Monday, July 2, 2012

The Ironman Investment

Mr. Ironman at the start of the bike course

Now that I have successfully completed an Ironman race (see last twelve blog posts), several people have asked me how they too could become Mr. Ironman.  Actually, most people have just acted like I was crazy. I can't really blame them as that was my usual reaction until I decided to try it. I had insisted for years that I would never attempt the race, but I changed my mind last year - figuring I might as well do it while I am still young. 

It does take a significant commitment of time and money so as a public service I have provided the details on my specific experience. 


Time is, of course the biggest component of the investment.  I began official training for the CDA Ironman in early December, so my training period was approximately six months.  I logged an average of 11.4 hours per week of actual workout time.  But that is only a subset of the time commitment. Most of the workouts were at the Y or at the Precision Multisport complex or at remote locations in Michigan or Kentucky. It takes time to prepare for the workouts as well. We need to pack the right clothes, especially during cold weather workouts, and we need to prepare and organize all of our nutritional requirements (electrolyte drinks, vitamin supplements, salt pills, amino acid balancers, etc.). It seemed like every week there was something new that I had to include in my preparation. Stretching before and after was also a requirement. I estimated about 6.7 hours per week were spent on these prep and travel activities.

We also had to log our workouts and schedule the upcoming week of workouts and read articles on training and nutrition and race strategy. I estimate that took about an hour each week.

            Hours/ Week      
 Workout                 11.4
Prep & Travel            6.7
Scheduling                 1.0
Total Hours              19.1

I used to justify the triathlon adventure by telling myself that it was cheaper than other recreational pursuits like golf. But unless I included the cost of playing at some exclusive country club, I am not sure that it really is. I don't think golfers have to spend as much on nutrition. And besides, beer tastes a lot better than gatorade.
The registration fee for the C'oeur d'Alene Ironman was $650. I can see why it would cost at least that much. There were over 3,000 volunteers for the 2,800 athletes and the race ties up the city and many of the major roads north, south, east and west for most of the day. It's a major logistical challenge for any race organizer. We did get a nice backpack as part of our entry fee. 
I was trained by Craig Strong of Precision Multisport. Several of us trained together with Craig for this race. The group workouts helped make the hours pass a little more quickly. And it was comforting to see other seemingly normal people pursuing the same crazy goal. Included in my PM expenses was a four day trip to Kentucky in the spring for a special training camp. 
I paid for the use of a computrainer facility and to participate in a YMCA Master swim program. I also employed a personal trainer at the Y, Nibra White, to help me build core strength.  Total training expenses: $2,099.  
Starting in March I made bimonthly visits to my chiropracter, Tony Breitbach and for a one hour massage with Rachel, who works out of his office.  Tony helped me with various ailments, mostly related to my left knee which had been surgically repaired (ACL) in 1980 and  which started giving me some trouble as I extended my running distances beyond 12 miles.

I also made a couple of visits to my podiatrist, Carle Rollins, who prepared special inserts for my running shoes to relieve soreness on the bottom of my foot. 

Treatment for me was a critical investment. I couldn't have made it to the starting gate without everyone's help. As it was I didn't have any problem with either my knee or foot on the run segment - which was the longest distance I had ever run. Total treatment expenese:  $1,099.

Equipment & Transport
A tri-bike can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. I got a closeout special a year ago for under two grand. That's not included in my expenses. During training rides, the bottom of my feet started to ache on longer rides and so I decided to replace my five year old bike shoes. That required me to replace my bike pedals and then I had to replace my pedal wrench as the new pedals requred a different kind of wrench. I also bought a new water bottle that provided me with two reservoirs mounted between the aerobars so I didn't have to reach for my bottle (something I'm not very good at).  In addition I bought a new tri-suit and a half-dozen swim goggles, trying to find a pair that didn't fog up too much and didn't leak. My face is not goggle-friendly I guess. Bought a new pair of running shoes too.  Unless we drive to the race, we have to pay to have the bike shipped there. It costs almost as much as a plane ticket.  Total equipment and transport costs: $1,488.

In previous years I had competed in sprint and olympic distance and even a couple of half-Ironman races. I didn't really spend anytime on my nutrition for those races. I would have a couple of bottles of gatorade laced with carbo-pro and that was it.

But I soon learned that I needed to take nutrition seriously. I had to replace some of the calories and remain hydrated as the race was going to take well over half a day. I have a high sweat rate so I started using an electrolyte drink (EFS) that had a much higher concentration of electrolytes than normal sports drinks. And I bought a bunch of different stuff from Hammer Nutrition and the Cliff bar company trying to figure out stuff that worked.  Total nutrition expenses: $644.

Travel Expenses
During our training we made overnight trips to Michigan, Wisconsin and Kentucky. We spent five days in C'oeur d'Alene. Total travel expenses: $3,650. 

Total  Ironman Expenses

Registration                                     $625
Total Training                                 2,099
Total Treatment                              1,099
Total Equipment & Transport          1,488
Total Nutrition                                   644
Total Travel Expenses                     3,650
Total Ironman Expenses                $9,605

I found that because of the substantial time commitment as race day approaches it is hard to be real budget-conscious. I probably had more massages than I absolutely had to have, and I bought extra goggles trying to find that perfect fit, because after all those hours I didn't want to let some little thing derail my whole race. I would guess that a second Ironman race would cost less.