Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Cost of a Race

There was a question posted on the Louisville Landsharks Facebook Page earlier today dealing with the cost to do Ironman.  There were several comments on it.  I thought I would spend a few minutes to respond to the question and to give my thoughts on some of the comments.

The simple answer to why it cost so much to do Ironman is because people will pay it.  I will go into that latter, but first lets look at the cost to put on a race in general.  The cost can be broken down to three categories.

The first are fixed cost.  These include insurance, sanctioning, venue, traffic, control, other emergency services such as water patrol and EMS, awards, timing, labor, permits, marketing etc.  I was reminded of how these expenses can affect a race as I was walking through Lowe's today.  There was a guy wearing an old Run For The Sun t-shirt.  That was a 4 mile run that was held for several years by the Downtown YMCA.  It was a well done race and had good participation.  Traffic control cost went up to around $8,000 and the race stopped.  There are many intersections Downtown and officers are paid for a minimum amount of hours.  I have heard that the KDF Mini and Marathon cost over $100,000 in traffic control.  The venue chosen may cost from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.  The more elaborate the race the more the labor expense.  Volunteers can do some jobs, but many require trained people.

The second category of cost are variable and relate to a per participant cost.  These include t-shirts, medals, food at the finish, aid station supplies, numbers, pins etc.

Lets take an imaginary race and look at the cost.  Lets say the fixed cost are $10,000 with a break even point of 100 Athletes at $100 each.  That means the cost of those athletes t-shirts are figured in.  The per participant cost is going to be $25.  If we have 150 participants there is a $3750 profit from the race.  If we have 500 there is a $30,000 profit.  If only 50 people show up the race director loses his ass.  Lets say that we had 200 athletes and a profit from the race of $7,500.  It all sounds pretty good.

That brings us to the third category of expenses the business expenses.  These include salaries, equipment, training, travel etc.  The equipment to time a triathlon including timing points, clocks, chips, computers, TVs etc is going to cost in excess of $50,000.  All this equipment must be maintained.  There is the transition area with all the bike racks and fencing. markers for the swim course, Tables, tents, coolers etc.  Everything has to get to the race so we need a couple of trailers.  There must be a place to store all this stuff.  Electric bills must be paid.  There has to be a website.  All these cost are spread through multiple events, but still are a significant factor. In other words a race can make money, and it still be an overall loss.

We made $7,500 from our fake race, but considering it took months to prepare for and the business expenses that must be figured in was it really worth it.

The business expenses is one reason why no one ever gets an answer to that question on where every dollar from a race goes.  If the finish line clock dies during our fake race (minimum $1,000 to replace) does all that money come from that event?  What about the flat tire on the boat trailer?  We used the generator at the event, but not at the next two, how do we spread that around?

Ironman is a huge business and a huge expense.  Take everything we just talked about and throw it out the window, because it is not even close.  Bigger staff, more euipment, travel, longer course requiring more traffic control (two shifts in some areas).  I would say the cost of Ironman Louisville are easily $500,000.  Now much of that is covered with sponsorships and other revenue sources such as merchandising, but lets ignore all that for the sake of our discussion.  At $600 a person for 2500 athletes that is a revenue of 1.5 million and a profit from the race of 1 million.

Now we have to discuss the business expenses of being Ironman.  I can not even guess how much they are.  there are large staffs, offices etc that must be paid for.  Where I have a trailer they have a semi.  It will cut into that million, but they still made a tidy profit.

Ironman is owned by Providence Equity Partners.  Providence has owned 180 companies in their history.  They are an investment firm.  There goal, as it should be, is to make as much money from their investments as possible.  Ironman is no different.  If you have so much of a product to sell and you sell it all the next time you charge more.  If every Ironman race sells out at $600 the next year charge $700, then $800.  When they stop filling at $1200 you know the market value of doing an Ironman is $1,100.  The athletes will make the final decision on what the fair market value is.

Does it matter if the CEO of Providence makes 1 million or 10 million a year?  That is a matter of personal opinion.

So there is my explanation of why it cost so much to do Ironman.  But let me address a couple of other issues that were brought up on the facebook page.

Where Providence Equity bought Ironman as an investment.  Cynthia and I started putting on races because of you guys.  There were few races around 14 years ago and people wanted more, so we agreed to do it.  I am not saying that from the financial do our races standpoint, but from the standpoint of we have seen many of you start your journey in these races and have seen many things over the years both good and bad.  We look at you as friends and family.  I tend to be fairly blunt with my friends and family so here I go.

In the comments on facebook somebody mentioned their house payment.  I know it was just a comparison, but if you are having a hard time deciding between paying your bills and doing a race, even if it is a Headfirst Race, pay the bill and if there is any money left over get some help because you have a problem.

