The triathlon world is exciting but can be expensive, with basic gear such as running shoes, a bike, helmet, swimsuit, cap, and goggles being just the beginning. Additional expenses include aero gear, wetsuits, race wheels, and race registrations that can be significantly higher than running event fees. Even experienced triathletes may opt for running events to save money. To make tough budget decisions, one must evaluate “want” versus “need.” While there are many “wants” in the triathlon world, few items are truly necessary. Investing time and effort in training rather than purchasing expensive gear can yield results to be proud of.
There are always alternatives to expensive purchases, including used gear found on eBay, Craigslist, and Slowtwitch or off-season deals at a local tri store. When considering gear, it’s important to prioritize what’s truly necessary versus what’s nice to have. For example, a road bike is more versatile than a tri bike, and a fit that feels good is more important than the cost of the bike. Borrowing or renting race wheels instead of purchasing them is also an option. For those on a budget, choosing a race with a pool swim or a warm-water open water swim can save money on wetsuit rental or purchase. Running shoe fit is most important, regardless of brand, and specialized clothing is often unnecessary.
To save on race fees, volunteering at an event can earn a free entry, and registering early can prevent fee increases. Participating in local or non Ironman branded events can also be more affordable. Planning a race calendar early and researching when fees go up can help save money. Joining a tri club may also offer discounts for members. Training races may be competitive and low cost or free, and racing closer to home can save money on travel expenses.
Regarding nutrition, buying top-name products in bulk and only using them during training, not as meals or snacks, can save money. Real food such as fruit, sandwiches, and fig newtons, dates, can be cheaper alternatives to brand-name energy products. Chocolate milk can be used for recovery, and water with electrolyte tabs is often cheaper than bottled drinks.
Ultimately, one should consider why they enjoy triathlons and prioritize spending accordingly. Socializing, training, and a healthy lifestyle can be enjoyed without spending much money, while those focused on racing and winning may spend more. I find value in the training experience and social scene of triathlon, rather than just racing.
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