The true cost of a 14 hr three way

Lets be honest here.  The Ironman is the Holy Grail for all triathletes.  We work hard at our sport to get us to the start line.  Every triathlete has humble beginnings.  We have all toed the line of our first Tri – whether it was a ‘try-a-tri’ or sprint, with butterflies in our stomachs hoping that this shell of neoprene will keep us afloat. 


As we walked through and around the race site/transition, there it was, on a few of the athlete’s bodies.  The M Dot.  The tattoo of honour that those people had branded on themselves after becoming an Ironman.  And you felt a little small.  Not at any fault of the Ironman, because they looked at you, gave you a big smile and wished you luck.  Small because you are feeling worried about doing a race that is an 8th of what they accomplished.  But that in itself gave you a little boost.  Hell, if that guy can do 8x what I’m about to do, I can certainly do it.  Yes, even after that mouthful of water, dropped chain and rubber legs you did it.  You’re a triathlete.  But now, its not enough.


You have caught the bug – the disease of Triathlon.  And this is where is all started.


Now a few years down the road, with many races under your belt and the confidence in your abilities, your ready.  Ready to tackle the Iron distance.  Whether you sign up for an Ironman or Iron distance, the road to get you there is all the same.


I came across this article today :




And thought.  Oh holy Jesus.  Are you FUCKING kidding me?  $1000 – just to enter.  That’s madness – this is not Sparta!  Who has that kind of cash to spend?  But then I thought of all the money I had invested and thought, is $1000 really that much in the grand scheme of an Ironman?  As I stretched and sweated through hot yoga this morning I started to tab up the cost of this Iron Endeavor (If you begin to find your mind beginning to wander, come back to your breath --- Uh, ya, just after I calculate this total – I’m a bad yogi)


So lets begin:


The Swim.

Bathing suit & goggles right?  HA!  You’re not wearing just any joe bathing suit to the pool, its your new TYR.  Its runs you about $60.  Goggles.  As stylish as the pink ones are with the octopus rims are, you’re a serious triathlete and only Sable ($50) will do.  Pull boy, because no one want to put used pool equipment in-between their legs ($15).  Motivation.  That’s free right?  Wrong.  Because you wont motivate yourself the way a Master group will.  And plus, its coached - $1000 for a year.

Done? Almost.  The wetsuit.  We’re mere mortals and no need for the Goldcell…Metalcell will do just fine $500.


The Bike.

Your old roadbeater just aint cutt’n it no’mo.  You look at that aluminum frame with disgust.  S – nothing, you’re a serious triathlete now.  Nothing but Cervelo will do.  And you got that raise at work – Its P3 time. (Last years model will suit you fine, that raise has not come through – yet - $4000).  Your shoe sand clips, $250 all in.  You can paint them a fancy colour to go faster. Safety-safety-safety: Helmet : Lets go for the Giro Atmos $160.  No need for the silly tear drop helmet.  Its not like your gonna WIN the damn Ironman (but yet so professional looking……)

Bike trainer – heres the doozy.  You can be economical and just get a trainer for those winter months ($500) or get the Computrainer that lets you ride the course ($3000).

Oh, cant forget the cycling clothes and extra tires/tube, CO2 cartridges, ect- $500 sound fair?


The run.  The most economical part of this tri.  Your shoes $160.  Your clothes $250.


Now – Nutrition.  The GUs at $2 a pop or Roctanes at $4.50, Clif bars, power bars, E-discs, Cytomax, Heed, E Load, Protein shakes for the ride, after the ride and the Starbucks – ‘fuck ya we just rode 200k frappicinno with a scoup of protein in it because I smell like sweat and don’t care if I offend your olfactory sense you hipsters!’ ---Ah-hem……..or what ever you fancy ---- Once its all said and done $300.  At least.


Now that you’re all geared up, there are the tune up races.  $500.

Run/Multisport Club fees & or Clinics $200


Ok.  Yes.  Ok.  Now your ready.  Lets make it easy.  Your going to sign up for a race – no need to volunteer the year before (though its good to volunteer for races your not participating in) – and your goal is the New York Ironman Race : $1000.


But if you don’t live in NY, you’ll most likely drive, with family, and make a mini holiday out of it.  $2500 for gas, hotel, food and all that ‘Finisher’ swag.


The damage:  $11,535.00


The race fee *ONLY * makes up 11%.  Heres the bad news, I just smashed in your face the cost of triathlon.  Its steep, and that can be hard on your wallet.  What’s worse, your spouse just read this and has sold your gear and signed you up to a couple’s retreat with that hipster couple from Starbucks.



