I got an interesting email yesterday. A women in Germany wrote me to ask what’s the hardest part of doing an Ironman race. At first I felt I was unqualified to provide the answer as I've only done one, and that one was a bit of train wreck. Click HERE to read all the bloody details.
But what the “Hey”. Ignorance has never stopped me before, so Gerta here you go. Here are the ten hardest obstacles to overcome (in order of difficulty) if you want to hear the words “Gerta you are an Ironman!”
10) Signing up for a race:
These may seem silly but most IMs sell out in like 2.5 seconds. So if you want to race you have to be quick on the draw and sign-up the day after the race for the next year. This means that you now have a full year of training or dreading “that IM day” And please trust me when I say that one year is just way way way to long wait. You can train for an Ironman in about 3 to 4 months if you have a good base.
Waiting one year is just like having a long engagement. You have one year to really consider if all those “cute” things your fiancée does, like burping the national anthem, are traits you want to spend the rest of your life with.
The same is true for an Ironman. You’ll have long hours of self-doubt followed by long hours of fear, followed by long hours of dread, followed by long hours of training, followed by long hours of fear, and so on and so forth.
Sometimes I think a better strategy would be to sign-up for a race in the spring, and do it in the fall, and moveon.org.
Logically the chances of you drowning are probably zero. But fear is not logical so this fear looms large in many a non-swimmers psyche. And by non-swimmer I mean any of us who did not grow up swimming competitively.
I’m going to only say this once. I know that you won’t believe me, but you need to hear it anyway.
THE SWIM IS BY FAR THE SHORTEST AND EASIEST PART OF THE RACE!
Please don’t get too stressed by it. Most likely you’ll be wearing a wet suit and they’d have to mercilessly beat you over the head with sharp boat paddles to get you to sink in a wet suit. You’ll be fine and done in no time.
Fear the marathon. I really mean it. The marathon is the only unsupported (and by unsupported, I mean that unlike the swim, or the bike you have to carry your own weight) part of the race. The marathon will most likely determine your day. Be afraid…be very afraid!
8) Training or lack thereof
The really great factor about an Ironman is that you can’t fudge it. There’s no way, no matter how talented you are, no matter how lucky you are, no matter how fit you think you are, that you can just jump into an Ironman.
If you are like most people you’ll know to exactly at what point of your race your training falter or excels. Think of training for an IM like putting dollars in the bank. Every mile you bike, run and swim is another dollar in the bank.
On race day you’ll show up at that bank bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to withdraw all that money you saved up.
And if you’ve done it right, and your get 100 other things right, that money will last you through 144.6 miles. But if you are like most triathletes at some point you’ll run out of cash.
And the great thing is you’ll know exactly (to the minute) when this happens. And the funny thing is you’ll also be able to tell on the faces of the other competitors when this happens to them. At that point your day is either done, or you are in for a very pleasant, but very long walk with a bunch of other penniless triathletes.
7) Weight or lack thereof
The average pro IM triathlete looks like a Nebraska desperation-era farmer. They have no body fat and that’s why they are so fast. If you want to have a good IM you’ll want to be as light as possible.
It probably doesn’t help you so much on the swim, but on the bike or the run excess body weight is your mortal enemy. I’ve heard it said by somebody somewhere that one pound of body weight adds something like 10 minutes per mile on the run to your time…or something like that.
One of your biggest challenges as a fit IM endurance athlete will be for you to be as light as possible on race day.
6) Time or lack thereof
I believe you can probably finish an Ironman race with as little as 10 hours of training per week, but that might be pushing it a bit. If you are an Everyman Triathlete figure you'll need between 10-15 hours a week for about 3 to 4 months before the race to be race ready.
That’s a lot of time to take away from your family, your friends, your work, your television, your mistress, your girlfriend, your dog, your parents, your plants, your church, your poker, your blog, your hobbies, your reading, your vacation, your love life, your garden, your cat, your football, your car, your sleep, your life.
Next time Part II: The 5 hardest obstacles to overcome to hear the words “…..you are an Ironman”