Buying Performance

31 Dec , 2011 Lifestyle,Sports

This is my last blog post of 2011. I thought it would be a good idea to post on a topic that dominated most of 2011 for me and will consume a lot of my time in 2012. Not hard to guess, it’s athletics. Specifically, I want to talk about the ability to buy performance gains in sports. While most performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) are banned, I have come to learn that money can directly correlate to results outside of PED’s. Let me be clear, I am not advocating doping at all. I’m just want to share my experiences this year on how applying money towards the right personal training, supplements and equipment can directly effect your performance and also how it can bastardize competition by making for an uneven playing field.

I accomplished quite a bit this year and covered a lot of distance in training. PR’s fall all over the place, consistent top 5 finishes, and more events this year than almost all the previous combined. However, unlike past years, I experienced significantly less pain, recovered faster and performed better than I had previously. I chalk all this up to a combination of experience, better training techniques, and efficiently applying funds from my fitness budget towards supplements, equipment and training. Some of my spending included the following:

  • High end performance powder drink mixes (accelerade, etc @ $25-35 a tub every 2 months).
  • Performance foods (Roctane, Cliff Turbo, Stinger, etc @ $1.50 each @ 30-60 pieces a month).
  • L-Glutamine powder for recovery ($20 per bottle every 2 months).
  • Bottled water (three to four 24 packs at $20 a month).
  • Compression recovery socks (3-4 pairs at about $40-50 a pair).
  • Bike tuning 1-2 times per year ($80 per bike per tune up).
  • Personal swim training coach ($100-300 a month).
  • Gym membership at $30 a month.
  • Competition specific shoes, clothes, supplies (i.e. swim suits, goggles, bib belt, hats, gloves, arm sleeves, helmets, etc, name your price – $$$).
  • Countless bottles of detergent, $-you tell me.
  • And the list can go on and on and on… The results however, like currently being ranked 2nd place in my main competition series, warrant the costs.

In contrast to my own regimen, check out the exhausting routine of this International Triathlon Champion who likens his fitness spending to legally buying PED’s and the flack he has gotten for it. Now, while his approach may be like using a sledgehammer to kill ants; it’s not that different from the guy who buys a $10,000 carbon Cervelo aero bike vs the $400 entry level Fuji and crushes the competition in the bike portion of a triathlon. No one would say that the $10k bike owner was using PED’s or that someone who uses the $1,200 TYR Freak of Nature wetsuit (though suits aren’t regularly allowed) was using PED’s; but aren’t they kind of, even a little bit. USA Triathlon is generally hypocritical when it comes to points like this.

While it remains that I like that so many people are getting into triathlons, it’s painfully obvious to identify the have’s from the have nots at every event. I think most sports should Introduce competition classes if possible (pro tool users, pro-ametuer, beginners). There is a measurable impact that access to advanced equipment, training and nutrition can have on an athlete and ultimately affect competition. I know from talking to friends that most people just participate for fun; but it must be hard for the guy (me) who trains his ass off to get smoked on the cycling portion by a guy whose bike is known to give as much as a 5kmh performance increase with no additional physical effort. One study published in the German Tour magazine from Jan 2007 put a pro through a gamut of bikes to illustrate how much more output is required to reach the same speed on a lesser bike:

Needed Watts for Speed = 45 km/h :

  • Stevens San Remo bike with normal handlebar: 465 Watts needed to go 45 km/h
  • Same bike Hands down the drops: 406 watts needed
  • Same bikeEaston Aeroforce bar: 369 Watts
  • Same bike Triathlon position (5.5 cm lower bar, saddle forwards): 360 Watts
  • Same bike Triathlon position (5.5 cm lower bar, saddle forwards) and
  • carbon Tri spoke wheels front and rear: 345 Watt
  • Cervelo + Tri spoke front 328 Watts
  • Cervelo + Tri spoke front + disk rear wheel : 320
  • Cervelo + Tri spoke front + disk rear wheel +Giro helmet: 317
  • Cervelo + Tri spoke front + disk rear wheel +Giro helmet + speed suit: 307
  • Cervelo + Tri spoke front + disk rear wheel +Giro helmet + speed suit + saddle 3 cm further back: 293 Watts

From 465 down to 293 watts on the top of the line equipment near the end. That’s a lot of performance improvement with no additional training. The same can be found when you examine swimsuits, nutrition, and access to professional coaching. Believe me, you can buy performance, even when they are not specifically designed PED’s. I am still struggling with how I feel about all of it. Everyone chases an edge, if it’s legal and you can reach it, is that bad? I think running is about the only sport I have found where the individual more than anything determines outcome. Even then, access to great trainers, shoes, V02 testing, etc., can still make for a better runner. Weekend warriors can still get hammered in the local 5K race by the guy who simply has access to train longer, harder and afford the best recovery aids & nutrition.

Ultimately, none of this matters if you don’t have the will to compete and train at a higher level. Fancy equipment, supplements and training will only get you so far if you’re only going to go through the motions. I plan to watch my fitness spending this year even more (and pour more into it). Maybe I’ll see even greater improvements. Thanks for reading and have a superb year in 2012! Also, for reflection, I’ve compiled the logos of most of the race series I competed in this year below.

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1 Response

  1. […] at Balco and his times dropped rather dramatically over the course of a year. I’ve written posts in the past about what I think about performance enhancing drugs and how I think that drawing the […]

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