Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Financials of a Pro Triathlete

This is Part 3 of my 2015 wrap up, "Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Financials of a Pro Triathlete".  It was a bit delayed, but timely due to tax season just wrapping up.  If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 those can be view here: "Part 1, Through the Len" and "Part 2, by the #'s".

Back in 2013, I had tracked all of my triathlon expenses to get an idea of what it would take financially to race a season of triathlon professionally.  At the end of the year I looked at what I spent, and it was SCARY, $13,128 scary to be exact!  It was my first year back in the US after 5.5 years of being stationed overseas, and my first year in the US full time, to put a triathlon schedule together.  I lined up that schedule to what I thought would be pretty comparable to a pro race schedule, it included races in Florida, Texas, California, Nevada, Wisconsin and Hawaii.

I drove to a few of the races keeping the cost somewhat low, as my car got great gas mileage and I was able to avoid bike fees.  I still had a hard time fathoming how I could possibly make it as a professional with the expenses being pretty high.  That $13K did not include the expenses for Hawaii and Vegas, as the Air Force had stepped up and covered those races since they were World Champs at which I was representing them.

Cody Beals had written about his financials as a first year pro in a blog titled "My Rookie Pro Triathlon Budget" and that is what inspired this blog.  Some of this will look familiar to what you may have seen in his blog, and some of it is my own take on the numbers.


When I started thinking about making the jump to the pro ranks, my wife and I agreed that I could do it for 2 years and see what the financial implications were and then we would re look at it after year 2.  I however wanted to make sure that I was making smart business decisions so that I could continue to do this as long as possible.  We didn't really set a "budget" per se, but I was loosely watching the amount I was spending on the sport.  I am in a fortunate situation that I came out of the Air Force with a bit saved up and was debt free.

I set out as a first year pro with ZERO expectations on the prize money front.  I had planned a strategic race schedule to hopefully build up a resume that would help with continuing to grow my current sponsor relationships as well as build new ones.  That race schedule just so happened to land me on some great start lists, so that when I raced to my potential, I was able to collect a few paychecks.

I was really fortunate to build a strong sponsor base through my progression as an age grouper and all of those carried over into the ranks as a professional.  I had hoped to continue to grow those relationships throughout the season and build upon them.

Goals / Reality-

It was pretty simple for year one.  Race, race well, and hopefully lose as little as possible, all while trying to build a resume and get my name out there.  I also wanted to be able to continue to contribute to my retirement fund and max out my Roth IRA ($5,500).  Unfortunately that was not going to be possible purely on triathlon income, so that meant working a part time job.

I had been previously volunteering with Team Red, White, and Blue as the National Triathlon Director.  That role was on a volunteer basis with ZERO income.  I continued that work as I felt keeping my "resume" active and giving back to the Veteran community was important.  I also held a part time job at US Military Endurance Sport,s where I have a flexible schedule working an hourly wage and being able to work from anywhere in the world.  It is a great job for someone in my position and I was working anywhere between 18-25 hours a week.  On top of that I had started coaching in early 2014 and picked up a small group of athletes which was another minor source of income and also very flexible and rewarding.

So let's dive into the expenses and revenue.

Revenue (click to enlarge):

Equipment Sales / Bike Rental:

44% of revenue was from equipment sales. This was due to having a few sets of extra race wheels, a few extra bikes and some random gear that was sold. Part of this sell-off can be attributed to our move to the UK, where we have a tiny flat and my wife and I needed to be selective on what bikes we would keep. I would expect this number to be lower in 2016, but if a new bike comes around, then that means selling the current bike, which will create some revenue.

I am fortunate enough to be partnered with Spinlister and have some of my bikes listed on there.  I had a few rentals this year which contributed to the $206 in revenue.  Small, but it is $206 I would have otherwise not had from the extra bikes I have laying around.

