Friday, August 28, 2009

Something is missing

This may be somewhat of a rant on my part, but one concept I absolutely hate is the Idea of "buying speed"! What ever happened to working hard, and not letting equipment be a factor in the the outcome of a race. Has triathlon taken things too far, by opening the doors for an Industry driven sport? In my opinion yes.




Don't get me wrong I love triathlon, and will be competing at it for many years to come. But at some point I think the governing bodies of triathlon have to start putting limits on equipment.


Recently De soto released pictures of a new wetsuit they are releasing in February of 2010

The suit looks pretty normal just like last years models, but one major thing is different. This suit in many places has a thickness of 10mm. This is almost double that of a regular say blue seventy suit. What does this do? Well for one it makes swimmers sit much higher in the water, causing less of a reliance on form. Instead of spending time in a pool working on your posture in the water you could just spend time on a mechanical swim machine and use the suit come race day.


cycling is also on the same train. If you have not noticed the prices of a bike continually goes up. Bikes such as the trek equinox 9.9ssl cost around $7,000, throw on a set of zipp wheels and you are easily looking at 10 grand. Yes that is a top of the line bike, but even if a new athlete buys a $2,000 bike, they are still looking at at least $4,000 for a bike and a set of race wheels. It does not matter what bike company you look at, the prices are all going up. If rider A rides a $2,000 bike with no race wheels and rider B rides a $12,000 bike and both come out with the same bike splits, who is the better athlete? and was that shown in the results? that one is up to you to
decide.


Who does this hurt? I think the athletes that are at the very top of the sport are unaffected by this, and with the introduction of Ironman many athletes are concerned on time. Finishing is the goal. It is cool to see athletes achieve their goals, but these athletes for the most part compete in only 1 major event a year. Its the developing athlete who has aspirations of rising to the top, or new developing pro that gets hit the most. To compete in 4 big events a year will now cost a fortune.


I have not been participating in triathlon very long, but I am quickly realizing that something is missing. Most other sports have this but triathlon does not. It is the presence of a younger generation. I have many athletes around my age that are interested in the sport of triathlon but as soon as they hear the prices of things they quickly back away. They would make phenomenal athletes and would quickly rise to a pro level of competition. Sheer cost is driving them away. Right now if you notice most triathlons are dominated by athletes in their mid to late 30's. But when you look at sports such as running, swimming, and even cycling. Athletes in their mid to late 20's rule the boards. Is triathlon missing out on great athletes?


The current situation seems to work for triathlon. But in the future it may damage the sport. when all these athletes in their 30's reach their athletic peaks and start to decline, who will step up to take their places? Yes younger athletes will come along and fill their shoes, but the number of elites coming through the system will be much less. There will still be a high level of competition but the athletes competing at that level will be far fewer. Will this cause the sport to become stale? I guess we will see.


Although it was not industry driven I think we have seen the same thing occur in running. in the late 70's and 80's I am amazed when I look at age group times for running races. I talk to my dad about times he ran that would win races today by a landslide, but back then he was barely in the top ten. There was a buzz in the US for not just running, but running fast. Fueled by athletes like Pre running gained greater attention from the eyes of the average person. But slowly competition thinned out, and the desire for strong competition was lost.

Yes I don't think triathlon would be the same if it was not for companies developing triathlon specific items. But at what cost to the sport? When we really look at it, has the average time for finishing an ironman gotten faster? Yes the top pros have gone faster, but overall is everybody going faster? It is probably a safe bet to say that in may ways the average athlete is getting slower, and the high cost of entering the sport is driving future elite athletes away. We may have gotten to the point where the pendulum has swung too far, and for the health of the sport we need to find balance.






21 comments:

Matt said...

great post Hosh! People tend to go a little too far, is some sports. I saw this in climbing , even back packing..getting the lightest best new gear and its expensive. For triathlon people spend ungodly amounts to make their machine aero or 5 grand to make their bike liker which is funny since a pound lighter equals less than 30 secs on an IM.. Something that is funny that has crossed over form swimming and cycling that is funny, shaved legs! Great post, I will stopped yapping. But bottom line I agree, its very tech related, but luckily its not Ego driven like alot of other sports. Not being a team sports makes the community close knit!

jessithompson said...

Interesting post Hoshberry.

Roger was helping out with a podcast the other day and there was a guest interview from a group called Men of Steel. http://www.menofsteelracing.com/ sort of echoing what your post is talking about specifically in regards to the cycling world.

