replaced periodically, so when that time comes for you, I would say opt for the ceramic option in these. Along that note, if you have never looked at or replaced your bottom bracket or your wheel bearings, chances are it's time. Chances are you're probably past due, and really you're losing speed because those bearings are worn out. So if you've got a couple years on your bottom bracket, couple years of your wheels, those bearings do need to be replaced, and you will see a significant improvement once you get those Once you feel a fresh set of ceramic bearings, you're gonna know what I'm talking about. From there, a huge thing is regular maintenance. There's a great saying, a true saying, "a clean bike is a fast bike", and not necessarily just before race day. It's important to take care of the bike. Primary is good lubrication. This should be something that's done on a regular basis, Not necessarily every ride, but ever few rides you need to be checking the drive train, making sure the chain is clean and properly lubricated, not too much oil, not too light on oil. That's kind of a fine line. Go to a bike shop, they'll show you how to do that if you don't know how, but that can make a huge difference. If your bike is making noise, you're losing/wasting watts, you're losing speed. The bike should have just a nice, quiet sound as you're rolling down the road. If you're hearing anything, then that's some sort of inefficiency or something that needs to be addressed. Another thing is a fresh chain. As you mentioned, you and I are racing in about a week and a half. I just ordered a new chain. It's going to be delivered here, and I'm looking forward to having a fresh chain on race day. I think it cost me about $50. I looked, and it's been about nine months since I last swapped out my chain. You can go in and have your chains checked for stretch, and obviously if they're stretched they have to be replaced. For me, I know it's been nine months. I've ridden quite a bit over these past nine months, and I want a fresh chain for race day, and I know it's also going to last me for the next six to 12 months, so I'm going to go ahead and spend the $50 now and have a brand new chain for the last couple rides, and know on race day that my chain is going to be as good as it can. Andrew: Yeah, you know, we spend thousands of dollars, potentially, on the bike, on the race entry fees, and everything that goes along with it. Why wouldn't you just take $50 extra to make sure your chain is top notch and fresh and ready to ride? That's a great point, John. I literally just replaced the chain on my TT bike about a month or two ago, and it's the first time I've done so in the four years I've had that bike. John: Oof. Andrew: So I really pushed that first chain a little much. So people, be good to your bike. Your bike is nothing but good to you, so take care of it. Don't be like me. I'm learning. John: Even circling back to what I said about the bike. My bike is, I believe, a 2012 model, so it's definitely not new. But I recently had it in the shop, and I did this. I had a new crankset, I got the shorter cranks. I did the ceramic bottom bracket, I did the ceramic pulleys. My wheel bearings were still good, so I didn't replace those, but it kind of puts all those things together in that you can spend that higher dollar amount on the bike. But again, it's been eight years since I've bought the bike, and I put a couple hundred bucks back into it, so now I'm good for another couple years. That initial investment was high, but every few years you put the money back into it, you take good care of it, you upgrade or replace the things as they do. The frame itself, if you take care of it, the frame is going to last. It's more so those rotational components that are going to wear out. It's an opportunity to spend the money up front on the bike, and then every few years as you're coming along, as things need to be replaced, you have these opportunities to even upgrade some of those things like bottom brackets and pulleys and that sort of thing. Andrew: So what have we identified as those Tier 2, luxury items? You don't have to have them, but if you've got the money/budget, you're looking to do all the fun upgrades, what are the Tier 2 cycling upgrades? Elizabeth: Well, on this one, for me, I'd almost say it's like your dream TT bike. John gave a great outline of why the TT bike is considered more of a Tier 1 item, but certainly there's still a large variance in price range there between what you can get for a TT bike, and maybe your first TT bike is a little bit more budget-friendly. Then, as funds allow, whatever you have the budget for there's a bike for. You can make that a luxury purchase. Outside of the bike itself, I'd say another thing that is a great upgrade is a smart trainer. This has been one of the best upgrades that I've made for my bike training, and I would say that this is 100% the way to go. Andrew: Yeah, I have the Tacx Flux, and it has made all the difference for me and my bike training as well, so I definitely advocate for that. You don't HAVE to have it. You can do your tri training outside or on a dumb trainer, as we affectionately call them. You can be a plenty effective athlete in training on a dumb trainer. But if you do have the funds, that is a nice luxury item. John, do you have any you would add to that? John: I always feel bad for the fluid trainers and the magnetic trainers, because they were just trainers until the smart trainers came along, and all of a sudden they're the opposite. Like just because we have smart trainers doesn't mean the other trainers are dumb. Andrew: Don't besmirch the name of the dumb trainer! John: I rode a fluid trainer for years and years, and I was even resistant to the smart trainer. I'll even say that I do really enjoy my smart trainer, I'm not giving it back. But there's certainly nothing wrong with a good fluid trainer. I did have a magnetic trainer back in the day, that thing was pretty dumb. Get a fluid trainer, especially if you pair that with a power meter, you're doing good. But the smart trainers are great. Speaking of, I hate to even call it a luxury item, and I would probably even include it here just because I didn't mention it more so with the necessities, is a power meter. I would say seven to ten years ago it was more of a luxury item simply because the price was so high. You were looking at about $1,500 for most power meters back in the day, but fortunately more and more companies have introduced them, and along with that the price point has come down substantially. It really is, for me, almost a non‑negotiable. It's kind of like with the TT bike: if you're going to be a triathlete, this is something that you really do need to invest in. It doesn't necessarily need to be on day one or even year one, but do what you need to do to get a power meter as soon as feasible for you. This is going to revolutionize your bike training and racing. It's not going to make you any faster the day you bolt it on to your bike, but it's going to make YOU faster, which is really great. It's really going to increase the efficiency of both your training and your racing. It's gonna make a huge difference in it. I hate to even put this in Tier 2; I really feel like it probably belongs in Tier 1. The only things putting it in Tier 2 is the price, but fortunately that's come down significantly, so you're looking at more like $400 to $500 now for a power meter as opposed to triple that just a few years ago. Then the other thing that's on the opposite end that WILL make you faster as soon as you bolt onto your bike, but isn't going to make you any fitter, is the wheelset. There's a fixed amount of improvement that you're going to get over a period of time. We do know that the upgraded wheels are more aerodynamic. Typically they're lighter, they are more efficient. You can pick whatever's right for you. You can go with the super-high-end wheelset or they have a lot more economical that are still going to be a lot faster, more aero, lighter. Some great options there on the wheelset. You're going to get a fixed amount of improvement when you put it on or take it off. It's not going to make you a fitter athlete, so kind of one on each side there. One's going to make you faster, and the other's going to make your bike faster. Andrew: Moving on to the run. We've done our swim, we've done our bike, and we are on the final leg of triathlon, talking through what are the run items that at the point you're getting more and more serious about being a triathlete and getting into the sport, talking through the items you need as a runner for your training. Elizabeth, what are the Tier 1 run items? Elizabeth: I'm going to throw out three things here for the run. First one I'll say are elastic shoelaces. You're still on the clock while in transitions, so save yourself the time of tying your shoes. This is an inexpensive upgrade that could save yourself some time in T2, so worthwhile there. I'd also say a hydration system, particularly for long runs. This is more from the training perspective, but having a good hydration system is important, especially for me on those warmer training months. I have a handheld bottle, I have a great hydration running pack that I use, and those get used on almost a weekly basis. Those are some staples in my training, and definitely worth the investment. The third one I'll say are good socks. Keep your feet happy with all those training miles. This can be a really fun one too with all the options that are available. You've got different heights, lots of color choices, different cushioning. Lots to choose from, but also something great to have good socks for your training, too. Andrew: I love a good loud pair of running socks, for sure. You can't beat 'em. John, what about you, would you have any additional items to add to the Tier 1, yes-get-these, have them in the rotation as the runner? John: Yeah, you gotta' have the right shoes. This was one of our first podcasts that we covered, was having the right shoes. Andrew: Episode .03! John: That was one of our more popular ones. Give it a listen, there's just a ton of great advice from Jeff and Elizabeth on that one. Have the right shoe for you. Unfortunately for us, we can't go off of looks or anything like that. Oftentimes I feel like inevitably the shoe that's right for me is the ugliest one on the shelf. It's the least one I would be likely to buy if I were choosing based on aesthetics, but you have to throw that out the door and go with what's going to allow you to train the most efficiently. A lot of that has to with injury prevention, because running is so high-impact and does lead to injury if not done properly, so find that shoe that's going to allow you to run safely and injury free. That's a big one: really invest in the right pair of shoes for you. Something else that's really great and something that took me a long time to acquire is a good wardrobe of run apparel. I live on the Texas Gulf Coast. It is really hot the vast majority of the year, so for me I never really prioritized good cold weather gear. But there are the occasional days here where I do need to bundle up, and it was really nice to have something that was more run-specific. My