Hi Susan. I read your blog on your fabulous finish at Ironman Wisconsin and I was really inspired! I’ve been googling around about the race for awhile, just finished my first half Ironman, and am flirting with the idea of IMWI 2014.
I guess I worry about how much investment I need to make–do I have to buy a tri bike, hire a trainer, etc?
About once a week, I get an e-mail like Margaret’s. Every time, I have to exercise restraint.
If it were up to me, I’d register every triathlete for an Ironman. Heck, I’d probably register non-triathletes for an Ironman, too. After all, I’m the one who says Anyone Can Do an Ironman.
And so, with every e-mail like this one, I suppress the urge to respond with an OVERLY ENTHUSIASTIC MESSAGE! BECAUSE! IRONMAN! IS! SO! RAD!!! (I, ahem, use a lot of capital letters and exclamation points to convey said enthusiasm. Also, 90’s-era words like “rad.” Told you I had to exercise restraint.)
If you’re considering taking on an Ironman triathlon, consider these questions first.
1. Do I really want to do an Ironman?
There’s this weird importance placed upon Ironman in the triathlon world. Somehow, folks have gotten it into their head that they have to do an Ironman in order to be a “real” triathlete.
That is a total crock of shit.
Riding your bike for 6 hours might not be your idea of a good time. You may have a need for speed that simply can’t be fulfilled by an 18-mile training run. Or maybe you simply just don’t want to do an Ironman, even though everyone says you should. It’s okay, you can admit it. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. You are not any less of a triathlete because you choose to blast a concentrated dose of your awesomeness on the sprint distance instead of trickle it over 140.6 miles.
2. Can I do an Ironman?
This is much, much different from simply wanting to do an Ironman. If you have any doubt about the health of your body, consult with your doctor to make sure your body is able to handle the demands of a heavy training load, plus racing for 10 to 17 hours. The good news? Most people are physically capable of doing an Ironman in their lifetime. They just say they can’t.
“Can’t” and “won’t” – there’s a big difference between the two words. Use the correct one, please.
3. Do I have the time?
In peak training periods, you may spend 15 hours per week (or, depending on your training plan, more) swimming, cycling, running, lifting weights, doing yoga, stretching … in other words, moving in preparation for race day. That’s a lot of time!
But Ironman is a demanding mistress, and isn’t done eating your time just yet. You also need to consider the time it takes to prepare nutrition, maintain your bike, drive to and from workouts, sit in ice baths, foam-roll, go to doctor appointments, get massages, wash dirty training clothes, read up on training advice and nutrition strategies, and get adequate amounts of sleep. You’ll still have to maintain some semblance of family life, employment, and social engagement, too.
In other words: There are 24 hours in a day. Is that enough time for you to do it all?
4. Am I financially able?
Like Margaret’s letter, above, most of the questions surrounding an Ironman registration are centered around the financial aspect of the race. The good news: You don’t need a ten-thousand dollar triathlon bike and a 900-dollar wetsuit to do an Ironman.
The bad news: You still have to drop quite a few Benjamins.
If you’re already equipped with swim goggles, a road or triathlon bike, helmet, bike shorts, tech tee, and a pair of running shoes, you’ve technically got all the gear you need to finish an Ironman.
The key word here, of course, is “technically.” There are a lot of other costs to include in your Ironman budget.
The race entry fee is sticker shock for a lot of people – it can be anywhere from 500 dollars to over 1,000 dollars. If you travel to the race, you’ll need to consider those costs as well.
Then there’s everything you’ll need over the course of your training: gym or pool memberships, specialized nutrition gels/drinks/bars; bike parts and maintenance, such as spare tire tubes; sunscreen, chamois creams, and first-aid materials; replacement shoes, socks, and goggles; and food – a huge budget category in and of itself.
Slowly but surely, other costs will begin to sneak in: Your bike seat may be fine for a 20-mile ride, but once you hit 75 miles your fun bits might not be so fun anymore…and you’ll find yourself plopping down money for a new bike seat and better cycling shorts. When you learn the water for your Ironman swim will be 55 degrees, renting or purchasing a wetsuit suddenly becomes a necessity for you to survive a 2-hour swim. Doctor’s office co-pays when you get injured, bike trainers to ride indoors during icy winter days, and entry fees to shorter races so you can practice your race-day execution … the list goes on.
I can’t put a dollar amount on it. Everyone is different. Over the last few years, I’ve discovered ways to cut corners and save money in almost all of these areas. But you’ll still have to spend a good chunk of change.
5. What do my family, friends, and employers think?
An Ironman is not a solitary effort. Though you’re the one doing all the training and racing, it directly impacts all elements of your life. It’s important you take into consideration how this decision will impact other areas of your life.
Talk with your spouse or partner, family members, friends, and employers to make sure they’re supportive of the time and energy this process will take. They’re affected, too. Listen to any concerns they might have, and remember that each of them is a valuable member of your team.
“Wait a minute, this is a buzzkill. What happened to the exclamation points? Do you not want me to do an Ironman?”
This is why I say I have to exercise restraint when I talk to people interested in doing an Ironman. It’s easy to get excited, especially if you’ve recently been hanging out at the finish line of an Ironman triathlon – everyone is so happy there! But in actuality, there’s a story behind each of those Ironman finishers. Like marriage, Ironman is not to be entered into lightly.
That said, I’ll let you in on a little secret:
When you arrive at the finish line, sweaty, breathless, and insanely happy … it’s worth every dollar, hour, and sore muscle it took to make it happen.
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