We had an amazing weekend at Ironman Lake Placid. I have been fortunate enough to have finished this race a whole bunch of times, in all sorts of weather conditions, and I have even DNF’d here once. I say that to show to you…. that if that ever happens to you….. there is redemption, there is coming back and there is life thereafter.
Training for an Ironman is no small feat, and it’s no cheap one either. One of my former coaches once stated that training for an Ironman is equivalent to a year of grad school. As someone who has done 8 Ironmans and is currently IN grad school, I concur. Except I think tat Ironman is actually easier (for someone who loves to swim bike and run all day long!).
Ironman takes commitment, but I will never say it takes sacrifice. Sacrifice is donating a kidney. Ironman is a privilege that you commit to. It can be done as someone who works full time, is a parent, and is even a single parent. It all comes down to how you manage your time. I have seen a LOT of Iron divorce. I have also seen people find themselves and their life purpose on these courses. It truly all depends.
So what does it take to complete an Ironman?
1. Commitment: again I refuse to say sacrifice. Commitment comes from you and your entire family. Before you hit the submit button and lay $800 for the entry fee, sign up with a $200 / month coach (and more) you all need to buy into this journey. Whether you are single with a significant other, whether you are a working parent of 4…. you all need to be on board. It means committing to YOURSELF as well. To save family time it means early mornings. I used to begin long rides at 0400. That meant no TV and getting my ass in bed early. Those are the kinds of things you commit to.
2. The training: Depending on which Ironman you choose, the training begins about 9 months out, depending on the athlete. Beginners need a bit longer, veterans can roll it in with seasons easier. How much training can you expect to do? Depends on where you begin. Expect to build to 6-7 hour long rides and runs of 2-3 hours. Expect to train consistently and to slowly build volume over a period of time. Expect to be tired and sore and expect to learn how to manage and utilize that to help you get stronger.
3. The cost: Here is a great article, albeit a little dated that describes the cost. Click here. Items you don’t truly need are things like the anti-fog… but the whole point is that it costs money. Ironman isn’t cheap. One of my former coaches always said this about Kona “Kona is the best of the best who can afford to go.” Ironman is not cheap and I would advise NEVER going into debt for it. I refuse to go into debt for anything much less an Ironman. My apologies for sounding like a downer on this, but it’s that piece of this sport people complain about, yet we choose to do this. There are easy ways to cut costs, and get discounts. But this is a sport we choose to do and we are not entitled to it.
4. The gear: The above article does an adequate job of breaking down costs. You need a bike that works well and you take care of. You don’t need a $10,000 bike with electronic shifting unless you WANT one. You don’t NEED one. I coached many athletes to Ironman finish lines on $3K bikes (Still pricey) and even qualify. It’s the engine, not the bike. You need a wetsuit if it’s a wetsuit swim. There are great deals on good suits everywhere. Do you need a Garmin? No. Some of my best athletes train with a Timex watch. Not even GPS. Ask your fellow Ironman finishers what they thought was necessary and go from there.
4. Coaching: Do you need a coach? Possibly. You might be one of those athletes who does well with guidance or you might be one of those athletes who does well on your own. Plenty of information exists on training plans for Ironman, and many coaches are everywhere. My one tip on coaches: make sure they are certified and have experience. This is a big one for me. Someone who just finishes an Ironman isn’t necessarily a good coach. Certifications demonstrate to the athlete that coaches take their profession seriously, shows they have invested some time in their education, and just shows professionalism in my opinion. Anyone can call themselves a coach and train people for Ironman. That’s easy. Do they have experience aside from their own finishes? Do they invest in their education? I wouldn’t go to a doctor who wasn’t accredited. I wouldn’t use a coach who isn’t certified.
There is so much more I could say about all of this. Ironman is awesome. I loved my Ironman career and I would never trade ANY of it. I will say that I love being on the other side of the journey more. I love to spend a year with an athlete and watch them grow as a human being. I love when they learn to love the journey and not just the outcome. I know what the end of the story is. That’s the easy part. It’s the time in between “Submit” and “Finish line” that I love the most.
Should you sign up? That’s what you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself. There are no guarantees that finish line will be yours. Are you willing to take that chance? Are you willing to find out a lot about yourself? Is your family / support team ready to take this ride with you?
Then go for it. I promise you won’t regret it.