What is an Ironman Triathlon? How is it different from any other triathlon? We look into the massively popular endurance sport.
Ironman is a trademarked brand and is a specific family of triathlon events that take place all over the globe. Many people mistake the term Ironman for a specific triathlon distance, but not all full distance triathlons are Ironman events.
There are several different triathlon organisations across the globe. British Triathlon is the main governing body in the UK and oversees triathlon races from local to world qualifying races. ITU Triathlon is the International Triathlon Union and is the international governing body for many different multi-sport events from triathlon and duathlons to aquathlons and other non-standard multi-sport variations.
On the other hand, Ironman is a privately owned brand and only incorporates the standard swim-bike-run triathlon in two distances: the full Ironman and the half Ironman (also known as the 70.3). A triathlon of this distance that isn't organised by the Ironman brand is known as a middle distance triathlon.
Finally, the other main family of triathlon organisers is the Challenge Family whose biggest race is Challenge Roth in Germany. This is also a full distance triathlon, but as it is not organised by Ironman, it would not be called an Ironman triathlon.
400m swim - 10km bike - 2.5km run
750m swim - 20km bike - 5km run
Standard Distance (also known as Olympic Distance)
1500m swim - 40km bike - 10km run
Middle Distance (also known as Half Ironman, also known as 70.3)
2.5km swim - 80km bike - half marathon run
Full Distance (also known as Full Ironman, also known as 140.6)
3.8km swim - 180km bike - full marathon run
Half Ironman events are a great way to get into the sport without making such a huge step up from standard distance triathlons. This is probably the most common event for novices and amateur athletes to enter, and can still count towards points for the Full Ironman World Championships. There are many big 70.3 races across the globe.
This 70.3 race is always very popular with British athletes as it is in a convenient location and provides stunning backdrops and great weather for racing. Several Sundried ambassadors have competed in Lanzarote and it also provides a training camp for amateur athletes who want to improve in the sport.
A new race has recently begun in Tenby, Wales and offers a few different distance options. There is the Tenby Long Course weekend in which athletes complete the full Iron distance but over three days, completing the swim on the first day, the bike on the second, and the marathon on the third. This is a great way to break down the tough sport and give more athletes a chance of completing the full event before tackling all three disciplines on the same day.
Ironman WeymouthIronman Weymouth is one of the most popular 70.3 locations in the UK as it is easily accessible and is a great way to transition from shorter triathlons into the bigger ones.
Full Ironman Events
This is the location of Ironman UK, the biggest Ironman event in the country and the main British qualifier for the Ironman World Championships.
Ironman Kona (Hawaii)
The Ironman World Championships are held annually in Kona, Hawaii. This is the biggest Ironman event in the world and is the ultimate goal of many triathletes. Chrissie Wellington is an English triathlete who has won the Ironman World Championships four times and is therefore one of the most prominent names in the world of multi-sport.
The Bastion Iron Distance Triathlon is a full distance triathlon and is part of the Castle Triathlon Series. It takes place at Hever Castle in Surrey, UK. Sundried ambassador Matt Leeman achieved a fantastic win at the 2017 event and gives us his account of the race.
Heat and Hills at The Bastion Full Iron Distance Triathlon
This was only my second full iron distance triathlon, so I'm very much still finding my feet when it comes to racing events this long. However, I've spent a good block of training away in Cyprus over the winter and more recently at altitude at the Trisutto base in St. Moritz, Switzerland. This has put me in the best possible position to break into the pro triathlon ranks as you have to fully commit or you'll fall short.
The swim start was the most picturesque I've raced, taking place at the end of the Hever Castle estate's Italian garden, with mist floating across the water's surface. The race organiser delayed the start so the mist could clear and then we were off. I lead the swim as this is my strength and something I like to capitalise on and to put others under pressure early on. It was a technical swim, consisting of a fair few turns coming back along a river section created to naturally fill the lake. I completed the 2.4-mile (3.86km) swim in a time of 50:27, taking the swim course record.