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Comment by Erika on August 9, 2011 at 7:16pm
10-4   Keep up what you love everyone
Comment by Stephan Burelle on August 5, 2011 at 8:41am

160K avg??? Is that a verified figure? Wow!


Mdot races are the best put together I've done. That being said are they worth the money? The answer is in the entry turn out! Yes! Everything is worth what people are willing to pay for it and IM races a selling out in a matter a days if not hours. People line up to volunteer, to sign up, to buy gear and clothes. IM are line up festivals!!! Marketing is where it is! Still, I intend to spend the money for as long as I can. I do agree that this sport can be practiced at a much cheaper cost. Generic races, less expensive equipment etc...The equipment is over rated, for us avg Joes anyway, I agree. Still, I'll do what I have to, to keep doing it. That's what this lifestyle is worth to me!

Comment by Patti on June 29, 2011 at 4:25pm
I think the cost of my medical bills related to IM training for the past year have been over $5,000.00.
Comment by Bob on June 29, 2011 at 11:26am
@chris...ending a week-and-half vacation and managed to run, find a public pool for laps, and a stationary bike (was going to rent a road bike but family obligations didn t permt) and even manged a 10k drop-in race (active.com is great!): I think tri people have a better grasp of time management...for example, this training didn't intrude upon family and visiting time.

Oh, to top it off...bought a wetsuit online that I've been eyeing ..patiently waited for the 20 percent holiday discount...um, another 500 to explain...but in my defense, im so much happier of a person having a goal, swimming at lunch, biking to and from work (in addition to training); and knowing "distance doesn't aplly to me." It is a good life.
Comment by Christine on June 29, 2011 at 11:03am

At Erin-yes, happiness is "sort of" priceless!  Isn't it funny how the "trivial" things you thought were important at one time are no longer so!  When I plan vacations, there must always be a race involved. 

Stephan-ditto!  Being healthy is a great tradeoff for the investment in a healthy lifestyle.  You really cannot put a price on the healthy benefits you get out of this sport-living longer, less illness, etc.  I keep coming across more and more research that supports our long hours of training, like less DNA damage and breakdown from those precious cells that make us human! 

Comment by Greg Weinman on June 28, 2011 at 11:41pm
awesome.  so true
Comment by Bridget Roberts on June 28, 2011 at 9:14am
Love it!
Comment by Christine on June 25, 2011 at 12:56pm
Erika-agree, average (mean) income is greatly skewed.  It only takes a couple of people earning millions per year, to shift an average by a very large amount!   A median would show that most people in this sport earn about X amount of dollars.  That would be more relevant and representative of most of us in this sport.
Comment by Christine on June 25, 2011 at 12:49pm

Great job with the itemizing.  I would add the following:  Many of us go through body transformations with this sport, which means, new wardrobe for work, new wardrobe for play and new wardrobe for training!   Cycling jackets, rain gear, work attire and training gear (to include wetsuits) along with bike fittings as fitness changes your form on the bike, can get very expensive! 

Now for the most part all I need is the occassional new pair of minimal running shoes (work related discount with running store) and fees for coaching and race day.  There is the occassional out of town race, but that is vacation time anyway, something most of the population does (the vacation part, not the race).  Pool equipment is a one time deal.  Dolphin makes great polyester suits that last-and you can get last season's at clearance sporting goods stores for less than half the cost of that TYR-and they are just as good, and in my mind, better.  Most tri stores and swim stores have some sort of deal, punch cards, etc so over time you go back with a decent size credit to use or discounts for using a certain coach or being a member of a tri club.  I've paid nothing for running shoes at times because of these discounts, add in the shoe exchange-3 pairs, $15 worth of coupons at the running store.  If you watch for sales, I loaded up on my gu chomps for half the price, winter cycling gloves for half, etc, etc. 


That said, the long term cost of maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle is expensive-food (I eat less now), medications, doctor's visits, vacation time lost due to being ill, health issue related surgeries... will likely add up to more than what you spend on this sport over the long haul.  Plus, one person's unhealthy lifestyle means we all pay because of the strain on the healthcare system, medicare, medicaid, disability, etc. 


After all is added up, doing this sport enables me to be more productive at work, more creative and less stressed and forces me to maintain balance in my life...that is priceless!

Comment by Nicole Muller on June 23, 2011 at 10:07pm
Yeah, ouch... worth it for the glory, we all agree, I'm sure. But also keep in mind New York in August is abysmal. $895 for the fresh hell of a humid 90 degree marathon after the swim and bike adds insult to injury. (Not saying that I didn't try and sign up... and that I won't volunteer and try for next time...)

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