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.
Sundried ambassador Paul Suett had to move from triathlon to duathlon after a debilitating shoulder injury. He gives us an update on his plan for this year and qualifying as a GB duathlete for the first time.
Time for a change of sports
The end of last season ended in pain with a foot and a shoulder injury which had to be worked on at the local private hospital. My foot got fixed pretty quickly but because I raced all season with an injured rotator cuff in my shoulder, the damage needed a lot of rehab. It’s now been 5 months of injections and physio on my shoulder and it's only just starting to feel slightly normal again but a lot of time in the pool has been lost which I cannot make up, so I decided it was time for a change of sports and looked into qualifying for Team GB again but this time in duathlon.
I looked up all the qualifying races that I would need to do throughout the season and two are at the beginning of the year and two at the end. Realistically, I thought to myself that the last two would be the ones I need to aim for as I have no real experience in this discipline and the start of the year would be all about learning and reducing mistakes in prep for later on in the year. We had a local duathlon race a few weeks before the first qualifier so I decided this would be a good opportunity to start the adventure
Gravesend Cyclopark Winter Duathlon 28th January
The day was windy but not too cold and the event was on a closed road bike circuit so this was a good opportunity to race without the worry of cars on the road. The run was 6.5km partly on the bike circuit and then onto the roads. This was followed by a 20km cycle then a 3.5km run to finish it off.
I was ready to race and unusually not very nervous but I think this was because I didn’t have to swim. The race set off at a frantic pace and I initially went out way too fast so I slowed up a little after the first mile and got used to the feeling of racing again for the first time this year. The first part of the race twisted and turned around the race track and then out onto the road up a steep hill for 1.5km before turning back around and down toward the bikes. As I ran into transition, my girlfriend Cassie shouted encouragement and let me know what position I was in.
A quick transition and onto the bike with the thoughts of “I need to now catch some people up”. The track was damp and the first lap I took relatively cautiously as the bends were fast and I didn’t want to end up sliding off. Suddenly it hit me that this was a race and I needed to risk it all on the bike so I put my head down and started to power through the corners and around the circuit. I started to overtake people and lap others that were streaming onto the course after me. Shouts of encouragement from friends racing and best friend Joel as I left the circuit for the final run gave me the final push to give everything till the end of this run. The run was straight back up and down that hill again which had my lungs bursting but soon I was crossing that finish line and collapsing in a heap. It was over and I finished overall in 7th and also picked up a podium place for 2nd vet. The race had been tough but gave me the confidence that I was at least competitive in this discipline going forward to the first qualifier.
Anglian Water Standard Duathlon 18th February
This was my first qualifier ever in this discipline so I had the normal nerves of not knowing if I would be good enough or if it was just too early on in the season with little preparation. I thought back to the last race and that combined with what training I had done I was confident that whatever the outcome, it would be the best I could do.
Transition was icy and a cold bitter wind whipped through the car park where we warmed up and I finalised my plan of attack in my head. I knew what pace I wanted to go on the run to give myself the best chance of attacking the bike and the second run. We all got to the start line and chatted nervously before the race start and then suddenly the horn went and we were off.
The start of the run was tight along a country pathway which was uneven and muddy but this was race time and I love to race. The run course undulated up and down hills which ultimately gave me a stitch with a mile to go. I kept powering through the pain knowing it should stop once I got on the bike and I raced into T1 and up to the bike.
Previous experience played to my advantage in transition as people were slow getting ready to ride. I had this worked out perfectly and was in and out super quick, overtaking at least 5 people. I love my bike and straight away we were speeding along to the first turn around point. I was making notes of who was ahead coming back the other way and used them to target to catch up. The bike course was mainly flat with only a few hills so it was a case of head down and really put the power through the pedals. I started to overtake a few people and the targets I had were getting closer and closer. The miles ticked off and I was feeling good that the ride was going well, there were a few people up ahead in the distance taking advantage of low numbers of marshals so they decided to draft which was a bit unfair but nothing I could do about it.
I flew into T2 with my routine of transiting into the final run phase going around my head so I didn’t forget anything. Once again I overtook people and I was out onto the run. The second run I knew would hurt a lot but I also knew it wouldn’t last too long as it was only 5km, these are the times that really make or break qualification when you really want to slow up but you know every second counts.
The final few bends were ahead and I could see the finish line and with 400m to go I felt someone behind me catching. I didn’t know if they were in my age group but I didn’t want to take the risk so I started to sprint towards the finish. This final burst left them behind and I crossed the line in 2:05:25. I didn’t know if this was a good time or not but I was confident I had given my all.
After the race I found out it gave me 5th place in qualification out of a possible 20 slots with 2 races to go, this was my strongest start to a campaign so I am confident with also my best time percentage that I have a very good chance of qualifying for the Europeans and Worlds next year.
Paul is a Team GB Triathlete and has competed in the ITU World Championship Finals two years running. He talks to Sundried about how he got into the sport and some of his best and worst races.
Have you always been into sport?
I have always enjoyed sport and followed football and combat sports most of my life.
What made you decide to enter triathlon?
