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How much does a half ironman REALLY cost?

by Meghann on October 11, 2011

Oh, lord – I can’t believe I’m doing this! I’m giving away real numbers for how much everything cost me leading up to race day. Yikes!

Keep in mind, I took the ‘cheap way out’ in a lot of situations. This was my first big triathlon and a lot of basic equipment needed to be purchased. I’m hoping to save by not needing a lot of it next time, but I’ll also still be spending some with the need of a few upgrades. It’s a never ending cycle right? No one ever said triathlons were cheap!

Registration fee: $250

Travel expenses for HIM weekend: $120

  • Total guesstimate for food, gas, and hotel. Luckily, I was traveling with a group of 4 and was able to split a lot of the costs 4 ways and save some $$.

Race day fuel: $10

  • Gu chomps, Gu Brew, Gatorade, and Chewy bars.

Transitions:

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Baby powder: $1

  • I bought this per the suggestion of several commenters, but never used it. We went straight from gravel to grass after the swim, so my feet were actually pretty dry. When the time came to put my socks on, I just rubbed them with a towel and was good to go.

Vaseline/ Body Glide: $3

  • I ended up only using the stuff before the swim and had zero issues with chafing.

Clifbar: $1

  • Lots of suggestions to have something to eat during transitions, but I was so focused to get in and get out that I completely forgot about it.

Swim:

4-month gym membership (for pool): $120

  • I was a loyal twice-a-week swimmer at my gym’s pool for 16+ weeks. Without the membership I could have found a community pool (to be honest, I didn’t really look for one) or swam in my complex’s tiny pool for free. However, I loved the gym option because the hours were super convenient and it came with the bonus features of spin classes, access to weights, and the T3 team.

New tri-suit: $75

IMG_0511.jpg

  • This was one of those big purchases that will hopefully come in handy down the road and I stand by the investment. The tri-suit did not let me down on race day. It was comfortable, supportive, and never rode up. I’ll admit it wasn’t the most flattering thing in race photos, but comfort always reigns supreme. ๐Ÿ™‚

New wetsuit: $130

  • There was an option to rent a wetsuit for $45 onsite, but my logic was, if I did 3 more wetsuit friendly triathlon, then the suit has paid for itself on a cost per use basis. To be fair, the water wasn’t terribly cold – and I could have gotten away without wearing one at all – but the added buoyancy really calmed my fears in the water on race day.   

Water resistance watch: $15

  • Best $15 investment I’ve ever made. Not only did it help with sets while training in the pool, but it also came in handy on race day. I wore it from start to finish and always knew where I was at in relation to my ultimate finish line time goal.

Bike:

Road Bike: $400

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  • The bike was purchased in 2009, but I just wanted to throw it out there to show you don’t need a fancy bike to complete a 70.3. Would a new carbon tri-bike have made me faster? Probably, but old blue got the job done just fine. However, if I do move on to full – my first big purchase will be *gulp* a new bike

Bike maintenance: $115

  • I had a basic tune-up done during training, as well as having my handles re-wrapped and a purchase of new tubes when my tires went flat the other month

Clipless pedals + shoes : $135

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  • Worth it, so worth it! The first time I put these one I felt an instant difference in how I rode my bike. However, there was a girl with cages on her pedals that passed me and was doing just fine out there. More power to her!

Run:

New running shoes: $100

  • Purchased just before training and officially bit the dust the day of the race. RIP shoes!

Total Cost: $1075 <– HOLY CRAP!!!! I think I just cried a little inside seeing that number. ๐Ÿ™ Extra motivation not to prematurely sign up for that full ironman – that’s for sure! And that, my friends, is why I haven’t been running many races this race season – my half ironman left me broke.

And if that wasn’t enough – here are a few other purchases that would have been nice, but weren’t necessary:

Aerobars

  • Admittedly, when I arrived to drop my bike off the day before race, I became very nervous when I noticed I was in the 5% of racers who didn’t have aerobars on their bike. I immediately questioned my decision to back off on that expense and wondered if I made the right call. However, once I was on the bike it wasn’t that bad. I’m sure I’ll eventually invest in a pair as I go further down the cycling road, but not having them for my first 70.3 was not an issue at all. (I might be singing a different tune once I do have them and can feel the difference)

Bentobox on the bike

  • I know I need one to store fuel on the bike, but my pockets worked great as well. This will probably be a smaller eventual purchase for training rides.

Transition bag

  • I didn’t even know I wanted one until we went to pick up our bikes and had to ride them back to the car. Everyone had these nice big bags that they wore like backpacks and fit everything nicely, while I had two awkward sized reusable bags that made the ride back very difficult. After that ride I never wanted something more in my life than one of those nifty hold-everything-and-doesn’t-make-you-tip-over bags. Christmas? Maybe?

See – never ending cycle of wanting more!