There were also several comments about the finish line at Ironman.  I agree that is a special thing, but it is not everything.  Martina Navratilova said "The moment of victory is much to short to live for that and nothing else."  When I won the Championship of the Americas in the Double Iron Distance (see some of you thought I never was and really I'm a has been) there were TV cameras and newspaper reporters waiting at the finish line for me.  It was a great moment.  When I think back about my experience the special memories were the people I trained with including some of you, the people from all around the world I got the chance to meet and the things I saw along the way.  We are all just an injury or accident away from not making it to the next finish line.  Like I always say if you are not having fun you are doing it wrong.  Enjoy every finish line whether it be Ironman or a small 5K but start enjoying it at the first step in your training and make it all special.

As far as what races to do the answer is easy.  Do what you want.  Very very few people are able to put food on the table with the money they make from competing in triathlon.  For the rest of us it is about enjoyment.  If you want to buy a new bike hire a coach and do Ironman outstanding.  If you want to do a local race and take the family to Disney World with the money you saved more power to you.

I will say this about Headfirst.  If you have ever done one of our longer races I hope there is one thing that shows.  When Cynthia brings out the grill at Taylorsville and spends the day cooking or when she spends two weeks cooking soups before Otter Creek and Lovin the Hills in addition to the normal race things It is not about business it is because she and the rest of us at Headfirst love you guys.  Get that at a big race.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Athletes at the beginning of the Landsharks Kickoff Meeting for the year

The effects of low body fat and free beer at the end of the gathering.
On Thursday night the Louisville Landsharks Multisport Club had a gathering for all the athletes and sponsors. For the sponsors they had tables for us to display our products and services. For the athletes they offered a buffet and Landshark beer. There was also a brief meeting to discuss the gowth of the club and what the year ahead offers. A good time seemed to be had by all.
The growth of the club has been amazing over the past year. Membership by years end was up to 167, if my memory serves. Not only has membership grown, but the opportunities for the members to train and socialize as well as compete as a group has increased many fold.
The club is doing extremely well in a competition against other clubs set up by USA Triathlon. In the competition members keep track of their distance in individual sports. December was the swim month, Jan is cycling, and Feb will be running.
If you are a multisport athlete or considering becoming one the Landsharks can be a valuable resource for you. They offer training and racing possibilities, but most importantly they offer association with the other members. If you have ever been around triathletes you know they love to tell stories about their adventures. If you listen close you may pick up some valuable tips.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cardinal Triathlon at Captains Quarters

Big news. There is a new location for the Cardinal Harbour Triathlon. It will be held at Captains Quarters on River Road. Check out their website at This will be a really cool location and after the race participants will recieve lunch prepared by Captains Quarters.

The race will be a week earlier this year on July 9.

The swim will start and finish at the dock at Captains Quarters. With a great vantage for spectators.

The bike will cover much of the same course as in previous years. Rose Island Road will be replaced by River Road and more of 42. Much more of another course athletes seem to have some intrest in.

We are still working out details on the run course. Trying to keep it as flat as possible and getting it approved by the police.

This will be a great event for both the athletes and spectators. Look for complete details in the next few days.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Our thoughts are with you

I am going to refrain from really getting into the details of the accident at the E.P. Tom Sawyer Traithlon for a few days discretion and all. I will vent latter.

If you know me very well warm and fuzzy is not how you would describe me(OK maybe fuzzy) but I would just like to remind everyone to keep the affected people in their thoughts and prayers. First and foremost the family of our brother athlete. Also keep in mind the staff at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park who will have to deal with the fallout of an accident they could not have prevented. Scratch that I should have said crime they could not have prevented. The driver of the car did not accidentally get shit faced and drive he committed a crime(a little venting). My thoughts also go out to all those athletes who witnessed the event or were exposed to the aftermath as they rode by. If there were a way I could take those images out of your heads I would.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cardinal Harbour report

What a day. I think that overall everything went very well. I have heards some good comments. It was one of those days where I spent all my time putting out small fires and could not see much of the big picture. When there is a bike wreck or an aid staition is running low on cups or any of the other 100 of emergencies that comes up it sure seems like everything is falling apart for the entire race. I tell all new race directors it doesn't really matter how bad of an event you have as long as the athletes have a good one everything is great. I need to start listening to that myself.

First thanks to Preston Chiropractic, and Bluegrass Bicycles for their support. To Cardinal Harbour and all the other areas where the people put us with us for the event. To The Coast Guard, and Oldham County Fire and Rescue for keeping us above water. Oldham County EMS for treating our injured. Off Duty Police Services for protecting us on the roads. And of course all the great volunteers who give their time to help us out.

We could not have asked for a better day. High in the mid 70s and water temp of 77. Very little chance of ever getting that weather again for a race in mid July.

