Ironman prices

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Eu-Jin Goh pointed me to this Times article about the price of Ironman series events. It's certainly true that the Ironman series is expensive, and $525 for a race entry is a lot, but it's not really the major part of your costs. Let's say I decide to do Ironman Canada, the oldest of the non-Hawaii Ironmans. Assuming the entry fee is $525, my costs look like this:

Plane fare (SFO - YYF)$575
Bicycle surcharge$50-170
Hotel (4 nights)1$320
Rental car$150
Race entry$525

Plus, I've never been at a race where I didn't end up spending $50-$100 for assorted race-related expenses: spare bottles, tubes, energy bars, energy gels, sports drink, etc. Factor in airport parking and other misc. non-race expenses and we're looking at somewhere around $2K for the race, of which the entry fee is about 25%. And of course this is for a North American race with a cheap plane flight located in a relatively cheap town. If you want to do Ironman New Zealand (another popular race for North Americans, entries still available!), you're looking at a $1300+ plane ticket plus a few more nights in the hotel dealing with jet lag, for a total price more like $3K.

This isn't to say that monopoly rents aren't being collected—though it may not be the race directors collecting them. It may well be the case that running an Ironman race is more expensive than a non-Ironman race (because of the licensing fees you need to pay to the World Triathlon Corporation which owns the Ironman name), but that's just a transfer payment, so someone is getting the extra $200 or so you pay to enter Ironman Canada instead of Vineman. All I'm saying is that it's not too surprising people are willing to pay it, since the brand surcharge you're paying is a relatively small fraction of their overall costs.

1. You might ask why you need so many nights in the hotel. The race is first thing in the morning so you need to stay the night before. You're way too wiped out the second day to fly out, plus if you qualified for Kona you need to pick up your slot the next day. The other two days get there because you want to be fresh for the race (remember, you've been training for 6 months for this) and that's not that compatible with having just got off the plane the day before the race or even two days before. Much better to get there a few days early, rest up and see the course.


It's just insane the popularity of these races, in particular Lake Placid and IM Canada. I have done Lake Placid 5 times, and each time getting in the next year became more and more difficult. This year, they changed the process such that athletes signed up in the race had the option to sign up for the follow year BEFORE race day. The next in priority were volunteers at the race, followed by people physically in Lake Placid, and lastly, online. This year all the open slots sold-out onsite, so nothing ended up online. Before you know it, folks are going to be fighting tooth/nail for those volunteer slots. With this type of demand, they can call the shots on the price. It's all just crazy!!

Adam Uzelac

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