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How much does an Ironman really cost?

by Meghann on December 19, 2013

Alright, let’s talk facts and figures. I hope you’ve got a big bottle of wine sitting next to you, because you know for darn sure that I have one next to me. I also have one for my husband. You know, in case he ever reads this and figures out how much I actually spent training for this race. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I started working towards this goal before we joined bank accounts…

I knew going in to this that training for an Ironman was NOT going to be cheap. Heck, it cost me an arm and a leg just to pay the registration fee… a year in advance. But I knew it was something I really wanted to do and more than likely I was only going to do it once. I’d spent years dreaming about it and I worked hard to save the money to get me through it.

Still, I trained conservatively, both with time and with money. I knew I wanted this, but I also knew I didn’t want to go broke doing it. So below you’ll find my realistic view on what an Ironman really costs. Could I have spent less? Possibly. Could I have spent more? Definitely – the sky’s the limit when it comes to training equipment.

Registration

Registration fee: $682 ( + $150 in travel expenses to volunteer and register)

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I know. It took me a while to process that figure, too. To make it worse, it wasn’t just the $682 I was paying that day. In order to be guaranteed a spot for registration, my siblings and I had to drive to Panama City, volunteer for 4 hours, and stay in a hotel room before waiting in line. That was one heavy duty weekend for my credit card.

Swim

12-month pool membership: $120

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I trained at the local city pool. I paid $15 for the basic 6-month rec card and an additional $35 for the pool upgrade. The rec card gave me unlimited access to 3 (4?) pools through the city. Considering how much a monthly gym membership goes, I think I got a good deal.

Swim supplies: $75

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Another guess on total $$$. While training I went through two pairs of goggles, a pair of paddles, a pull buoy, and a new swim suit.

Wetsuit: Already owned

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Technically I paid $130 for the wetsuit, but that was two years ago. I ordered the wetsuit before Augusta 70.3 and have used it approximately one other time since then. I’m still happy with the purchase and plan to continue wearing it for future races.

Body Glide: $5

I still chafed. Next time I’m trying something new.

Bike

Tri Bike: $1500

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As soon as I knew I was going to do a full distance Ironman, I knew I needed to upgrade my bike. I saved for a few months, then splurged when all of last year’s models went on sale and got a killer deal. I LOVED my Felt B16 and 100% believe it was worth the investment.

Bike maintenance: $200

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This included two tune-ups, new clips, replacement tubes, handlebar wrap, etc. Bike maintenance really starts to add up after a while.

Bike shorts: $45

I <3 the clearance rack!

Misc.

Travel expenses for Ironman weekend: $400

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This is a big guess. That includes hotel, gas, food, and boarding for Maddie.

Training Plan: $13

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I ordered Start to Finish: 24 Weeks to an Endurance Triathlon exactly one week after I registered for Ironman Florida. I thought it was a great plan and totally worth the $13 investment.

Training Team: Free

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What else are friends for?

Garmin 910XT: $300

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Retails on Amazon for $400, but I was able to use some Amazon rewards points towards the purchase. What really sold me on the 910 was the ability to track distance during open water swims. I also enjoyed the auto-multisport functionality, the fact that it vibrates for laps, and the battery life (it was still at 45% battery at the end of the 13 hour race). Unfortunately I didn’t practice the auto-multisport feature before race day and managed to royally screw it up. Sigh.

Spectator shirts: $80

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Kelly and I ordered 24 shirts online (www.ooshirts.com) and split the cost. It was our gift for our AMAZING spectators. 🙂

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GRAND TOTAL: $3570

And I can guarantee you I left a BUNCH of stuff out! Oh, and that’s only what I spent in the year of training – not including anything I invested in before I registered. HOW CRAZY IS THAT?!

Of course, some tri-geeks will spend MORE than that on a bike and new tires. Sigh. I’m not rich enough for this sport. I did it the “cheap” way.

To me, $3570 is A LOT of money. Was it worth it? Hell yeah. I would spend it all again in a heart beat.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to pour some more wine.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amanda Elizabeth December 19, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Holy crap!!!! I had no idea! Thank you so much for your honesty. That was really eye opening. What an amazing accomplishment that is definitely something on my bucket list. I thought my obsession with overly expensive yoga pants could add up…. 😉 Btw I do have a glass of wine next to me while reading cheers!
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2 Rachel December 19, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Go make a baby 🙂

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3 Another Rachel December 19, 2013 at 11:58 pm

😐
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4 Sara @ LovingOnTheRun December 19, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Love this!! I had no idea how expensive it would be! I have thought about doing a triathlon but I’d need a bike and a lot more and it is just not in the cards right now!
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5 Amy @ Run Write Hike December 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I bet supplements cost a bunch! Even with all the endorsements in the world, food and nutrition are not cheap 🙂
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6 Kelly December 20, 2013 at 1:34 am