The swim went off like a charm. We had help from the Coast Guard, Oldham County Fire and Rescue, and a couple of residents from Cardinal Harbour as well as our normal crew.

The bike portion of the race saw some excitement. There were a couple of accidents and a few locals with attitudes. We also had a situation where the Henry County police who had promised to be at two turns did not show up and created a dangerous situation. Hats off to you guys for your caution in that area.

We had a volunteer who sent about 10 athletes down Goshen Lane on the way out. He called when he realized what he had done. I sent out another volunteer to stop them and he just drove right past. I was prepared to face the wrath of hell when those cyclist rolled back into Cardinal Harbour. Everyone seemed to understand the situation with the volunteer and had a great attitude about it. They were a great group of folks. I think it may have been a big help that Cynthia got to them before I did. She is so sweet it is much harder to get mad at her than me.

The run was flat and cool what more could you ask for? I know mile markers and better mowing of the last part. We will take care of that for next year. We had no problems out on the run, at least that I am aware of.

Max Longree, the winner of last years Ironman Louisville, won the triathlon. I did't get much of a chance to speak with him, but he seems like he would a hard guy not to like. I saw him about a quarter mile into the bike ride. He was in third place at the time and had a smile on his face like it was his first race. He comes rolling into T2 in second place with his hadlebars broken. He had ridden the last five miles like that including Goshen. (scares me with handlebars). He stayed calm and went on to win the race. Most of us would have been mad just because we were going to loose a little time.

It was a great day and we will try to make next year even better.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More bike hate

Cynthia went out and marked the bike course for Cardinal Harbour last week. We went out today and someone had marked over all of our arrows with red paint. Never had that happen before. If someone had thought our arrows looked bad they would have used black or grey paint to look better. It was obviously done just to screw with you. This marking was done only on parts of the course in Oldham County. For those of you who read my blog about the guy in Oldham County last year that complained about the race I did not give all the details. This guy blammed cyclist for some reasonable things such as not supporting local stores, but wanting to use their bathrooms, not staying on the side of the road etc. Can't argue with those things. But he also stated that cyclist have no right to be on the road because we pay no taxes. A fact that easily enough proved to be wrong. Hell if I had to pay no taxes just because I rode a bike I would sell my car. Even better was his explanation of how cycling caused an increase in pollution because it made vehicles slow down and speed up. I think that concept will create enough laughter to negate my need to comment on it. This from a guy who has by his own admission raced cars and motorcycles in the past. Those things cause no pollution. I am sure that when he is pulling his horse trailer it is a zero emissions situation.

I just mention these things because in all the places I have been and all the races I have been involved in I have never ran into these kinds of attitudes. There is a lot of hate out there and it has to be focused on someone. Seems like the guys in spandex with shaved legs are an easy target.

These haters seem lost back in time somewhere. The sports we do are growning popularity every year. Take a look around the country and you will see that every growing community supports healthy lifestyles and activities like cycling. A local government would have to be self destructive to not see that and follow suit. Every community I know of around here is interested in growth so it is not an official problem we deal with. It is a problem with a lunatic fringe that thinks there way is the only way and needs someone to hate. I hearby volunteer to be the focus of their anger. I give enough people real reasons to be mad at me a few more who make shit up won't matter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It has been an eventful last few days. The most important thing that happened today is that Cardinal Harbour sold out. We reached out limit of 300 participants. There will be no race day registration.

Last Friday I went down the Game Farm to check out the trails for an upcoming run. It has been a long time since I have been that excited. The Game Farm is a wonderful place. If you have not been there make a point to see it. For those of you who do not even know what I am talking about the Game Farm is ran by Fish and Wildlife. It is on US 60 just west of Frankfort. There are a couple of lake and picnic shelters along with several picnic tables scattered around. The Salato Center is an educational center with many exhibits and educational programs about native wildlife and restoration projects. There is a small zoo with Bald eagles, bear, elk, bison, deer, wildcats, a drangonfly marsh, and living stream exhibit. In addition to all this there are several miles of trails to enjoy.

Now for my preaching. Everything I just described is funded by Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. They are the department that is in charge of all conservation and restoration projects in the state. No money from the general fund goes to any of these projects they are funded only by the sale of hunting and fishing license and other fees paid by outdoorsmen in the state. The bottom line is no matter how much of an environmentalist you consider yourself unless you hunt, fish, or make a direct donation to Fish and Wildlife you do not contribute to the things in this state that you say you are for. Take a trip to the Game Farm and check it out and I am sure you will want to do more.

On to the next subject. Saturday Cynthia and I went to the New Talon Winery here in Shelbyville. It was a nice experience and well worth the trip have a tasting and sit out over the quarry and have a glass of wine.