I had looked into the bike course profile before the race and knew it was going to be hilly. Luckily I favour the hills and got to work early and began putting time into my competitors, with the gap increasing each of the three laps. I enjoyed the bike and finished the 112 miles (180.25km) in a time of 05:29:55 (Including getting sent the wrong way but luckily realising the mistake after a couple of minutes!).
Back into the castle grounds and it was off on the run, the midday sun was fully beating down now, and similar to the bike, the run was going to be pretty hilly. I ran a conservative marathon distance (26.2 miles/42.16km) as I am racing again in two weeks time at the Outlaw in Nottingham, therefore had to be sensible to be able to back this performance up in a relatively short amount of time.
These days the trend for long course racing is to wear a skin suit rather than the conventional sleeveless tri-suit. I have tested both and I'm in agreement that the skinsuit is the best option for long distance. It is faster on the bike and keeps you cool on the run. The only place the sleeveless suit has an advantage is the swim, but this is relatively small and when you consider proportionately a lot longer time is spent on the bike and run than the swim, it is a very wise investment to make. I also got a lot of comments on how good the Sundried tri-suit looks!
I've really ramped up my training the past couple of weeks, especially the running. I ran my first 10k in over a year and it felt absolutely fantastic! Only a few weeks ago, the thought of running 5k without stopping felt like a challenge, but my fitness is still good and now that my legs and feet have become readjusted to running I am progressing fast.
Usually when I run I get agonising pain in my feet, ankles, calves, knees, and hips. This is due to my tilted hips, knock knees, and flat feet. When I stand naturally, my feet turn outwards and my knees turn inwards, which means I am definitely not built for running. But the 10k I ran last weekend was a miracle - no pain! As I started running, I felt bouncy and light on my feet, which is unusual for me. I completed my first mile in 9:45 and felt great. I found myself thinking, "how long is this going to last" and wondered how soon the pain would come. But I finished mile two and still no pain! I was really enjoying it!
Mile 3, then 4 came and went. I was flying! I was averaging just under 10 minutes per mile which is a good pace for me. I ran a route that I have never run before which definitely helped as it kept the run interesting. There was a bit of an uphill incline which slowed me down, but mile 5 and 6 came and went and still I felt on top of the world. I haven't had a run that great in years! I was so pleased. You can see my time splits below.
I know that these times are pretty slow compared to proper runners, who think that an 8-minute mile is slow. But for me, this was a great run. My all-time 10k PB is 59:59 so I'd like to beat that sometime soon. I ran 7 miles a few days later and that was really slow, averaging 11-minute miles. My feet and legs hurt a lot during that run so it wasn't quite as fantastic, but it was still a great achievement to run that distance after only getting back into running a few weeks ago.
Everyone tells me that it's not about how fast you go, it's just good to get the miles in, but my Garmin watch says otherwise. I was really quite shocked at the difference in stats between the 10k and the 7-miler. For the 10k, I was pushing quite hard and my heart rate exceeded 170bpm for the majority of the run. For the 7-miler a few days later, I was really plodding along and my heart rate was closer to 120-130bpm. My Garmin watch calculated that I burnt 777 calories for the 10k, compared to only 450 for the 7-miler, despite the fact that I ran further and for longer during the latter run. This really goes to show that a slow ploddy run might not necessarily be good for your training.
I've decided to start incorporating more hills and sprints into my training, rather than plodding along at 120bpm for 7 slow miles. This will hopefully improve my cardiovascular fitness and also get my legs used to moving faster. I will also try running more shorter distances to try and improve my speed, I want to get my 5k time back under 30 minutes - my all-time 5k PB is 27:33 and it took me 30:33 to run it last week.
For the cycling, I decided to do an indoor session on a spin bike to try and improve my speed. When I cycle outside I'm a little wary of being on the road and also of pedestrians jumping out in front of me (and I also have issues with dogs running in front of my bike) so I never really exceed 15mph. I wanted to try a faster blast indoors to really make the most of the training session. I've now got a bike rack so I can take my bike to a countryside location and get some better quality miles in so that's exciting!
I'm really excited about the progress I've made so far - I feel like it's all much easier than it was last time round, and I feel like I stand a good chance of beating my running PBs so stay tuned to see if I manage it!