Completing an Ironman race will be one of the most emotional days of your life, but the cost can be prohibitive, with entry fees nudging £500 before kit, travel and accommodation are thrown in. Yet there are cheaper ways to get yourself onto that 226km startline, from entering non-official iron-distance triathlons to racing locally and not splashing out on the latest aero kit.
Here we size up the various costs of Ironman race day…
COST OF IRONMAN ENTRY
Entry fees for UK-based iron-distance races can range from £199 to over double that for the official Ironman experience. Here are a selection of UK long-distance triathlons and their range of entry fees…
White Bear Extreme, Northern Ireland, £132
Midnight Man, Kent, from £185
UK Ultimate Triathlon, Shropshire, from £199
Enduroman, Hampshire, £220
The Outlaw, Nottingham, £299
Ironman UK, Bolton, £430
£75-£1,000 (for an international Ironman)
Unless you live nearby, you’ll need to find a hotel close to the race HQ for registration (usually the day before the race) and race morning. Camping is also available at many races but we’re not tough enough for all that and would recommend a decent bed and uninterrupted sleep the night before the big day. Aim to book your hotel early to get closest to the swim start and think about staying the night after the race as well.
THE IRONMAN KIT COSTS
You can find sub-£100 wetsuits on the market but we wouldn’t recommend buying a new wetsuit cheaper than the £150 mark. We’ve used Orca’s S6 (£169) for iron racing and it performed admirably, but the more you spend, the increased comfort and flexibility you’ll find. Depending on how serious you are, you can spend up to £700 on a wetsuit featuring the latest tech and paper thin arms.
Other swim & T1 Extras
Race-day extras for the swim and transition area include open-water goggles (£10-40), a decent towel, nutrition extras and a transition bag (£40-£120) for organising and transporting your kit.
Ironman bike leg costs
Your biggest kit outlay will invariably be your bike. You can spend a cool 10 grand on a tri bike from the likes of Cervelo, or you can do it on a B’twin road bike worth £350. What’s most important is that the bike fits you and will be comfortable for 180km on the road.
With you every step of the race, this is arguably your most important piece of kit for Ironman. Don’t skimp here and ensure you find a suit that fits you well and offers some Ironman-friendly features, including bigger pockets, a decent-sized chamois for bike comfort and a breakaway full-length zipper for easy toilet stops. We also prefer short sleeves over vested options for added UV protection and aesthetic reasons. Our most affordable pick for Ironman is the Heart Sports Blue Thunder (£115), with the Huub Anemoi (£295) there for top-end speedsters.
These are one of the greatest and most affordable ways to limit your aerodynamic drag on the bike leg. A set of clip-on bars start at £30 for an aluminium pair and head into the hundreds for a carbon set or all-in-one integrated options. Just make sure you practise on them in training and on the turbo beforehand to get used to the more extreme position and also how to corner using them.
Optional: race wheels
Yep, race wheels now can set you back more than buying a car in the form of the Zipp Firecrests. But are a new set of hoops worth an investment for Ironman? That depends on your racing aims. If you’re just planning to cross that line before 17hrs, then we’d say not.
Bike leg extras
A helmet is a no-brainer, but you don’t need to spend loads of breathability or aero gains. Carnac’s range of aero road lids start at £15, while B’twin’s RoadR (£30) performed better in the wind tunnel for us than a £270 lids from Poc (but the £200+ Kask Mistral TT lid was considerably faster than the B’twin).
Other bike kit includes a race belt (£7), eyewear (from £10), a puncture repair kit, bike computer (£25-300), a spare inner tube or two, a mini pump and a set of multi-tools. Bike shoes and road pedals are a wise choice too, and will add £75-400 to the spend. And there’s always a power meter to consider…
The run kit
Run expenses are thankfully limited, being consigned to trainers, the eyewear you’ve picked for the bike and the tri-suit that’s with you from the swim to the bike. Potential extras include a running cap, calf guards for those weary limbs and a decent pair of fresh socks. And there’s also a multisport watch for pacing, which can run from £50-700.
You’ll want to buy a photo or two from the race photographer (this is increasingly free as part of your entry), devour a post-race burger and source the coldest beer you can find (once you’ve refuelled efficiently, of course…). We’d also recommend some nearby accommodation once you’ve finished the race; driving or being driven home after a day of racing isn’t a lot of fun. And you deserve the treat and breakfast buffet!
TOTAL MINIMUM SPEND: £1,400
TOTAL MAXIMUM SPEND: £20,000
While the minimum spend may seem high, remember that you’ll have plenty of this kit already – and get to keep it afterwards – so subsequent long-course races will be much cheaper. That maximum spend can feature air travel, a long weekend of hotels and meals out, travel insurance, and bike transportation/hire charges.