Signing up for your very first full Ironman is an exciting and scary time! If you are considering crossing the threshold over to the 140.6 distance, here are some things to consider.
While Ironman can provide personal fulfillment and a sense of a great achievement, it is important to be aware of the time and financial costs involved before hitting the confirm button on the registration page. Training will start off manageable, with anywhere between 5 to 10 hours a week. At the height of training, an athlete may get into the 15-20 hours per week range. (For some maybe more!) Does your career and family life allow for this type of time commitment? If not, maybe now is not the right time. If yes, then it is a good idea to sit down with your family, significant other and boss to explain WHY you want to do this, WHY it is important to you, and the time and money involved in this endeavor. If they know what to expect and the reasons as to why it is important to you, it will make it easier on everyone and you will find yourself with a good support system.
What are the costs involved?
Entry - A little over $800
Accommodations - This is variable depending on where you stay and for how long.
Coaching - Monthly fee of approximately $200 to $400.
Nutritional Products (Electrolyte drinks/gels/chews/recovery powder) - $50-100 plus per month.
New and Replacement Gear - Varies but you will need things such as cycling attire, race kit, run shoe replacements, bike tubes and CO2s, goggles, pool memberships, etc. OH! And grocery money, lots of grocery money because you are going to be EXTRA hungry!
Bike Tune Ups and Repairs - Varies but one tune-up is around $100 and up. You will be putting a lot of miles on your bike, so expect repairs.
Airplane Tickets to race site, if needed.
Tri Bike Transport - If needed.
Ok, so your family gives you the go-ahead and the financial commitment works! Now, the fun part! Which race do you pick? For your first, consider signing up for a course that has terrain and weather conditions similar to where you live. This is not a “must”, but it does make training a bit more conducive to what you will be handed on race-day. For example, if you are weaker in the swim, do not choose a course with an extremely challenging swim. If you live somewhere flat, choose a course that is flat. If you live in a cold climate, do not choose a hot race. You get the drift here.
Once you have signed up for you race, the very next thing you should do is find accommodations at your race site. There are usually “host” hotels. These hotels are usually conveniently located for the venue but not always the most budget-friendly option. Shop around. Do your homework. Weigh out whether convenience rules over budget. Host hotels tend to sell out quickly, which is why I advise to book the place you will lay your head as soon as you book your race. You may also consider renting a house or condo. Sometimes this is less expensive because you will have a kitchen and can cook a lot of your meals in versus eating every meal at a restaurant.
If you do not already have a coach the next thing you will want to do is start researching options for coaching. While a coach is an investment, it is a very needed and important one. It is important to have a professional in your corner holding you accountable for your training, creating a plan that is specifically tailored to your strengths, weaknesses and time constraints. Your coach will also look over your training and ensure you are making progress in a safe way, setting you up to stay injury free. In other words, doing enough training to set you up for success without over or under doing it! While buying an online plan is a cheaper option, it is not going to allow for modifications based upon your needs or give you the accountability and support that a coach will. (Even being a coach myself, when training for a full I prefer to have my own coach!)
In addition to your coach, find your training and support team! It is nice to have some training partners to meet up with for some of those longer sessions. It makes the journey a lot more fun and meaningful. It provides life-long memories that you can look back and reminisce over with your buddies. (Remember that 100-mile ride we did when it was 90 degrees out and we were suffering but bought a coke and scratch-offs mid-ride which gave us the oomph we needed to finish?!) Along with finding your training tribe, be sure to involve your family as much as possible. Your kids can ride along side of you on those long ride and hand you water. Your significant other can be your lifeguard on your open water swims. Your doggo can be a great running partner.
While Ironman training involves vast hours of physical training, be sure to mix in mental training as well. Your mind will need to be extraordinarily strong on race-day. Practicing little nuances during training will really help on the big day. Strengthen your mind by practicing visualizations before those key workouts. Set and write down small achievable goals along the way. Looking back on these accomplishments will give you the confidence you need to toe the starting line. Learn little mind tricks on those long training days that you can use on during your low spots during the race. Memorize inspirational quotes, phrases or song verses.
Ironman training is without a doubt, exhausting. It will really benefit your training to balance in the recovery you need. During Iron Year, you may have to “just say no” to some outside social invitations to get some extra sleep. Factor in time between training to put your feet up and watch a movie with the family. This provides a two-fold benefit of both recovery/rest while getting in some family time. (I mean salty popcorn and a good movie after a long run or ride is always great!) Invest in massage when needed. Foam roll and stretch daily. Practice meditation or time for reflection on the amazing things your body can do.
Your first Iron Year is one of many physical and emotional ups and downs (just like race-day!) The first one will always be the most special (Because you will do another! Just like Lay’s Potato Chips, one is never enough!) The journey itself, is just as amazing as the race. Enjoy the little steps and accomplishments along the way. Take it all in with a smile, gratitude and a full-heart. Having the physical strength and financial means to do this is a GIFT! When the times get tough, and they will, just remember this. “We don’t HAVE to do this. We GET to do this.”
This post was written by Coach, Jackie Miller.