What It’s Like To Be A Professional Triathlete

  • By Jené Shaw
  • Published Jul 29, 2013
  • Updated Jul 21, 2015 at 3:36 PM UTC
Illustrations by Leigh Guldig.

On money:

“You soon realize that the amount of money you make as a professional, even if you’re at a top-caliber level, isn’t that much. You’ve got a short period of time in which you can earn your money. So in a very, very good year, with a coaching business and winning [a top-tier race], I think I earned $110,000 last year, which I think is phenomenal, but most athletes will be lucky if they’re earning $20,000–30,000. I mean, what are you supposed to do with that? If you’re consistently up there, if you have a good year, you are maybe earning $150K. Still you have to consider: Where’s your pension? What if you get injured?”

“Your sponsors don’t pay for your flight, your accommodations, your bike box, stuff like that. Sometimes races will, but only if you’re well known. Your expenses are so high that it throws up a red flag to the IRS. This year I actually got audited as a result—it was a total nightmare. We had to go through and itemize everything, I think it was 5,000 different credit card transactions that all had to be allocated. It was right before a world championship. That just goes to show you how many expenses you have as a pro. Then you get the comments from the amateurs who just don’t get it. ‘Oh you’ve got your bike ride … I’ve got to go to work … you’re so lucky,’ and it’s like, yes we are lucky and I feel grateful, but it’s a lot of hard work. You have to truly love the sport because the return, certainly financially, is not great. But nobody does professional triathlon for the financial gain.”

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FILED UNDER: Features / InsideTri

Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw is a contributor for Triathlete magazine, a six-time Ironman finisher and a USAT Level 1 certified coach

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