I see your point, Hosh, and even agree with you on many levels. I just disagree that it's only triathlon.
In any sport, it's always be about money and opportunity. Is it "equal" that some people can afford great coaching while others can't? Is it "equal" that some people have to work full time and others don't have to and can train more hours? Is it "equal" that some people live at altitude while others don't? Is it "equal" for some people who may live a long distance away from facilities like pools and gyms?

By the way... I sometimes wonder what my running potential could be at this point in my life if I had grown up in a family where running was valued and had a cross country coach as a dad. Does that opportunity in your life give you a leg up? I believe it does. It doesn't take away from your nutso talent, but it is an advantage of opportunity.

Although in the ideal world, we'd all love to even the playing field and see "who's the best?" - it's NOT realistic in ANY sport. Just putting limits on equipment will not make it equal for all the competitors.

Matt said...

this is why I have come to love running, its all based on the athlete. no tech, just an engine. I love the simplicity. Put on my shoes and out the door (oh and my goofy socks too ;)..

Josh said...

Jessie
The point of my post is not about being fair. I guess it may have come off as that. I am saying that triathlon may be missing out on some great athletes because younger athletes can not afford to get involved. Fields will not be as deep.

In regards to my running. First off running was never pushed in my family I did not even run the majority of my high school career. I just recently found a love for it on my own, and coach and motivate myself. Yes I may have some natural ability. But I also work my butt off. I don't see most people out there 6-7 days a week running. At times I find myself running at 11 or 12 at night just to fit a run in. Put in the time and hard work, and then if you are still not beating people complain about genetics.

Roger Thompson said...

Interesting post Josh. I see some points, and then there are some that I think I totally missed.

Triathlon is an expensive sport, it always has been. So is equestrian and so is gymnastics. Come to think of it, the more you get into any sport, the more it ends up costing. I can go grab a pair of goggles and my swim trunks and go swim. Total cost $20 (and gas to get to the lake). But as a person becomes more and more interested in the sport, they join a club, get coaching, go to the big events, etc., it all adds up and is quite expensive. Granted, it's not a $10,000 bike, but over the time of the season, it is.

In regards to the bike, the only people that $10,000 bikes really help are the people that go fast enough to gain the advantage of a $10,000 bike. If you put a person that averages 15mph on that bike, they don't all of a sudden become a phenom. When I got into triathlon I used my road bike from the 80's (it was about 10 years old at that point) and it performed fine. That bike would have fetched about $300 in the market then. So, did the need of a brand new expensive bike deter me from a triathlon? I never even thought about that. I grabbed a bike and did it. If a person thinks they need to go by an expensive bike to do a tri, they have been poorly misinformed or are doing it for the wrong reason.

I don't think that the reason the 30-39 age group is winning a lot of the races is because they have the money to win is a very good argument. When I started racing triathlon, I was 25. That was the age group that was winning a lot of races. That group is now in their mid to late 30s. I think the better question is, what was going on then? What were people doing? What was going on in sports? To insinuate that the reason they are winning races is because they can afford the nice stuff is simply a very shallow look. Lance Armstrong is almost 38, Dara Torres is in her late 30s, there are MANY other examples of this. If you look at triathlon, and look at the best in the world, you will see they are not all in their mid to late 30s. If you are going to compare apples and apples, look at the World Cup ages. Look at the top 10 at Kona, look at the top 10 at Clearwater. If you are truly concerned with the number of elite athletes, and ‘how many’ (or few) there are, you may want to talk to the federation about that. Ultimately that is their responsibility. If they do not make it worthwhile for people to do, they won’t do it. Hence the reason that so many go out on their own for sponsorship.

Another aspect that I think you miss here is opportunity. We are all faced with opportunities that we may benefit from, and may not. What if I wanted to be a bobsledder? How would I get into that? Since I grew up in Spokane, and lived where I did, that opportunity was not given to me. There is no bobsledding here in Spokane...what a shame. But one thing that I was able to do is ride my bike, and race it during a time that junior cycling was HUGE here Spokane. That was a great opportunity that not everyone had. If a 15 year old wanted to start riding their bike right now and get into cycling, the opportunity they would have right now would look far different from the one I had. You can't buy that. So I was exposed to what you would consider a better opportunity, and unless you were in that era, you could not get that. So does that keep anyone from becoming a great cyclist that is from Spokane? Absolutely not. They take advantage of other opportunities, and most importantly, hard work. I think your friends “that could be elites right away” don’t have the drive or desire to do triathlon and thefore would not ever reach that level. Because if they truly had a desire, they would find a way. Just like you did.

