I have been wanting to write a: How to decide what Ironman to do? I finally sat down to write it!!
As most of you know I have done 4 Ironman races. They were all M-Dot sanctioned races. I had little to do with any of my selections. Let me explain:
was talked into decided on Ironman Canada 2009 about 3 months before the race. I remember vividly the day Sheryl talked me into it. We were running 15 miles on Wildwood trail. It was a gorgeous morning. She said why don’t you do Ironman Canada with us in August. I thought Please. No way. I barely knew what an Ironman is. Well the bug was already in my head and I knew if I did not sign up I would regret it. I spent the next 3 months training for 140.6 miles. Knowing what I know now I can not believe I got into the race without A) going to Penticton to volunteer/sign up B) signing up a year in advance.
Another friend Shannon had already gotten a group of us to sign up for Coeur d’Alene 2010. I was just following the pack. I went to IMCdA to volunteer and sign up in 2009 for 2010. This was my first big experience with an Ironman. I couldn’t believe that I was going to do this in 2 months. I had signed up for 2 Ironman races and I had never even done one! What the What?!!
I survived those 2. A friend, Christine, wanted to do a “flat” Ironman. She was going to sign up for Arizona 2012. I thought flat is boring but I signed up anyway. That is where I had a huge PR!
My fourth and what I thought would be my LAST Ironman was Ironman Canada but really Whistler. (I still don’t know why they did not just name it Ironman Whistler.) If you don’t know Ironman Canada was in Penticton for 30 years. They changed it to Whistler in 2013. We were actually set to do Lake Placid until we learned that Tri-Bike Transport did not serve Portland to IMLP. We schemed, talked, and eventually voted and decided to do Whistler instead. I still wanted to do LP but the group voted and we were set! (We were happy to be in Whistler and not Lake Placid after we heard about the weather as we were getting ready to swim early that morning of July 27th!)
I tell you this because picking an Ironman is a big decision. There are so many things to think about!
You have to decide if you want to do an “M-Dot” sanctioned event or if you want to pick just a 140.6 mile “iron-distance” race. You may or may not know what I mean by this. Let me explain:
A M-Dot race: a race put on my WTC(World Triathlon Corporation) In my opinion they have the monopoly on 140.6 distance races. When you hear the word “Ironman” this is where it comes from. If you are hoping to qualify for Kona then you have to do one of their races.
Iron-distance race: the same 140.6 miles you do in an “Ironman.” But put on by someone different than WTC. (Challenge, HITS, Beach To Battleship, Vineman, etc)
In my opinion anyone who has raced 140.6 miles is an Ironman. Some people think differently!
You have to decide where you want to race. Somewhere you can drive to? Somewhere close enough that you can train on the course? Do you want to fly with your bike? Do you know about Tri-bike Transport? (I think there is other transport companies but I don’t know about them) Can you pack your bike up in a bike box and travel with it?
Those are huge decisions. 3 of 4 of mine were driving distance. 2 of 4 I trained on the course 4-6 weeks before the race. I used Tri-bike Transport for IMAZ. It worked perfectly. Very easy! Not one complaint!
Other things to consider.
The swim. Not just mass starts anymore. After Ironman(WTC) put out a SwimStart Initiative there are some rolling and wave starts now. If the swim is not your cup of tea then maybe you would want to find a race that is not a mass start. But if you are die-hard and want a die-hard Ironman then maybe a mass start is what you have prepped yourself to do since you started dreaming of 140.6 miles.
The bike. There are courses that are flat, rolling, and lots of climbing. Pick one that you think you will like the best. Ask yourself: Are you a strong cyclist? or a weak one? Do you like climbing? Do you like cruising flat?
Personally the bike is my strongest event. I like climbing. I like hills. 3 of 4 of my races where climb fests. Everyone talks about how AZ is flat. They are wrong. You definitely have a incline on your way out on the Bee-Line Hwy. You are not climbing by all means but it is not flat! I did like AZ. I had a fast bike split. Depends on what you are looking for in a ride. (You also have to think about where you live and where you will train.) If you have no hills to train on then it is probably better to do a flat course.
The run. There are hilly runs and flat runs just like the bike. What kind of terrain do you like to race on?
For me: Running is my weakness but I usually can excel on hillier courses then flat ones! (Case and point: I ran a faster Big Sur marathon then I did RNRAZ ’14)
It is also tougher to decide because you don’t know how your legs will feel after 112 miles on the bike.
Those are just some things to think about when signing up for your first Ironman or I guess your 10th Ironman Or Iron-distance!!
IF I decided to do another one here is my criteria:
NO mass start.
A rolling course (bike/run)
Training and racing an Ironman(or 140.6 miles) is no joke. I think some people sign up for a race thinking it would be “cool” to do. They don’t think about all the hours, blood, sweat, and tears that go into getting ready for an Ironman. There is no such thing an “easy” 140.6 miles. There is nothing easy about the race. You just have to decide most importantly what kind of terrain you want to train and race on. Really ask yourself if this is something that you are willing to prepare yourself for! It is an amazing accomplishment
and some what addicting!
What are your thoughts on Ironman vs. Iron-distance races? Any other tips on what to look for when deciding on a race? How did you decide what 140.6 miles to do?