Advice for Ironman Beginners

Ironman Finish lineIf you are reading this it probably because you want to attempt to complete an Iron Distance Triathlon. It’s a daunting prospect, Not just because of the Huge Physical undertaking but also due to the complex Kit and logistic requirements. Hopefully this site can answer any of the myriad of questions you may have or the ones that will arise during your journey.


The more prepared you are the more enjoyable your day will be. It’s important to Remember Even though there will be dark, painful hard parts of the day. It Still should be one of the best days of your life. One to remember forever. And you will never truly replicate the emotion you will feel on the finish line!

First time Iron Distance Triathletes come from a huge variety of places. But hopefully I can break it down into three. If this doesn’t catch you sorry but I’m sure reading the closest fit would still benefit you.


Couch Potato

You don’t do sport, or not really anything you consider Athletic. But you want a Challenge. And you are not one to go for the easy option of a 5k run or a bungee jump. You want to do the unthinkable. And well, from where you are now an Iron distance triathlon is pretty unthinkable! But it’s not unachievable. It may be that from here you best plan is to move into the “short Course Triathlete” Bracket by doing a sprint first, then an Olympic, and then a half. This is the normal route. And probably the best in terms of achieving your best performance. But it’s not essential should you throw yourself in at the deep end. You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last to do this. Chances are you won’t be the only athlete at your chosen event doing an “iron” as their first.

But many people do like the build-up process. Sprints and Olympics in the first year. Half Ironman in the Second and finally a full in the third year. But there are no hard and fast rules. I took the three-year approach from the couch. And I progressed so well I got impatient and did a half-distance at the end of the first year and a Full the year after.

The important point is to have a goal and go for it. Whatever that is Endurance is something we all have we just need to get it to the surface. Iron-distance Racing is almost all Mental. And we all have that Spirt. We just need to discover and utilise that fortitude.

See my Couch to Iron-Distance Starter page for more and if the Distances I spooled out above baffled you See my Triathlon Distance Guide.

Single Discipline Athlete

Next up are the Runners, the Cyclists or the Swimmers. You enjoy your sport and are proficient to a level that is satisfactory for you. Now it’s time for a fresh Challenge. Again this needs to be broken down a little, just two this time.


People are tired of sponsoring you for ANOTHER 10k or Marathon. Interest has dried up when you talk about another century ride. Or your 11th sponsored swim is just not getting the donations. Time to up the Ante and what better way of dialling it right up to 11? Right.

Remember when you told people about your exploits and they looked back at you in stunned silence and reverence. People were impressed, they admired your determination. It’s a great feeling. But it fades as you just repeat the same old. Well if you then told those same people you were doing and Iron-distance Triathlon. Their initial reaction would return. As you reel of the distances in answer to their inquiries you will see something quite amazing happen. A look of complete bewilderment will come over them as they try and comprehend what you just said. “what a full Marathon?” Followed by “You’re Crazy!” It’s a great feeling and I never Tire of it. Bound to get the sponsorships rolling back in!


Been there. Done that. Used the T-shirt as a rag. As much as you love your chosen Discipline it’s just dulled over time by endless repetition. A new Challenge is the perfect remedy to rekindle the Spark. And with Triathlon there is so much to learn. You may have the endurance and stamina to compete in your chosen discipline but that only partially transfers over. Especially for runners and Bikers who have to master the “art” of swimming. And even pool swimmers who suddenly find themselves in the scary dark cold place that is open water. There is so much to take in a learn to complete an Iron-distance Triathlon. It’s So much more than JUST Swim, Bike, Run.


It’s important to note though that the one key thing that got you where you are in your single discipline will get you to the finish of an Iron-distance Triathlon. So much is mental and if you have done a marathon, long sportive/race, or a challenging swim you know all about the mental toughness needed in Long course triathlon racing. Proper Training and preparation will get you where you need to be physically, and its surprising how little you REALLY need. The rest is all in the mind.

See my Runner, Biker and Swimmer conversion guides for more info

Short Course Triathlete

This is the easiest category. You are well aware of the difficulties and challenges of the sport. Maybe you Started in the other two categories and have moved here as a build up to an iron-distance. Maybe you have just competed in Short course because you enjoyed it. Now want to move up to the Ultimate challenge. I mean even the Brownlee Brothers are rumoured to be heading that way.

While you have the easiest and clearest route to the Finish, and probably have a lot of the kit and understanding there are still plenty of huge differences between the sports, in terms of Kit, Training, Mind-set and execution. What works in a Sprint would result in and early DNF in long-course.


See my Going Long page for more details.


Whatever the reason, whatever the starting point. You can make it, anyone can



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *