You Really Want To Do An Ironman?

12 Sep

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:

I 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.
No M-dot.
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?

32 Responses to “You Really Want To Do An Ironman?”

  1. Sherrie September 12, 2014 at 5:20 PM #

    Cool! So you’re going to do Vineman 140.6 next year with me! Or maybe while I do 70.3 Barb’s race on the same day. Cool!! πŸ™‚

    • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 12, 2014 at 7:54 PM #

      I think Vineman is too hot for me! Plus I am not doing 140.6 miles next year! Maybe never again…but possibly 2016!! πŸ˜‰

      • Sherrie Austin September 13, 2014 at 9:09 AM #

        Barb’s race 70.3 there is pretty fun too. The only 70.3 with all women!

        Sent from my iPhone


  2. Luv What You Do September 12, 2014 at 6:02 PM #

    Interesting that you wouldn’t do an M dot next time. I’d love to do a 70.3 but need to find some people to train with a a year that’s not so busy : )

  3. Kecia September 12, 2014 at 6:23 PM #

    Great list!! Have you looked at the Challenge brand or HITS brand? I’ve considered them, but haven’t pulled the plug yet…I’m still planning to do one more IM brand event. I just have to decide which race and when πŸ˜‰

    • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 12, 2014 at 7:51 PM #

      Yes! I would love to do a Challenge (and REV3 and Challenge just merged…did you hear about that?). The problem is they are on the east coast. I would do Penticton again(which is Challenge now) but I think I want to do something different! I have heard HITS is good but small. Like you are out there by yourself.
      Why do you want to do another IM brand? (Just curious) πŸ™‚

      • Kecia September 13, 2014 at 4:34 AM #

        Since I’ve done an IM brand event twice, but at the same venue, I want to experience it elsewhere, but definitely want to do the Challenge/Rev3 brand as well. I had not heard that they merged yet, so thanks for sharing!!

      • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 13, 2014 at 8:01 AM #

        That makes sense! Do you have criteria?! πŸ™‚

        Yes! Very interesting!!!

      • Kecia September 13, 2014 at 11:05 AM #

        I’m thinking either boulder or whistler. Boulder is closer to us, but at elevation. We’ll see πŸ˜‰

      • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 13, 2014 at 1:31 PM #

        What about Lake Placid?

      • Kecia September 13, 2014 at 1:39 PM #

        I’ve thought about that one as well, we’ll see which direction life takes me πŸ˜‰

  4. Jonathan94002 September 12, 2014 at 9:15 PM #

    Yeh, I was going to ask why no M dot too. I did just get this book -> (“You are an Ironman”.) I’m not planning on it, but I still appreciate the list. πŸ˜‰

    • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 13, 2014 at 8:03 AM #

      I am totally over the m-dot races! Just too big!!

      That was an amazing book!! Let me know what you think after you read it!

      You just wait!! You have only begun doing tris but it is addicting and the next thing you know you will be signing up for a full!! Mark my words!! πŸ™‚

  5. Lee @ Tri*Inspired*Life September 13, 2014 at 7:23 AM #

    This is a great write-up and I think you covered a lot that one should consider. This can be EXTREMELY helpful to folks trying to make this decision. We have similar mind sets, because I used much of this same criteria! Two additional things I considered were (1). “typical” weather conditions at the race/location. I chose Lake Placid because I could train in heat and humidity (NC) and race in cooler conditions (typical). Of course weather is tricky and can deliver something atypical on race day, but this was a big consideration for me. Even though I can train in heat, I knew I did not want a “hot” race like Louisville. (2). One additional thing regarding the swim is salt vs. fresh. I knew I did not want a salt water swim, so Florida was out for me.

    I knew I wanted an Ironman race as my first. They are the “mack daddy”, shall we say, and I wanted to experience one of theirs at least for my first time. My first half was not a WTC-brand (I did Beach to Battleship half) and my second half was Raleigh 70.3. Both great races, but definitely some differences. I think the WTC event felt a bit higher end/more of a production than B2B, which is a GREAT race, but produced by a far smaller company (Set-Up Events). (Note: I recommend both races and would do both again).

    BTW – Unbelievable that you signed up for your first IM 3 months before the race! Impressive!!

    • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 13, 2014 at 7:59 AM #

      Yes!!! Both of those are great things to think about!! I just read Kecia’s IMWI Swim post and I forgot to also mention 1 loop vs 2 loop on the swim. I think that makes a huge difference as well!

      I think a lot of people are like you: They want to do an “Ironman” as their first because if they are only going to do 1 it has to be an m-dot. OR if they want an Ironman tattoo(M-dot) it has to be an Ironman.

