5 Checks to master before you enter an Ironman

Ironman races typically have a huge number of first-timers. But are they all ready for the challenge? Five skills you need to have before you enter a full-distance event.

| August 9, 2017 | TRAINING

Athletes prepare for the start at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt.

Athletes prepare for the start at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt.

Photo >Michael Rauschendorfer

Doing an full-distance race is still a pretty big deal to many people around the world. Each race we go to we see more an more first timers taking on the challenge. Before you do sign up, here are five things that you need to check off before you enter. It’s not a "how to," but a few things to get you thinking.

Don’t do an Ironman if you can’t……

Swim. A lot has been made about the fact that Ironman and other races around the world have been "soft" on conditions and participants have taken "floating time outs," etc. The Ironman swim leg seems to be the greatest fear for many who are attempting to go the full distance. If you aren’t a very strong swimmer, the solution is simple, get better. It may delay the start of your full-distance racing, but nothing looks worse, or is as dangerous, as a floundering swimmer being pulled out of an Ironman swim after a few hundred meters. The Ironman was set up as a test, so expect that there will be challenging components to this event. The swim being generally the top of the list.

Be a realist. Be realistic about your time, abilities and goals and you will love it. Target times, for the most part, for first timers should be irrelevant. The goal in your first full-distance is to finish. How well you finish is subjective, but too many athletes get caught up in the minutiae of numbers. Then, if and when plan A goes to crap, you are left with a horrible sinking feeling that you have failed somehow. While it’s OK to have a goal time, it can’t be the total of your day. Also, be a realist in terms of what you need in terms of gear. If you are going to be seven hours on the bike, chances are the money you drop on an aero helmet could be better used elsewhere.

Share. This day is not about you! OK, it’s a little bit about you, but don’t forget those who have made it possible for you to achieve your dreams. Don’t be so zen focused you end up being a douche and miss out on the experience and the fun of an interactive race. The cliche "it’s all about the journey" is a good one, but while on the journey make sure you share energy. High five volunteers, family, mates and love the fact that Ironman is a day where people will spot your name (on your number) and offer you random encouragement, hugs and whatever else they can do to get you to the finish. And, while you don’t have to stop and thank everyone, when you can, (energy permitting) give a little back.

Adapt. Every race you go to will throw something unique at you. The swim may get cancelled due to high winds, the weather might turn unseasonably hot or cold, or you might just be having the worst (or best) day on record. The tip is to adapt to what’s thrown at you. The ability to be flexible is the key and, let’s be honest, whatever happens to you during the race will make a great story at the pub afterwards. You can always embellish a little too!

Decipher/filter advice. This article included, there are literally millions of articles, books, papers, blogs and short "how to blogs" for you to get information from. Then while training, everyone you ride with will want to give you the skinny on how to get it done properly. The best advice is to nod at everyone and thank them for their input and then basically stick to a few trusted people who have been there before. Coaches and training partners are great for advice, but you have to be able to make that work for you. Training or nutrition plans done "because everyone else is doing it" is a short term proposition. If it works, keep doing it. Otherwise carefully work through the ton of information you’ll get hammered with.