Roger Thompson said...

I did not run an inch up until I started triathlon. When I started triathlon, or duathlon, I did it on a team. I had someone run for me. I did not run. But I eventually had to do it on my own so I started running when I was in my mid 20s. Do runners that ran in high school or college have an advantage over me? Absolutely...and they still do. I have 20 pairs of shoes and some nice running gear, but that does not make me a fast runner. Does going out and running 5 days a week make me a fast runner? Nope, it's not about just going out and running either. I cannot go back in time and run in high school and college like they did. So is it a level playing field? It will never be a level playing field.

If there was an advantage to putting 10mil neoprene in wetsuits, B70 and other companies would have done it loooong ago. That's not buying speed, that's but a life jacket. And life jackets don't go faster in the water.

I think you also have to ask yourself 'why' you do a sport. When I started triathlon I did not enter the first race trying to win it. I wanted to challenge myself and experience it. Since then, things have gone very well for me, from an outsiders view. But when I enter a race, I am ultimately racing against myself. I know what I can do, or want to do, and then I go out and do my best to accomplish that. If I don't accomplish my goals (mostly based on time and effort) I do not look at the guy (or gal) next to me to see what kind of equipment they have. When Shawn Howard out bike splits me in races, I don't go and seek him out to see what kind of bike he has and what kind of wheels he has. I look at what I did and see if it's what I should be doing.

Just like my mom always told me when I was growing up, and still does, life is not fair. And I would agree, it's not. Rather than looking at missed opportunities, or things we don’t have, look at what we do, and capitalize on our individual opportunities.

jessithompson said...

Josh, in regards to your running that is EXACTLY my point. We all have different opportunities that we take advantage of. Is it an opportunity to live in the same house as Roger? You bet it is. It wouldn't mean crap though if I didn't get out and work hard. I'm not taking away from what you put into it, it's obvious you work your butt off. But wouldn't you agree that growing up in the house you did/do, is an opportunity to gain knowledge, ask questions, get advice??? I'm not talking about genetics, I'm talking about opportunity.

I believe where there is a will, there's a way. If people want to get into the sport and want to make it happen... they will make the same sacrifices that we all do to get there.

I appreciate your post, Hoshberry, so don't get your feathers ruffled. I think it's a *great* discussion topic and assumed you wanted to open it up as you posted it on your public blog.

Spokane Al said...

Josh,

Your post, like the recent posts of Joe Friel, definitely pushes some buttons.

I tend to agree with Jessi on measuring costs and time and the ability to expend both – some are much more able to do more than others. And that is life. After all, how competitive would Kara Goucher really be if she lived in Spokane and held down a full time job?

I started out later in life in that I began running at 27 (32 years ago!!!). Prior to that I did nothing and was soft and pudgy. Since that time I have worked fairly hard and enjoyed running before discovering triathlon a few years back. And now as I get a bit older, my times are starting to slow.

I am also at the point in life where I have some extra time and can spend a bit more on stuff. Does that give me an unfair advantage? Not when you review the race results, but to be truthful my goal is comfort, maximizing my personal potential, enjoying this great sport and living life. And I will admit I have become accustomed to leather, heated seats in my car and carbon on my bike.

I do believe that no matter what the sport, it is all about the engine. Hard work produces speed. You could beat me while riding a fixed geared bike with a banana seat, but that does not stop me from trying to be the best I can.

Cheers buddy.

Tiffany said...

Wow, Hoshberry. You've opened a little can of worms here, haven't you? ;)

Since I am the farthest thing there is from a gear-head in this sport, I can't really comment on that whole thing. But I will back up the whole "where there's a will, there's a way" theme that others have mentioned here.

When I started triathlon 3 years ago, Eric was in law school, so my teacher's salary was all that was supporting us, and we had just bought our first house. Obviously, we didn't have any extra money laying around. But I did have some interest in at least doing one race, even though I had NOTHING that I would need. And this is where other triathletes came into play. One theme that seems to hold true for triathletes is their willingness to help newbies.

"You don't have a bike? Here, I have one you can borrow" (that happened for both Eric and I).

"You don't know how to swim, I'm happy to teach you in my precious free time."

"You're getting shin splints? Let me tell you what works for me."

My point is, I cannot even begin to list all of the gear people have let me borrow as I slowly saved up to buy my own and all of the free advise and knowledge people have given me. Am I lucky to be close friends with some of Spokane's best triathletes? You bet I am, but I also know they would and do share their expertise with anyone who is really interested in giving triathlon a go.

