What Ironman is not Supposed to Be…

The following report is from an athlete who shared his race experience on an e-mail list.

Although I imagine Ironman can be many things to different people, I like to think that the overall experience can and should be more uplifting than the “been there, done that” experience that is related below.

“I competed in Ironman Coeur d’Alene on Sunday and wanted to share the experience with you.

Weather: 100+ degrees (but it’s a dry heat!!!)

Motivation: Not suffer excessively and get it over with (so I can move onto other things)

Emotions: relief (getting it over with), pride (having finished under difficult conditions), disappointment (at not having been able to perform my best), joy (not having to train if I don¡¦t feel like it)

Conclusion: Glad I am an Ironman, but the races never brought me joy

Decision: Not do another Ironman for a long time if ever (never say never!)

Future in triathlon: Shorter races (suffering for a few hours is satisfying enough!)

Nuff said!”

Hmm. hardly a banner advertisement for a training/racing process designed to test physical/mental limits which along the way brings an intoxicating mix of joy, accomplishment, and new frontiers.

I do not know the individual who presented this race report, nor do I know the circumstances of his/her training.

However, my general observation is that his/her experience is all too common in Ironman circles, and in my opinion the reason for this is is mistaken reliance on monotonous training methods that are based on volume, volume, and just for variety, even more volume.

Training crap piled on top of training crap leads too many athletes to destroy what should be a fun and uplifting training process, and to ruin their chances at performing up to their potential on race day. Many of these same athletes then go on in subsequent Ironman events to demonstrate the colloquial definition of insanity; that being to somehow expect a different result with the same process.

The Ironman athletes that I train receive the following orientation and which is to serve as their operating principles throughout the training process.

Ironman Focus Period General Training Objectives:

  • To get stronger, fitter, faster each week
  • To enjoy the training process
  • To arrive at the starting line psyched and ready to race.

Warning: The above objectives might seem obvious and be thus discarded without much thought. However, my experience in observing a significant portion of the tri-community prepare for Ironman events is the following:

  • athletes get slower each week and more tired
  • training becomes drudgery, Show many more long rides/runs to go??
  • race day is more a ‘let’s get this over with’ as opposed to a “yeah baby, I’m ready to rock!”


Athletes who are training for Ironman events might do well to consider if their general training method is likely to produce the objectives I outline above. If the answer is no, then I can assure you that your “method” will land you far short of your potential, and be more an exercise in drudgery than one of empowerment…pretty obvious actually.

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