Ironman created quite a buzz earlier this week, accidently.  An error was made on the athlete packet that people could download from the website stating the total prize purse for IM Lake Placid was $75,000, instead of the advertised $25,000.  People quickly found out about this and Ironman quickly corrected the mistake.  But when Ironman makes a mistake, you can count on @TheRealStarky to jump at the opportunity to poke some fun. And did he capitalize on this typo!!  You can read is blog here (a fair warning for those that don’t know @TheRealStarky, he speaks about issues that need to be addressed in the multisport community… however they tend to be a bit vulgar.  This one isn’t nearly as bad):

The issue here is obvious… many pros are forced into wearing multiple hats while still trying to compete in the sport.  I, for one, work a total of 4 jobs just so I can pay the bills, make it to races, and still be able to save a little bit of cash further on down the road.  I’m a nurse (RN) part-time, manage a rental property, coach 15 triathletes, and also race professionally.  This is way over 40 hours a week worth of work… and my wife and I don’t make anywhere close to the average Ironman athlete family income (last I heard the average income in a household of an Ironman athlete was about $175,000 annually).  Between coaching and training alone, I’m at about 40 hours a week.  Add in 20-25 hours a week for nursing and a couple hours for managing the rental property and I’m working 65ish hours a week and not getting any money at races… which I consistently finish in the top 10 at Ironman branded races.

How is it that Ironman has been around for 35ish years and the prize purse is smaller than a sport that is basically in the infant stage, such as crossfit?  I have friends that race bikes in Cat three races that make more money racing bikes as amateur than me racing triathlons professionally!  I’ve actually considered getting into bike racing next year so I can help cover my traveling expenses to triathlons.

On the flip side, Ironman has played all their cards right.  They have manipulated the market to make it so they don’t have to pay out large sums of money to the winners of Ironman races.  Why? Because bike companies, running companies, and swimming companies will pay top dollar to have a winner endorse their product.  Also, Ironman pays the athletes that have really big names “appearance fees” to just show up and do a short press conference and maybe a quick photo shoot.  I’ve heard that some of these athletes get paid $10,000 just to show up.  They don’t even have to place in the money and they are still profiting from the weekend.  Maybe Ironman should make the playing field a bit more even, by giving pros a travel stipend to get to races.  If you go over the amount, you pay the extra.  If you are frugal, and travel smart/cheap, you keep the extra money.  Hyvee Triathlon does that for all the pros that show up to their race… and at the same time, they had the highest prize purse in the triathlon world (they may not anymore… I’m not sure who does now).

Additionally, Ironman makes pros pay a pass to get into their events for the calendar year.  I believe I paid about $850 to race with Ironman this year.  In contrast, Challenge lets pros race free (I’m racing the New Albany race this weekend), and when Rev3 had pro races (very sad to see them no longer have them as I had a couple of their races on my schedule this year) they also let pros race free and did a lot to promote each athlete’s website/facebook/twitter.

I hope that @TheRealStarky and his group of people that organized this 7th place prize purse in IM Lake Placid bring some attention to the lack of money in the prize purses in the triathlon world.