I guess my point is that if someone really wants to do triathlon, they will make it happen. Even if they don't know anyone who does it, there are plenty of clubs they could join to gain knowledge and slowly accumulate some gear just like Eric and I have. No, we don't have any top-of-the-line gear, and we're not tough competitors, but at least we're out there racing! The whole "I don't have the money for the sport" excuse just seems kind of like a cop out to me.

Josh said...

Maybe I should sleep instead of blogging in the wee hours of the morning:). In all honesty this post is not an attack on athletes or a cry for equality in the sport. I don't feel that I have been wronged or personally am at any disadvantage. If anything I have a great opportunity where I am at. I think some very great points were brought up but they weren't what I was hoping people would take out of this post.

If anything it was a call out to sports federations, to slow down the progression of development, and maybe put limits on gear. I know average joe's don't hop on expensive bikes, and suddenly become lance Armstrong. Most people know that!

My Focus was not on the average age group athlete or the top end pro's. My focus of this post was more detailed towards top age groupers, new pro's that are at the back of the pro field, and people who have potential to be in these positions. To these athletes a couple minutes even seconds matter. and this is where differences in equipment occur.

So lets say you take all the fancy equipment away and everyone rides the same bike and has the same wetsuit. I don't think the overall outcome of races would change much. If anything the top end pro's would probably become even stronger due to the more reliance on ones engine. But the ability for those who do have a desire to compete in triathlon is greatly increased. The cost would drop and more people may be interested in getting involved in the sport. I guess people took that wrong in that it is more of the cost of the equipment, I am concerned with rather than the performance of it.

Yes life isn't fair, but there is no need for equipment to be as expensive as it is. Yes sports are an Opportunity and we need to promote the sports we are in and aim at getting more people involved.

I in no way meant to offend any athlete or person. If you were offended sorry you took it wrong but this is no way was directed at you. This is directed at the industry.

Spokane Al said...

Josh, I don't think anyone was offended. However, your thought that the industry needs to hold back on technical innovations is interesting. Entrepreneurship and innovation are what drive this industry and this country. To recommend that innovation grind to a halt to keep the playing field level would, I believe, ultimately harm the sport and create a wall of entry for new businesses. Building a better mousetrap is what many hope and try to do, and a few are successful.

Wind tunnels, better composites, improved shoes and speed suits, and lighter and smoother bike gruppos are good for economic as well as competitive reasons. Should we tell Zipp to stop innovating and cut their work force down to just those numbers necessary to continue to build 1995 model wheels because some cannot afford the newer models?

If you look back in the day of the original IM racers were eating ham sandwiches for nutrition and now many of us have our own personal Infinit mix.

Greg Lemond was the first user of aero bars and he won that Tour de France by seconds. Should the second place guy complain that nobody offered him those bars and therefore the race was unfair?

From this point it is a short jump to our entitlement society where everyone is a winner, no scores are given out and each person is called a hero for showing up. Jobs and benefits are demanded instead of earned and the rich and the corporations are evil – sorry I got a bit off track here.

I suppose we could legislate triathlon so that everyone races in the exact same equipment (remember the movie Breaking Away with the Little 500 race?). Now that would be a step backwards.

Keep those midnight posts coming Josh. They cause everyone to put on their thinking caps and blow a bit of the carbon out. And that is good stuff!

Matt said...

where 's the pot can I stir it?

Its funny about these advances, even with them there are still IM Pro's arent putting up some of the run times like that of Allen, Welchy, and Scott. Maybe there a growning dependency on such techn. I dont think they should stop innovating, but the costs for such things is pretty redunkulous! I came from rock and ice climbing where your life is in the hands of your equipment, but 2600 for a wheel..that is alot, I know there is alot of wind tunnel time but he does have a point about the cost of the sport. Being a student on limited funds I understand its expensive, but I love it so I will make it work, others that choose not to didnt want it. There are alot of people that can and are willing to help out, I have had quite a bit of second hand gear for this very reason. Josh, I would say it wouldnt have mattered what house you grew up it, your drive is a big part of what gets you where you are, alot of people do see it, but I have and you inspire me all the time!

Well all in all, What comes out of this is everyone needs to read (even though I am not a big fan of him..) read Friels blog on Everyone is a wiener oops Winner! Its great!

Roger Thompson said...