1 Katie October 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm

1,000 is sadly a conservative amount to spend! HIM and Full IMs are so expensive!!
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2 Samantha @ Bikini Birthday October 11, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Wow, it’s an expensive sport indeed!

3 Caitlin C. October 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Never ending cycle of wanting more – cycle – ha- I see what ya did there! ๐Ÿ˜›
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4 Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat October 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Wow, that is a lot of money! But I think the experience is worth it, and just think of how much fitter you are now! I think it’s a great $1000 investment in your health!
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5 Gina @ Running to the Kitchen October 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm

holy cow! that makes me feel better about spending $100+ on a half marathon!
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6 Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun October 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Crazy how fast stuff adds up! That’s like my fitness competition I did. The sparkly bikini alone was $400!!! Then, the gym membership, protein powders, tons and tons of chicken, fitness routine wear, registration fee, posing seminar…yea it was expensive. Glad I did one, but I can definitely say I’m not doing one again. LOL
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7 Holly October 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Yeah, tris are NOT cheap. I’m in the need/want a new bike situation right now and it’s going to be a huge budget buster, but I know it will be worth it in the long run. I did my first 70.3 on my current bike (sans aerobars which I now have thanks to a friend’s new bike purchase) and it was just fine, but it’s been breaking down a lot this season so I think it’s time.

As for the transition bag, I just use an old backpack we already had (it was formerly used as a gym bag). The pack cost about $15 at Marshalls (it’s Adidas brand). It has bottle holders on either side for water bottles and lots of pockets for the little stuff. I just clip my helmet to the outside and I’m good to go. Not that a nice transition bag isn’t cool, but if you’re looking for a less expensive option…

Enjoy the rest of your cruise!!
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8 Michelle October 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm

The bike I want is well over 1000 so all that stuff doesn’t seem so pricey. I’m going to research less pricey road bike options because everything else you listed will sure add up when finally do a tri like that
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9 Hillary October 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Holy CRAP. It costs $600 to run a full Ironman? Good golly, I could never afford that!
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10 Julia @ Do more feel Good October 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm

What are aerobars for?

I just bought a bike for the first time at a local bike shop that was having a sale….I’m so excited and I love it! I bought a hybrid though as I haven’t decided yet if I will like it enough to do races. I did splurge for the $45 women’s ponytail-friendly helmet which is amazing. It’s great for turning in my library books and grocery shopping!

11 Meghann October 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Aerobars are the bars that are in front of the bike that allow you to become more aerodynamic on the bike. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triathlon_equipment#Aerobars

12 Cait's Plate October 11, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Wow that’s madness! And really kind of sad that that’s how it works. You have to pay up the wazoo to do something incredible and active yet a meal at McDonald’s can cost $1! Something about that seems backwards…
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13 Carolyn October 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Hey there,
Stick to Body Glide. Vaseline can ruin your wetsuit.
Carolyn
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14 Kimra October 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm

It seems like a lot, BUT it also covered the majority of your workouts for the months you were training, right? I recently visited a gym that was $100+ a month, and that makes working out via triathlons seem kind of reasonable! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m about to shop for a bike (my first as an adult!), and I’m trying to justify the cost by remembering just how many workouts and races it should carry me through.
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15 Katie @ Peace Love and Oats October 11, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I really want to get into tri’s, but the cost is just too much for me! I’m in my second year of law school and living off of student loans, which are just enough for me to get by every month! Hopefully I can start with a sprint, which will require less specialized gear!
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16 Christina October 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Thanks for sharing. This is on my list is things I would like to accomplish and it’s good to know before stepping into it!
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17 Krystina (Organically Me) October 11, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Yeah, um. Never doing an Ironman now (not that I could have to begin with, haha).
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18 Lisa (bakebikeblog) October 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm

haha yes it sure adds up doesnt it!
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19 Nancy @ Beyoutiful Fitstyle October 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm

WOW! That’s some intense prep work. I don’t think I would have realized it took all that equipment. After reading your guest post, I really want to do a triathlon. The shortest one first of course! Any suggestions on what to look for in a bike? I don’t know where to start.
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20 Meghann October 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I just started out with a basic road bike to start with. Honestly, I’m pretty clueless when it comes to what makes a bike good. ๐Ÿ™‚

21 Emily@SavoryandSavage October 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Ok, after seeing your expenses all added up – I am not completely positive that I will never add up what I spend on sporting events – I would get so depressed ((

All of your purchases worked out really well – so definitely money well spent!
Emily@SavoryandSavage recently posted..Sandwiches, Central Park and running bras

22 Barbara October 11, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Just food for thought…if an Ironman is $600, you are paying about $4.27 per mile of the race. Considering that the race must pay to close roads on the course for almost an entire day and that there are amazing athlete support services (aid stations full of food, medical services, bike repair services, etc. etc.) I think the money is put to good use. Of course, I also wish registration was less, because it is certainly NOT a cheap sport!

