Health

How to get gear on a budget: My triathlon challenge

As an aspiring triathlete on a limited budget, I hope to train and race as cheaply as possible. But I also know that a triathlon is not like a running race. In a triathlon (or a duathlon), competitors transition between activities and change gear while continuing to race. This is going to require more than a decent pair of shoes ($150) and a sports bra ($20), both of which I already own.

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As an aspiring triathlete on a limited budget, I hope to train and race as cheaply as possible. But I also know that a triathlon is not like a running race. In a triathlon (or a duathlon), competitors transition between activities and change gear while continuing to race. This is going to require more than a decent pair of shoes ($150) and a sports bra ($20), both of which I already own. 

So, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: how much is this project going to cost? 

The short answer is: rather more than originally anticipated. But much of it is upfront investment that will pay out over time (ie. road bike), and some of it is spent on items only peripherally related to the project that would have been purchased anyway (ie. yoga classes, swimsuit). 

Let me break it down for you.

For starters, I buy a one-piece swimsuit designed for regular chlorinated-pool use, so the fabric won’t degrade over time ($50). My husband picks me up a swim cap ($10) and goggles ($20). A pass to our local pool is a steal of a deal: fifty visits for $150. At the same facility, I can use the indoor track for free. So far, so good.

At first, I imagine racing in said swimsuit, but after consulting with experienced triathletes, realize it would be wisest to use a wetsuit, which offers buoyancy and protection. The prices range, but suffice it to say, a wetsuit is going to cost several hundred dollars, minimum. Yikes. That’s a big investment for something I may never use again. Luckily, I am able to borrow from a friend of similar size; note that wetsuits are also available to rent. Again, so far, so good. 

I buy new work-out clothes, grabbing sale opportunities, hunting at a discount store, and requesting fancy windstopping gloves ($40) as a birthday gift. Though not absolutely necessary, the purchases feel worthwhile: I wear these clothes often, and in all weathers, and wearing them has a motivational effect on me. When I put them on, I’m psychologically ready to go. Micro-fibre shirts and pants range from $20 to $60. I spend $75 on a fancy jacket with removable sleeves (on sale!). The most expensive purchase is a pair of tri-shorts: padded bike shorts designed for swimming and running in, too. There goes $100. My hobby is starting to add up.

But far and away the most expensive purchase is a road bicycle. I’d prefer to buy used, but as a small woman, find nothing for sale in my size. I debate and debate and debate: do I really need this? In a pinch, a friend could lend me her bicycle for the race; or I could ride my mountain bike, though it would be a hard slog. My decision finally comes down to investment: I love cycling, and this is a bike I hope to ride for years to come, whether or not I continue to enter races. 

Armed with research and advice from friends, I take the leap. My new bike is not carbon-framed, but it’s lighter and faster than anything I’ve ever dared to ride, with skinny tires that whisk me down the road ($850 not including tax and extras). I also buy aero bars ($75), clip-in shoes ($120), and a repair kit with pump and tube ($50). I borrow gloves, and already have a helmet. Thank heavens, because I’m starting to get sticker shock.

Other costs along the way include yoga classes ($500 for a fifty-class pass), spin classes ($15 per class), and the cost of entering races (between $30 to $80 per race).

I’m afraid to tally it all up.

But that does it. I’ve made my investments, and I’m geared up and ready for race day, now less than a month away. On your mark, get set…go!