Thursday, July 14, 2011

Triathlon is not a poor man's sport

Once upon a time I had a real job, a real profession, a real career. I had money, good money, and could do things like buy clothes, take vacations, and afford to do whatever race I wanted.

But then I started my own business and quit my cushy job. And then I got poor.

Here's a little fact for you...owning your own business does not mean you're rolling in the dough. I have employees to pay, taxes to pay, supplies to purchase, and at the end of it all I take home very little. VERY LITTLE!!! Dave and I try to stick to a strict budget and have given up luxuries. The first year it was fun, almost like a challenge. The second year we survived. This third year, I'm sick of it. I miss my money. I want to go on a real vacation, not one that involves staying with either my parents or Dave's parents intruding on their vacations. I want to improve my wardrobe. And I want to be able to buy things for sport that I want.

I posted on Facebook the other day that I had spent $67 on nutrition (gels and such) in addition to buying a new pair of running shoes which I had luckily found on sale for $82. I also recently bought a new pair of biking shorts which everyone was raving about. Again I found them on sale for $98. And I signed up for a local triathlon which was running a special where if three people sign up, they split the cost of two people. So I paid less than $45 for an Olympic tri.

Some of those things I needed, some I didn't. Either way, I didn't have the money for any of it. Needless to say, triathlon is not a poor man's sport. I think I once read that the average salary of a triathlete (or maybe an iron-athlete) is over six figures. Are you kidding me? How does the average joe afford it?

For me, I pick and choose what I actually need and what I can get by without. Here's a rundown of how I save money in triathlon:
  • Dave and I use a credit card for all purchases, which makes us points, which earns us money or things. I used points to buy my Garmin and essentially got it for "free." We are also accumulating those points to help pay for our trip to Houston for the marathon in January.
  • I buy all my nutrition wholesale from Road Runner Sports. It makes my gels and things less than a $1/piece. That's cheaper than buying them one at a time from the grocery. I also mix my own sports drinks which saves BIG money to buy the powder. And thankfully we have a RRS store close by so I don't have to pay for shipping.
  • I try to plan my race schedule a year in advance, therefore signing up for the races as early as possible to get the lowest rate. And I always search the internet for a coupon code to try to get that fee even cheaper.
  • I rarely buy any new gear, except for shoes. I have been wearing the same workout clothes for years. I will wear it until it falls apart, can no longer get the stink out of it, or you can see through it. Fashion? I rarely match. :) And as for swimsuits which do fall apart often, I buy mine from Splish which seems to have figured out how to make them last longer, plus I guy the grab bag suits when they're on sale for $29. I don't care what it looks like. $29 for a swimsuit that's going to last longer than 6 months? Yes please.
  • Some of my splurges include paying for a coach, which I would not train for an ironman without one, and having a gym membership. Although, we do get a discount for that too because our gym is located in the same area where Dave is employed. We get an employee discount.
So, how do you afford triathlon? What do you do to save money? What can I do more? What is necessary and not necessary for triathlon? Do you think race fees are out of control? Are there things or races you absolutely say no to because of the price? Speak up triathletes!


OrbanaEC said...

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Iron Krista, "The Dog Mom" said...

Ditto on everything you said. I am currently eBaying a ton of "stuff" I've had for years and haven't touched.. Stuff I bought without thinking twice ($100 shoes, dress pants with tags still on them, old HR monitors that need new batteries, old cameras…etc)…. It's amazing what people will buy and this is all stuff I would typically just donate… I'm saving for a new tri-bike!

M said...

I've considered doing a series of posts called "The Thrifty Girls Guide to Triathlon." It is really tough to try and accumulate all the things you need without breaking the bank. Which means - I feel your pain. I am in my first ever 100% commission based job, and it has changed my spending habits tremendously. I hear ya, sista!

ender1776 said...

As someone just entering the world of triathlon, I can agree, and add that entering the sport is even more expensive. I was already a runner and already had a good supply of workout gear, a heart-rate monitor, shoes, and other running specific items. Purchasing the needed swim gear wasn't too bad, Speedo jammers, goggles, and a cap all for around $50 together at Dick's. But then add in $500 for a decent condition (entry-level) road bike, $50 for a cheaper helmet, $20 for gloves, $10+ for a water bottle holder plus another $10 for a polar bottle. Add in bike shorts for training rides, spare tube, seat bag, clip pedals, tri-bike shoes (have yet to purchase either pedals or shoes, but it seems like a must-have to be competitive), yank laces, a race belt, a transport bike rack, tri-shorts (luckily was able to get these from a friend), and then the $100 cost of the event, not to mention the additional cost of joining the USAT, and training and race nutrition costs, and it has taken me months just to buy the stuff I needed to train for and compete in one event. And while I'm not loaded or rich, my wife and I do have a comfortable income.

