Long distance triathlon is a sport where you can spend a lot of money on gadgets and expensive bikes but this doesn’t have to be where you start. This article will focus on the “must haves” rather than the “nice to haves”. This will be useful if you are new to triathlon and want to throw yourself into a big challenge straight off – or you may be a triathlete ready for your first long distance event. If you are an old hand then see if you agree – let us know if there is something that we have missed out. Note that we are not thinking about what gear you will need for your race just yet.
Swimming first – what do you really need?
Goggles. Yes of course you need goggles but the important point here is that they fit you and fit you well. Getting water into your goggles every time you swim a length is annoying and avoidable. You should know that goggles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and you are looking for a pair that give you a complete seal around your eye socket without you having to have the strap so tight that you look like you have just come out of the pool for hours after a session. In fact, a good test of fit is to see if the goggles will stay on without the strap around your head.
Training aids. These are items like floats, pull buoys, paddles, snorkels and fins. All of these are fantastic “nice to haves” if used carefully and with guidance within a structured program. However, to get you started I would suggest that you only need a pull buoy and this can double up as a kicking float. Most swimming pools have these available to borrow so you may not need to buy and carry one around. Why a pull buoy? If you are a developing swimmer then the pull buoy can help you spend time focusing on performing the front end of your stroke correctly and help you develop a feel for the water in a streamlined position BUT you still need to work on developing a tidy flutter kick that will keep your hips high in the water and maintain good balance.
Obvious must haves….
Ladies, you will need a swim cap if you have long hair to keep the hair out of your eyes. Gentlemen, you should be training in slim fitting shorts or speedos as opposed to baggy shorts.
What sort of bike and equipment?
For a long distance event you are going to need a road bike. A mountain bike or hydrid will just not be efficient enough over the distance. Similarly, you should be sufficiently skilled as a cyclist to be using cleats and clipless pedals so that you can apply force throughout your pedal stroke. Again this is all about efficiency.
The weight of your bike, your wheels and YOU are going to be important factors in performance, and for a novice long distance athlete this is likely to be more important that aerodynamics.
A turbo trainer or the option of cycling indoors. In my opinion a turbo trainer is a “must have” item for an athlete training for a long distance event. Much of your training is going to be done in the early spring with unpredictable weather and your turbo or indoor trainer can become your midweek skill or strength session uninterrupted by dark evenings or snow!
Obvious must haves….
Cycling helmet in good condition (you are going to be out on your bike a lot!), a good pair of cycling shorts, warm and weather proof clothing, two bottle cages on your bike.
For the run?
The key item is of course your trainers. Given the amount of running that you will be doing it is crucial that you are running in the right sort of shoe for your body and running style. Most good running shoe shops will have a treadmill and experienced staff that can look at your running gait and advise you on the best shoe for you.
Running at night and in the dark is something that many of us will be doing. In which case, a “must have” is a high visibility vest. You just pull these over your head over the top of your run clothing and you can get them in most sports shops.
Obvious must haves….
Warm and weather proof clothing and good socks!
This will get you started on your long distance triathlon journey – there will be plenty of other retail opportunities along the way!