I’ve just started coaching two athletes who are new to triathlon.  It has reminded me what it was like when I started this sport.  I remember quite clearly what I thought, and more importantly, what my wife thought when I decided that I wanted to purchase a triathlon bike.  I thought, “I’m spending how many thousands of dollars on a bike!?!”  My wife probably included a few other choice thoughts in that phrase as well.

I haven’t ever been a spendthrift, nor do we have the funds to be, but I haven’t balked at value either.  While our budget didn’t accommodate gear, and still doesn’t, my thoughts had to quickly change from what I couldn’t afford to how could I afford it.

There is a reason the average triathlete has an upper middle class income.  I read an article on squawkfox.com that summed it up well.  The URL is:


Here is a cost tally of Ironman Triathlon:

Swim Gear Budget Athlete Big Spender
Wetsuit $200 $800
Bathing Suit $65 (X2) $120 (X2)
Goggles $15 $50
Pull Buoys $20 $60
Flippers $20 $75
Swim Caps $3 each (X4) $25 each (X4)
Body Glide $15 $15
PoolPass $100 per year $500 per year
Master’s Swim $60 per month $100 per month

Budget Athlete Total: $1232
Big Spender Total: $3040

Bike Gear Budget Athlete Big Spender
Bike $1500 $8000
Helmet $80 $200
Cycling Shoes $90 $350
Pedals $55 $400
Bike Clothing $500 $1000
Sunglasses $25 $250
Gloves $25 $100
Pump $30 $125
Tools $50 $300
Tubes $2.50 each (X25) $10 each (X25)
Tires $40 each (X4) $200 each (X4)
Chain Lube $5 bottle $10 bottle
Water Bottle $3 each (X6) $25 each (X6)
Club Rides $60 membership $250 membership

Budget Athlete Total: $2660.50
Big Spender Total: $12,185.00

Run Gear Budget Athlete Big Spender
Running Shoes $80 (X4) $200 (X4)
Run Clothing $300 $1000
Run Club $20 per month $100 per month

Budget Athlete Total: $860
Big Spender Total: $3000

Sports Nutrition Budget Athlete Big Spender
Sports Drink (powder) $50 (X4) $120 (X4)
Bars $2 (X50) $3 (X50)
Gels $2 (X50) $2 (X50)

Budget Athlete Total: $400
Big Spender Total: $730

Medical Costs Budget Athlete Big Spender
Physiotherapy $50 (X12) once a month $50 (X52) once a week
Massage Therapy $50 (X12) once a month $50 (X52) once a week
Orthotics $0 $500

Budget Athlete Total: $1200
Big Spender Total: $5700

Race Event Costs

Race Day Budget Athlete Big Spender
Race Fee $500 $500
Hotel $100 (X5 nights) $250 (X5 nights)
Travel to Race $500 $3000

Budget Athlete Total: $1500
Big Spender Total: $4750

Odds Budget Athlete Big Spender
Heart Rate Monitor $50 $400
Race Belt $10 $25
Yoga Classes $0 $500
Trainer/Coach $0 $2000
Gym Membership $0 $2500 per year

Budget Athlete Total: $60

Big Spender Total: $5425


Total Ironman Costs

Budget Athlete Total: $7,912.50

Big Spender Total: $34,830


So, between $8k and $35k.  Did I know it would be that expensive when I started?  No!  Now that I have done several events was it worth it?


Even Chuck Norris isn’t an Ironman :)

I can’t think of much in my life that has trumped the journey and experience of becoming an Ironman.  There’s a good reason why at least 2/3 of the attendance at each Ironman event is from repeat Ironmans.  Once you do one, it’s difficult to stop.  Not only does it appear to be superhuman for anyone who hasn’t completed one, but the prestige lasts a lifetime.

So how am I still married and racing?

I’ll fill you in on a few secrets to reduce your triathlon costs:

  1. Don’t      buy new if you don’t have to.  Used equipment is much like a used car.  If you wait for the right deal to come up, you can get a bike,  wheelset, powermeter etc. from 50%-70% of the original price without tax.  You sacrifice on the warranty, but you’d be surprised how much lightly used gear will save you.  The best part is that your buddy who dropped $5k on a bike will have no idea that your bike, which is just as nice, only cost you $2k.
  2. If done correctly, your gear can be as good as if not better than your bank account.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously not as liquid as money in the bank, but would you rather have it  collecting .006% interest, or helping you improve your fitness.  If you buy right and take good care of your gear, you can even make money on it.  I regularly flip a wheelset before Ironman events and make some money along the way.  It does take some knowledge and desire to take some risk, but it’s worth it.
  3. Improving your fitness now will save you in the long run.  If you’re not eating healthy or working out, you’re going to eventually pay for it.  I can’t say that HSAs will pay for your  bike, but you might be able to get your doc to prescribe a specific training regimen which may include a treadmill.  Some employers will even give a healthy living allowance as long as whatever is given is spent on a fitness  device.  Niceties aside, you’ll likely stave off that high blood pressure, heart attack, or diabetes.  You’ll also sleep better and live with more energy and zest.  Or at least you should.
  4. Being an Ironman is a lot like getting a unique degree or being an Eagle Scout.  It makes you memorable.  People will hear of you and wonder about  you.  You will have greater credibility, especially from those who know.  So see it as a potential career growth opportunity or resume builder at the worst!
  5. And last, but not least…   Who cares how much it costs!  You spent $30k on a car last year and what has it given you in return?  Heated leather steering wheels and Man Steps!?  Invest in yourself.  Becoming an Ironman will change your      life.  Literally.

For all of you who are just starting your journey or who have no idea where to start, feel free to contact me anytime.  I am a coach after all.  But more than that, I’ve been there and have had to overcome many hurdles.  I can honestly say that my wife rolls her eyes still when that package comes in the mail, but she no longer gives me a hard time.  She’s seen the results.  My kids even eat broccoli now and ask for it!  Now that is priceless!

Triathlons will change your life.  Enjoy the journey!