The thing about how much triathlon costs — and it definitely costs a lot — is some of that is just the cost of life. If you didn’t spend money swimming, then you’d probably have spent it going out to eat. If you didn’t spend money on a hotel to go to a race, then you’d have spent it on a hotel going somewhere else. Yes, there is lots of triathlon-specific stuff and the races are crazy expensive (and I think you probably left out a ton of stuff like Century training rides and gels and bike shoes and I dunno, all the other crap you have to spend money on to train), but most of the money is money you’re just spending to do what you want to do, which if it wasn’t this it’d be something else.
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7 Meghann December 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I left out the registration fees for other races because I wanted to just concentrate on the IM costs and there’s a chance I probably would have done them even if I wasn’t doing an Ironman. I also left out the costs of shoes and pedals because I’ve owned both of them for a couple of years now and just transferred them to my bike when I got it.

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8 Mary December 20, 2013 at 1:47 am

Over the last few weeks I have been putting together a list of how much I have spent as a runner in 2013 ready for a post. Your post makes me incredibly glad that it was just running that I became addicted to and not all three disciplines!
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9 [email protected] December 20, 2013 at 3:15 am

Ok, now I feel less bad that I want new runnning shoes and that 30$ water bottle 🙂

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10 Elizabeth @ Positive Change December 20, 2013 at 8:40 am

Wow! I was really looking forward to when you were going to post this because my husband and I were looking at doing some tri’s for the 2014 season. That number is big and scary! I agree though, it would be totally worth it and I would not care how much I spent in the end! Thanks for the breakdown! Starting to drink wine now… 🙂
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11 Laura @ Sneakers and Spatulas December 20, 2013 at 9:06 am

Yikes! It’s crazy how quickly it adds up but it is definitely worth it! And although the bike was crazy expensive, it should last you a very long time. Your pool membership is a steal! We have to use indoor pools around here until it’s warm enough. The pool I’m going to join next year is $66/month just for a pool-not a gym! But they have a 50 meter lap course vs. a shorter 25 yard course at most pools.
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12 Meghann December 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm

It’s a city pool, so as long as you live in city limits you can buy a rec card for pennies and have unlimited use of all the city’s rec facilities. The pool also converts to a 50 meter lap course in the mornings and on some evenings. However, it’s also on the WAY other end of town so it’s a good 30-45 minutes drive, but soooo worth it!

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13 [email protected] December 20, 2013 at 10:03 am

Wowzers! Yeah, for me the big reason I have not gotten into tri’s that much is the cost since I do not have anything but bike shorts and a tri top…. I did a try a tri on a mountain bike last summer and I will never do that again! I don’t have the $$ for a new bike right now 🙁

I’m running the NYC marathon in 2014 and I know it will easily be an over $1000 weekend (and that is the small number). But, it is a life bucket list item 🙂
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14 Maggie December 20, 2013 at 10:39 am

Thank you for posting this!! I’ve been anxiously awaiting this post since you hinted about it a couple of weeks ago. I always knew it would be expensive to go down the Ironman path so I definitely appreciate the honesty
I do have one question though, based on what you saw at Florida, do all racers pretty much have a Tri Bike or was anyone on a standard road bike? I figure road bikes would be the minority, but I was curious about what you saw.

Thanks!

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15 Meghann December 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I’d say there was a mix, but about 70% were on tri bikes versus road bikes.

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16 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats December 20, 2013 at 10:48 am

omg. That really is so much more than I thought – but I guess the bike and registration are really the biggest chunk of it. Totally worth it if it’s something you really want – life is about experiences!
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17 Katie December 20, 2013 at 11:07 am

I love that you put together a list like this! For many, the cost is a big unknown and quite intimidating. The more information out there, the better! Luckily, triathlon is a top priority for me so I feel zero guilt about the cost.

One thing that I end up spending a TON on that really adds up is food/drink – Ironman Perform, Bonk Breaker bars, GU (I think I use the Clif Bar brand). I have to train with everything because I have a sensitive stomach and food allergies. It adds up! Not to mention the increased caloric content…all day, every day 🙂
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18 Kathy December 20, 2013 at 11:35 am

WOW!! I had no idea they can be so expensive!!!

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19 Rebekah Smith December 20, 2013 at 11:43 am

Goodness. WOW. So worth it though for sure.

You: http://i3.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/005/342/129969639840.gif

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20 Natalie @ Free Range Human December 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm

It is quite a commitment financially. I have a good friend that’s preparing to do one next September, and he’s just starting to feel the pain of this!
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21 EB @ Running on E December 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Thanks for posting this! I have been thinking about an Ironman, but was trying to figure out what it would really cost. I agree that the sky is the limit with stuff like this, but it’s nice to know a minimum to do it well. It is a once in a lifetime experience and totally worth it.

