7 questions to ask yourself before you sign up for a Half or Full Ironman

I thought I needed to share my thoughts with you as I have had quite a number of my athletes who have done 1-5 sprint triathlons, if they can do a Half Ironman. This is fantastic that so many are so keen, but also a little alarming from a coaching point of view. My personal coaching recommendations, is any athlete that has only been doing triathlons for less than a year - should not do a Half Ironman unless you have a significant base level of fitness from competing in multiple endurance events including:

  • Half Marathons

  • Full Marathons

  • Long Rides over 60KM on a regular basis

  • Able to Swim 1.5km continuously without stopping.

You may ask WHY and I have a number of reasons including:

  • You are still really a "Beginner" in the sport

  • I know it’s exciting starting a new sport - but you have all the time in the world! So don't try and do everything ASAP! Enjoy the process of getting fitter, faster and stronger over longer distances, over time. It does not happen overnight - and you need to be PATIENT and consistent with your training, otherwise your body will break down which nobody wants.

  • I am speaking from personal experience - I wish I waited a couple more years before doing my first.

Ask anyone for their honest opinion the training is hard work. It is more early mornings, late nights, solo long rides and runs, less sleep, more fatigue, feels like the time of the month all the time, muscle tightness and soreness, sore downstairs for riding so damn long, more money spent all all the gear etc. It is a lot of hard work.  I don’t encourage anyone doing a Half or Full in their first year, especially not as their first triathlon. 

So before you rush off and enter the next event on the calendar, I want you to ask yourselves the following questions and be completely honest with your answers.

1) Why do you really want to do a Half Ironman?

Is it for bragging rights? Is it an item on your bucket list? Is it because your friends/partner are doing it and they want you to do it with them? Is it for the personal satisfaction of completing something so mentally and physically challenging? Are Olympic distance events too easy for you and want something harder?

2) What’s my history in the sport?

For a long-course triathlete durability is the key question. Have you accumulated enough training volume over the years to prepare your body for the extreme stress it will endure during the event? Long course triathlon takes a serious toll on the body. It requires 8-12 hours per week of training for 16-20 weeks. "Have your muscular, nervous, digestive and endocrine systems all adapted for this type of stress?"

3) Will my family and friends support the effort?

Given the time you will spend on the road and in the pool, not in the living room or backyard, you need to have your family and friends on-board for the entire adventure. People often joke about not having a social life when training for Half Ironman's and Ironman's - but I really don't think its funny. It can be incredibly lonely. Your partner and family make significant sacrifices for your training too. So make sure you include them in your decision, and explain what to expect over the next 4 -5 months. Triathletes have a very high rate of divorce because it is such a selfish sport (and no I'm not kidding!)

4) How much time do I have to train?

Most of you don’t have the luxury of training full-time. You have day jobs. Some are flexible, others aren’t. When I coach athletes, planning the logistics of training is often the hardest challenge. When can you fit training into your daily and weekly schedule? Can you be consistent with it? Can you devote enough time to each discipline to adequately prepare for the event? Can you balance training with your other work and family, social obligations? What sacrifices do you have to make to accommodate your training needs (and don’t say sleep, because recovery is just as important!). Make sure that you maintain the appropriate work-life balance :)

5) Are you self motivated?

As a coach it is not my responsibility to motivate you to come to training. I cannot drag you out of bed or drive you to training after a long hard day at work! There will be many sessions during the week that you will have to fly solo - are you prepared to do this?

6) Can I financially afford it?

I don't need to tell you how expensive triathlons already are! But if you plan to step up in race distance, prepare to spend more.  Race entires fees are a lot more expensive with 70.3 races going for around $350 and Ironman races between $850-$950. Depending on where the race is be sure to factor in travel, lodging and flights if you need. Competing at a longer distance also means additional training costs, food (you will eat a lot more + race and training nutrition), gear-related and coaching fees.

7) Am I willing to accept that the goal for 95 percent of first timers is simply to finish?

Given the amount of time the endeavor will consume, will you be happy just to say you have crossed the finish line?

Summary

Did I write this to put you off doing a Half Ironman forever? No. Did I write this to put you off for another year? Yes. But I really want you to know what you are getting yourselves into before registering and not rush into it. 

As much as I love seeing people achieve goals, I don't like seeing people fall out of the sport, battle with constant injuries and illnesses and start to hate training and racing simply because they are underprepared. As mentioned before triathlon is a journey, and you need to respect and look after your body throughout it. That includes eating well, drinking well, getting enough sleep and having a social life - training/triathlons should never be your whole life!

I see it all too often people rushing into these events, getting all the gear and then crashing and burning. Concentrate on building a strong base of fitness, having an excellent 2016/2017 Season in Duathlons, Open Water Swims, Charity Rides, Fun Runs, Sprint and Olympics, then you will be ready to go!

Take some time to think about the above and please don't think I am being negative towards long course triathlons etc - I love them! Just want to make sure you will too.

Amy is the Owner and Head Coach of TriChicks and has over 10 years coaching experience.  Amy created TriChicks to help lower the barrier to get women into the sport. 

You can read more about her HERE