This article is part of a new beginner’s series. Click here to find more articles from this series.
Now that you’ve picked your race, it’s time to talk about your budget. If you’re like any normal triathlete, you just click the submit button after entering your credit card information and a tiny voice in the back of your head just said “Oh my God!”
Ok, so maybe that tiny voice was more screaming than just talking. At the top of its lungs. You get the idea.
That’s right, welcome to the world of endurance sports where everything is more expensive than you think it should be.
I have good news and bad news for you.
The good news… is you will look back on this and say hey every dollar I spent was very well spent because I had a fantastic experience, I’ve never been fitter, and I’ve got memories to last me a lifetime.
The bad news is…that you’ll be spending a lot of those dollars between now and the time you have that moment.
With a little bit of planning and foresight you can minimize the damage that you do to your bank account. You can’t reduce it entirely, but you certainly can plan ahead and allocate money to where it will have the biggest impact on your year.
Spending On Your Race
As we’ve already discovered, the most important money you spend is on your race entry. No race, no reason to do this whole thing. The race entry fee that you pay is a function of many different items. Hopefully you take advantage of early registration and save some money there.
You may choose to go for a non-branded race, which significantly reduces the cost as well. The aren’t many of those out there, but you can find them in the form of: Rev3, Challenge, and other assorted races.
The good news is that most races now give you options to transfer or defer your race entry should you need to because of medical or other reasons. Make sure you investigate all of that depending on your situation before you actually purchase your ticket to the race.
Spending On Travel
For the travel elements, the biggest expense will be a plane ticket and taking your bicycle with you (hence the value behind a race within driving distance). If you opt not to take your bike with you, then you probably will be taking advantage of a shipping service which is roughly the same cost as bringing your bike on a plane. The biggest difference there is just not having to deal with the headache of carrying both your bike and your bags to and from the airport.
I personally like to have my bike with me when I travel on the way out, but I don’t like to have it on the way back. Bonus points to you if you can find a UPS location that will ship your bike box back home. Be sure to choose Ground shipping because after the race, nobody really cares to see their bike anytime soon!
Spending On Lodging
The next choice you have to make is around lodging. As I mentioned earlier, some venues have lots of lodging opportunities while others are very restricted. The most important thing you need to decide regarding lodging is what are your basic needs.
Do you need to be close to the race or far away? Do you need to have a kitchen so you can cook or can you stay at a hotel where you can go out? Do you need separate rooms so the kids can be quiet and go to sleep. Do you need privacy, or are you not traveling with/do not have a family and that’s not an issue?
Many first-timers often will travel with friends and/or family who can help offset the cost of lodging by also paying for some rooms. My first Ironman experience was down at Ironman Florida and I split a room with a college buddy. In pretty much every race thereafter have done something to that effect to help keep costs down.
Remember that many of these lodging choices will have no cancellation option. And depending on the availability in the area you’ve chosen to race, may require a significant upfront deposit. I put this item early on in the beginner Ironman set because it’s important for you to lock it down as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more expensive it gets!
Spending on Travel Food
Finally travel food. Hey, you’re a triathlete – if you go more than two hours without eating everyone nearby is going to be in trouble. From food you need on the road/plane to food you’ll need when you’re on site, food will be an important part of your budget. Or rather, it’s an item that when you look back on race weekend you realize you spent a ton of money on.
You will want fruit, energy food, healthy food to eat (before the race), delicious not-so-healthy food to eat after the race, etc. And if you enjoy having a celebratory beer — or nine — there’s also that! Even if you don’t keep it on a budget specifically knowing that you’re going to drop some money out there on food is important.
The third session we have is money related to your equipment both from a training perspective and a clothing perspective as well as your nutrition on the equipment side, everyone gets that you’re going to need a bicycle of some kind to do your race. Remember you don’t need to get the latest and greatest bicycle with aerodynamic space shuttle caliber technology if you’re going to need a bike!
The baseline level of equipment includes, but is not limited to:
A helmet, bicycle shoes, a wetsuit, goggles, a racing outfit, running shoes, and sunglasses.
