I know that I'm not a fitness blogger and most of you could care less about triathlons, but I thought this topic might be helpful for some people who might Google search the blog or want to participate in an Ironman in the future.
Fun fact: the largest group (by far) of athletes at our Ironman were the >40 men. To these guys who normally have well-paying jobs, the cost of an Ironman doesn't usually become a big factor in their planning. According to the race organizers, the average salary of the participants was >$150,000! For a <30 female with a husband also participating and a very tight "fun money" budget, the value of the experience was definitely on my mind!
An Ironman is a multi-sport endurance triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. The professionals finish in around eight hours while the rest of the group has to finish in under 17 hours. It begins at 7:00 am and ends at midnight. The race is responsible for providing a safe course, food, drinks, medical staff, volunteers and clean-up for the event. The athletes have to provide their own equipment, attend mandatory meetings, and get from point A to point B.
The entry fee alone was.... wait for it... $650 (each).
Yep. Doesn't sound super thrifty does it? This fee covers things like road closures, food, medical staff, etc. Seeing as there are iron-distance triathlons out there that do it for $100-300 cheaper, I'm not sure how much of the fee was necessary and how much we were paying for the name brand race. We, of course, had to do this event at least once because we wanted to be "Ironmen" officially and not just "Iron-distance men."
They make you come into town the Thursday before the Saturday event
What they give you:
For Ironman Texas, we received: a finisher's shirt, a finisher's hat, a medal, and a really nice backpack. I'm not sure that you get the finisher's items if you don't finish because they hand them to you at the finish line.
I went into the race upset with myself for feeling the need to do a name brand race. As we did a 100-mile bike ride during our training, I thought, "People pay a lot of money to participate in century bike rides. Why are we paying a lot for this Ironman. We could just do the same distances on our own!" It wasn't until I was participating in the race itself that I really understood the value of the experience.
- The crowds/ volunteers that show up for an Ironman (vs. iron-distace) are amazing.
- The organization and support provided by the company is absolutely top-notch.
- A racing environment is actually fun. Doing a 14-hour workout alone at home is not so much fun.
- I know that I'll be able to refer back to this race at age 90 and impress great-grandchildren similar to the way people can bring up climbing a certain mountain peak or running a marathon.
My tips for first-timers:
- Train to finish in <14 hours.
- Arrive before transition opens.
- Park near the bike transition.
- Remind your friends/ family to take pictures of you.
- Follow your nutrition plan! Don't make any decisions during the race.
- Don't stop during the race unless you need to stop.
- Don't allow yourself to think quitting is an option. Plan on crawling across the finish if you need to.
Was it harder than you thought it would be?
Yes and no. I knew going into it that I would/ could finish and I had experience with doing a half Ironman before. The Ironman was just so exhausting! I started crying during the bike at mile 85 when I realized that I had two more hours of cycling then, during the run, I was thisclose to laying down on the side of the trail and taking a nap.
I've said before that a 5k race can be just as hard as a half marathon depending on how hard you're pushing yourself. The Ironman doesn't even compare to any race. A half Ironman is easy compared to doing a full. EASY. Still... I think that any able-bodied person that puts in the training can complete an Ironman.
Did you stop and take breaks?
I did stop/ walk a few times. I mostly tried to keep up a good pace so that I could bank the time in case of a flat tire or other issues. I stopped twice during the bike to stretch my legs/ use the restroom. Then, on the run I walked through a lot of the water stops while I re-hydrated/ re-fueled... up until mile 19 where I started throwing up. I sat at the medical tent for a while to regroup and then ran/ walked until I threw up again. I walked the last 4ish miles because my stomach was upset and it was really nice to have that option because I had the extra time built in. Remember, finishing after midnight meant "not finishing."
How do you go to the bathroom?
Porta-Potty. They had food/ restrooms every 10ish miles on the bike and every mile on the run.