I’ve finished 2 Ironman races. Slowly. A while back I wrote a blog post on how I felt that anyone who set their mind to it could complete one (read it here). Obviously I need to qualify that by stating that health issues might make it significantly harder for some, but I stand by my basic premise. I saw a tweet the other day that stated pretty much the same thing but said that most people who might consider it, don’t do one by making excuses for themselves, too expensive; no time to train; haven’t got the kit; can’t swim etc. etc. The situation isn’t helped by what I term “Ironman Machismo.” This has the effect of making Ironman seem attainable only by superhuman freaks who do nothing beyond training. I read a tweet this week from some guy who was doing a 35 hour training week getting ready for an upcoming race. That’s 5 hours every day. I could understand it if the person in question was a pro athlete who could schedule their entire life around training, but this was a first time Ironman athlete aiming for a sub 12 hour time. And therein lies the problem – so many Ironman athletes buy into the macho image. The first question we Ironmen invariably ask is, “How many hours are you doing at the moment?” Lots is good, few is for wimps. Never mind any talk about quality over quantity, in the world of the??ber-athlete quantity trumps quality every time. Looking at Ironman training schedules doesn’t help dispel this image either, they are all complex and all build to large volume weeks in the period leading up to the event. I’m not immune from this either, in fact, I considered that Ironman must be so tough that I didn’t have the nerve to commit to one until I’d done 5 seasons of lesser distance triathlons.

You might be forgiven for thinking that following my argument, Ironman is easy. It isn’t. You need to get very fit and you need to be mentally tough. As Greg Lemond famously said of pro cycling,?? It never gets easier, you just go faster.? So an Ironman is going to hurt, but success needn’t be as difficult as you might think:

  • I did my 1st Ironman at 46;
  • I don’t live on a diet of rabbit food;
  • I can only swim breaststroke;
  • For my 1st Ironman I averaged 7? hours a week training in the 7 months prior;
  • For my 2nd Ironman I averaged 5? hours a week and went over an hour faster;
  • I have never had a coaching session;
  • I have never followed a published training plan;
  • I have never had a sports massage.

For many triathletes, a lot of that might be heretical and they would say that you might go a lot quicker if you got coached, learned to swim properly, ate like an athlete and so on. And they are probably right, to a degree. But you know what? I’ve got a family, a business to run ?and I’m measuring success in my own terms. The weekend coming up is my last hard training before tapering for Ironman Regensburg. The week will have totalled nearly 15 hours if the weather holds good and will be the 4th week of 12 hour a week average. Overall my average for the year is just over 5? hours and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t beat my 2010 time (14:03:06).

'MACCA Ironman Hawaii 2010' photo (c) 2010, Chris McCormack - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

So stop making excuses and sign up for your Ironman (whether that’s a half-marathon, 5k run, or the full monty).