Ask Kikay Runner: Half-Ironman on a Budget

    

People from many walks of life can complete a half-ironman on a budget. All it takes is choosing your races carefully, some planning, and saving.

Ian Jimenez Miciano asks: how can an average Joe with an average day job and competent fitness level but no teammates, no sponsors, and not enough money to burn (yes, I’m referring to myself) train for and finish even just a half Ironman without blowing his savings and/or losing his job? I’m asking because (maybe I’m just not looking hard enough but) most of the triathletes I know are one or more of the following: pros (like you) who belong to fitness-related lines of work, rich people and/or those who have passive income (despite working abroad, I still consider myself to be of the middle class), people who belong to teams, and celebrities.

Gibran John S. Henson asks: How much does it cost to join a race (Ironman)?

budget for an ironman

Thanks for the questions!

Now, “not enough money to burn” is relative. Here are some things to consider before putting a half-ironman on your schedule.

  • Consider total cost of training before deciding to do a half-ironman. This is a hidden cost that most people don’t think about, but it can add up to quite a lot. Things to think about: transportation to and from training venues, pool fees, food and drink, equipment upkeep. Where can you cut costs, and where do you need to spend? For example, I never needed to pay for pool use because the place I live has a 25-meter pool I can use for free. I saved a lot of money on transpo by doing most of my bike sessions in a week on an indoor trainer at home. I limited myself to one long ride a week at Nuvali (for which I happily paid the toll fees and gas money).
  • Determine how much time you can set aside for training, and set goals accordingly. Work, family, sleep (yes!) will take up the bulk of your time. How much is left is what you’ll have to work with — don’t skip out on work just because you need to train! In general, you won’t need as much training time if your goal is “to finish” than if you have a specific time target in mind.
  • Choose your race wisely. People can get caught up in the big international brands but there are homegrown races out there of the same distance that are not as expensive, have great support from the local government, and have year-in year-out given triathletes a memorable race experience.
  • Keep it local. The less you need to travel for a race, the kinder to your wallet it will be. Driving or carpooling to a triathlon will always be cheaper than taking a plane. If you carpool, you can split toll and fuel costs!
  • Save up for the registration fee. Knowing which race you’re targeting and its corresponding price tag will help you figure out how much to set aside in the months before registration opens.
  • Book your accommodation in advance. If possible, find a roommate! The closer to race date you book where you’re staying at, the more likely the price will be jacked up due to demand. After all, it’s not just you who’s racing; there may be about 200 to 300 athletes in town with their friends and families also in need of a place to stay. Having a roommate (or 2 or 3) will allow you to split the cost of the room, so the financial burden is smaller.
  • Don’t worry about not having the latest and greatest bike or GPS watch or shoes. You can complete a half-ironman on a road bike (my GTS bike Loki cost P23,000 secondhand). You can race just using the stopwatch function on a digital watch. Last season’s running shoes still work well and you can grab them from outlet stores at a discounted price. Really, it’s the engine (you!) that counts.

Here’s how much it cost to race Challenge Philippines in February:
Registration fee: $190 (early bird fee)
Transportation to race venue: Toll fees (less than P300 one-way x 2) + fuel (P1,500) = P2,100
Hotel stay: 2 nights solo (P2,000 x 2) + 2 nights w/ roommate (P2,500/2 x 2) = P6,500
Food budget for race week: 4 days (P500 a day) = P2,000
5 training weekends at Nuvali: Toll fees (around P200 one way x 2) + fuel (P500 per trip) + food (P150) = P5,250
4 training weekends in Subic/Bataan: Toll fees (less than P300 one-way x 2) + fuel (P1,500) = P8,400
Total cost: P32,800

I think I could have cut costs further by doing training rides in other venues than Nuvali. I paid for these in increments over the span of six months (it comes out to P6,500/month), so the cost didn’t feel as heavy on the pocket. Still, it’s a sizeable amount of money and you must really want to do a half-ironman to justify a budget this big.

Reminder: You don’t need to do a half-ironman to be a triathlete. Triathlons are held across varying distances from the very short minisprints to the ultra distance full ironmans. You are a triathlete if you’ve swum, biked, and run in one go.

The registration fee and training cost to doing an Olympic distance triathlon is lower than that for a half-ironman. If you are very conscious about your budget you can still challenge yourself in triathlon at the shorter distances.

Here’s how much it cost to race Century Tuna 5150 in June:
Registration fee: $150
Transportation to race venue: Toll fees (less than P300 one-way x 2) + fuel (P1,500) = P2,100
Hotel stay: 1 night solo = P2,000
Food budget for race weekend: 2 days (P500 a day) = P1,000
5 training weekends at Nuvali: Toll fees (around P200 one way x 2) + fuel (P500 per trip) + food (P150) = P5,250
Total cost: P17,100

A few things we need to clarify though:
#1. I am not a pro. I am an age grouper (and proud of it!) who is blessed to be able to do triathlon thanks to great support from sponsors. I don’t make any money out of racing; I do triathlon because I love the way it challenges me. It’s my getaway from a soft everyday life.

#2. Being a member of a team goes beyond seeking sponsors. My team, Endure, was formed by a group of friends and our main purpose in coming together was because we shared the same values and goals and view of sport in our lives. Granted, logistics is made easier when you travel as a team (carpooling, borrowing gear, etc.), but being in a team is really about supporting and encouraging one another. At least, that’s my experience.

#3. Long before the celebrities got into triathlon, regular folks with 9-to-6 jobs were already doing it. So can you do a half-ironman on a budget? it’s possible! You just have to want it and be willing to make the necessary sacrifices for it.

This is a section on my blog where I answer questions people ask me. If you have any questions for future Ask Kikay Runner entries, email me, tweet me, or leave me a message on the Kikay Runner Facebook page.

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3 comments on “Ask Kikay Runner: Half-Ironman on a Budget

  1. Thanks for answering my question idol! Sorry about the pro thing, I couldn’t find a better word at the time. But you do belong to a fitness-related line of work, right? Your suggestions are still expensive but more feasible compared to the P 100k per race I perceived triathletes to shell out in total.

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