Sponsorship: Cash, Commission, and Bonuses

I was fortunate to have a few pure cash sponsors for 2015.  These are by far the hardest sponsors to get in the sport.  It is the equivalent of finding a herd of unicorns at the end of a rainbow that are eating from that magical pot of gold (at least that is what a majority of pros consider these cash sponsors to be).  So to generate $3,779 (looks a bit funny as one sponsor paid in foreign currency) in cash sponsorship was something that I consider a huge win for 2015, but it is still an area that I think I can improve upon for 2016.

Commission is something that I am a bit torn on.  A few companies are against having pros push sales as they do not believe we should be "salespeople".  These agreements had carried over from when I had started making partnerships as an Age Grouper and I hope to transition these partnerships into a bonus structure or pure cash.  However, I believe that one of the greatest assets I have to offer as an athlete is my reach within the triathlon community.  So with that being said, I believe the commission setup works really well for me as a professional, but as I continue to progress in the sport, I think it is something that I may do less and less.

Race Winnings:

Like I had mentioned above, race winnings were not something that was expected this year.  Picking up 3 pay checks totaling $4k ($3967 after fees/taxes) was quite nice.  Not sure what 2016 has in store on the prize money side of things, but ideally this number continues to increase over the years!  To have a better understanding of what Pro Triathletes make in prize winnings I would recommend this article: http://trstriathlon.com/pro-triathlon-money-list/ .  In short, 40 athletes made over $50K, 40, yes 40 athletes, both men and women.  This list is not annual, rather based on the Kona Points Year and ITU World Series.  So with that, only IMUK counted for me putting me at $2,000 and 267 on the list of 444 males that took home money.


I have slowly started to build up a base of athletes that I coach.  It has been purely by word of mouth but it brings in a few extra dollars and I really enjoy helping others succeed in this sport.  In 2016 I look to continue to grow the number of athletes I coach and make this another source of revenue to support my triathlon career.

Expenses (click to enlarge):


With the amount of bikes that were sold and the change to bike sponsors in the middle of the year, that really contributed to the equipment being a big expense for 2015.  It was basically a wash with the amount of revenue generated in sales.  I am not "sponsored" per se by Cervelo, more "supported" by Cervelo, so that means that I am still having to pay for my bikes.  I don't mind, as being on the best bike in the business is something that gives me confidence when I get on the start line knowing I have the best equipment.  Ideally,, that partnership will grow and hopefully one day I will be a fully sponsored athlete by Cervelo.
Transport / Bike Fees:

Taking the big risks to travel to Asia for some races meant some big flight tickets.  That is what drove the transportation expense so high, but for 2016, I have accrued enough flight miles to cash in on some free flights.  The evil of flying with a bike is the amount airlines charge.  This took a big hit to the expenses, but is getting harder and harder to avoid.  When I was in the military, I very rarely paid for my bike to fly, maybe once every twenty flights.  They were really generous to those of us on Active Duty.  Now it is just part of the pain of traveling with a bike, forking out anywhere from $75 - $200--other than that one time where Asiana charged me $495 as they were charging by weight.

This may look really high, but it includes two different training camps I did and the lodging for those, so that is what drove this number up pretty high.  For racing, I was at $695 and that was pretty low considering I had received a home stay for 1 race and then complimentary hotels for both Korean races.

Pretty straight forward.  Most Pro Athletes pay a flat rate for coaching and then a % of winnings on top of that.  That is the setup that I have with my coach (Scott DeFilippis) and it works well.
Race Entry / Membership:

This is where I saved quite a bit of money from racing as an amateur.  WTC/IRONMAN has a pro membership that cost $848 in 2015.  This allows you to do as many races as you want as a professional and as it may sound expensive, it ends up being a lot cheaper than what I had to pay as an amateur.  Challenge Family did not charge for race entries in 2015 and I did one of their races.  The "memberships" include the local Tri Team in the UK I pay to swim with, along with 2 other places that I swam at throughout the year. 

