So You Want To Try a Tri?

I’ve been kinda sorta considering a triathlon in the not-so-distant future. But they sound expensive, and so I haven’t been sure if I’ve wanted to buy all kinds of equipment for something I might not be that into. After writing a guest post for Katy about Tumblr, I asked the fabulous triathlete if she could write a post for me on doing a triathlon on a budget.

Katy Widrick blogs about healthy living, social media and her two adorable dogs at and on Twitter at @kwidrick. She is the founder of #Fitblog chats on Twitter and has completed several triathlons, including an Olympic distance event. She wants everyone in America – especially the women – to give triathlon a tri. Errr, try.

How to Do Your First Triathlon for Under $10

Wha-WHA? Did she say under $10?
I know. Between the entry fees, the custom bike, the gear and the travel expenses, a lot of people thing triathlon is out of reach. As an experienced triathlete, I can tell you that if you’re willing to put in just a little work (and maybe just a bit of begging), you can get involved in my favorite sport for pennies.

The Fees:
OK, let’s tackle the first barrier to entry – the fees! Depending on the size and location of your preferred triathlon, it can be more than $100 to take part. So, here are four things to consider:

  • Race for Free Programs
    • Lucas (my husband) and I have each earned Race for Free credits by volunteering at other events, run by the same organization. Three hours of helping pass out water and direct people through transition at an event last fall is paying for me to get into a triathlon this spring for free. Most organizations have volunteer or credit programs, so just contact the race director and see if you can work something out!
  • Charity/Fundraising
    • Often, organizations and events will team up to let people get into events for free, in exchange for fundraising. Team in Training, Athletes for Hope and Element Events all support athletes, giving them training and fundraising tools. Plus, if you’re new to triathlon, it’s an excellent way to find training partners.
  • Trade
    • This one takes a little creative pitching, but I believe in you! If you offer to have someone live-tweet the event for the race director, or promise a series of blog posts in support of the event, on its blog, you may be able to wheedle your way in.
  • Sponsorship
    • Reach out to your network, and see if a brand or organization is willing to sponsor your entry in exchange for wearing their shirt during the run, or a temporary tattoo featuring their logo.

The Bike:

If I had a dollar for every time someone told they were intimidated by triathlon because of the big expensive bikes, well…I’d have enough to buy a lot of big, expensive bikes. I have seen everything from mountain bikes to recumbent bikes in events, and I’m not too proud to admit that I was once passed by a woman whose bike featured glitter tassels on the handlebars.

If you fall in love with triathlon, you may want to consider saving up for a proper road or triathlon bike. But until then, use any bike you have, or consider borrowing one from a friend or neighbor (just be sure it is the proper size so you are not in danger on the course).

The Gear:

When I do triathlon, I wear a ratty one-piece swimsuit with padded bike shorts and no overshirt. I don’t have a triathlon kit or a cycling jersey. I just wear gear that will make it easy to transition and that I don’t mind getting muddy or smelly. Believe me. Unless you are trying to qualify for Kona, you can wear an old t-shirt and even a sports bra and workout tights as your bathing suit.

Stick an old towel in a plastic shopping bag, along with an old pair of goggles and you’re good to go. No special race bag needed.

The Training:

Free free FREE! Run outside. Bike outside. Find a local lake or community pool and swim for free. Find workout partner through blogs or online triathlon communities. Don’t shell out extra money for cyclometers or Garmins or aerobars or triathlon shoes until you decide whether you even like the sport.

The Travel:

Here’s where the $10 comes in. You’ll probably need to drive to your event, paying a few tolls and perhaps even a parking fee. Then, there’s the gas money. I can’t get you out of that (unless you live close enough to the venue to ride to the starting line).

Bottom line – don’t let money be the reason you opt out of triathlon. There is no feeling like crossing the finishing line after swimming, biking and running, and the medal and photos you’ll get afterward are priceless.

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