I think I would have to add in a line for groceries. Knowing how much I eat during marathon training, I can only imagine what I would eat during IM training!
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22 Kaitlin December 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm

This is all really helpful to know! It’s amazing how it adds up but I think totally worth it in the end. Some of my non-athletic friends may not think so, but hey, whatever floats your boat. I’ve bookmarked this for when I get going and train for an Ironman, It’s always been a dream and bucket list item. Thank you!
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23 [email protected] December 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Gulp. Now I need to rethink my decision to do an international race.
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24 Tessa @ Balancing Active December 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Interesting (says the accountant)! I think the cost has been the thing keeping me from trying a tri or getting into cycling, although my boyfriend just purchased his first bike and I may have to take the plunge. It’s helpful to see the true cost for an amateur athlete. Congrats on the finish!
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25 Courtney December 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Ugh, I don’t even want to add mine up. You lucked out having a race so close as well. We did IMAZ which was a looong drive from Kansas City (granted there are SOME closer races.. but not much closer). It took 2 full days to drive to AZ, and we had be there Friday for Athlete Check-in when the race was on Sunday (and while we lengthened the trip to include extra vacation days) if we drove straight back those 2 days means 7 days minimum. So 7 days in a hotel and 1200 miles of gas (we didn’t exactly drive a Prius) was not cheap… and flying was an option, but 2 plane tickets, travel boxes for our bikes and airline baggage fees (OR $300 each for tribiketransport)…. it would have been so close in cost…
BUT I totally agree that it was SO worth it 🙂

Plus all the GU I ate during training, USAT Membership, Netflix to watch on the bike trainer, gasoline driving my bike to where I would ride, Chamois cream!, sunscreen (and a spray tanning package to attempt to remove my tan lines before my wedding thanks to hours of outside rides)… and of course, the very necessary youtube video of my race from FinisherPix 😉

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26 Christine @ BookishlyB December 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm

That is a TON of money, but at least it wasn’t all at one time- spread out over a year it looks a tiny bit better, I’m sure. In the process you were able to get in-shape and healthy and form relationships that you may not have had. That being said, doing it every year might be a bit on the average person’s finances!
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27 Runner Girl Eats December 20, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Yikes. This is the perfect reminder as to why I will not be picking up tri’s anytime soon! Enjoy your wine 😉
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28 Jessica December 20, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Good lord! I knew it was expensive but that’s like what I’m spending on our trip to Ireland in May!! Hahah. You go girl!
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29 Melissa (fitnessnyc) December 21, 2013 at 9:15 am

Really interesting race. I had no idea registration was so expensive for ironmans. I guess that it does require a lot of manpower to put on the event. It’s kind of like the wedding budget, you know the main things, but there are a lot of small costs, especially at the end, that you just don’t even want to think about.
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30 Jen December 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm

It hurts when you add it all up, doesn’t it? I realized that I was spending $3000 a year on CrossFit back when I was doing it. That’s just the membership. Lifting shoes, a fancy jumprope, clothes on top of it…and I wasn’t even trying to reach a goal like you with Ironman. I just did it to do it. I suppose the good part is that now that you have the bike and the Garmin and those durable goods, that you can use them for years to come.
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31 Eve December 21, 2013 at 5:01 pm

A friend (and big-time marathoner) said something very wise recently re: money spent on our beloved sport. We were bemoaning the cost of race Bibs, but she said “It’s an investment towards your health, though, so it’s worth it.” SO true. Although an Ironman (and all of the training and costs) make my 10Ks and half-marathons look pretty elementary by comparison, it’s still money you invested in yourself and in your health. Of course it’s expensive and you had to sacrifice other areas in your budget, but I’m sure someone else would take all that money and have a blow-out weekend somewhere like Vegas eating, drinking and gambling. Maybe not the best comparison, but as far as I’m concerned, there are way worse ways to spend your money:-). Good for you!

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32 Army Amy December 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm

That’s a lot of money, but I’m honestly surprised that it’s not more. Plus, for a once-in-a-lifetime, huge-life-goal kind of a thing, I think it’s worth it. Of course, that’s easy for me to say since it’s not my money!
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33 Sydney January 9, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Wow! That’s a lot of money, but to get something with so much personal satisfaction is kind of priceless, in my opinion. You inspired me to write a similar post about the cost of running. http://thecuppycakes.tumblr.com/post/72829971058/the-cost-of-being-a-runner

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34 Arthur February 26, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I ran 15 races last year (Running only) and the average price per race was $50. I went through 4 pairs of shoes and travelled to New York and Georgia. I probably spent $2000 or more on just that. Unless you’re an elite competitor, some of the gear you buy for a triathlon can me used over and over again. Also, I believe the Panama City Ironman is pretty spendy most are like $250 and they’re spread all over the U.S.. Most people could find a local Ironman and not spend a bunch of money on hotels.
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35 Kelly June 16, 2014 at 11:34 am

Thanks for posting this! Would definitely be worth 4-7 thousand for the experience, health benefits, and accomplishment. Looking forward to cheering my hubby on in two years.

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