With the beginning of August already here, races for the 2018 season are beginning to open. If you are looking to race an Ironman next year, now is the time to consider which race you want to do. When it comes to picking an Ironman there are many factors that come into play. Here is how we look at things when helping an athlete choose a race:
Time of year. This comes down life obligations outside of triathlon and to how much you like working out in the dead of winter. In general, Ironman training consists of a 6 to 8 month build that can be very heavy at certain parts of the year. Because of this, athletes who have a hate of the trainer or running in the snow, often do very well at October races, where they can have 4 to 6 solid months of outdoor training. If you're alright with training indoors but don’t love it, a July to August 140.6 can be a great option as you can build through November to March indoors only to transfer outdoors as the weather turns. I rarely recommend an early season Ironman, because a large amount of recovery is often required after the race, which can result in lackluster performances for the rest of the summer when most racing takes place. However, if you work a job that is much more demanding in the summer than the rest of the year, then an early season Ironman is the way to go.
Strengths and weaknesses. Look for patterns in your training when it comes to biking and running. This can be a very neutral element to see strengths and weaknesses. Some athletes have a bad result in high temperatures and automatically assume they are bad in the heat, when in reality they paced the bike too hard. If you have had workouts in the heat that went well consistently, then chances are that can be a strength. Do you consistently struggle on portions of roads with cross wind? Then with a bike along the ocean may not be the best choice. Objectively look at the information at hand in your training log and figure out your strengths and weaknesses. From there, try to pick a race in the time frame of the year that suits you best. If swimming is a weakness, choose a course where the swim tends to be calmer. Also, if you have a tendency to get sea sick when on a boat then avoid choppy swims as sea sickness can leave you with a bad stomach 30 miles into the ride.
Location. If you want to drive to a race or if there is a location you want to visit, this plays a key element in picking the race. Traveling to races can get expensive quick however, with Ironman constantly expanding, there are usually several races within a day's drive of most locations. This helps to pick races that suit the needs of the athlete. If you want to travel somewhere exotic and get in a slight vacation, be sure to schedule time after the race to do some sight seeing!
Get input from your support crew. Ironman race day is a long day for everyone involved. From significant others, to kiddos, to friends and even puppies, the day can be exhausting! If you have a support crew that typically goes to races with you, get their input because you won’t be the only one up from 3 in the morning and you won’t be the only out in the sun all day. Look into locations with them. See if there are hotels, restaurants, and places to entertain the kiddos during the bike leg that are within walking distance of the run course. This keeps everyone in good spirits and it increases your chance of getting your support crew on board with more of these crazy adventures in the future. Luckily, Ironman does a fantastic job of picking their full distance race venues. For example, if you do Louisville, your family can take a tour of the Louisville Slugger factory or, for the above 21 crowd, they can taste bourbon from all over Kentucky! Mont Tremblant is based in a ski village with many good restaurants and many options for lodging just a short walk away from transition. Do the homework with your support crew by looking at places such as Yelp! or talking to others who have done the races you are looking at.
Understand the difference between half and full distance Ironman. This may sound daunting at first, but for the very busy athlete the difference between half and full distance racing is mostly seen on the weekends. It's much easier to squeeze in a few extra hours of riding on a non-work day compared to a 9-5. Knowing these weekends will be heavier, you can plan around school and sporting activities with the kids and family. The final build to an Ironman ramps up in the final 8-12 weeks. We oftentimes see folks count out Ironman all together; expecting the time required to complete the endeavor is unrealistic when in reality it's a little extra grind as the race gets near.
We hope this helps aid in your ability to chose your Ironman!