How to Train for an Ironman Distance Race on a Budget
By: Natalya Jones
Aside from time constraints, chafing, lack of social life and pain, there is one more factor that deters sane people from doing an ironman distance race: money. Training with a coach, nutrition, bike repairs, gym membership, race fees and more, a single day of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run can cost AT LEAST $2,000-$5,000. All this to put a $3 bumper sticker from Amazon on your car that reads “140.6”.
Alas, these bragging rights don’t have to cost such an arm and a leg. Here are ways to train and race an ironman distance race on basically a college budget.
Pick Your Coach
Let’s face it – at the end of the day, you just want to finish. With that in mind, cut the bells and whistles out of your training ideals and search for an affordable, local coach. Distance is important for group training days or even one-on-ones with your coach – you don’t want to spend the majority of your budget on tolls or gas racing to/from work. Be wary also of coaches that will charge you every time you want to talk to them. Better yet, post in local triathlete Facebook groups to ask around. Not everyone is sponsored; some triathletes may be in the same financial spot as you, therefore recommending an effective, affordable coach. Don’t be afraid to negotiate budget or payment plans with coaches as well.
Go Easy on the Bike
The biking leg is easily the most expensive portion. Aside from biking shorts that can start at $40 minimum, there is also the helmet, gloves, glasses, biking shoes, pouches for gels, lights, pump, spare tubes, aero bars – oh, and the bike itself. Unless you are a pro athlete that is sponsored, you don’t need a bike that costs over one grand. Trek is an affordable brand that with a few tweaks, can be transformed from a road/hybrid bike to a race bike. In fact, my bike cost $600 and is still standing after 6 months of training and a 15-hour race day (along with a previous Olympic-distance triathlon with training as well). As for a good bike fit, there is no need for a machine driven process. Seek out a local company with a solid reputation and the fitting will suffice. If it is still too expensive, negotiate a payment plan of paying a certain amount per month. Here’s another hint: stay local to one bike shop, and they’ll give you hookups in the future.
Choose a Race
For first timers, check out races that are close by to cut on transportation costs as well as bike shipping and hotel expenses. Beginner race jitters don’t need added stress to enhance nerves. Also keep in mind that there are other brands that offer ironman distances that aren’t at the Ironman price. HITS Triathlon Series sells races starting at $250 as opposed to the Ironman brand that costs almost one grand! Sure, you won’t have tons of spectators, confetti or Mike Reilly saying your name at the finish line, but the bragging rights and chafing will be about the same.
It’s easy to get caught up in “top notch” food brands or supplements that offer supreme results. At the end of the day, if an athlete is cutting corners or not putting forth maximum effort, expensive organic free-range fish isn’t going to cut it regardless. There were days where I ate food that deviated from my training plan because it was cheaper (sorry, coach). I also couldn’t afford paying three quarters of my paycheck to Whole Checks, er, Whole Foods. So, I went to a cheaper alternative store – Publix. Eat clean, eat healthy and eat within your budget. Hell, enjoy some pizza here and there if you want.
Replace Massages with Foam Rolling
Now, I’m not saying sports massages aren’t necessary – they absolutely are. But the costs of a sports massage once a month combined with last minute bike repairs, paying a coach, nutrition, and everything else not race related can take a toll on bills. While massages can range from $70-100 per month, a foam roller is a one-time cost of $18. Sure, you won’t get the essential oils and tough love treatment, but you can use that saved money to buy a massage one week before your race, like I did. Dim the lights, play some monk chanting music, and foam roll away. It may hurt so good, but your budget won’t.
Eliminate Blowouts and Manis/Pedis
Ladies, this one is for you. There is absolutely no reason to get your nails done when you will be regularly swimming in a chlorine filled pool or ocean. Those babies will chip right off, just like the money you just spent! As for getting your hair done, forget it – it’s useless. Plus, you won’t even have the energy to want to look pretty.
Lastly, subscribe to emails to sport equipment stores in case you need training gear such as biking shorts or running shoes. I got a ridiculous amount of deals when I stocked up during the closing of Sports Authority! Of course, you may have to spend more than what is usually required due to the extremities of this type of race, but it’s better than suffering in pain. Same with tri-suits and wetsuits – there are definitely affordable options, but be sure there is the right amount of padding and tight fit to be comfortable the week before training and race day. After all, this is your moment. Bask in it.
Photo Credit – Fixed Focus Photography