cold-weather runs were better because I had some good apparel. That's true for cycling as well. I tend to hide in my garage and stay on my trainer when it's cold out, but having some good cold-weather apparel allows me to get out and do some of those. Good run apparel is not necessarily the same: a pair of basketball shorts, or even for a long time I just ran in the race shirts that were tech fabric. But really investing in some good running clothes helped. Same thing on the cycling, some good glasses. For me, a lot of times I'm running either in the morning, afternoon, evening, when the sun is either high or low, and that's a great thing to have, both for training and racing. Andrew: So beyond the essential apparel, beyond shoes that fit you well, the elastic laces we talked about, staying hydrated with a good handheld bottle or hydration pack, what are some of the luxury run items that people can start splurging on after they have the essentials? Elizabeth: One splurge would be a Stryd power meter. Just like power-based training for biking, the Stryd power meter can do that for running. I've found this to be really cool with athletes that I've coached that are living in hilly areas, that may have difficulty adjusting our pace targets for the uphill or downhill segments of their running routes. Training with power on the bike is an almost commonplace thing now, and this can be a little splurge to be able to do that for the run training as well. Then we can't go an episode talking about gear, and particularly run gear, without me giving a shout-out to those amazing Nike racing shoes. I'm still obsessed. I'm sure you saw that one coming, but get yourself a pair of great shoes to race in, something with a carbon plate where you're going to get that boost in performance, too. Andrew: We all have them now, John and I both have the NEXT%. Elizabeth, you just got the newest, what is it, the Alphabounce Fly? The Alphafly? Elizabeth: Alphabounce? It does feel like you're bouncing! Andrew: Those do make a difference. You put them on your feet and you start running, and you can just feel the propulsion of that plate. I love the Skechers Razor 3 for training, but when I put on the Nike NEXT%'s with that carbon plate for a tune-up run or race day run, you just do feel the propulsion. You don't have to have it to be successful, I will definitely get passed on course by people without carbon-plated race shoes, but if you can afford it, if you can spring for it, it definitely is a luxury item worth having. John: I will say there are a lot fewer folks on course without that. We were just at Ironman Florida a couple weeks ago, and it went from a couple years ago Nike was non‑existent in the triathlon market, to where a couple years we started, more so at the faster end, a lot of those guys were wearing the Nikes, and it seems to have just filtered down through everyone. You all were there, it seemed like a third to half the people had on some sort of Nike shoes. Whereas back in the day, I remember the Kona shoe count, there would be like a dozen of the Kona athletes wearing Nikes, and then there'd be hundreds in Brooks and Asics and all those. So Nike's really made a surge. I guess we're all part of that train as well. Andrew: And now you know Hoka has their Rocket, the Rocket X with carbon, and a lot of people like that. New Balance just put out the FuelCell RC, which is their marathon carbon-plated racer. Saucony has the Endorphin Speed, Endorphin Shift, the Asics METARACER. There's certainly options to get into a carbon-plated racer without even being in Nike, so definitely go look at those, try them on, and see if you like a pair, because that's the ultimate splurge item for running. John: Speaking of multiple shoes, I'd say that's my Tier 2 is having multiple training shoes. I think the way to go about doing this is not to buy three, four, five pairs of shoes all at once. That would be real expensive. What I would say is don't go through a pair of shoes from start to finish. Most training shoes last somewhere in that three- to six-month range, depending on how many miles you're doing. But instead of wearing out a shoe completely where it's totally done – and for me they become yard shoes – about halfway through, go ahead and invest in that next pair. So now you have two options. Don't necessarily buy the same pair of shoes, but buy something that's a little different. If you have a real conservative trainer, maybe it's buying something that's a little more aggressive, something that you use for your assessments or doing your track sets as opposed to your long runs out on the road. Maybe it's adding a trail shoe or something like that. You're not necessarily having to buy them all at once, but maybe it's every other month, every two to three months buying a new pair of shoes. Then kind of like we've talked about, all of a sudden, within a while, you've got a nice collection of different types of shoes. Andrew: You've got a nice rotation. John: Yeah, you have a shoe for every scenario that you're in. So you can invest in that race shoe, but you still have good training shoes, a trail shoe, a track shoe, without having to buy them all at once. Andrew: So now we've really, for all three sports, identified: here's the things you should get, here are things that are luxury items that are nice to get. What are a few of the items that have made the biggest difference for you personally in your day‑to-day training from this list we've talked about? Elizabeth: I would say of what we've talked about, one of the things that has made the biggest difference for me in my training is