Sorry Josh, I have to comment on Matt's comment about Allen, Scott, and Welchy...I think this goes back to what Friel just posted about people focusing on the "Going Long" mentlity. These guys were fast off the bike because they did not only focus on IMs...they focused on everything. The raced all the big Oly races, 1/2 IMs and the IMs. They did it all and they were fast. Now it seems people are either 'short course' or 'IM' distance racers. That said, I think the better 'racer' is the short course racer. It's more competitive and there is way more money in it and it is all above threshold racing.

Just think if Usain Bolt could run a 10k at the same pace he runs a 200 meter? That would be cool.

Roger Thompson said...

Josh, if your post was about making everything affordable for everyone, that is a pipe dream. It is affordable to people who value it more than big homes, fancy vacations, 4 year college educations, etc. It is affordable and people are paying it no matter what level you are in the sport. I think what you are saying is that people should not have to make big sacrifices to buy it. And that is unrealistic. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. If you want a Ferrari, you are going to have to pay for a Ferrari.

Fancy carbon and titanium equipment that works is expensive. It's expensive to make, and expensive to test, and market. That all gets passed on to the consumer. If the consumer puts their nose up at it, then it is not made anymore.

It's the same for Nascar. I want to race Nascar, but I only have my Excursion and $100 in my wallet. Should I expect to be able to do that? Should I write to Nascar and say that they need to decrease the regs on their sport because your average person cannot afford to do it? I know that is a huge exaggeration, but it can be applied to many sports...almost all.

I think your post is more about "wouldn't it be cool if..." but the reality is it will never happen. They already have regs on things like bikes, helmets, clothing, etc. It's just that we have all accepted them.

You brought up a lot more issues in your post other than federations need to regulate technological advancements.

Thanks for the entertainment today. I think everyone has been thinking. School does not start until next week, so this was a good test.

Jessica said...

I like your creativity of thinking Josh, clearly you put some thought into this post. I think you have some good points, and that there are some good points made by others as well.
I think that capping technology would stagnate the amount of equipment producers and dealers, ultimately limiting what brands and varieties are available to the general athlete in a small town. That said, I understand the equipment cost issue too. It is difficult to have the gear for triathlon when you are new to the sport or have a limited income. I think a big part depends on what triathlon means to you...
For example, a single mom who is looking for something to get active, but has little money may do a sprint or two a year on a cruiser bike and in payless running shoes. She is not expecting to be fast, just looking for participation in a sport. When you look at a totally different end of the spectrum, a younger person, my age or yours may see the competition side of triathlon as well as the general participation side. The want is different, and to feel like the playing field is even approachable now, they might feel like they need expensive equipment to compete. I think it can be a problem of mind set and will be different for people based on what they want from the sport.
That said, each person has the ability to be competitive if they have the drive to work hard. I am amazed by your work ethic, both in Triathlon and in life. That may be a learned habit, but it may not be. Some of that is just personal will power. Anyone can compete with any piece of equipment and truthfully, I think if the cost of the sport continues to rise so exponentially athletes will start to get creative again, no one really wants to spend 5,000-10,000 a year on their sport; they do it so they can compete. I think more small companies will spring up trying to bring the products back to a consumer level, and things will probably get interesting… I have seen this in rock climbing and mountaineering for years. The prices went up, so new smaller companies jumped in for the price point, and round and round it goes…

Spokane Al said...

P.S. I can only imagine what generating regulation to the types of gear used would do to triathlons. Imagine the issues Keats would face in trying to offer the inaugural Spokane Tri next month if he was required to check each bike to ensure it meets the technology standards and requirements established by some independent triathlon entity.

I would expect that this would impact entry fees as well.

The picture gets pretty ugly and muddy very quickly in my mind.

Spokane Al said...

P.P.S. In reading the slowtwitch thread on the new Desoto wetsuits that started this discussion I found the following response and thought it worthy of re-posting.

just fart in your wet suit...it will lift your hips...

Although I must admit that this technique has not worked for me, but then again my wetsuit is only 5mm thick.

T-Bone said...

I feel stupider for reading this.

Love,

Troy

tak2lmt said...

Josh,
Nice blog, I have not read many blogs in a while but this is pretty funny. Not only the blog but the comments after on it are the tops. Sound like quit the pissing match.
Some things to think about, if you want all things to be equal you could race ITU. That is all pretty equal.
Other than that, you need not say anything because manufactures are there to make money “period”! They want to have the best product the least expensive way. Case in point is that most manufactures are not making bikes with 650 wheel sets. They are trying to faze them out. However there still is a large amount of smaller athletes that would like them but the industry will not put the money into making the products. Therefore they will force you to ride on something that is not as comfortable as you might be on now. (My situation).
The other thing is just because it is expensive does not mean it is better. No matter what it comes down to you and how much you want it. It’s not easy and you have to work at it to be good. Which I think all people on this Blog are or have done.
In regards to your friends not getting into Triathlon, sounds like an excuse to me. They can always start on a used Tri bike and work there way up.

Haley Cooper said...

Holy cow,

I was riding with Sam this morning and he filled me in on this little ongoing debate. I think it's pretty multi-faceted, but I'm just going to address a couple of the issues, most of which have been touched on by others. First of all, I think my political stances are almost the polar opposite of Al's (sorry buddy), but I do agree with him with regards to entreprenuership. Technological developments provide jobs, excitement, and ultimately pump more money into the sport in general. This trickles down to generate more interest and visibility in the triathlon. I think there is actually an additional benefit to innovation in that it makes more "outdated" technology more affordable. I would argue that that most aluminum tri bikes with decent components made by reputable bike manufacturers are not going inhibit an athlete's performance by very much. Yes, seconds count, but not very often and especially not as races get longer. The ITU races where seconds really do count do have those technological restrictions you desire. No crazy seat tube angles, no wetsuits over 68 degrees, no wheels deeper than 400 mm . . . I digress.

As much as I love my superlight carbon fibre bike with top end components, all a person really needs to perform is a not TOO heavy tri bike on which an aerodynamic position can be acheived. We pay a lot for niceties (a smooth ride and crisp shifting), but the expenses don't really make us faster. Engines and bike fits do. AND, if a young, destitute athlete puts in the hard work on a P2SL (now, a P1) and he goes well, he'll eventually have the opportunity to ride a Scott Plasma II Limited.

Case in point: I raced my first 2 years of triathlon on an Avanti Kona - an aluminum road bike with clip on aerobars, complete with 105components. I didn't stop me from completing Ironmans and a podium finish in Clearwater. Might I have gone faster with a carbon tri bike? Perhaps, but ultimately, I minimized the my technological disadvantage by working REALLY hard, and now I've found myself riding 3 new top end carbon bikes over the course of 3 years. I think that the years spent on the Avanti actually prepared me well by making me a LOT stronger.

Haley Cooper said...

The real reasons I think that younger people aren't more involved in triathlon is multi-faceted. One, most people in the 18-24 age group are focused on establishing careers, families, and the like. Recreational sports often take a back seat when a person takes on their first mortgage. This goes for all sports without obvious phases of succession (ie: h.s. to college to professional basketball or collegiate swimming to racing with the national team). Because triathlon is not (yet) a high school or NCAA sport, it's rare that potential pros are exposed to the sport prior to finishing their education and exposure is therefore most likely to occur during a particularly financially stressful and time-constrained point in a person's life. The exception being if you grow up in Australia or New Zealand.
Triathlon is not unique in this, and I doubt that participants in other fringe sports (let's face it, we are absurd in the eyes of most americans) have very many elites in the younger age categories.

Also, Roger makes a good point that a great number of top level elite triathletes at present are in their mid to late thirties because endurance is SO cumulative over a lifetime and it takes a long period of "due-paying" before most athletes make it to the top. Sure, there will always be phenoms, but one of the most resounding affirmations from the Maccas, Crowies, and Grangers of the tri world is that they have been working their asses off for 15+ YEARS. They weren't overnight successes, and they probably trained on the same crappy equipment we all started with. It takes a LOT of hard work to make it with the top, but if you have the talent and the work ethic - you'll get there.

As for the opportunity debate - I'm a little sick of it. Some people grew up swimming 10km/day and some of us learned to swim as adults. Blah blah blah. I've trained for Ironmans whilst going to school full time, working every spare hour, and making hardly any money. This past year, I was able to work substantially less and train even more BECAUSE I had been willing to make sacrifices when my time and money were a lot more stretched. I know that I don't have kids thrown into the mix, but I really do believe in the saying "where there's a will, there's a way."

In the end, I actually agree with you Josh. I am as guilty as the next person of engaging in "disc envy," and a power meter would be awfully nice. BUT, neither is in the budget at present and I'm pretty confident that neither of those things is realistically going to propel me to the next level. Another season of consistent, dedicated, and injury-free training might just do that though.

BTW, I still have the old Avanti. It's a size 56 and if any of your friends needs a starter bike while they try out the sport, they're welcome to borrow it. It certainly worked for me. And if you need 10 mm of neoprene to stay afloat, you'd be better off to invest in swimming lessons :)