That’s just the bare minimum list.
On top of that you’re going to need basic technology items such as a heart rate monitor, ideally with a watch, as well as a bicycle computer. The technology will help you navigate restated and is an important investment. On top of the equipment you have however, is all the clothing that you’ll need.
Of course you have your racing outfit. But beyond that you have lots of training gear this can help you navigate the bulk of your year leading up to your race. Everything from socks to shorts to technical shirts to hats is critical. Depending on where you live, you might need gear for variable temperatures so you may have to add colder weather equipment into that list such as: gloves, skullcaps, facemasks, long training pants, training jackets, etc.
“You could very well spend a month’s worth of grocery money on endurance nutrition products alone…”
The most surprising expense that most athletes have is related to the nutrition. While everyone expects their bike to cost them around $2500 for an entry-level bike, nobody expects to spend around a thousand dollars on energy food across a full season. But depending on what your nutritional needs are, and how dedicated you are to following them, you could very well spend a month’s worth of grocery money on endurance nutrition products alone.
From bars, to gels, to powders… From pre-workout, two in workout, to post workout… The list goes on and on. Some of your nutritional choices are required to be because he wants to be ready for the demands of a state and have the familiarity with available nutrition to make sure that your stomach isn’t what holds you back. Other items you can certainly find workarounds to or simply avoid. There is no need to purchase $50 recovery protein shake mix if making a few glasses of chocolate milk will do the trick.
Spending On Additional Races
In this for section I want you to plan ahead for what it means to have some “build” races across your year. While right now we’re talking about your big race, your “A” race that your entire year leads toward, there will undoubtedly be some stepping stone events that get you ready. We recommend these races not only for preparation sake, but also for helping to keep you sane.
There’s nothing worse than putting yourself in a box and training twelve straight months for a race that never seems to get closer until it suddenly too close. Do your fitness and your mind a favor by picking intermediary level events through which you can both test your preparation and fitness but also learn a great deal as well. At a minimum, we recommend that you have a half Ironman event on your calendar. Again you can choose to raise any event that fits the bill, especially one that will also picture budget. That’s entirely up to you but you also need to take into account all the related expenses that are involved with choosing a race such as travel and food.
Inside Endurance Nation, rather than just picking races we also recommend that you consider training camps. Endurance Nation holds several race specific camps every year. Rather than going to a place where you will just race for five to six hours and then go home, you can pick a training camp and for the same amount of money spent three full days training on the racecourse and learning about race.
In terms of return on dollar spent at camp is significantly better for you then just a race. Of course that doesn’t work for everyone, but it is something to consider is the managing this smaller subset of expenses related to your year. Shop around and find the right experience that works for you.
The fifth and final session here as for anciliary expenses that can really help make a big difference in your training. If you are an active family with young kids and both you and your spouse enjoy getting out on the weekends and training, then looking into some babysitting options.
During the week many of us have options for daycare or can juggle our schedules with school but on the weekends it’s very difficult to find a few hours where you can get those longer sessions. It’s worthwhile for you to find local babysitter, if your in-laws or parents are not available, to watch or chaperone the kids for a few hours one early weekend morning.
The most important thing you can do it make sure you are taking care of your significant other. Odds are it was not their idea for you to sign up for an Ironman®, but they’re supporting you nonetheless.
It’s not just common sense, it’s incredibly smart to allocate some time/money two thanking them for their support of you. It could be something like planning a nice dinner out once a month. It could be planning a nice trip as a reward for them coming with you to your race. Perhaps there’s a special gift you have in mind.
Whatever it may be, I’m telling you now earlier season so you can plan ahead to not spend that money on carbon fiber threaded glow-in-the-dark bicycle shorts and instead put it toward something that will make your spouse much happier (and not incredibly embarrassed!).
Up Next: Beginner Ironman® Technology Tips
Questions to Consider:
- What’s the best way to plan your travel?
- What’s the most expensive triathlon-related item you’ve every purchased? Why?
- How do you manage your training with your family commitments?
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