Overall I lost $194 in 2015, which as sad as it is, I think that is a WIN for a majority of pro triathletes. When talking to someone else about how the financials had shaken out for 2015, they had mentioned looking at it like a "start up".  Most start ups are not profitable for the first few years, so to come that close to breaking even, I am really happy with that.

For 2016, I have worked out several new financial sponsors which have had a huge impact on allowing me to not worry about how long I can do this for.  It has given me the confidence that I can make this work and continue to do it for as long as I am passionate about the sport.  I will continue to work hard in training, but also continue to work on the business side of my "brand" and hopefully with the hard work in training the results and progression will continue to trend in the right direction. 

By the Numbers:
2 Full IMs and 5 70.3 races in 2015
3 Paychecks, totaling $4,000
$571 – average prize money per race
$2,000 – highest prize money at IMUK
122 Days– slowest prize money payment (70.3 Incheon)
$1,265 spent on airline bike fees, a LOT of international flights
$545 spent on hotels (lucky enough to have a few homestays + free rewards nights)
$4,291 + award miles on airfare
79,145 miles flown
$11,089 spent on 3 new bikes and parts for said bikes, this is what happens when a sponsor deal goes bad mid year……….
$11,480 on selling old equipment and 2 bikes

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Another Bad Day at the Office: IMNZ

After departing from Wanaka, it was time to get some R&R in between the two races.  With 14 days between two IRONMANs, I was going to be asking a lot from my body.  This is the second time that I have done something crazy in terms of racing IMs close together.  The last time was back in 2013 when I raced Kona, 14 days later 70.3 Austin, and 6 days later IMFL, you can read about that HERE.
Needless to say, I thought there was a chance that this could go well.  I had some good training while in California and then a good 70.3 in Dubai.   I thought that Challenge Wanaka full could give me another boost in fitness and I could show up to Taupo hopefully somewhat recovered from Wanaka and have a good race.  I spent the 14 days in between taking it pretty easy and just enjoying the sites of New Zealand with my wife.  We spent some time in a van, down by the river, and then after 2 nights of that upgraded to an AirBnB in Taupo.

When I originally planned this trip and race schedule I thought there was a chance both Wanaka and Taupo would have fairly small fields, but then IM Melbourne was canceled, which had people changing up their race schedules and a big field assembled for IMNZ (Taupo).  Since the trip was already planned and the tickets were booked I just rolled the dice and figured we would see what happened.

I woke up on race morning feeling pretty good and ready to race.  I slept a lot in the previous 14 days and really took care of trying to recover from Wanaka.  I just didn't know how the body would react until the gun went off.

Swim- 53:12

I really started to believe that my swim was coming along and I was confident in how I had been swimming given how Dubai and Wanaka went.  I lined up near Matt Hanson hoping that I would be able to swim with him.  I got out to a good start and found some feet to stay on.  After about 200-300m I had gotten popped off of the tail end of the first pack, I was "that guy" that let the gap open.  Around 400-500m the women started coming by us in ones and twos.  First was Lauren Brandon and then MBK, and then a small pack of 3.  Matt Hanson and I were able to get onto those girls' feet and swim with them for a while.  I got popped off of that group at the half way point, and shortly after joined another small group of women who were towing a few other men along.  One of the guys ended up being Joe Skipper.  I exited the water in the second main pack of guys and was happy with where I was at.

Bike- 4:47

Coming out of the water better than I normally do meant that the possibility of getting passed by more people.  This is something that typically doesn't happen due to my poor swim and somewhat strong cycling ability.  However, with the improved swim I was now facing guys behind me being strong bikers.  So one by one a few guys came by, with the likes of Matt Russell, Joe Skipper, and then Dougal Allan (who had just won Wanaka).  I couldn't quite hold pace with any of those guys so they went by pretty quick.  I rode a pretty solid first 90 km and then literally at 90 km, my power dropped from 260 W to 230 W.  There was nothing I could do, not really sure what happened, but I would like to think that something about that race 14 days ago happened to hit my legs.  From that point on, I was pretty much stuck at 230 W and couldn't seem to put out more power consistently.

