Race Price Inflation

Our triathlon household has recently been enjoying reading some old Triathlete magazines that Jo acquired from a local fire station (which is another story). They’re only twenty years old but how things have changed, not only the groovy sunglasses, funky wheels and dodgy looking aero bars but also race entries. Inside there are numerous cut out slips to be posted back with your entry.

Roll forward those twenty years and I’m hoping to enter Ironman Western Australia again. No longer do I send off a slip of paper with my entry fee. Now entering a race requires thinking a year ahead and some detailed planning. First I have to check the timings since the entries open at 11am East Australian Daylight Time. I need to get this right since an hour out and I won’t get in. I confirm this is midnight on a Thursday night which I realize is in the middle of our “no computers or internet” two night end of season break. Luckily for me Jo wants me to race Busselton so agrees to pushing our holiday back a day.

Midnight approaches and I start refreshing my browser from 11:50pm knowing that in the past entries have sometimes opened early. Not this time. This time is was bang on. Seconds later I’m sitting on a holding page that is promising me I will be allowed to enter when server space is available. This slightly worries me as it’s not clear whether it’s working or whether it’s a fair queue. I hit refresh. I hit it lots. Now I have worries that this is putting me to the back of the queue. I’m getting more nervous than before the start of a race. 12:08 and it could be nearly full (last year it filled in 13 minutes). Luckily for me I have a second computer. I log on to the site again using a different email address and get straight through. I race through the entry still wondering whether getting in is based on starting the form or finishing it. The way our world works it’s likely to require the payment going through. I skip all optional questions. No filling in my awesome athletic achievements for this one. The commentator come race day will have to wing it. Contact details, my mums home number will have to do even though she’ll be at the race with me, it’s the only number I can remember. Hit enter. Wait. Confirmation email.  I’m in!

The entry process isn’t the only thing to have changed. I’d not been focusing on anything other than getting the entry filled out as quickly as possible. It wasn’t until my entry was confirmed that I registered the cost: $675 plus an “admin” fee. It took my breath away. That makes it over £440 for an entry.

I couldn’t help myself; I had to find out what inflation rate that was. Looking back I found that 3.5 years a go I entered Ironman New Zealand 2009 for £300. The races are 3.75 years apart giving a rate of inflation of 10.75%. Which means in another 3.75 years it will cost £645 and in ten years a whopping £1,222. At this rate in twenty years when you’re looking back at this copy of Triathlete laughing at the sunglasses and aero setups the price of entering an Ironman will be £3,300. Like all steady growth though, it is almost certainly unsustainable.

How long will these price increases continue? Given that races are selling out within minutes I would suggest that such increases in price will continue for at least a little while. I certainly make sacrifices to support my Ironman habit and can continue to take some more price increases in this way. I’ve given up driving a car, cook at home the majority of the time and plan well ahead to get the cheapest travel. We are lucky in the UK now with the choice of long distance events. By racing locally and limiting my long haul travel I will continue to race regularly. However, on Thursday night I felt myself starting to be priced out of the Kona market for the first time. I’ve decided not to try again for Kona next year but instead to focus on 2013. I would like to compete there at least one more time and it did take Mark Allen seven tries before he got it right.

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