When should I do my first IRONMAN?
Many of us got into the sport for one reason: because we imagined our name being called over the sound system followed by, “You! Are! An! IRONMAN!”
You might have stumbled across the Hawai’i World Championship on tv or maybe you heard whispers about a friend or family member who completed the feat years ago.
It’s an alluring thought to earn the title IRONMAN, but is it one you should jump into right off the bat? That’s what we are discussing today.
What’s your sporting background?
To put it simply, 140.6 miles is hard on the body. Not just on the day, but in the hundreds of hours it takes to train for it.
If you come from a running background, especially marathons or ultras, the training volume might be a little easier on you because your body is accustomed to the pounding.
Swimmers, cyclists, weightlifters, baseball players, sure you may have a strong fitness background, but none of this truly prepares you for the abuse of running.
Running by far has the biggest toll on the body during IRONMAN training and will most likely be where injuries occur. If you don’t have a running background it’d certainly be beneficial to take a season and focus strictly on running and distance running, to prepare your body.
What’s your training history?
Triathletes who have been in the sport for years can find it a lot easier to adjust to the volume, especially if they have done 70.3 training previously.
That’s not to say it will be easy, but there will be less body adjustment compared to someone who is new to the sport of triathlon.
Also, don’t just assume because you’ve done one 140.6 the second will be easier. You are never the same athlete at any race. Training volume, work and life stress, fatigue, fitness. Everything in life plays a role in how you show up on race day.
Entering another IRONMAN with pride of having finished another (especially if it was only one) is a very easy way to end up humbled by the distance.
What’s life like at the moment?
This is one that should weigh heavily in the decision-making process. 140.6 training can be all-consuming. Not only are you training 12-18 hours each week, when you aren’t training you are either working, eating or recovering. There’s not time for much else.
If you are anticipating big changes at work, moving, a new child or even entering a season with a lot of family commitments, it may not be the right time for you.
To be frank, IRONMAN is also really expensive. Aside from race registration, hotel and travel, you also have to account for the amount of nutrition it’ll take to fuel countless long sessions (both during and after the session), gear you’ll go through (running shoes and tires) and many other small expenses add up.
Make sure you, and those who also need to be involved in the decision, enter into the IRONMAN season with eyes wide open as to what it’ll take; both in regards to time and finances.
What are your goals for triathlon?
Are you getting into triathlon for the long haul or just for the title? The reason I ask is because 140.6 is also incredibly taxing mentally. There is a lot of determination and even more forced workouts that come into play during the build.
Many people, by the time they are done with an IRONMAN are completely burned out and ready to stop training. Those who are new to the sport have a hard time ever finding the motivation to train again.
In our experience, if you want to be in the sport for a long time, jumping straight into IRONMAN can be counterproductive.
But maybe, you are wanting to end your triathlon career with something big and it doesn’t matter if your body and mind are done with triathlon and so an IRONMAN season is the perfect way to “go out.”
And of course, if you just want the title and to be done with triathlon, that’s your prerogative and choice.
If you’ve done an IRONMAN, we’d love to hear what you’d add to this list. If you haven’t, what other questions are you asking before you pull the trigger?
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