Run- 3:45

I came off the bike pretty much out of the race, but I wanted to see what I had in my run legs so off I went.  I settled into a good pace and was feeling good.  I went through 21 km in around 1:32 which is where I was hoping to run for the whole marathon, a low 3 hour marathon.  I continued to push on and then around 30 km, the legs just didn't want to cooperate.  The body was drained and I was mentally checked out.  Meredith Kessler had caught me around that point and she went on to win the race leaving me in her dust after running with her for about 1 mile.  I ran, jogged, trotted and walked the last 12 km and finally got across the line.  It was a rough day to say the least.

Bike- 4:47:47 / Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/508790003
Training Peaks: http://tpks.ws/oY1R
Total- 9:32:59 / 20th Pro
(Results Link: http://ap.ironman.com/triathlon/coverage/athlete-tracker.aspx?race=newzealand&y=2016#axzz46Ipnw3F6 )

Like every race, I consider it a success as long as you learn something.  Lesson learned here is that I currently am not capable of backing up 2 IMs within 14 days of each other.  So chalk it up as a learning experience and a long 9+ hours spent Swimming, Biking and Running to see the great town of Taupo.

Even though the racing did not go as planned down under, it was still an amazing experience.  I had never been to Australia or New Zealand and Hila had never been to New Zealand.  We were able to get some amazing sight seeing in and see a part of the world that I had never seen.

Here are some pictures from the trip:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A Look Back at 2015: Part 2, by the #'s

12 March-

Sorry for the delay in this, 4 months on the road, 70K miles flown, 3x IM's and a 70.3 put things a little behind on the schedule.  But, I wanted to take some time and reflect back on my first year racing in the professional field.  I plan to make this a 3 part series, with Part 1 being "Through the Lens".  Then this blog will take an inside look at the training numbers throughout the year and finally Part 3 will dive into the financials of racing around the world, and the harsh reality of being a "professional" triathlete.  Part 3 is now up "Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Financials of a Pro Triathlete".

So here we go...................

2015 by the Numbers (from 1/5/15 - 1/3/16 to keep it Monday - Sunday)
Swim: 608,000 meters / 180 hours- AVG 11,700 meters/wk (+193km from 2014)
Bike: 8,129 miles / 450 hours- AVG-  156 miles/wk (+1,483mi from 2014)
Run: 1,738 miles / 223 hours- AVG-33.4 miles/wk (+127mi from 2014)
Commuter Miles: 444 miles
Total: 10688.8 miles / 853 hours / 16.8hrs/wk (+2.7hrs/wk from 2014)
Raced:  5 70.3's, 2 Full IM's Total= 7 races
Placings:  1 Top 5 , 5 Top 10's
31 Days Off of Training, Longest Streak 94 days, and 5 Countries Visited

Click to Enlarge below images
Pie Chart Breakdown by %
 Swim distance by yards per week
Bike distance by miles per week
 Run distance by miles per week
Total Hours trained per week
 TSS per week
 PMC Chart for 2015

All the data from the years past.

If you would like a closer look at the PMC chart with details you can view that HERE.

Hope you enjoyed looking at the data!  If you have any questions feel free to email 
bw_tri at yahoo dot com.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Challenge Wanaka....The Good, Bad, & Ugly

20 Feb 2016-

Here it is, a short 30sec video recap of Challenge Wanaka.  The Good, Bad, & Ugly.....

Bike- 5:17:43 / Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/497485343
Training Peaks: http://tpks.ws/snIr3
Run- 3:32:07 / Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/497485348
Training Peaks: http://tpks.ws/ZPLD
Total- 9:50:44 / 8th Pro
(Results Link:http://www.sportsplits.com/Home/QuickResults?clientId=34&raceId=633&raceName=Challenge%20Wanaka )

Few pictures from the beautiful race venue.