Budget to Compete in Your First Ironman

112 miles on a bike. 2.4 miles in the water. 26.2 miles of running. All in 17 hours or less. That’s what it takes to finish an Ironman.

For a first-timer, these numbers can seem daunting. Even more daunting are the numbers racked up in coaching, training, and equipment costs. However, with a little bit of budgeting, and a creative game plan, Ironman hopefuls can focus on their race stats instead of the dollar signs.

Let’s break it down.

Entry fees and qualifying events

One of the costliest parts of participating in an Ironman is the entry fee and, should you so choose, participating in qualifying events leading up to your big race for training purposes. That being said, many Ironman athletes choose to do multiple sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons before doing a full-on Ironman. Entry fees for an Ironman vary by state and country, but you should expect to pay between $650 and $700 for the big race. Sprint and Olympic triathlons also vary in price, but most run between $80 and $200. The longer the race, the higher the cost.

Entry fee and four triathlon training races


Your bike is no doubt one of the more expensive purchases you’ll make for your Ironman. Athletes spend thousands of dollars on coveted lightweight triathlon bikes for their races. However, as a first-timer, it’s often advised to buy a solid road bike that will get you down the pavement but not necessarily help you compete with the fastest of the fast.

The beauty of a standard road bike is that it’s less expensive than a triathlon bike but still very effective and its parts can be swapped out for lighter-weight and more aerodynamic versions. However, if racing has become a passion and you know you’ll be sticking with it for years to come, buying the highest-end bike you can afford may save you on upgrades as you progress in your racing career.

Triathlon bike

Training coach and gym memberships

Most first-timer distance racers find that, since many gyms don’t have pools, they must change gyms or get an additional gym membership to accommodate swim training. They also discover the need for a qualified trainer who can motivate and guide them toward their big day. When looking for a trainer, it is wise to employ someone who has participated in multiple distance races, including the Ironman. Someone who has only done a handful of races may not have the expertise you need or desire. Also, understand that some coaches charge per race/a flat fee, some charge per session, and others charge per month.

Monthly additional gym membership and tri-coach

Wetsuit, running shoes, and other apparel

Though there are numerous accoutrements a first-timer could purchase for the big race, let’s focus on what you’ll be wearing for each leg of the race and break it down from there.

For the wetsuit, you want to focus on a lightweight material that is comfortable and keeps you warm. Oftentimes, races take place in chilly waters, so first-timers may want to opt for a full-body wetsuit depending on where they are competing.

Because you may go through a pair or two in your training, focus on buying a running shoe that is comfortable and have a shoesmith fit you before investing. A shoe store that specializes in racing and endurance products will most likely have you try on a running shoe and jog for 30 seconds on a treadmill while they record your run. This allows them to determine your gait, if you are under- or over-pronating and, thus, what kind of running shoe will best serve you.

You’ll also want jerseys, biking shorts, and shoes for the biking portion. The key to purchasing items in this category that are right for you is all about the comfort. Try on multiple brands and designs before committing. This is all about your personal comfort.

Wetsuit, running shoes, and other apparel

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