There is no denying the beginner triathlete is looking at a costly endeavor when considering taking a run at their very first Ironman distance race. This is especially true with the world-wide recession that has impacted so many people. The entry fee is high, bikes, wetsuits and other tri-gear are expensive, and just getting yourself to the race and finding a place to stay has to be taken into account. Let’s not forget about coaching for the beginner triathlete who is completely new to the sport, fitness club membership fees, and all that pool time that has to be payed for. Then of course there are all those special drinks, vitamins, gels, powders, and other magic elixirs that will make you faster than a speeding bullet. Well, if you believe all the hype.
So what does all this mean. Should the unrelenting call of the Ironman be left in the distant swirling dust along with all those other forgotten dreams that have been lost on this freeway called life that is passing you by at breakneck speed?
Not in a million years should let this opportunity pass you by. There is always a way if the desire is in your heart and you have a passion in your soul to grasp this one chance to discover who you really are and just how much you are truly capable of.
It will require some imagination and a bit of sacrifice, but the Ironman on a shoestring is a very possible concept that if adopted will make your Ironman dream a reality.
First of all, don’t get swept up by the mentality that all the fancy gear you see in tri magazines is necessary to your ultimate success. Yes, there is some amazing ironman technology out there and some stunning gear and clothing as well, but it is not an $8000 bike, a $600 wetsuit, and $400 sunglasses that are essential to propel you to the Ironman finish line. In fact it’s the heart to endure the 112 mile bike, the courage and skill to maneuver through the 2.4 mile swim, and the vision to never lose sight of the finish line that will be the real tools that will sustain you through-out your journey.
Keep in mind that in the early days of the Ironman, none of the current technology existed. There were no snap-in pedals, aero-bars, bike computers, and frames made of titanium and other space-age metals were still on the drawing-board somewhere. There were no fancy tri clothes to buy and as a matter of fact, just finding a pair of tri-shorts was a challenge.
I will forever remember heading out on the King K. highway in Kona that memorable day in 1984 when race-day temperatures hit over 105 degrees on Ironman day. I will remember it not because of the weather, but more because of the piece of crap bike I was riding. Today it probably wouldn’t make the grade as a wind-trainer bike, yet it got me through the day even though I had no spare tire, no computer, no aero bars, no titanium, and about 70 pounds of air pressure in my tires.
So if you are a beginner triathlete on a shoestring budget don’t obsess about not having the money for a bike to do your Ironman. Buy what you can afford. Buy used if necessary. There’s not much of a market for used tri-bikes so the advantage goes to the buyer…buy used, buy used, buy used………I don’t know how else to put it. Spend 3 or 5 hundred bucks instead of $3000 and save yourself a ton of money. This is especially wise if you only want one shot at the Ironman and are not making a career out of it.
Coaches are great, but if the cost is beyond your reach, buy some of the really great tri-books on the market. For example, if swim coaching is beyond your financial means, consider a book called “Total Immersion” by Terry Laughlin. Probably the best swimming technique for the Ironman in the world and best of all, YOU CAN TEACH YOURSELF!!! So buy books, buy books, buy books. They are the least expensive alternative for those who cannot afford coaching.
To cut down on your Ironman travel costs, pick a race that’s the closest to you. Hopefully it’s within driving distance. Driving has a ton of advantages. First you save by not having to fly and you can pack much of your favorite food to take with you. Also you can car-pool and even save money on gas. While you are at it, share a place to stay with two or three others and your accommodation costs will come way down. Be sure to get a full kitchenette so you can prepare your own food. Especially the food you brought with you from home. It’s smart not just because you save tons of money, but also because you don’t have any drastic changes to the diet you have been training with all year.
As far as what to wear on race-day……….Well first of all, you can most likely rent a wetsuit. This is especially wise if you only plan on taking part in one Ironman. Otherwise you will spend 5 or 6 hundred dollars and it will hang in your closet for 20 years after the race. You really don’t have to train all year in a wetsuit. Maybe rent one for a tune-up race as you prepare for the Ironman just so you can see what it feels like and what size fits you best. Then just rent one for the Ironman.
Instead of buying fancy, expensive bike clothes, consider purchasing an inexpensive tri-suit that you can wear under your wetsuit. You won’t have to change for the rest of the race. You can bike and run in your tri-suit. There is no advantage to paying hundreds if dollars for a pair of sunglasses. However sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes from flying debris and bugs during your bike rides. Sun or not, you will need sunglasses. Buy a pair for $19.99 or something along those lines. Try and find a pair that are shaded yellow. I say yellow because even on an overcast day they will brighten things up while protecting your eyes.
So if you really want your shot at the Ironman but are on a strict budget, it’s very possible to succeed. Simply buy what you can afford and at the end of the day when you cross that Ironman finish line, it will make your accomplishment all that more amazing and memorable.
Remember that you can always use my contact page on this site and I will be glad to help you on your journey as much as I can and that is “always” free. Of course I’m not a certified coach and I can’t write out entire training programs because I have visitors from around 60 countries every month, but I will help all I can from the experiences I have had.