A lot of people have heard of an Ironman. But it seems from talking to them very few really know what its is. or what the ironman triathlon distance is. I know this because of the look on their faces when you tell them! So lets get into it. What is an ironman triathlon.
A Triathlon is an event where the athlete performs 3 separate disciplines one after the other with no rest. First come the swim, then the bicycle leg followed by the run. This is true for almost all triathlon events. The different types and names you hear are related to the distance of the legs. These start with the diminutive Sprint triathlon.
400 meter Swim – 20km (12mile) Bike – 5k (3.1 mile) Run Pool based Sprint triathlon
750 meter Swim – 20km (12mile) Bike – 5k (3.1 mile) Run Open Water based Sprint Triathlon
As you can see the name Sprint is a bit deceptive as there is not a great deal of sprinting going on with those distances. Its a really tough event and the perfect starting point.
Olympic Distance / Standard Distance:
1500 meter Swim – 40km (25mile) Bike – 10k (6.2 mile) Run
This is the standard bearer of triathlons and the one most people think of when you say triathlon. This is the distance raced during the Olympics, hence the name. At these distances thinks are really tough the swim is the equivalent of 60 25m pool lengths but swum in the open water either lakes, rivers or the ocean. often in murky cold water. just completing the swim is an incredible achievement. And many people view a 10k run as a good “challenge” event. Times tend to be in the 2hr range for the very fast guys and girls with anything under 2:30 considered a very fine achievement.
Normally when you tell someone you are doing an Ironman Triathlon they instantly think of the Olympic event. This normally triggers looks and sounds of admiration. But they probably don’t know the exact distances so will follow up with a question. “So what are the distances ?” and you get to real off the following:
Ironman / Iron distance Triathlon:
2.4 Mile (3.8km) Swim
112 Mile (180km) Bike
26.2 mile (42km) Marathon Run
Peoples reaction tend to be quite amusing….If that was you first time hearing it I imagine you probably just had a similar reaction. I know I did. They are all pretty unthinkable distances. People don’t always know how to process that. They understand what its like to DRIVE 112 miles and probably consider that a long and arduous drive. They know a Marathon is the ULTIMATE running distance. How does anyone run one AFTER riding that far….how does anyone do ANYTHING after that ride!
Don’t forget the swim though. Nearly two and a half miles of open water swimming, Its 152 equivalent pool lengths. But open water swimming just doesn’t equate to pool swimming. Its normally the discipline most people struggle with.
This is all done back to back within a strict time limit Normally 17hours. Its ok to rest between or during events (although maybe not the swim) but the clock is still ticking. Its one continuous incredible effort.
It can be very hard to imagine yourself ever being able to complete this incredible feat. Even Marathon runners or century (100mile) cyclists still struggle to see how they could possibly achieve such a mammoth under taking. Non athletic people simply cannot believe it could ever be possible to even do a standard distance let alone a ironman. People assume you need to be a genetic freak. A super human. But you don’t.
You can do an Ironman too! Anyone can. I honestly believe that. see my can I complete an Ironman post for further reading.
There a few other distances available such as the Half Iron Distance (or Ironman70.3) which is actually as it sounds half the distance of a full ironman. Often done as a warm up or test event for a full distance.
1900 meter Swim – 90km (56mile) Bike – 21k(13.1 mile) Run
Or the ITU long-distance
4000 meter Swim – 120km (75mile) Bike – 30k(19 mile) Run
They also be done as a DOUBLE Iron distance or a triple! There is even a DECA Iron Distance…That 10x the distance of a Ironman. Done as either ten back to back ironmans over ten days OR one iron distance with 10times longer distances.
And you thought an Ironman was insane!
Let me know If you have any comments about this post in the comments below? Are you tempted to complete an Ironman ? Or just tempted to get into triathlon at all?