When you decide to run a triathlon, you’re not just dedicating yourself to months of training. You’re committing to shelling out nearly enough scratch to pay for a semester of a state-college education. That’s the conclusion from a new cost breakdown by Bloomberg that’s making the rounds among triathletes. Bloomberg concluded that by the time you’ve paid for coaching, clothing, gear, pool and club memberships, entry fees, accessories and training books, your bank account will be lighter just shy of $5,000.
We’ll get to the opportunity for the triathlete in just a minute.
Jan Frodeno, who ranks No. 14 on the list, points out that some perspective is in order. For one thing, as Bloomberg acknowledges, the cost range of every expense category varies widely. You can, for example, pay north of $1,200 to enter the New York Ironman race or less than $50 for a sprint triathlon. And it’s easy to spend a few thousand dollars on a hobby, why not an intense hobby like competing in triathlons?
“A bit relative if you ask me,” Frodeno tweeted me.” The from-to $ span is huge.”
But even Frodeno acknowledges the triathlon sport “certainly seems to attract a well earning crowd.” But no matter what level you’re competing at, you have opportunities to defray at least some of your expenses.
Here are seven ideas available to just about everyone, if you’re willing to do the necessary work. Most of these involve ways to raise sponsorship money or in-kind payments (free gear or clothing). Sponsorships are the most potentially lucrative for an athlete, but they also involve the biggest time commitment.
1. Build your social network. The more followers you have, the more attractive you are to potential sponsors. But it’s not that simple. Your followers need to trust you, and they need to be engaged with you. So whatever you tweet or post, make it interesting.
2. Approach makers of products you already use and like. Remember that word “trust” from point 1? Your followers will turn and run if they sense you’re promoting something you don’t love.
3. Build a tight network of supporters, experienced people who can advise you on the dos and don’ts of appealing to sponsors. Don’t be afraid to approach a top local or regional competitor, even if you don’t know her. Triathletes can be very generous with their time and expertise, especially if it paves the way for a new person to join the sport.
4. E-mail, call, blog, post, tweet to reach out to potential sponsors. Repeat. Repeat again. Success doesn’t come overnight. And understand that sponsors, naturally, are expecting your help in return for anything they provide. “In the beginning, everything helps,” Frodeno says. “especially awareness that nothing comes ‘free.’ Give and take…”
Beyond working for sponsorships, you can cut a few key expenses.
5. Race for a charity. Many charities offer free entry fees, if you can line up enough contributions ahead of time. As a bonus, sometimes competing for a charity can get you into a closed event.
6. Swap gear. Instead of buying everything, trade used gear that you can spare for something you need from another triathlete.
7. Barter with and for services based on your skills, athletic or otherwise. Offer swim lessons for the child in exchange for the parent running some errands or helping out on race day. Do a coach’s taxes in trade for a few training sessions.
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