Gearing up for the Ironman is no easy endeavor. The 140.6-mile triathlon is meant to challenge even the most experienced athletes, including yourself. The Ironman is held in many different cities and regions with varying landscapes with their own set of challenges. There's an Ironman race held right in our backyard here at BiSaddle. Completing an Ironman is a significant achievement, one that requires a substantial amount of training and dedication. Comfort while racing should also be one of your priorities when selecting your gear for training and the race itself, grab one of our adjustable bike seats to ensure ultimate comfort while on your bike. Learn what you should consider before and how to achieve comfort while competing with this guide to one of the world's most difficult yet rewarding races.
What is an Ironman Triathlon?
The Ironman is a long-distance endurance race combining three disciplines, swimming, cycling, and running, into one day-long race. The race is considered one of the most challenging sporting events in the world. The Ironman begins in the water with a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bike ride, and a 26.2-mile (42.2 km) marathon run, raced in that order without a break. The race typically takes about 12 to 14 hours, while some athletes complete it in under 10 hours. It's important to note that there are half-Ironman races; while it still carries the Ironman name, it is not a full Ironman race. Instead, the shorter race is only 70.3 miles, which is still an impressive feat that might be more suitable if you are a first-timer.
In the 1970s, John and Judy Collins, residing in Hawai'i at the time, organized the first Ironman triathlon. Little did they know in years to come, their race would become more prominent than they could ever imagine. The Ironman is now held in many different cities and countries
worldwide, some as far as Lima, Peru. There is even an event held here in St. George, Utah, where BiSaddle is based! The Ironman has increased in popularity over the years, with thousands of competitors taking the challenge each year.
While the race distance remains the same, the scenery and terrain are different depending on where you decide to compete. Specifically, here in Southern Utah, the swim portion is in a reservoir rather than the ocean, but you get to enjoy the breathtaking million-year-old red rock landscape. Many competitors that have previously completed the Ironman suggest selecting a location similar to your training. For example, if you are training for the biking portion of the race on flat ground rather than hilly terrain, selecting a location with a more flat route might be best.
Training for the Ironman
Because the Ironman race focuses on three separate disciplines, training entails more than your average race. Depending on your athletic background, training can easily be implemented into your current routine; however, someone with little athletic training or a busier lifestyle might have to sacrifice other activities to dedicate more time to their training. Most active people can "wing" a 70.3 Ironman race. This approach won't get the best results, but they might complete the race. Dedicating time and effort to your training, diet, and mental health is essential leading up to the race.
How much do you need to train to finish an Ironman Triathlon? Completing an Ironman is not a simple task or something you can do without training. Generally, most athletes dedicate between 11 and 14 hours per week. If you are already well-versed in swimming, cycling, and running, you already have a head start. With a solid base, you could realistically train for about 12 weeks. Some say you should give yourself about a year to properly prepare for the Ironman, which isn't a bad idea considering you must sign up for the race a year in advance. Use the energy and excitement of signing up to kickstart your motivation!
There is a reason people seek out triathlon races like the Ironman – they're hard. While the Ironman requires many hours of training, you must also consider the mental aspect of preparing for your race. Stepping out of your comfort zone, even forcing yourself, is unnatural. It's important to set goals as you train to watch yourself improve. Seeing gradual improvements will keep you motivated. As you find yourself in more challenging physical and mental situations, you will be able to endure them better. Building your mental toughness will definitely help you push through on race day!
Training is essential in completing an Ironman race, and planning comes with such a big project. There is much more to training than just the athletic aspect. Your diet and lifestyle must align with your training and the ultimate goal of completing the Ironman. Your comfort while preparing and on race day should also be a priority. Consider an adjustable bike seat designed just for you to save your backside while spending time training. Be realistic about the time you dedicate to training and other habits. Look over an average week and determine when, where, and how long you must allocate your time. You can then decide when to do each portion of training, from swimming to cycling to running, and most importantly, recovery. Be sure to allow time for your body to rest and recover for effective training and results. Keep in mind that everyone can do the Ironman if they put in the time to plan, train, and follow through with their goal.
Considering a coach might be necessary in some cases. Take some time to plan your training and determine what areas you might feel unprepared for. If you feel that you lack skill in one area, taking a lesson or consulting with an experienced coach might help you feel more confident while training. There are countless options for training plans designed by other athletes or coaches; it's just a matter of finding one that suits your training style and time constraints. You will eventually find your rhythm, and over time you will feel yourself improving and getting more comfortable in all disciplines.
Gear For the Ironman
The Ironman Triathlon is lengthy, and you will most likely find yourself in some discomfort on race day. Throughout your training, you will come to realize that there is some equipment necessary in order to race confidently and comfortably. Each discipline is extremely gear-heavy, from your bike seat to a wetsuit to proper running shoes. To begin with, you might not need everything, but starting with the basics will help you get on the right track.
In the swimming portion, you will need the following:
- A Wetsuit: It is not only for warmth but can also increase your buoyancy, improving your speed.
- A Swim Cap: Most all Ironman races require a swim cap. The cap will keep you warm and prevent your hair from being a distraction while competing.
- Goggles: While open-water swimming, goggles can improve your visibility and protection.
In the cycling portion:
- A Bike: This might be obvious, but the type of bike might help you perform better. A Tri-specific bike will be faster and more comfortable. Especially with an adjustable bike saddle like this one! (LINK)
- A Helmet: All Ironman events require a helmet. More expensive helmets are usually lighter, more ventilated, and more aerodynamic.
- An Adjustable Bike Seat: Set yourself up for a comfortable 112-mile ride. Check out our adjustable split nose, center cutout, and traditional bike seats designed especially for triathletes. Try the saddle selector here to see which seat would suit you best!
And finally, the running portion:
- Running Shoes: Some athletes prefer lightweight or breathable shoes, while others prefer more rigid trainers. Whichever you prefer, you will need a pair that are broken in and comfortable.
Above anything else, you will definitely need a water bottle. Hydration is crucial when participating in any athletic activity. Invest in a storage system that allows you to drink while riding a bike and to carry more water than you need. Stay hydrated while competing! Sunglasses are also good for your race's cycling and running portions, especially if you're competing in sunny St. George! Other things to remember are a race belt, chafe cream, and tri-specific clothing to wear the entire race without discomfort.
You CAN Become an Ironman
The Ironman race requires countless hours of training and preparation. Each discipline requires a significant amount of preparation and familiarity. Learning what it takes to be an Ironman is the first step in deciding to participate. Anyone willing to dedicate time to preparing for the race will most likely perform well. Build your training plan to keep you on track physically, but also take the time to prepare yourself mentally. Having proper support from friends and family will keep your motivation high. Keep your eye on your end goal throughout your training and the day of the competition.
Being comfortable during the race is extremely important. Everything from the goggles you wear to the bike you ride will mean the difference between a confident race and an uncomfortable one. Taking the time to test and select the best equipment will ensure comfort throughout the competition. For example, a custom bike seat to fit your body and riding style will make that 112-mile bike ride much more enjoyable. (Check out our Saddle Builder for a one-of-a-kind bike saddle!)
The Ironman race is not only a physical challenge but also a mental one. With the right approach, anyone can complete the race. Still, proper planning and training are necessary to reach the finish line. Consider your athletic abilities and lifestyle and plan accordingly. Whether you're gearing up for a full or half Ironman, this guide provides valuable tips and insights to help you succeed. Now that you know what it takes, are you up for the challenge?