The Cost of Becoming an Ironman

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This weekend I became an Ironman. As I completed the last mile of the race around the Wisconsin State Capitol, I reflected on the journey – the snowy runs on the pavement, the early mornings at the pool, the long evening bike hill repeats, the achy muscles and missed family events…the list goes on. I reflected on how proud I was (and still am) of completing a childhood dream.

But stepping back from the feeling of success for a minute, I must say that it was an expensive accomplishment indeed.

For those looking towards an Iron-goal, I salute and encourage you, but also warn that you should be prepared to shed some weight from your wallet in the process.

Here’s what I spent to fulfill my Iron-dream:

The swim

  • Pool pass— I signed up for a YMCA membership to use the pool in the winter months ($40 per month for nine months).
  • Equipment—I purchased a swimsuit ($30), plus fins for practice ($35) and two pairs of goggles (~$40). I also bought ear plugs which I did not end up using (~$7).
  • Wetsuit—Luckily I borrowed a family member’s wetsuit so I spent $0 on this item. (If I would have purchased my own I could have spent an additional $200-$500). I also purchased two cans of wetsuit glide to make it easier to get on and off ($30).

Total swim dollars spent= $502

The bike

  • Equipment— When it came to the bike, I had an old aluminum frame road bike and decided to trade that in for a new carbon fiber road bike ($2,500). Then I added aero bars ($120), a tube kit ($20), water bottle cages ($40), an aero fuel bag ($40) and a water bottle ($15). (My Garmin bike computer was a gift, valued at $400.)
  • Gear— I had hardly any clothes to train in so I purchased a few bike tops ($140) and a solid pair of bike shorts ($150). I added bike socks ($25), sunglasses ($60), new bike shoes ($160), a new helmet ($100), sunscreen ($10) and new gloves ($45). I was also unsure of what to wear for the race so I also purchased a one piece tri suit ($100) and a two piece tri kit ($160) to see which one would be most comfortable on race day.
  • Miscellaneous— Chamois cream tube ($20) and race-day to-go packs of chamois cream ($8).

Total bike dollars spent= $3,713

The run

  • Gear— I came from a running background, but I still found myself spending quite a bit of money on essentials for the triathlon. During training I went through two pairs of running shoes, ($300 total). I bought a visor ($24), new anti-blister socks ($15), a heart rate monitor ($37) and a small water bottle to carry liquids ($20). I also purchased a sports bra ($50) and a new top that I couldn’t return ($40).

Total run dollars spent= $486

Miscellaneous

Beyond the sports, there are other items that most people don’t take into consideration, including race fees, hydration, injury prevention and travel.

  • Race fees— The Ironman race fee ($720) plus a one year USA Triathlon membership ($50). I signed up for a half Ironman distance race ($250), two sprint triathlons ($90) and two half marathons (~$120).
  • Hydration— I tried different liquids, GU and Gatorade to find what worked best for me, but had to spend money to find the right combo. I used electrolyte salt ($30) on nearly every long ride and run in the process of training and I purchased four boxes of 25-pack GUs ($92 total). Plus the energy bars and snacks during each long ride (~$100, at least).
  • Injury prevention—About six weeks before the Ironman I began having injuries pop up and decided to start going to a chiropractor ($100).
  • Travel—I completed Ironman Wisconsin, which is relatively close, so I drove up there several times to practice the course, putting money into gas, lodging and food. Race day hotel ($400), practice weekend hotel ($400), half Ironman race hotel ($80).

Total miscellaneous dollars spent= ~$2,432

Total Ironman cost= ~$7,100

Completing an Ironman triathlon has been a dream of mine since I was a kid and I am so lucky to have made that dream a reality. I, like many, came to triathlon as a novice with little equipment and know-how and began from scratch, so to speak. I definitely know there were places where I could have saved money in the process…some places where I could have been more frugal (for example, I saw a man doing the race in jean shorts and a button top!). However, I also saved money in other places. I didn’t have a tri bike or disc wheels. I didn’t use power pedals, nor did I use an aero helmet or an expensive wristwatch many other athletes had.

In the end, Ironman is an expensive dream—but I must admit that the feeling of pride I had when I crossed the finish line didn’t have a price tag.

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Adrienne Zimmer has been competitively running since she was 10 years old. She ran her first half marathon when she was 15 and her first full marathon at the age of 18. Since then, she has competed in more than a dozen half marathons, five full marathons, a dozen sprint triathlons, a half Ironman and a full Ironman triathlon. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and works full-time as a writer and editor. In 2017 she hopes to finish Boise's Race to Robie Creek Half Marathon, dubbed the toughest half marathon in the Northwest.

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