September 26, 2012 4

The Financial Cost of a Kiwi Pro Racing a Season in America

By in News

I have decided to share with you my revenue and expenditure in a simple Income Statement from my recent ‘2012 American Season’ as I know many will be interested  – especially some of top age-groupers I know who are looking at racing professionally in the US in the coming years. I have been asked by a number people “How much does it cost you to race as a Pro in America?” and “How do I make a living out of it?” and my answers generally come as a surprise.

Note that I’m not moaning about how much it’s costing me or about what I’m receiving in prize-money for my placings. If I was better I would be winning more money. I’m just stating the facts and giving some honest analysis to them. It is important to note that I’m not racing triathlons because of the money. I’m not a money driven person at all. I’m racing because I love it and because I believe that this is what God wants me to do right now. However we live in a world where you need money to survive and therefore it is a important part of the game.

You will very quickly discover from the below that at the moment I don’t make a living out of it. Very far from it. I would need to be winning quite-a-bit more prize-money to even break-even; or have some pretty significant financial sponsorship, donations and/or grants.

2012 ‘American Season’ Income Statement

1. The ‘American Season’ started when I departed New Zealand early June and was completed when I returned late September. Some of the costs occurred prior to June.
2. I flew from NZ to the US East Coast with the RNZAF at a cost significantly below commercial cost.
3. Equipment & Nutrition does not include all equipment purchases to race triathlons; simply the purchases I made while in the US which included a new wetsuit, a swimskin, tires, & tubes. It also includes bike servicing costs.
4. The prize money I received was from placing:
a. 1st at the Loveland Lake-to-Lake Triathlon,
b. 5th at Racine 70.3, and
c. 5th at Ironman Canada.
5. I received no prize money from placing:
a. 12th at Munice 70.3,
b. 6th at Calgary 70.3,
c. 29th at Ironman 70.3 World Champs, and
d. 1st at Kiawah Island Triathlon.

How can you do this if it’s costing you that much?

2011 was my first year racing as a Pro and competing in the American season and it cost me something similar. I have covered my costs these last two season by working part-time during the New Zealand summer and through saving from my days working in the NZ Army before I started competing full-time as a Professional. I’ve avoided going into debit to fund this however I am spending more than I’m earning and that obviously can not continue forever.

Financially it is not a very good business at the moment. But they say all businesses lose money in there first few years as they establish themselves building their capital and market. It is unlikely that the ‘Shanon Stallard Triathlete Business’ will ever be a big financial success; even if I did start winning some big races; Nevertheless a business can not continue losing money year after year; or more correctly I can’t live spending more than I earn. Something needs to change: I need to start winning more, change the way I operate, or close the business down.

Kiwi’s have it tough

As a Kiwi heading over to America to race the northern season we have a major disadvantage financially; not to mention the physiological disadvantage of being away from home. It’s much same for the Aussies. Firstly you have to spend money to fly there and back. You have to spend money to accommodate yourself at a base somewhere. As a Kiwi spending more than you’re winning the kiwi dollar doesn’t go as far (although the weakening USD has helped a lot here). You may have a house, a car, bike-shop support, and some part-time work back home that you don’t have when you are in the US. It isn’t easy financially to make it work.

So how does a Kiwi Pro make a living then?
By winning prize-money and through financial sponsorship; and/or by working part-time, or full-time, while at home, or by coaching… or you’ll find that they aren’t making a living at all.
How do you get financial sponsorship?
By winning?… Well not exactly; or so it would appear from what I’ve seen. Like anything in life it’s more about ‘who you know’ than ‘what you know’. Yes, you need to have the results to justify the sponsorship but the results alone aren’t going to bring you sponsorship. Many winning triathletes write letters & emails with sponsorship proposals and receive no response.


I have shared this with you as I know it would be of interest (especially if you have read this far). You’ll find that most triathletes don’t race for the money. I’m not competing in triathlon as a professional to make money. I could make a heck of a lot more money doing something a lot easier then training and racing Ironman Triathlons. No you’ll find that most of the Pros are competing as a professional because they love the sport. They love training. They love racing. They love competing. They love winning. They love traveling the world. They love meeting people from different parts of the world. They love everything about Triathlon. They wish to make it their job. Most aren’t out to make a ton of money; just enough to cover the costs to continue ‘Liv’n the Dream’.

So the key for most Pros is finding a way to cover the costs to continue traveling and racing. Some setup a coaching business; some have a part-time job(s); some have parents that help fund them; some have a full-time job; some win the lotto.

As I end my second year as a full-time Pro Triathlete I have some serious questions to ask myself leading into next year. One of which is “How am I going to continue to fund this?”. More on this in my next blog ‘2012 End of Season Review’ where I will share some of what I’ve learnt this year and share some of my thoughts on where to from here for me in the sport of Professional Triathlon.

1. There is debate about who is, or more correctly who can call themselves, a Professional Triathlete. Some say if you aren’t winning more than your spending and you’re having to work part-time to cover the costs then you should call yourself semi-professional. It’s all semantics really. At the end of the day there are two categories in WTC Ironman racing: Pros and Age Groupers. One races for prize-money the other does not.
2.  If I had won Ironman Canada, my peak race of the season, I would have received around NZD $6,100 (USD5,000) less tax; so note that still wouldn’t have paid all the bills. If I had won all the races; Muncie 70.3, Racine 70.3, Calgary 70.3 & IM Canada (I am not including 70.3 Worlds in this): I would have received a total prize purse of NZD $20,100 (USD17,000) less tax. Here I would have come home with a bit of money in the pocket. But is winning all the races in a season ever going to be a reality for me? God knows.
3. While I don’t have any financial sponsors I am very grateful for the product sponsors I have – Please see the SPONSORS tab – It means that I’m not spending money on running shoes & training gear thanks to the team at Under Armour New Zealand and Avia New Zealand; and I’m getting discounts, which means I’m not spending as much money, on gear such as wetsuits thanks to the team at blueseventy, wheels thanks to the guys at Rolf Prima and my bike Philomena thanks to Kents Bikes.
4. Also of important note is that my accommodation costs are low thanks to the generosity of homestays at the races; It’s wonderful that they open their opens to a complete stranger from another country wanting nothing more in return then to share in my experiences. (and maybe come and stay with me in New Zealand one day! :-) – I’m hoping so any way!)




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4 Responses to “The Financial Cost of a Kiwi Pro Racing a Season in America”

  1. One thing you can do to really limit your costs is pick a geographic location that is close to all your races and make that your home base. I can’t see how athlete can justify the costs of flights, baggage fees, rental cars etc and end up in the hole. Unless you are getting an appearance fee or travel reimbursed it just doesn’t make sense.


  2. […] and mentally. This past ‘American Season’ cost me a lot of money – (see my blog The Financial Cost of a Kiwi Pro racing in America that has received some mixed reviews) – and I can not continue traveling to the US to […]

  3. Phung says:

    Superb site i’m intersted inside starting triathlon myself i wish to do a strong ironman or ironman 60 to 70. 3

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