I am an admitted gadget freak. Endurance Corner’s bloggers are posting regarding gear this month and that drove my thoughts on the topic. The consensus seems to be train intelligently and gear doesn’t matter much. I can honestly concur with that statement.
My gear tends to fall into 3 camps –
Required – Goggles, swimsuit, bicycle, bicycle shoes, helmet, running shoes
Clothing – Bike shorts, jersey, gloves, socks, running shorts, singlet
Gadgets – Swimsense, PowerTap, Garmin speed/distance device
I also own many items that blur the lines including wetsuit(s), fins, paddles, stationary trainer and a running water pack. If I were faster, I could easily justify race wheels and racing flats. However I have showed restraint with some pool toys as well including mp3 players, kickboard, buoy, tempo trainer, and swim heart rate monitor. Regarding bike and run toys, I have pretty much exhausted current training technology aside from physiological monitoring (lactate tester) and electronic recovery aids (compex).
The bottom line is that I have become faster by training more and losing weight. I have not reached the plateau where training intelligently is required or the next plateau where communications with a coach drives gadget incorporation.
I swim with a masters team and rely on the pace clock for my sets and intervals. I use the fins occasionally, but rarely use the paddles. The swimsense is a fun electronic gadget, but I can count to 40 laps without much trouble. I would not swim differently with heart rate information and an mp3 player would inhibit by ability to communicate with the coach. The pool I frequent has a stack of kickboards and a box of buoys. I have considered a tempo trainer as the swimsense has shown that I have a highly variable stroke count.
I ride on my own and like having a speed/distance device as well as heart rate information. This is a great correlation to perceived effort. I have had a speed distance device for 25 years and the cost is now around $20. I would feel naked without it, but the heart rate monitor is just a clever add-on. I like comfortable shorts, jerseys, shoes, helmet and gloves. I invested money in a bike fit. I also keep upgrade components as “required” and have added a compact crankset and 10 speed drive train to my circa 2001 bicycle. I bought a powertap a couple of years ago but do not use it for interval training. It is another correlation to perceived effort and I found it to be very useful for pacing in my last duathlon.
My running is pretty tame. I usually run by myself with short runs during the week and the occasional weekend long run. I have only done a couple of speed workouts this year. I replace my shoes every 400-500 miles and have utilized a water pack on my long runs. I ran track and cross country in high school and feel like I can pace myself and judge distances OK, but I am hooked on GPS based speed/distance devices. I love having heart rate, distance and pace at my immediate disposal in training and racing. I can zone out and come back to a workout very easily. If my Garmin died, I would replace it the same day.
Replacement urgency is the true test for what is valuable to me. Aside from required gear, the GPS device is the only thing that meets this level of urgency. Aside from bicycle shorts, any other custom clothing is really not required and I can live without most gadgets.
That being said, it is highly likely that within a couple years, I will own a swim heart rate monitor, , race wheels, and racing flats.