What does it take to do an Ironman Triathlon? Well, it takes courage, strength, passion, belief, training, and commitment. Ohh, it also takes a lot of cash! Since I’ve completed two Ironman races, I can honestly say that Ironman is not a sport for either the severely budget minded or the fiscally challenged. Ironman athletes spend a considerable amount on race fees and lay out some serious cash on equipment. The following is a mind blowing tally of the costs incurred by a prospective Ironman athlete. I’ve arranged my tally in two categories (Budget Athlete and Big Spender) to take into account the large variation in triathlon equipment and prices.

IMC Finisher Medals

Here is a cost tally of Ironman Triathlon:

Swim

The Ironman starts with a 2.4 mi. (3.8 km) swim. So you’ll need some gear to get you though the water. You’ll also need some swimming essentials for training.

Swim Gear Budget Athlete Big Spender
Wetsuit $200 $800
Bathing Suit $65 (X2) $120 (X2)
Goggles $15 $50
Pull Buoys $20 $60
Flippers $20 $75
Swim Caps $3 each (X4) $25 each (X4)
Body Glide $15 $15
Pool Pass $100 per year $500 per year
Master’s Swim $60 per month $100 per month

Budget Athlete Total: $1232
Big Spender Total: $3040


Bike

Ironman requires the athlete to ride 112 mi. (180 km) over varied terrain. To go the distance, you’re going to need a bike. You’re also going to need equipment to maintain the bike, ride the bike, and equip the bike (and racer) for safety. The bike purchase is where an athlete can really blow some big bucks or save a considerable amount by buying used. A huge consideration when buying a bike is what frame material to choose. Options include aluminum, steel, carbon, and titanium. A more economical frame tends to be aluminum while carbon and titanium will cost you big bucks. The key point to remember when buying a bike though is fit. If the bike doesn’t fit you, then it doesn’t matter how much you spent (or didn’t spend) as you will be uncomfortable and likely get injured. Before buying a new or used bike, do yourself a HUGE favor by getting your body measured. Biking 112 mi. (180 km) is not fun if your bike is too big or too small.

Bike Gear Budget Athlete Big Spender
Bike $1500 $8000
Helmet $80 $200
Cycling Shoes $90 $350
Pedals $55 $400
Bike Clothing $500 $1000
Sunglasses $25 $250
Gloves $25 $100
Pump $30 $125
Tools $50 $300
Tubes $2.50 each (X25) $10 each (X25)
Tires $40 each (X4) $200 each (X4)
Chain Lube $5 bottle $10 bottle
Water Bottle $3 each (X6) $25 each (X6)
Club Rides $60 membership $250 membership

Budget Athlete Total: $2660.50
Big Spender Total: $12,185.00


Run

The Ironman run is 26.2 mi. (42.2 km). Yes, this is a full marathon. Despite the challenge of running a marathon, the run segment is probably the most affordable part of a triathlon. I have cut costs in running gear by re-using much of my bike clothing. If you select your bike/run gear carefully, you too can give your gear double duty.

Run Gear Budget Athlete Big Spender
Running Shoes $80 (X4) $200 (X4)
Run Clothing $300 $1000
Run Club $20 per month $100 per month

Budget Athlete Total: $860
Big Spender Total: $3000


Nutrition

Nutrition is really the fourth major segment of an Ironman. To get you through training you have to eat. Most Ironman athletes consume an endless number of drinks, bars, and gels in training. I tend to eat bananas and little sandwiches while riding and running to help ease the nutrition budget. I’ve tried to be conservative in my list. I honestly did not keep a tally of how many sports bars and gels I consumed in preparation for an Ironman race.

Sports Nutrition Budget Athlete Big Spender
Sports Drink (powder) $50 (X4) $120 (X4)
Bars $2 (X50) $3 (X50)
Gels $2 (X50) $2 (X50)

Budget Athlete Total: $400
Big Spender Total: $730


Medical

Ironman training is very hard on the body. Many athletes require massage and physical therapy just to maintain healthy muscles and joints. Many athletes also suffer from one or more injuries during training and need some medical help. Putting a medical list together is very difficult as each athlete’s needs vary. If you are considering an Ironman, be sure to calculate some massage and physio into your budget. Everyone gets sore and tight muscles.

Medical Costs Budget Athlete Big Spender
Physiotherapy $50 (X12) once a month $50 (X52) once a week
Massage Therapy $50 (X12) once a month $50 (X52) once a week
Orthotics $0 $500

Budget Athlete Total: $1200
Big Spender Total: $5700


Race Event Costs

If you want to play you have to pay. Ironman race day is expensive. Race entry fees alone are a gob smacker to any new athlete looking to fulfill an Ironman dream. Along with travel costs to the event, you also need a place to stay for several days. Much of these race expenses can be avoided if you happen to live in the host race location. Since I don’t live in the host town for Ironman Canada (Penticton B.C.) I’ve had to add this cost to my tally. Fun.

Race Day Budget Athlete Big Spender
Race Fee $500 $500
Hotel $100 (X5 nights) $250 (X5 nights)
Travel to Race $500 $3000

Budget Athlete Total: $1500
Big Spender Total: $4750


Odds and Ends

I have added this category to cover all the extra costs an Ironman athlete may consider. Since I’ve done Yoga, had a trainer, and used a heart rate monitor, I feel the need to list these items. Also, many of my friends have gym memberships for strength training.

Odds Budget Athlete Big Spender
Heart Rate Monitor $50 $400
Race Belt $10 $25
Yoga Classes $0 $500
Trainer/Coach $0 $2000
Gym Membership $0 $2500 per year

Budget Athlete Total: $60

Big Spender Total: $5425


Conclusion

Indeed, Ironman triathlon is a very expensive sport. The good news is once you’ve acquired the gear, the next race is soooo much more affordable. Here’s the total price tally:

Budget Athlete Total: $7,912.50

Big Spender Total: $34,830

Given my own experience, my Ironman costs are closer to the “Budget Athlete Total”. I did save some money by buying used equipment and hitting the winter sales on clothing. However, I am certain I spent closer to 10K for my first Ironman. Despite the cost, I am beyond thrilled to call myself an Ironman Finisher. For me, the cost is moot considering Ironman has always been a lifelong dream. Realizing a dream is priceless.