How WSJ got it wrong — it’s not about the gear

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article talking about how triathlon gear has evolved to allow non-athletes to compete in Ironman but using ridiculously expensive bikes and volumes of data to optimize training and performance. The tone of the article makes it seem like people can “buy” their way into finishing an Ironman. Which is absurd and I find, ridiculously insulting.

WSJ mentions a $20,000 bike. Seriously? My bike is ¼ of that cost and I have a high-end bike. It’s the same model that Chrissie Wellington used when she won Kona for the first time. Seriously? The difference between a $5k bike and a $20k bike is a whole lot of technology which is probably lost on the above-average age grouper. And, the story talks about data (Heart Rate, Wattage, Zones, VO2 max, etc.) which are important elements – akin to the athlete’s level of effort to achieve the right cadence/turnover and MPH. But, having that data doesn’t necessarily make you better. You have to put that knowledge to use in training to make it beneficial.

Which comes to my overall point – you can have all the fancy gear and data in the world, but if you don’t put in the time and effort, it doesn’t matter. You can probably not train for a marathon and still go out and finish. But an above-average person can’t just go out and “do” and Ironman and finish. You still have to swim 2.4 miles, and then bike 112 miles BEFORE you attempt the marathon (another 26.2). What WSJ overlooks is the dedication of ~15-20 hours each week in training to get your body up to the level of fitness and endurance required to complete the race. Regardless of what kind of data helps you focus on the right level of effort during that training, you still have to put in the time.

So, while I appreciate the attempted insight to what makes a lay person capable of finishing an Ironman, perhaps the WSJ should focus on the economic impact of Ironman (i.e. how much does an average athlete spend to complete an Ironman) as opposed to the implied “pay to finish” angle of the story. And, if you want to know what it costs, check out the repost of my first Ironman race report here.

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About the author

Now a 5-time Ironman finisher, Monique is starting to think that, perhaps, she might actually be an athlete. Triathlons were supposed to be a hobby to alleviate the anxiety of turning 30, but more than a decade later, and after a 5-year hiatus to start a family, she’s hooked again.

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