my smart trainer. Love my Wahoo Kickr, it has just been great to be able to better execute the bike sessions that are prescribed. It's making sure that my training is as efficient as possible. That's been a big thing for me. Another thing that just came to mind, and we haven't necessarily talked about this but I’m going to throw it out there anyway, is TRISLIDE. Not even necessarily for the swim perspective or how much it can save my neck with the wetsuit swims, but just for anti-chafing and summer running. That has made a big difference for me in my training, and something I recommend to a lot of the athletes I coach, too. Andrew: That's a great point, whether it's TRISLIDE or Body Glide or Chamois Butt'r, or whatever your go‑to is, know that it can help you out a lot more than the one application. John, what about for you? What's your most important, crucial, these-have-really-made-a-difference day‑to-day? John: As I saw this question I was trying to be objective and say what is the thing that has made the biggest difference in my training, and I'm almost trying to come up with another answer just not to be too hokey, but really it has been my TriDot training. I've been using TriDot for my training since 2010, so it's been a decade. Throughout this decade I've continued to get stronger, despite being a decade older, and I've remained injury free for by far and away the majority of the time. I've never had a major injury, I've never missed a race or had any significant downtime because of injury. That doesn't mean I've never had pains, or never had to skip a session because of a certain issue here or there. But I've never had a major injury, never missed a race or anything like that because I was injured. And like I said, I'm now 41 years old. I started with TriDot when I was 30, and I'm stronger, faster now in all three sports than I was ten years ago. I attribute that back to the training. And a big part of that has been my coaches throughout the time. I've worked with three difference coaches in that time, going back to the original Coach Boo back in the start, and just having a person to communicate with and provide the feedback, the accountability, all those things that the coach does has just been completely invaluable. I really cherish and value both the training and those fantastic coaches I've had the opportunity to work with. Andrew: So guys, just to kind of land the plane today, there's so many items we talked about for the swim, bike, and run. For me, when I have a friend coming into the sport, when I have athletes getting more serious about the sport, a question I see a lot is: from all these items, what's the order of importance, so to speak? If you're coaching an athlete and they've got the basics, they're ready to start investing in better gear, next-level gear, some of the things we've talked about, give me your Top 10 list, in order of how you would have one of your athletes invest their tri funds. Elizabeth, I'll start with you. Elizabeth: Thinking of this and making a Top 10 list, one of the things I tried to keep in mind is: what is going to help them progress most in their training to perform well on race day? So I'd say my first thing would be proper run shoes. As much as I love my Converse, they are not for tri training or run training. We want a good proper pair of run shoes, mostly from an injury prevention standpoint like we were talking earlier. No. 2 would be a watch, let's get something to start tracking some of these training metrics. Bonus if it has the capability to monitor heart rate as well so we can use that. No. 3 would be some at‑home strength training equipment, some resistance bands, maybe a set of two‑way dumbbells. Again, this is going to help prevent injuries, it's going to complement all disciplines, take some of the excuses out of not being able to do strength training, working in scheduling back and forth to the gym, some things you can do at home. Then as I was thinking about this, I almost feel like 4 and 5 go together. I'll still separate them out, but I'd say a smart trainer and a power meter, ways you can measure wattage and really increase the effectiveness of your bike training by being better able to adhere to those prescribed sessions. No. 6, let's go with bike fit, so whatever comes with that proper fit might be a couple little things in there too, but let's increase comfort and aerodynamics. Both of those are going to equal speed on the bike. Then a good aero helmet. We talked about that being a low‑cost, definite time savings there, good investment. No. 8, a quality wetsuit or swim skin. No. 9, an upgraded bike, and then No. 10, looking for race wheels. That would be my Top 10. Man, it was hard to narrow that down to ten, but I think there's a quality list right there. Andrew: Yeah, folks, if you're hearing this at home and you're hearing those ten, maybe you have some of the list, maybe you don't have all of the list, but that's the way Coach Elizabeth thinks in terms of prioritizing those items. John, how about you? Do you have any different takes, or do you feel like that Top 10 spells it out? What's your 10 if you're coaching an athlete on how to spend and prioritize their money? John: Very similar. There's a lot of overlap, maybe a little bit different order. I started out with No. 1 with the watch. We've got to have those metrics to do the right training right. Two, I have the swim gear, simply because it's cheap and effective. You can get a great swim bag and all the toys for probably less than $100. Three is bike fit. It's just that important, it's not that expensive, it pays huge dividends as