Cost-Benefit Analysis Of Ironman Training For FitOldDogs

Hi folks,

The lion's share of my triathlon equipment, from my wet suit (black area in lower left corner of photo) to customized bikes, spare tires, bike computers, and running gear.

I was looking in the corner of our bedroom the other day (No! My partner Deb does not mind bikes hanging on the wall, in fact she seems quite happy about it – guess I got the right woman!), and I thought, “Boy, what a lot of stuff I have had to buy for Ironman training. The two custom bikes alone cost a bunch of bread.” Then I started to calculate the cost of it all, and wondered if it was worth all that money. While you can choose to go economy or first class with your Ironman expenditures, the financial outlay is not insignificant either way.

A number of items are indispensable, including a bike with extra tubes, tires and essential accessories ($400 to $10,000), a good helmet ($200), several pairs of running shoes ($300), swim suit, goggles, and a pool pass ($200 to $400), probably a wetsuit ($300 to $700), the race fee ($600), travel costs ($300 to $5000) and accommodation ($100 to $2,000). Then there are meals, which you can cook on a camp stove with no extra cost if you drive, or you can eat out on the way there ($200 to $400 dollars). On top of this are optional extras, some of which are not optional if you are serious about your training, such as the cost of a coaching for about six months ($1000 to $3000) and maybe a triathlon camp run by your coach ($700 to $3,000). So the overall expenses range from about $3,000 to $14,000 for a single Ironman race. If you visit a race trade show you will find that you can spend a whole lot more on fancy gear if you so desire.

The cheapest it can be done, in my estimation, if you stick to races within driving distance, don’t have a coach, get a secondhand bike, make your shoes last as long as you can (which is OK according to barefoot running principles), buy a season pass for the swimming pool, eat regular food not fancy power bars and so forth, and don’t get injured (requiring expensive physical therapy or even surgery) is $2,500 to $5,000 for a season in which you would compete in two races, a half and a full Ironman. The most you might reasonably spend for a full season of racing in multiple countries going first class is $30,000 to $50,000, where you would be riding customized bikes, have a full-time coach and the works when it comes to shoes, food, accommodation, and extras such as massage, Pilates, Feldenkrais, Gyrotonic, gait analysis, and laboratory work for lactate threshold analysis; the list goes on and on. Bunch of dough, right? There are also the invisible costs in terms of time, and stress on your family, so they have to be with the program or you’ll be headed for trouble. I am fortunate to have great supporters in this regard.

I mentioned my fiscal calculation to Deb, and she immediately said, “It is cheaper than the medical bills you would get if you let your body go to pieces like lots of other guys your age.” Wise encouragement. Thanks, Deb!

Furthermore, come to think of it, I am pretty sure that if I had not been so lean in the summer of 2010, and in touch with my body due to Ironman training, my abdominal aortic aneurysm would have gone unnoticed and finally burst and, based upon comments from my surgeon, I would probably not have survived to see the year 2011. In addition, intense exercise associated with endurance training has had a distinctly beneficial effect on my aortic stent-induced hypertension. It would appear that I have been spending my money wisely.

-k Your Medical Mind



  1. I remember CBA (cost benefit analysis) from my economics course. I remember reading the ABC of CBA.
    Essentially it is a political tool to help to make subjective decisions have a veneer of objectivity.
    You see you can fix the outcome by the values you attribute to all the various contributary cost.
    It seems you do what you do because that is what you want to do. You derive utility from it. It is a part of your “pursuit fo happiness”.
    For myself I hang my bike in the garage. I gain utility therefrom. That and walking and listening to the birds.

    • Kevin Morgan says

      Hi Trevor,

      You’re correct of course, risk benefit analysis and cost benefit analysis do add a veneer of logic and reason to an essentially subjective process, whether you simulate the process numerically or not. But the process does give one pause! I paused to think about my expenditures, but Deb didn’t waste her time doing that, she knew it was good for me!

      Good to have a woman, even though they can drive you crazy from time to time.

      -k @FitOldDog

  2. Dr. Catharine Hennessy says

    There are some things that are worth the cost and this is one of them. I told my husband last night that I wanted custom orthotics for Christmas (a sure sign if aging when you ask for orthopedic aides for holidays). He said, “If you need them, go buy them now”. He does know what they cost. All this and he puts up with my cats and my horse? He’s the best!

    • Kevin Morgan says

      Hi Catharine,

      I am forced to agree, you appear to have found a good man, or he sought you out as a good woman, but who cares which, the effect is the same.

      -k @FitOldDog

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.