      Of course looking back at that Memorial Day in 2009. Had Sheryl said we are doing Vineman I would have not known the difference. It is still 140.6 miles.

      I have heard great things about B2B. That could possibly be my 5th. I don’t like the idea of salt water though!! 😦 That of course being if I decide to do a 5th! πŸ˜‰

      • Lee @ Tri*Inspired*Life September 16, 2014 at 8:36 AM #

        IF you are considering B2B Full…keep considering it! It is probably the FASTEST swim for a full distance out there. It is salt water, but not ocean. It is with the current…people say that you can get in and simply float to the swim finish (sort of a joke, but sort of true, too…). I am not a strong swimmer, but when I did B2B half, that set my swim PR for that distance. It is in a wonderful town (where I went to college) and it a fun place to visit/race.

      • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 17, 2014 at 9:16 PM #

        It is definitely my 1st choice. My only thing is it is across the country!
        I really like the idea of a fast swim/fast race cause my PR is at IMAZ!! πŸ™‚

  6. Kristina September 13, 2014 at 4:09 PM #

    One major factor for me was/is timing, and I’ve read that this should be a criterion when picking an iron-distance race (M-dot or otherwise). I’m a teacher and fall is crazy busy, so there is no way that I could ever train like I need to in the fall months. So, while IMAZ is popular with so many people in my tri group, I would never ever sign up for that race (even if I could get in) because training is not a priority during the fall months.
    IMCdA was my first, and I definitely chose it because of the timing, location but also because I’d heard that it’s a beautiful course. And it was! I was so happy with that decision, for many reasons, and I’d actually love to do IMCdA again (one of these years).

  7. katielookingforward September 15, 2014 at 7:00 AM #

    Right now with so many races exploding, I would choose a more historical race location than one that has just popped up. I do think when I get to the 140 distance (if I get there) that I will choose ironman branded. but that’s probably 3-5 years away.

    • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 15, 2014 at 7:53 PM #

      Awesome! That is a good idea! I would recommend IM Canada except it has changed to Whistler. It was very historical in Penticton! But Lake Placid is probably your best bet now!! πŸ™‚

  8. Kristen September 15, 2014 at 8:44 AM #

    I wonder what determines whether an Ironman has a mass swim start or wave start. It seems like they have been slowly transitioning over to wave starts, but I wonder if this will be the case for all triathlons eventually. Part of me feels as though a mass swim start would be good because I could start in a comfortable position and not have to worry about other waves catching up and swimming over me. Maybe that works better for slower swimmers?

    I think a big factor for me would be the timing of the race and the conditions I am training in. A winter race would be hard for me because I would have to do most of my training indoors (not ideal, for me at least). If I lived somewhere warmer, this would be a non-issue.

    Thanks for the helpful tips and advice!!

    • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 15, 2014 at 7:58 PM #

      Good question! I think it probably has to do with beach access. You could never do a wave start in AZ because you have to jump off a dock and swim 200 meters to the start line.. I think some will probably stay waves and some will be mass!
      I think for you and staying off the buoy line is the best bet no matter if you are doing a mass start or wave start!

  9. Change of Pace September 16, 2014 at 5:23 AM #

    Love this, Leslie! I also think people should consider whether they’ll have spectators coming to watch…what would be a fun and decently easy place for them to get to?
    In Canada, or at least where I’m from, tribiketransport doesn’t offer their services. That was definitely a factor in deciding where we’d race!
    I also have said if/when I do another race I’d do a non-ironman one, most likely a Challenge.

    • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats September 17, 2014 at 9:27 PM #

      Yes another good tip Abby!!
      **Beach to Battleship 2016** think about it!! πŸ™‚ I hope you are having a great summer!!!

  10. Single-Tracked Mind September 17, 2014 at 4:26 PM #

    Love this post! I don’t think I would ever do an IM (mostly because I don’t like biking and the thought of sitting on a bike seat makes me shudder). Jesse only does ironmans with the word “lake” in them: Lake Placid, Lake Stevens, Lake Tahoe (ok, so he’s done other ones too, but we find that trend to be humorous :)).

  11. Jesica @rUnladylike October 2, 2014 at 6:47 PM #

    After spectating at IM Chattanooga this weekend, I felt like I wanted to do a full for the first time ever. I don’t know when that will happen and when my life could allow it, but I know I want to do one (and done) some day. I was so moved by the experience. Thanks for your insights and advice. xo

    • Leslie @ TriathleteTreats October 6, 2014 at 9:12 PM #

      Spectating an IM is so much fun!! That is how a lot of my friends got sucked in…just by going and watching!
      I think that you should think about B2B full 2016!! πŸ˜‰

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