The Cost of Becoming an Ironman


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


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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