Kelly the Culinarian: How to Save Money on Triathlon Expenses

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Save Money on Triathlon Expenses

Lauren sent me an article from the RedEye in which a Chicago woman taking on this weekend's Chicago triathlon estimates she's spent $5,000-$6,000 preparing for the feat. I've heard people joke that triathlon is the sport of the 1 percent because it requires so much stuff and practice perfecting all three sports, but there is a bit of truth to it. Triathlon is not a cheap pursuit. That said, I am a cheap person, so I've found ways to save, as well as what's worth splurging on. Here's what the Red Eye laid out:
For the swim, you must have goggles and a swim cap. There's no substitute for good goggles and I spent $15 on my speedo vanquishers on Amazon. I've initially bought two cheapo swim caps on Amazon and have collected many, many more because most races will provide one with your packet. Alyssa just bought me a fancy silicone swim cap, though, so I might get all spoiled.

You also need an athletic swimsuit to train in. I have purchased these all on Amazon so far, most recently for $23. I search and read the reviews, then carefully select a size based on the sizing chart.

Optional (sort of): I personally think a trisuit is worth purchasing, but you can do without if you're not sure you'll stay with it.  Here's why: It's easier to trim time off of your race by saving in transition than trying to take time off of your bike or run. I have three trisuits, all purchased on Amazon. The most expensive was $54, the cheapest was $22. Search for clearance deals and keep an eye out.
Best $22 I spent so far
Optional: A wetsuit. I didn't buy one the first year I did tris but invested this spring since I knew it would help me swim faster and stay warm in longer-distance triathlons. I purchased my Huub triathlon wetsuit on ActiveGearUp for $125 (that's an affiliate link, but you really should join these sites. Super cheap gear delivered daily a la Groupon).

For the bike, you obviously need a bike. This is the most expensive aspect of triathlon by far - you'll see a few people with $200 WalMart cruisers, along with people rocking bikes that should make you dinner and wash your car for the price they cost.

I bought Belle the bike on Craigslist for $550. This was a steal as triathletes can spend the price of a car on their two-wheeled chariots. In addition to the price of the bike, I spend about $50 a season on tune ups, and I recently invested $100 in a complete bike fitting. I've also purchased handlebar tape, a saddle, a snack box, a bike computer, a tire and various repairs, probably totaling at another $250. I also added clipless pedals and shoes this season, which cost another $70. There is a Pear Izumi Outlet store near me, which is where I got the shoes. I save on the other items by buying online and comparison shopping. I use a bike trainer to put on miles and do intervals inside. Jenny gave me her trainer, but you can find these for about $50 on Craigslist. Finally, a lot of the cycling accessories are straight forward purchases that I would be comfortable putting on a holiday wishlist.

You also cannot bike without a helmet. I bought mine at WalMart. I'm not going to win a race, so I might as well go for the $25 model rather than the $200 aero model. I also recently purchased a pair of sports sunglasses for $12 on Amazon, but this is optional.

I might have a pair of shoes or two.
For the run, you need shoes. I bought my latest pair of Saucony Kinvaras at a race expo for $50. These are worth investing in, but once you find a pair that works, shop online and keep and eye out for clearance pairs at your local running store or race expos. You also need a race belt to quickly attach your number to your body. I got mine for $7 on Amazon. I wear a hat while running, which was a freebie at a race expo.

For your transition area, you need an old towel to lay everything out.

Optional: I also dust my shoes with baby powder and use copious amounts of sunscreen and Tri Slide before putting on my wetsuit. Instead of Tri Slide, some people use WalMart brand Pam because it's much cheaper, but I went with the pricier stuff because it's thicker and wetsuit safe. All of these items cost probably $20.

There's also nutrition to think about. I get my favorite brands as giveaways at expos or make my own running fuel. You also need water bottles for your bike, which I frequently get as giveaway items.

There's race fees, too. Racine was $280, Gull Lake was $75 and I received a comped entry for Iron Girl. Watch for early-bird specials for races to save money.
Gimme that race swag
Many races you have to travel for, and I have yet to stay in a nice hotel for a triathlon. The best way to save on accommodations are to do a name-your-own price move on one of the travel Web sites, if available, or check the Web site to see if the race has worked out any deals. I also split the hotel with another athlete as often as possible (and because there's safety in numbers).

Dexter Inn ... It's to die for
Before the race, though, there are a few training costs to consider. I only joined a gym when I got into triathlons because I needed a place to swim. Our village-owned pool facilities cost $9 a day to use the pool. My gym membership is $40 per month, so it makes sense to join a gym instead of paying per swim. To save here, negotiate your gym membership rate, see if your employer or health insurance offers a discounted rate and check and see if your local YMCA or park district pool has a punch card system that would be more cost effective.
I've only taken one swim lesson so far and it was $40. This was well worth the money and I'd do it again. It's so much easier to enjoy swimming when you're using proper form. Spend the money here - it's an investment.

I've also purchased a few swimming aids to help me with drills. I got a giftcard for these from a blog contest from Steve in a Speedo. I highly recommend Aquagear for these - they're constantly running sales and the customer service is top-notch. I had no idea what to buy and e-mailed a customer service representative. Lizzy recommended a few items that I've used ever since, so it must be working.

So yes, I've spent a lot of money on this pursuit. But I've invested wisely and it's not a waste of money if I enjoy wasting it. It's also a hell of a lot healthier than my previous pursuit of the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

And it's all worth it to sport this.

How have you saved on triathlon-related expenses?


Jamie said...

Triathlon is definitely not a cheap sport! These are great tips on how to save, especially for people just getting into it. There are certain things that you probably shouldn't skimp on: bike (for some), shoes, etc. but other things you can get for cheap, my helmet is from Dick's Sporting Goods definitely not aero!

We also use Active GearUp and other similar sites (that's where we got our wetsuits) and we love Runningwarehouse for our running stuff. Always great deals!

You can always make things a little cheaper if you try!

Runaway Bridal Planner said...

I've always wanted to try a Tri and ultimately an Ironman, but it's been he expense of it all that has held me back.. I should take some of this and see if I can find better deals, a little time could be worth the savings! The deal you found on the bike alone was huge! Great job!

Unknown said...

Awesome - you are such a deal saver so I'm happy to "steal" some of your tricks and to post out that triathlon doesn't have to be too expensive.

Losing Lindy said...

I was talking to a new hire and she was asking me about how to bike to our facility, she came back on Friday and she and I were talking about my training and said I should do a tri..I told her I can't swim..

KellytheCulinarian said...

Swim lessons! They're totally worth it.

Lenka said...

The cost is definitely my #1 hesitation from moving from running to triathlons. Thanks for the post on how to save!

KellytheCulinarian said...

Happy to help! I'm seriously cheap and have spread these costs out over two seasons, too, to make it not as daunting.

Kayla said...

I'm definitely realizing how expensive it is to get everything to begin with. I splurged a little on the bike, but since my parents still haven't gotten me a graduation present I think they are going to buy me some accessories. I have found some end of the season sales going on right now which has been nice...thanks for all the extra tips :)

Unknown said...

I'm laughing at this post because it's kind of an oxymoron. Like "how to save money while still spending thousands"! But these are some great tips. Not being afraid to buy things used is a big help. Turns out lots of people are getting rid of tri stuff. That's how I am going to buy a nice trainer this year.