I don't really blame race costs. It isn't cheap to setup a good event, and often the proceeds go toward good causes, but it is a really expensive sport even without the cost of race entry. All the more reason triathletes seem to all be so dedicated.

I don't think there is a good way to save much money. Even buying used doesn't save you but so much on the gear. You can get most things well off retail by buying online, but for some gear it really pays to be able to try things on (or out) first at your local tri-shop, and support the local shops by doing so. Plus if you do have issues with your gear or bike, you have a better support system to fall back on.

The best input I can provide to those just starting out is to plan well ahead, so you can save for and space out your purchases.

I can't add much to your tips for those already in the sport, maybe saving on gear upgrades until the winter months, when your not paying for races and race-nutrition.

Brent Wilson, tenor said...

look at it this way; when you first start the sport, there will be some expenses. obviously the bike is the biggie. I started this wonderful sport 4 years ago and had a road bike I threw aero bars on. Actually did my first Ironman on that bike. over time, I'd upgrade things one by one.

quite honestly though, after you make the splash, it really isn't too bad. I've had the same wetsuit for 4 years and will use it for 4 more, I just upgraded to a great trek tri bike, which will last for 4+ years.

I bought a tri suit 2 years ago, and I use that exclusively to race in. 90 bucks, and it is wonderful for races.

just take it a bit at a time. if you do a lot of races, you'll end up with a lot of workout clothes.

in terms of a coach, I personally have never had one. I am currently training for my 4th ironman. my first was 14 hours, second 12, third, 11, and I'm hoping the ironman FL this year I'll finish under 10:30. I learned to swim by watching youtube videos, bike enough to have to change flat tires at least once every 2 weeks, run as much as possible, do p90x after each tri workout, and have a slightly above average income (college professor).

as many people have told me, and I now believe it. its nothing about the equipment in the race. its about the engine.

the only thing I think you invest greatly in is bodyglide. that stuff is a life saver:)

Betsy said...

I gave up cable to afford a coach...since I knew I wouldnt have time to watch anyway. I figure on long training days I eat breakfast & dinner while my sports nutrition is lunch :)

Jamie said...

I just stop spending money on other stuff. :-)

I probably have only bought one new pair of pants in the last two years...

But in the same time period I've probably bought 6-7 pairs of tights or workout pants.

Melissa C said...

I totally hear you here. Ryan said "no" to a sprint tri in KY (which would be my first tri in KY) due to the cost. I am really thankful for my sponsorship that give me free clothes. I also have Cristina who has a an overwhelming amount of gear that she gets on ebay and then doesn't need so she will let me buy it before re-ebaying it. I got my wetsuit from her for $100. I thought about buying her P2C, but she wasn't ready to upgrade quite yet. She will most likely assist me in finding my race wheels on ebay when the time comes.

I don't get haircuts anymore, I have really cut back on my makeup, and my casual clothes really needs help. I agree with everything you are doing, and not sure what else you can do. Becoming a SAHM was quite the change for me financially, even before tris. I am so glad I figured those out after staying home, otherwise those might have been cut. We found the receipt to our couch from Pottery Barn bought 9 years ago, and it made us sick to think we actually spent that much money on a stupid couch, when we just bought several rooms full of furniture from IKEA for the new house for about half of the one couch. It is all about priorities. I would really like a swim coach/lessons, but those have to wait for now, and have to be happy to just have a gym membership too. Keia was promised ballet for the fall.

Karen said...

I feel you on the expenses! Summer is the worst, reading about everyone's vacations... I am dying to go to the beach right now. Most of my trhifty ways have more to do with eating at home and that sort of thing. I use Welch's fruit snacks and fig newtons instead of pricier gels for race fuel. Not perfect but seems to work so far.

Hollywood said...

I too wear the same clothes until they're torn up beyond repair. I save and buy all my new stuff, if I need any, at one time, so that the rest of the year or even longer I don't have any new expenses. And I jump on deals as soon as I hear about them to make sure I don't miss out later when I need it

Assistant said...

You are right, it is not a poor man's sport. Equipment is important for training and competing, but I think shoes are the most important. You can't get cheap shoes and skip on quality if you're serious with your training. Do you have any tips for finding better deals on shoes?