As we begin to close out 2012 and look towards 2013, you may have registered for your 1st, 2nd, and 22nd Ironman. If that’s the case, we’d like to share with you some observations we’ve made about the typical “Ironman® Lifecycle,” so you can know what to expect as you grow and evolve into the distance.
Your First Ironman
It’s a all big puzzle — how to train, how to fit that training into your life, researching and buying gear, seeking out advice from more experienced Ironman® athletes, buying gear, researching training methods, and buying gear. You are most definitely skeered of the distance and this creates a sense of urgency around everything you do related to preparing for your big day. On race day you are definitely chasing the romance and baddassery of the Ironman® title.
Your Second Ironman
About 3 days after your first Ironman® most of the “OMG, WTF was I thinking, that was soooo painful!!” stuff passes and you begin to have lots of “I bet I could do this, that, and the other thing better next time!” In short, the romance and sexiness of the distance fades a bit, or the complexity of the puzzle, and the desire to solve it better next time, rises on your list of goals. However, at the same time, training, lifestyle compromise, and focus fatigue begins to creep in. That is, your back to back long rides on the weekends have become decidedly less sexy. The phenomenon of “I’m always thinking about Ironman” is a bit less than in your first season but those thoughts and the accompanying focus begin to be fatiguing.
Most importantly, you begin to feel the cost that Ironman® training and the attendant focus can have on other areas of your life — date nights missed or cut short, friends forgotten, books left unread, other hobbies dropped, spousal eyes rolled, children’s names forgotten, etc.
Your Third Ironman
The sexiness and romance is, at least until the gun goes off, probably mostly gone. The goal is no longer to finish. The goal is to train better, race smarter, and go faster. This season it is definitely much more about doing a much better job of solving that puzzle and going faster.
At the same time, that focus-fatigue is right there, all the time. With a tear in your eye, you watch your short course and half Ironman® friends roll out of the parking lot for their 2-3hr ride as you start your 8th consecutive solo 4.5-5hr ride.
Most Sane, Well-Balanced Triathletes Are “Good” for about Three Ironmans
^This^ is the observation we’ve seen over the years. In our experience, most Ironman® athletes “get it” after their third Ironman® and many “step down” to shorter distance triathlons, shift toward single sport events, or other opportunities to drive that fitness vehicle, built through Ironman® training, in different venues.
That’s not to say that >3x Ironman® finishers are complete whackjobs…though we’ve certainly seen a few of those out there! Rather, most of these people have adopted training methods, mental approaches, and lifestyle shifts that create a healthy longevity in the sport of long course triathlon…which is what I’ll talk about next: