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How to Do Everything Triathlon Better

A handy guide to mastering the tri life

For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.

Training for triathlon while maintaining fulfilling relationships and a positive bank account can be tricky. It requires hard work, dedication and a GU flask full of self-knowledge. We talked to the experts in keeping multisport fun, fresh and affordable. They served up their ultimate life hacks to help you reap the benefits of triathloning without sacrificing your sanity. You’re welcome.

Illustrations by Evette Gabriel


Keep Up Your Stoke

In surfing, “stoke” is the feeling you get when you’re tucked into a wave’s breaking barrel—the thing that drives you when the water’s freezing, the wind’s whipping up and the paddle out is lonely and long. In triathlon, it’s the thrill of nailing a workout, nabbing a new PR or scoring a sweet piece of new gear. It gets you out the door and keeps the sport fun and fresh. But sometimes your stoke can go stale. When that happens, turn to the power of sound for a pick-me-up. We rounded up our favorite podcasts and a sick playlist to keep you tri-ing strong.

Podwatch
We spoke to pros, tracked the buzz on Twitter and listened to hours of chatter to compile these three favorite podcasts:

TRS Radio
Who: Ben Hobbs
When: Founded in 2014
Why: This hilarious, irreverent podcast has a guest list that reads like the Kona Points List but never strays into the well-trod zone of monotonous interviews. Recommended by this month’s resident D.J., A.J. Baucco.

Triathlete Training
Who: Eric Schwartz
When: Founded in 2013
Why: Schwartz’s podcast focuses more on the coaching, training and the science side of the sport. Tune in for a good dose of tri history as well as stories about everyday athletes.

DC Rainmaker
Who: Ray Maker and Ben Hobbs
When: Founded in 2015
Why: Maker’s exhaustive product-testing blog has been around for almost a decade; on his podcast listen for tons of tech talk without any dry filler.

Beats by A.J.
No triathlete is better equipped to be a musical guide than A.J. Baucco, who spent the better part of his young life immersed in Cleveland’s punk music scene before becoming a drummer in a punk band called Chaotic Alliance. “We were absolutely terrible at our instruments, but we had heart and we had determination,” Baucco says. His band eventually signed to a label, toured and played 60 shows in 2004. Then Baucco left the punk scene and became a pro triathlete, but his love for music still remains. “[Music is] expressive. It’s healing. It’s formative,” he says. “I can associate different songs to exact moments in my life, even to exact emotions. There is nothing else in the world that can do that.”

A.J.’s Handcrafted Tri Mixtape
(sorry, no Chaotic Alliance!)

“CHA CHA,” D.R.A.M.
“This song makes the room shake. This is definitely bumped during workouts.”

“Hit The Lights,” Metallica
“The first verse of this song can take me from0 to 60 immediately.”

“Sonic Reducer,” The Dead Boys
“This song is as punk rock as it gets. I listen to this one when I want to feel like a 17-year-old again.”

“Raise Your Weapon,” Deadmau5
“Quite possibly my favorite song to listen to late in a long run.”

“Look into My Eyes,” Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
“This song makes me feel like I am back home in Northeast Ohio. No other group gives me more swagger than Bone Thugs N Harmony.”

“The Trooper,” Iron Maiden
“This song absolutely rips. No explanation needed.” 

“Unleash the Bastards,” Municipal Waste
“This song takes me right back to playing thrash punk in dirty basements. I can practically smell the stale beer now! Municipal Waste comes on late in a hard workout when I need one last hard effort.”

“The Woman with the Tattooed Hands,” Atmosphere
“One of my favorite hip-hop artists. I like to listen to this one before a tough session.”

“Collie Man,” Slightly Stoopid
“This one reminds methat life is good. Perfect track for when I am just chilling out.”

“Mojo So Dope,” Kid Cudi
“This song takes me back into my early 20s when I was just getting serious with triathlon. It reminds me of what it was like to leave my home in pursuit of this crazy dream.”


Maintain Your Sanity

Six simple tips for keeping up—and enjoying—your non-tri social life, in love and booze

Stay Cool
Pro triathlete Tommy Zaferes and his better half, Olympian Katie Zaferes, have three rules for making it work with a partner chasing their own triathlon dreams:

1. Don’t try to coach each other
That means no tips, because all of a sudden you’re implying that their way is incorrect and you know how to do something better. Just be dating—don’t be triathletes.

2. Be prepared to compromise
If you’re not ready to compromise when it comes to schedule, routes, routine and races, don’t even try to date another triathlete.

3. Don’t talk about triathlon
Leave work at work and make sure you’re giving your minds an outlet. Read some trashy articles, catch up with non-triathlon friends, watch a little TV and then talk about that stuff instead.

Bottoms Up
There isn’t much healthy about booze. Alcohol has been shown to decrease testosterone, increase the stress hormone cortisol and fat storage, and slow metabolism—none of which are good things for an endurance athlete. So minimize these adverse effects and pick a beverage with some redeeming health qualities.

Keep it clear
Hard liquor will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of alcohol per calorie and will have less of an effect on metabolism than beer or wine, but not all hard liquors are the same. Brown liquors, such as whiskey and dark rum, contain congeners, which are non-alcohol byproducts of fermentation. Congeners like esters and tannins greatly increase your chances of a hangover and should be avoided if you have an early workout planned the following day.

Red over white wine
“What makes it special is resveratrol, an antioxidant that improves cardiovascular health by increasing the elasticity of blood vessels, increasing HDL cholesterol and reducing blood clotting,” says fitness guru and author Matt Fitzgerald. “In endurance athletes, they strengthen a physiological system that is vital to aerobic performance.” 

Mix it up
Try a mixed drink, like a Bloody Mary for added health benefits. While the tomato juice will add calories, it also provides a hefty dose of vitamin C, beta-carotene, electrolytes and the phytonutrient lycopene, which has cancer-
fighting properties.


Race On The Cheap

Entry fees and travel can add up—especially if you’re eyeing an iconic event with a premium price tag like Escape From Alcatraz ($750!). But fear not! We’ve got a few tricks to keep you from coughing up the full MSRP for your next sanctioned adventure.

Join the club
Many regional clubs offer race discounts to its members. Of course, there’s the annual fee of joining the club itself. But spend a little for the camaraderie, and you stand to save a lot through perks like gear and entry giveaways, free training sessions and discounted entry fees. Some clubs even offer opportunities to race for free if you donate your time—the California Tri Club gives members a free race entry if they are willing to volunteer at another event through its Volunteer One Get One program.

Volunteer
Aside from the obvious karma boost, many events offer a free entry to their race the following year if you sign up to help. Not only does this save money and help out your fellow man, but it also gives you an inside look at how a race is run. It’ll also guarantee that you never forget to thank a volunteer again. One of the country’s most difficult-to-enter events, the New York City Triathlon, offers all volunteers a first crack at registration, as do most Ironmans. Volunteer hard enough in New York by becoming a volunteer team captain, and they’ll even give you a free entry.

Race for a cause
Programs like Ironman’s “Charity Entry” allow athletes to raise money for a cause near and dear to their hearts while either receiving a discounted or free entry to select events. If you’re great at fundraising but low on funds yourself, this is a perfect way to race and give back to those in need. The added boost of racing for a cause also makes getting to the finish line extra fulfilling.

Travel Smart
Once you’ve signed yourself to a race, you’ve got to get there. Lauren Goss, 29, is one of the most well-traveled ladies on the pro circuit. Here’s how she saves her cash when she hits the road.

Fly light
Keep your bike box light. “Sometimes airlines will waive the fee when traveling internationally if the bike is less than 50 pounds,” she says. Better yet, some bike cases like the Rüster Sports Hen House meet standard checked baggage dimensions, which can save travelers up to $200 each way on airline bike fees.

Skip the Motel 6
“Choose Airbnb’s over hotels,” Goss says. “This way you can cook your own meals instead of having to go out for food.” Short-term rentals like those on Airbnb.com or Vrbo.com can often be cheaper than nearby hotels. Bonus: You can tap your host for local knowledge, like where to swig the most economical post-race pint.

Hoof it
Goss recommends taking public transportation whenever possible, particularly when outside of the U.S., and also suggests staying close to the race site to save on back-and-forth taxi rides or rental car fees. Take it one step further and rent an RV or camper van like the ones offered by Jucy.com—nothing beats waking up less than a block from any start line.


Score Top Gear

Can’t pay full price? You don’t have to. With a little savvy, you can ride your dream steed and float in premium neo—and still have some extra dough to treat your bae to a night on the town.

You want: A Bike
You should: Go pro
Ben Collins, 10-year veteran of the sport and current long-course killer, gave us the lowdown on scoring a sweet used pro ride.

Why buy from a pro?
“First, you get a top-of-the-line bike from someone who cared deeply about making sure that it was a fast bike,” says Collins. “It’s likely upgraded from stock in a way that actually makes the bike faster.

“Second, there’s a behavioral economics factor that works to the benefit of the age-grouper buying the bike,” says the recent University of Chicago Booth School of Business grad. “Since the pro didn’t pay retail price for their bike—they may have even gotten it free—the pro has a very low anchor for valuing the bike and will likely part with the bike for less than another age-grouper.”

When to buy?
It depends. “At the beginning of the season pros are getting their new gear and hoping to sell off their old stuff,” says Collins. “On the other hand, there are far more people looking for gear in the spring than in the fall. If you find a deal in the fall, you might find a better price.”

Where else to look
Best: Local tri-club classifieds or swap meets. Here you’ll be dealing with sellers that are a known part of the community, and you’ll probably get very fair pricing. Plus, if something goes completely wrong, the seller will be more likely to answer for it.

Good: Used bike websites or a well-updated (and well-patrolled) classified section like on Slowtwitch.com. Because of Slowtwitch’s filtering policy, sellers can’t just show up online out of nowhere and start slinging gear. Collins has sold equipment on Slowtwitch.com and had great success.

Meh: Craigslist. Because it’s a total roll of the dice. Think of Craigslist like a pawn shop—probably a good deal, but it’s hard to know the gear’s history.

You want: A Fancy Wetsuit
You should: Rent
The absolute cheapest way to get into some good neoprene is to rent one through a service like WetsuitRental.com or TriWetsuitRentals.com. Most online rental sites will ship out a mid-level wetsuit a week before your race with prepaid return for less than $75. Want a used one to keep? Look at the same sites for crazy deals on their rental fleet at the end of the season.

One story about a former ITU pro—who was infamous for selling everything and anything he could get his hands on—involves him selling a pair of goggles he found on a pool deck online. Though saving cash is great, avoid a potential case of conjunctivitis and stick to wetsuits when shopping for used swim gear.