Thursday, August 7, 2014

Don't Sign Up For An Ironman...

Until you read this! Here are some excellent questions to ask yourself and practical things to consider before taking the plunge, courtesy of Gina Shand. Gina represents Virginia on our national team, and is currently training for Ironman Chattanooga after finishes at IM Texas, Florida, and Mt. Tremblant.

So you want to go long?

Ironman. 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run. 140.6 miles in one day. That’s a lot, right? But to be able to say you are an Ironman, that is pretty cool. You have gone back and forth about it and you wonder, can I do it? Yes, you can. If you want to. I mean really, really want to. 17 hours is a lot of time. A huge portion of the preparation for an Ironman is mental. You have to be committed to the training and achieving that ultimate goal

My two cents on things to consider before clicking "Register" online -

1. Do you really want to do it? 

how badly do you want it??
I mean the training, sacrifice and mental torture of riding on the trainer for hours at a time? Signing up for an Ironman is like deciding to have a baby. (Bear with me guys) Signing up for the race is like peeing on the stick. You are so nervous waiting for the two minutes to go by to show you the two lines or in the case of a race, for the browser to refresh to see if you got in online. Woohoo! You’re in! You post on Facebook about getting into the race of your choice and becoming an Ironman in a year. The first trimester of training isn’t so bad, some aches and pains and first, but after a couple of weeks, you are sailing along.

The second trimester gets harder. Lots of things come in to play; injury, unplanned work trips,
weekends in a row at swim meets. 

Third trimester hits, and you realize, holy cow, this is coming and I can’t do anything to stop it. It is long, painful and you are so ready to get it over with.

Race day comes and I can’t describe how emotional that day is. Through the pain of the day, you swear you will never do this again and scream at those around you for getting you into this awful situation. Then you see the light of the finisher chute and all of that goes away. As you waddle into the Finisher Gear tent the next day, you have forgotten all of the awfulness of the day before and are ready to do it again.

2. Is your family supportive? 

I mean really supportive. It really helps if they are as committed to your training as you are. Workouts are easier to get in if you don’t feel guilty for doing them or pressured not to. I have had some friends try to sign up on the down low from their family and that has not worked out too well. The spouse doesn’t need to buy matching compression socks, but it helps if he/she respects your decision to be stupid.

3. No one has the time. 

You have to make the time. No one (that I know of) has an extra 13-18 hours lying around that they have been meaning to find something to do with. Getting in all of the workouts is hard, it takes creativity, dedication, and little bit of mental instability to do it all. Get very familiar with 4:30 am alarm calls, showing up sweaty and smelling of chlorine to places you never thought you would, having no clue what is on television, and showering in odd places. Yes, I am that creepy Mom riding my trainer at swim meets and in too many parking lots to name. You know it is triathlon season when you run out of shampoo in your gym bag before your shower at home.)

4. Get some training partners. 

Having someone waiting for you at the pool at 5:30am makes it more challenging to hit the snooze button for the fifth time. If you don’t have anyone locally, find an online group. There are some great forums out there. Even the strongest person will, at some point, need to be reminded why they signed up for this crazy event and/or talk them off the ledge. But be warned, they will probably also talk you into more races in the future. Peer pressure works for both good and evil. (Big shout out to Frances, Karin, and Melanie!)

Out on the course on race day, you see all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities. Everyone has a story. Some are there for speed, some for accomplishment, others because someone told them they could not do it. I dare anyone to go to the finish line at a 140.6 mile race and not be inspired to take part some day. If the timing is not right to go long this season or next season, no worries! Going shorter and faster hurts too! At the rate the World Triathlon Corporation, Rev3, HITS, and others are adding races, there will be plenty of options for years to come.


  1. Gina,
    Enjoyed reading your post, but I have to say...Now you tell me ��.

  2. You are so right. As I watched the IM runners start the marathon I was overcome with emotion. I've always wanted to finish a IM. Watching Julie Moss crawl across the finish line stuck in my mind. I signed up for IM Chattanooga in 2015. I've run 155 marathons, but doing this scares me to death, especially the swim. Can I do it? I've thought many times to just say fuck it. I'm not capable. But I really want to do ONE. Can I do it? Damn if I know. These stories keep me inspired to train. Thank you. I'll keep plugging along. The swim will get easier. The bike won't be so boring. I can do this.

    1. Yes you can, Pat. You've got this! Kudos to you for going for it, we'll be following your journey to IRONMAN.