There's no denying that triathlons are a pricey pastime. Sure, technically, you only need a pair of shorts, a shirt, shoes, and a bike. But there's no question that a sleek, carbon fiber Cervelo with electronic shifting will take minutes off your time (for $8,000), a floating wetsuit will save your strength ($900), and those light-as-air sunglasses, well, those are just mandatory (you can see why gear geeks love the sport).
For your first triathlon, however, you can don't need to go down the rabbit hole with the finest in high tech equipment. "You could probably do a triathlon off everything borrowed but a pair of running shoes," says Nick Stanko, a triathlete and coach at Virginia-based Peaks Coaching Group. There's a middle ground, though, of worthy, budget-friendly equipment that will go a long way toward building confidence and helping pull in a respectable time for your first race. Here are our picks for getting started without breaking the bank.
TYR Nest Pro Nano Goggles
Anyone who competes in a triathlon or another race with open water swimming knows that one thing will absolutely happen: At some time in the swim, you're going to get kicked squarely in the face. Deal with it. There's not much you can do to prepare for the crowded watery onslaught (maybe gator wrestling?), but a quality pair of goggles that suctions firmly to your face like an angry giant squid helps.
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The TYR Nest Pro Nano did just that for us. We found the lack of leakage and the rock solid hold to be comforting, even if it does leave you with a wicked pair of raccoon eyes for a while afterward. They fit us perfectly, but we recommend first trying on a pair yourself. And — something that's important for a timed competition — the goggles are designed with "embedded anti-fog," so you shouldn't have to constantly stop and take them off during a race or a practice session. Plus, they come in a variety of colorways, from clear to black. Looks aside, make sure you get the satisfying suction sound that confirms a good fit. [$20; tyr.com]