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If you want to race with the best, you better train like the best — and that'll cost you.
On Saturday, Oct. 8, more than 2,000 triathletes will participate in the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. There they'll have up to 17 hours to complete a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.
The upfront entry fee to compete at this race is $890 — and that's assuming you've qualified by placing among the best in your age group at a previous Ironman. You can also punch your ticket to this event if you've completed at least 12 Ironman races or if you've won a slot through a charitable eBay auction.
Kona-bound athletes say they've invested thousands of training hours and a small fortune over the years to get to the 2016 world championship.
"Just being involved in the sport, you don't need the fanciest bike," said Joe Abunassar, a professional basketball trainer at Impact Basketball in Los Angeles and a 15-time Ironman. "But you do need certain things to be able to train, and it's a time commitment."
Leading up to the Ironman World Championship, Abunassar has spent up to 28 hours per week training, he said. Six-hour-long bike rides are the norm as race day draws near.
Expect to spend the most time and money on your carbon horse. A triathlon bike can start at $2,000 and run up to $10,000, based on your ride's components — namely, the drive train and gear shifters. Electronic shifters, which Abunassar uses, can cost more than $2,000.
"There's value to having better components," he said. "The weight makes a difference, too; weight is important if you do a lot of climbing."
Anticipate having a special set of wheels for race day.
Jordan Blanco, a San Francisco-based former investment banker and Kona 2016 competitor, said that racing wheels can cost up to $3,000.
Elite triathletes are also data junkies, so they'll add on a power meter that can cost up to $1,500 to measure their output on a ride.
The swimming and running components have their costs as well, but those disciplines are less dependent on high-end gear. You'll need goggles and comfortable sneakers.
Blanco is a sponsored athlete, so she was able to pick up her triathlon suit from Betty Designs, an apparel manufacturer, free of charge. You might pay $200 for a similar "tri kit," which you wear throughout the entire race.
Athletes competing at Kona do not wear wet suits, as the swim in Kailua Bay is a tepid 79 degrees, but the newest models cost upward of $300.
You don't have to be a bankrolled athlete to participate in long-distance triathlons — and you certainly don't need the fanciest equipment to start — but Abunassar and Blanco note that some expenses are more worthwhile than others.
"You don't just walk up here; I have a triathlon coach," said Blanco. She's hired Matt Dixon, founder of purplepatch Fitness, to the tune of $185 a month. He sends her a detailed training plan every week.
While you can shave off seconds from your race time on a lighter bike, good technique and coaching on all three disciplines can get you to the finish line even faster.
A nutrition consultation also helps. For instance, Blanco found out that she wasn't consuming enough protein and fat to fuel her training. She had to double her calories. "[The consultation] was about $300 to $400, but it transformed how I feel," said Blanco.
If you anticipate spending hours on the course on race day, be sure to invest in your physical therapy and recovery. Intense training schedules can pave the way for overuse injuries, including shoulder pain from swimming and stress fractures from running.
"You'll need massages and stretching or you won't make it through your training," said Abunassar.
Finally, regardless of how much you spend on your bike, make sure you invest in a proper fitting. Your local bike mechanic can adjust your seat and handlebar positions to suit your body's dimensions and keep you in relative comfort through a six-hour-long ride.
"The most valuable thing is a bike fitting," Abunassar said.