In triathlon it’s always a good idea to step back from what you’ve been doing and evaluate your Return on Investment (ROI). There are numerous ways and things in the sport of triathlon that one could evaluate. Equipment, performance improvements, training changes and the list could go on. Today I’m going to look at evaluating your ROI on the dollars you are willing to spend to upgrade equipment using a recently completed consultation.
This athlete races in the M35-39 age group, mostly 70.3 but also does some local sprints and olympics and goes to USAT Age Group Nationals. He has a pretty killer bike & wheel set up. He swims on his own, races for one of those big national teams has some decent sponsor support through them yet is not always sponsor loyal as he pays out of pocket, albeit at a discount, for many of his training and racing items.
When it comes to racing he routinely places in the the lower portion of the bottom half of the top 10 on the national scene (70.3 and USATAGNC). He has placed 5th in his age group twice in the last two seasons at 70.3s. Locally he does quite well, often winning his age group and rarely out of the top 5 overall. His swim times routinely put him around 30th place in his age group coming out of the water in 70.3s. He typically has a top five bike split and top four run split compared to his age group peers. He has qualified for 70.3 Worlds each of the last two seasons.
He has a budget of $2,000 to spend for the 2020 season for upgrades including the consultation. His goals were to find upgrades in his training and racing equipment to help him move up the results sheet both age group and overall
After analyzing his training and racing equipment, his results and his time spent training I came up with a few different things to implement before making final recommendations. He could buy a new aerobar set up and/or race wheels and this is originally what he was consulting about. I figured that would save him at most :45 seconds over 90km and use his entire upgrade budget. To me this seemed like a poor investment choice. New bars & wheels look cool but based on everything mentioned this made the least sense.
The next option was making a switch from his team’s running shoe brand to the Nike NEXT% racing flat. Based on this NYTimes piece he was looking at roughly a 5% improvement. I calculated both 5% and a 3.5% improvement to give him a ballpark time range. This seemed like a relatively low cost, high ROI investment for him since the shoes are $250 where as new aerobars would be approaching the $1,000 mark. Now he’s in for $500 for two pair of racing shoes since the NEXT% shoes tend to break down much faster than most racing flats. After shoes and the consult fee he has approximately $1,350 left to invest.
The most obvious way to generate an outsized ROI was not to buy any equipment. This received some initial pushback. After talking about the why’s behind my recommendation this athlete came around to realize that :45 for new bars & wheels made no sense. New equipment looks sweet, you can show it off to your friends but if the results come race day are going to be minimal at best, why bother?
The lowest hanging fruit for this athlete was to find someone to work on his swim stroke and/or possibly join a masters swim team. I suggested he take $300-500 of the $1,350 remaining and devote those resources to finding someone local to fix his swim stroke. No matter how fast he runs or rides he’s often 10-15 minutes behind the fastest swimmer in his age group and 7-11 minutes behind the top three out of the water. His swim is a HUGE liability and overcoming a double digit deficit is an ENORMOUS ask.
He’s coming out of the water and passing 15-25 people in his age group. By reducing the swim deficit to even half of what it was he leaves himself with a fighting chance to achieve his podium goals.
This originally started as a consult because this athlete wanted an outsized ROI on equipment. Instead it turned into looking at the complete picture, finding the low hanging fruit and addressing that in order to get an oversized ROI. He still has about $850 left which would cover masters swimming for the rest of the season or leave him with more capital to deploy for follow up swim stroke help later in the season. Is it better to spend $1,500 on shiny new bike parts that may give you :45 or spend or spend 1/3 of that in order to save 4-5 minutes? Too often triathletes make the first choice and not the second. Hopefully this helps you evaluate where you can get the biggest ROI on your triathlon investment.