23 Mary October 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Triathlons are expensive, but so fun and a great way to have goals to stay in shape. The only purchase I regret is my aerobars. They make me feel so unstable I never use them. I hope they at least make my bike look cool – lol.

24 Cait @ Beyond Bananas October 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Yikes. that is certainly pricey! I want to start swimming and biking.. hoping to compete in a tri.. but one thing that scares me is the price of bikes.. swimming stuff. ah.
Cait @ Beyond Bananas recently posted..Half Marathon Training Lessons

25 Ali @ Ali Runs October 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Oh man- I could not see myself spending that much on a race. Granted, I am a grad student and don’t have ANY money, but yikes! Seeing all of those numbers added up is a little scary. At least it was a gradual process- your bike was purchased over 2 years ago. Seeing how much the full Ironman cost would definitely cause me to think twice about signing up.
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26 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife October 11, 2011 at 8:05 pm

WOW. That is a whole lot. I am doing a half ironman next year, but since I have some of that gear I am HOPING that it won’t be too expensive. And I think I’m gonna stay with a friend, so that cuts down on staying expense for the weekend there. But I see your point, that sport is WAY expensive!
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27 Amanda October 11, 2011 at 8:55 pm

As a roadie, I can tell you that you paid way too much for your bike maintenance. Basic tune-ups cost around $50, tubes $3-$4 each, bar tape $15. So, around $85 total. Also, the next time you go to your local bike shop, say you’re with the local cycling club. In Gainesville, we get 15% off everything if we’re members of the Gainesville Cycling Club…and most shops don’t ask for any sort of verification.

Can’t wait to see you get faster on the bike! If you ever make it to Gainesville, I’d love to ride with you. I know you’re an FSU girl, and I totally respect that, but Gainesville has a pretty great century ride at the end of this month called the Horse Farm Hundred. Anyway, have fun on your trip.

Amanda

28 Krissy October 11, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Such a bummer! I would love to do some bigger races….but the cost is the only thing keeping me from doing it! I did my first two sprints earlier this season and had to buy a bike (went with a hybrid to save money and test the waters), helmet, water bottle holder, swim suit, goggles, cap, and new running shoes. Plus entry fee for two sprints and a half marathon…..so that is about $650 for the season. Not including little things like fuel, and the gas I spend every morning to go workout. But after my second tri, I realize a nicer road bike it definitly in order….I hear ya’ “GULP”!!! And I am a SAHM- so trying to do this on one income….my husband isn’t so sure about my new hobby ๐Ÿ™‚
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29 mary lynne October 11, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Wow, I knew triathlons cost a lot, but when you add it all up like that! I am in the market for a road bike, and am thinking of starting there and would like to eventually get into doing a triathlon. I don’t plan on spending a lot (under $500) for my “first” bike, just hoping it would get me through a half-century and the training needed. Then I can figure out if I’m into cycling. Great job on your HIM, by the way!
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30 Liz October 12, 2011 at 12:58 am

Wow! I knew that kind of race was an expensive investment, but when you see it laid out like that…whoa!

31 Danielle Dillard October 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I bet you spent even more on nutrition. And think about the extra food since you were training so much. Oy! Worth it though! ๐Ÿ™‚
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32 Emily October 12, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Totally agreed with the “don’t really needs”! I did my first 70.3 last year, and my husband (who’s a professional cyclist) said I can just rock my road bike and don’t need the aero gear. Unless you plan on averaging 25-30 mph on the bike, they don’t really do you much benefit for the cost. Looks like you totally have the right gear choices going on!

Yeah, it adds up … but you’re doing three sports in one! The way I see it, there are a lot of expensive hobbies out there (think … classic car rebuilds, quilting, gaming) but this one not only fulfills an accomplishment but also keeps you fit and healthy. Good luck with your training and race!
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33 Lisa October 13, 2011 at 7:13 pm

The HIDDEN costs are sometimes staggering! I ran the Hood to Coast Relay race last summer and the costs kept piling up. At first you think it’s not that expensive, I mean you’re splitting costs with 11 other runners on your team, right? The van rental, the gas, etc…But add in the clothes, new shoes, the food, the gear, the transportation HOME from the beach, etc etc etc… the costs kept adding up!
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34 Sophie October 22, 2011 at 5:32 am

Wow, an expensive hobby! But from reading your HIM recap – totally worth it!
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35 bobby September 9, 2013 at 8:34 am

skip the nutrition stoage…..waste of money….ironman races have your nutrition every ten miles and a half u can take your clif bar gu or whatever and place them under your tri suit on your quad…..it wont come out or cause chaffing as ive done this on many occassions…….the truth on how people who do ironmans are well off id say his true…..i believe the average salary in the one i did was around 120k…….i feel bad for bringing that number down lol………overall save up and just do it……its an experience you will have a lifetime

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