The Cost of Triathlon

I was reading through the most recent issue of USA TRIATHLON magazine (Winter 2016, Volume 19, Issue 1) and was reminded of one of the simple truth about the sport of triathlon …

It ain’t cheap.

Before you read on, Andrew and I were talking about this on the podcast a couple of weeks ago, that I have a “chip” on my shoulder when it comes to wealthy people and sometimes that comes out. This is not meant to be a tirade on the 1%, but more about my observation of the fact that the cost of this sport is so ingrained in most of us that we don’t consider people who don’t have the means .. we just assume people do.

This is not a surprise to most people, especially those of us that compete in and train in the sport. What struck me in the article is that it shows that it is so much of the sport, so ingrained in what the sport is, that people who write about it, who offer their commentary, state their insights into what needs to be done to get better, to meet challenges, offer solutions that more often than not include spending more money as if it is nothing.

I have stated more than once in these pages that I am not a wealthy man. I have the education and experience to be a wealthy man, hell to just make ends meet, but for one reason or another this level of comfort has chosen to not find me. Arguments can be made that I have done this to myself, and those arguments would be true, but the bottom line is that I have neither the means nor the ability to spend what most triathletes spend on themselves. What I do have is a good, close, personal friend that has helped me out in this regard, and whom I could never repay, and I have been lucky in that regard. Most people have not.

I have even found myself saying to some who have expressed interest in the sport the same things that others say to me and cause me great annoyance. If someone tells me they’d like to try triathlon but don’t have a bike, I say something along the lines of “well, there are places you can go to get good used ones, or try Craig’s List/eBay and see if you can locate one” without realizing that, for them, even a $500 bike is out of their price range. That is the state of it.

As I was reading through the issue this morning I came across an article entitled “No More Excuses” which outlined 6 common excuses people have for not training and tips on how to get past them. Of the 6, four of them recommended spending money on something. For example (and I am paraphrasing to get to the core point);

“I always get hurt”

Solution: Hire a professional to check your form. Very good advice, but will cost you money (unless you have a friend that can do it for free … St. Pete Running Company for example).

“I have nowhere to train”

Solution: Buy a treadmill (good ones are well over $1,000), join virtual training programs (Zwift is something I use), and all cost money either by the month (Zwift is $10), or by the year (Training Road is @$100). If you don’t have a pool you need to find a gym (prices can vary).

“It’s too dark to train safely at night”

Solution: Buy “a sweet headlamp like the Petzi TIKKA” ($30), or some “cool reflective gear”.

and my favorite …

“I’m not fast enough”

Solution: Hire a coach. Now THAT can cost you some money. I do have a coach, and the cost is covered my aforementioned friend. If not for them I would have NO coach. I could not afford it. Yes, as I have been told by other coaches (shocker), that it is an investment in yourself, and that is true, but I could be wealthy by investing in Apple (or whatever) but you still need the money to invest. I have invested recently in something for myself, a coaching certification program, which when I am complete I will be able to charge people for my services … and guess what? I won’t. My aim is to gather the knowledge I need to be a coach, to fill the holes in my experience, and have the piece of paper, but it is also to be able to help people who need the help, regardless of their financial situation.

I guess that makes me a socialist, eh?

The point I am trying to make is that we, as triathletes, have gotten to the point that the cost of the sport is so well-known, so ingrained, that we don’t recognize the fact that it is expensive anymore, and just assume people in the sport, or who want to be in the sport, are able to afford it. Where are the articles showing people how to start in triathlon with little budget? It almost makes me question if USA TRIATHLON only wants the wealthier of people involved, because they do not write for the lower-income bracket at all.

Again, I am lucky in that I have a job that pays me enough to live on. I am lucky enough to have a friends that supports my goals both mentally and, when needed, monetarily, what they have no responsibility to do so. It is out of the goodness of their heart. But not everyone is as lucky as me. I want to get more people into triathlon, and I don’t present it to everyone I think would be good because I know of the financial requirements. This is where the joy of running comes to play. Shorts, shoes, and a shirt and you’re set to go. Big races like Disney can cost hundreds, but you can race most 5K’s for $25. An Ironman will cost you over $700 easily.

Speaking of that, I got a recent email that illustrates my point on the mindset of triathlon. Ironman was trying to get athletes to register for Canada, and their selling point was that the Canadian dollar is less than the American, so a normal $750 entrance fee is really only $527.

They assume $527 is cheap.

And there you go in a nutshell …

5 thoughts on “The Cost of Triathlon

  • January 18, 2016 at 6:24 pm
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    I can’t believe how expensive iron man races have gotten. I wouldn’t spend $750 to do a race no matter how bad I wanted to do it. I’d run one out of my backyard, get a tattoo and call it good. Hell, I’d buy a new wheelset first! $750 is outrageous.

    • January 18, 2016 at 6:27 pm
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      I think so too. I just signed up for a 70.3 in Naples, FL next January that’s run by the HITS series. Good course, top support, even benches and bins in transition. Cost? $100.

      • January 19, 2016 at 6:24 pm
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        Now that’s a lot more reasonable. I can see a hundred bucks. Enjoy your race brother.
        BgddyJim recently posted…The Recovery Recipe: Relapse Or Recovery, What One Needs to Never Look BackMy Profile

  • January 18, 2016 at 8:19 pm
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    Just want to say a sincere Thank You for becoming a Coach and helping someone like myself, who are just starting out and can really benefit from great advice. Thank you for everything.

  • January 25, 2016 at 1:57 pm
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    Great article! It is a real struggle to train, perform and improve on a budget. Especially if you have aspirations of doing well in your age group aside from just finishing the race. When you enter an affordable, low key Triathlon put on by a high school cross country team as a fundraiser, and everyone in your 40-44 age group shoes up on a TT bike and gear, it kinds sucks.

    I have been on the verge of starting a blog about being a triathlete on a strict budget I.e. There is no $ for a budget showing how people like myself make so with little to nothing.

    Thanks for the great post.

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