Dunedin professional triathlete Tamsyn Hayes (above right) with the kit she will use to compete in Challenge Wanaka tomorrow and R&R Sport Dunedin saleswoman Erin Greene with the gear she would sell a triathlete competing in the event. Photos by Mark Price/Craig Baxter.
Will shelling out several thousand dollars more on gear
save Challenge Wanaka triathletes valuable seconds? Would
they be lost without a GPS watch? And does the best nutrition
come in powdered or potato form? Shawn McAvinue reports.
Triathletes will need to swim 3.8km, bike 180km and run
42.2km to finish the full Challenge Wanaka endurance race
Dunedin professional triathlete Tamsyn Hayes (27) said it was
the third time she had competed at Challenge Wanaka and she
wanted to finish in the top half of the 10-strong
professional women's field.
The top prize was about $12,000, but triathletes did not turn
professional in the pursuit of prize purses.
''You definitely have to be passionate about the sport.
Nobody is doing it for the money.''
Hayes resigned as a gym manager at Moana Pool to turn
professional and trained about 25 hours a week.
She had spent $14,500 on a triathlon bike but it gave her
injuries, so she sold it and bought a better-suited bike for
The most expensive triathlon bike cost about $16,000 but only
''middle-aged men from Auckland'' owned them, Hayes said.
The nutrition of a triathlete was more important than gear,
When racing, her GPS watch beeped every five minutes to
remind her to drink. A triathlete could nutritionally ''fake
their way'' in the swim and bike leg but those without
nutrition plans were found out in the run.
Many nutrition options were available and varied in price,
Energy gel sachets could be eaten every half an hour - about
20 for an iron distance triathlon - and cost about $7 a
But gels often upset her stomach, so she ate a mini chocolate
bar every 45 minutes instead. Some triathletes ate cold
Dunedin sports nutritionist Whitney Dagg (25) said she would
compete in her first half ironman at Challenge Wanaka but her
nutrition plan was the same as a professional's.
A triathlete had to ensure they had enough carbohydrates
available for their body weight during the race, she said.
During the race, she ''popped'' carbohydrates every 40
minutes, either an energy gel or five chewy snake lollies.
''Because just gels can get a bit boring.''
Triathletes needed to ensure they regularly hydrated during
the race, she said.
Sports drinks were important but they gave some triathletes
an upset stomach. Some triathletes watered them down and
added salt because the body needed sodium to absorb the
fluid. She would be carrying two bottles of sports drink on
her bike and another bottle in the back of her cycling top.
Her kit to compete cost her about $6000. The price included a
$500 GPS watch but did not include the sunglasses she had
borrowed from her father, Dagg said.
She trained up to 15 hours a week for the half distance and
was contemplating attempting the full event next year.
''I'll see how it goes and then step it up if I enjoy it.''
Jim Cotter, of the University of Otago school of physical
education, said triathletes did not need to spend much on
There was no evidence that energy gels provided any more
benefit than a quality diet.
''People can spend a huge amount of money for no gain.''
An energy gel was light and convenient. A sandwich could be
as nutritious but would become a ''soggy mess'' if carried
during a race, Prof Cotter said.
Athletes should not use protein powders and supplements could
be detrimental to the performance of a triathlete, he said.
Former Coast to Coast winner Keith Murray set the best time
at the multisport event by drinking Raro and eating gingernut
biscuits, Prof Cotter said.
Being fit and free from injury, and racing sensibly and
strategically, was more important than the amount of money
spent on gear, he said.
Knowledge for Rio manager Richard Young, of High Performance
Sport NZ, said a triathlete spent more on gear than any other
high performance athlete but gains would be made only if
competing at Olympic level.
Endurance athletes at the Olympics had similar fitness levels
so marginal gains could be made by spending money on
expensive gear, he said. Those gains could be the difference
between a top-eight placing and a medal.
However, Challenge Wanaka triathletes should concentrate on
their nutrition and training rather than on the technology,
''Just enjoy the event and see what your limits are. And
don't throttle the bank account.''