Apr 21 – Show me the money…

There’s a financial focus this month, including a bit of cost-benefit analysis. This one is for my colleagues that lead on Business Cases and Benefit Management 😊

Training & Racing Update

Training is back on track, the back niggles have been sorted, and swimming pools have reopened. There is plenty to be positive about. The only negative is the intensity of some of the training. With races on the horizon the training is ramping up, and some of the sessions are hideous. Would you fancy running three times in a day ☹?
My first race is only a couple of weeks away – a seaside trip to Southport. A few weeks later we’re off to Yorkshire for the ‘A J Bell Leeds Triathlon’ which acts as both the British Championships and qualifier for the 2022 World Championship team.

International races remain in the balance. A decision on the Edmonton World Championships is expected later in May. My September flights to Valencia for the European Championships have just been cancelled – a reminder that things remain far from normal. There are plenty of twists and turns still to come in our journey out of Covid.

Triathlon Focus – Cost

The focus this month is on equipment and the expense of participating in Triathlon. Anybody can take part for little outlay. All you need is some swim gear, a bike, helmet, running shoes, shorts and a top. Like many pursuits, the more you get into it the more you want to spend.

At races it’s hard to ignore the flash and expensive kit on display. Topping the ‘How much?’ list is the bike. The competitor with the expensive carbon bike, adorned with all the latest technology and go faster stripes can deal a mild psychological blow. Spending upwards of £5k on a bike, sometimes approaching £10k, is quite common. This year the bike to have is the “Canyon Speedmax CFR DISC eTap” costing a mere £12,949. They are clearly popular as they are currently sold out.

There are plenty of ways to spend your hard-earned money on Triathlon, but do they help? Like any race, the aim is to get from start to finish in the shortest time. This requires optimisation of yourself and of the kit you have.

With a little money coming into the household this month, I imagined, or should I say fantasised, that Mrs Kirby would allow me to spend a little bit of it on triathlon. What would I spend my our money on, and what benefit could I gain?

Here’s a summary of spend options to analyse before presenting my Business Case for review and approval:

It is easy to be lured into the belief that speed improvement can be bought rather than achieved. My analysis suggests spending £4,226 will result in a time improvement of 5 minutes 25 seconds for an Olympic distance triathlon. That’s a £13 spend for every second saved.

I asked Coach Ali for his views. He refused to be drawn into the debate, arguing that there are so many variables in any race that it’s impossible to pinpoint specific savings. It’s a fair point, and I agree with him, but then if others have an advantage over you through better kit it’s no longer a level playing field. Knowing that I needed to come up with some tangible benefits I’m pushing on with my analysis.

Here are three experiences from the time-saving options above:

Managing weight – Clearly the best ‘bang for buck’ gain. Let’s be honest – it’s also the hardest to do, and spending money is much more satisfying

Elastic bands – When transitioning from swim to bike you must run from the ‘transition area’ to the bike ‘mount line,’ and these can be some distance apart. Precious seconds are spent putting on bike shoes, and they are not designed for running in. This is where elastic bands come in to their own.

The experts click their bike shoes into the pedal’s pre-race, with the straps undone. Elastic bands are used to hold them in the perfect position (at quarter to three on a clock face). Transition time is reduced as all you need to do is put on your helmet, grab your bike, and run to the mount-line in bare feet. Once over the line you then execute a flying mount onto the bike, placing your feet into the shoes, and strapping them tight as you begin pedalling. The elastic bands snap as you accelerate away. What could possibly go wrong?

After much practice, much to the amusement of the family, I’ve concluded that success lies in the quality of the elastic bands. The more inferior they are the better. Work issued elastic bands are simply too strong. I used some once, and they refused to snap, tangling themselves up in the bikes gear mechanisms.

Expensive Triathlon bike – This is easily the most exciting and tempting option. They can help you go faster through improved aerodynamics and a better body position, but they also require a lot of getting used to. You should get a ‘bike fit’ to ensure your position is good, which will cost another £200, and then you need to spend months practising cycling in that position, which is not at all easy. Then there are the accessories specific to the bike – water bottles that fit, and spare parts. In other words – be prepared for the hidden costs.

Links to Change
I’m hoping the parallels between this and managing change are clear. How often is some new technology proposed as the solution to a perceived issue, without having undertaken a full assessment of the problem, nor identification of available options. Where an option of some simple ‘housekeeping’ is put forward, is this readily accepted and put into action?

Assuming that the new solution route is followed, are there predictable lessons at the end of the project? For example:

  • The solution is not seen to be as effective as had been anticipated, or as forecast in the business case
  • Running the solution requires greater effort than expected
  • The full cost of purchase, implementation and support is greater than first thought
  • Had more housekeeping been undertaken first, would the new solution have been more likely to have achieved the forecast benefits?
  • Could smaller, incremental changes have been just as effective as a larger and more complex change?

All too often, creating the case for change is the easy part. Delivering the planned benefits can be a little trickier.

Ideas for getting active

This month’s thoughts are influenced by a recent podcast I listened to (whilst running), linking this to a couple of the ideas I’ve previously mentioned.

Sometimes the hardest part of getting active is making a start. How many times have we had the best of intentions but have found reasons to put the activity off? We tell ourselves we are too busy, or it’s too cold. We’ll start tomorrow, or next week. Often, I find it difficult to drag myself out for a run, and I’m rather good at making convincing arguments as to why I should put it off till later.

Years ago, as a youngster, I remember listening to some presentations from a very inspirational American, called Bob Lloyd. He talked about the problem of putting things off, and then gave everybody a small, round, wooden disc. Printed on the disc were the letters – T U I T. He then asked the audience what it was, before telling them that it was a ‘Round Tuit.’ Now that everyone had a ‘Round Tuit’ they needed to get ‘around to it’! Do you need one?

In the podcast the host referred to a study of hundreds of weight loss diets that tried to identify which one was the most effective in helping people reduce fat. Which one was best? The conclusion surprised and disappointed people. The conclusion was adherence. The specifics of the diet were less important. It was all about adherence to what you were doing. In another podcast there was discussion on the most effective training technique that would bring you the best results. The conclusion was once again adherence.

Back to Bob Lloyd. The second time I heard him speak he handed everyone a wooden lollipop stick. On the stick were printed the same letters – T U I T. Guess what it was called? You’ve got it – it was a ‘Stick Tuit’.

So, once you’ve got around to it, you need to stick to it. Do that then and you’ll be well on your way.

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