we've talked about before. Then for those same reasons, time per dollar, the aero helmet. It's relatively cheap, it's going to last you for years and years, it will make you faster. No. 5 is the power meter, I talked about how much that's important for me. The only thing that keeps this from being No. 1 or No. 2 is simply the cost, because it is a little more cost prohibitive, but very important. Next I'll move on to those ceramic components, I discussed those as well. Seven, the race shoes. It's a great investment, it is going to pay off, it's going to make you faster. Eight is something we haven't discussed, but it's something I'm a huge fan of. Not necessarily going to make you faster, but you will enjoy cycling more with the electronic shifting. It's great, especially on a hilly course where you need the ability to shift especially as you're climbing the hills. Just having the ability to shift from the base bar is huge, and the electronic shifting is super cool. From there, No. 9 is a good set of race wheels as we discussed, and my No. 10 is the smart trainer. It's a great training component, but I think there are a couple other things that are a little bit more important. Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down. Andrew: As we are publishing this episode just a few weeks from Christmas, we're all in holiday season mode. We've talked about a lot of gear, we've talked a lot about triathlon purchases you can make. I'm sure a lot of the things we've discussed are on some of your Christmas shopping lists, wish lists, Santa Clause lists. I know some of them certainly are for me. Just to cool us down today, I have John and Elizabeth here and we are going to give our top three stocking stuffer recommendations. I don't know about you guys, but I frequently have my wife's friends or family members that are shopping for an athlete, a triathlete, a runner, ask me what some good stocking stuffers are. So just some nice things that we all like to receive that you can't get enough of that you can toss in a stocking. Real quick, John, I'll start with you. What are three things you would recommend people buy to stuff in the stockings of their triathlete friends and family? John: I think you said it right, it's the things you can't get enough of. So for me, that's socks. Specifically for me it's Swiftwick socks. It's all I wear, I'm a huge fan, so stock up on the Swiftwicks. Then also caps. I love caps, whether trucker caps or race caps, whatever it is. I know those two answers are going to be on Elizabeth's list, so I stole those from her. Then something that's probably not on Elizabeth's list, but something that I have given to Elizabeth on several occasions are tools. Every time I go in my garage and realize I've got a duplicate of something or come across something I need, I love to give those Park tools. Those are great stocking stuffers. Andrew: Great choices! Elizabeth, for you what are some stocking stuffer recommendations, and you can't say socks or caps because John took them! Elizabeth: Right, he stole my answers there! Well, since it can't be socks or caps, how about swim caps? Different category. Andrew: Silicon swim caps! Elizabeth: Exactly, we'll go with that. This one is probably very partner-specific, but a silicon ring. I don't wear my engagement/wedding band hardly at all anymore, just because I'm so afraid of losing it in the pool or the bottom of the lake. It hurts when I strength train, so I have gone to mostly wearing silicon rings and love them. Then since I can't say socks or caps, I'm still going to trend that way and say headbands instead. Andrew: A slight variation, but still getting that headwear. The three I'll add: I frequently recommend the Goodr sunglasses. They're like $25-$35 depending on which model you get. They're really light on your head, they're nice to wear casually. I frequently lose, break, and drop sunglasses, so having a nice $30 pair of sunglasses in the rotation that are fun. They have a lot of colors and patterns and shapes, so I really like the Goodr sunglasses, they're great stocking stuffers. I love Caterpy shoelaces. Early in the episode we mentioned getting elastic laces on your shoes. I personally like doing that with Caterpy. I know Lock Laces is another great brand, but the Caterpys have been the ones that I've trended towards the most and have on all my running shoes. The last thing I'll say is great in a stocking for an athlete is new bars, gels, or energy chews. We all like trying new things, new flavors, and for a lot of us we have our go‑to's, but go to a place like thefeed.com or go down to your local sporting goods store and find some different gel flavors, bar flavors. You can get the little individual-sized ones. Guys, thanks for the suggestions. We can't wait to hear after Christmas what everybody got in their stockings, and if you got some Goodr sunglasses, let me know. Well, that's it for today, folks. A big thanks to coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James for helping us sort through all the key triathlon gear we can and should upgrade over time. Shout out to Garmin for partnering with us on today's episode. Head to Garmin.com to see what tri tech they have to offer. Enjoying the show? Have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to TriDot.com/podcast to let us know what you're thinking. We'll do it all again soon. Until then, happy training! Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to tridot.com and start your free trial today! TriDot – the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.
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