I boxed for a few years and when I damaged my hand in a fight I decided to take up running to keep fit. I met my best friend Cassie at the club and watched her do a triathlon. I really enjoyed watching it and thought if I could learn how to swim I wouldn’t mind giving it a try. She entered me into an aquathlon 3 weeks later which I nearly drowned doing it as my swimming was so bad but I had fun. This started the addiction of multi-sport racing and I haven’t looked back since.
What’s been your best race to date?
My best race to date must be London Marathon the second time I did it; everything went so right and I achieved a PB of 2:55:36. The previous year I had struggled with nutrition and totally fell apart in the last few miles, this time I learned from my mistakes and executed the plan perfectly.
And your proudest achievement?
Qualification to race for Team GB in the ITU World Finals in Chicago 2015 and Mexico 2016, both times the experience has been amazing and I am truly proud and humble that I have had this opportunity. At the moment I am trying to qualify for this year’s World Final in Rotterdam 2017, I think this will be the toughest year to qualify as it's in Europe but I am training and working hard every day to get the results I need.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
The toughest race I have done is Midnightman in Kent; this is a full Iron distance race and runs throughout the night into the early morning. The cycle nearly broke me mentally as it was the first time I had cycled 112 miles and it was in the middle of the night so pitch black and only dim street lights to keep you on the road. The miles ticked off slowly and with nothing to look at it was a battle to keep going. Finally, I got off the bike and started the run way too fast and paid for it by mile 15; kerbs I had skipped up now felt like huge steps and tiredness from being up so long started to kick in. I finished the race in about 10:54:00 but it felt so much longer.
How do you overcome setbacks?
Setbacks are all part of growing as an athlete, I don’t mind them at all and I like to tell people about them because it gets them off my chest and out in the open. Life is amazing and I have so many great people around me that I can’t get down about a race, at the end of the day it’s only a race and there are plenty more I can do.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Listen to yourself and believe in your dreams, many people will try and tell you what you want can’t be achieved but they can with hard work. When I first told people I wanted to complete an Ironman and race for Team GB only a few believed in me the rest laughed, I have done both and I am very proud but this is just the start and so much more will be achieved.
What are your goals for 2017?
I am working hard to qualify for Team GB in the ITU World Finals in Rotterdam at the end of the year.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I take inspiration from my 2 best friends Cassie and Joel, both are parents and both are triathletes. They juggle their time amazingly so they can be there for their family and also achieve great things in the sport, to me this is just awesome and I am super proud of them both.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
The Sundried Tri-Suit is a fantastic bit of kit. It fits really well and it's a very technical piece. As a professional triathlete, I can be pretty fussy about what kit I wear, but Sundried have really outdone themselves with their triathlon gear.
Nicetri events are ready for you to start the season early with this February event on 19.02.2017, shake off the winter and test your fitness for the start of the season.
The Anglian Water Duathlon offers a picturesque setting in Cambridgeshire which inspires first-timers as well as those who have raced for national titles and the Great Britain Age-Group qualification. This is a race for everyone and suited to all abilities.
Both race distances take entrants on a picturesque race around the local lake and woodland. Both run sections take place on hard compound tracks and feature steady climbs at the outset, which means you’ll be running downhill to the first transition and the finishing line.
The bike course contains long. smooth stretches which allow fast intervals of speed, whilst also including climbing hill intervals to test your strength.
Due to the early season start, it is advised you regularly check the weather before the race. Whether it’s trisuits or thermals, it’s sure to be an exciting race day.
Sprint: 5km run / 20km bike / 5km run
Standard: 10km run / 40km bike / 5km run
Parking will be at the venue “Mander car park” (weather permitting, if wet follow marshals and signs to local car parks). Race packs will be collected upon registration on the day of the event. All participants receive a race brief email, and the full race details will be available on site two days prior to the event. Registration takes place between 7 and 8am on race day, with early arrival recommended.
Race Number and Chip Timing
All race entrants are issued with a race number which must be clearly visible at all times. Nicetri also provide number markings on entrants' hands with a pen. Your number needs to be displayed at all times to be used as a backup to the electronic chipping system. Each entrant is provided a computerised chip timing which should be attached to the left ankle. To ensure accurate chip feedback it is essential to run over the timing mats at the various marked stations. Results include finish time and splits which will be available shortly after the completion of the event.
Transition areas are protected by security and competitors will need to show their I.D to be allowed in or out of this area. Prior to entering transition your race number and bike and helmet labels must be attached. Your bike will have a designated transition area and a helmet must be worn at all times.
Prizes will be awarded for both first positioning men and women, and every entrant will receive a goodie bag.
Tojo Lazzari is a para-triathlete who represents Ireland in this great sport. He tells us about his experience achieving second place in the ITU World Cup in Florida.
From The Flu to Number 2
Soon after I arrived home from racing in Rotterdam I received a phone call from my coach and manager Eamonn Tilly. He said one short sentence that filled me with excitement but also got all the cogs working in my brain. He said, ‘‘do you want to race in Florida?’’ I said "Of course! I'd love to! But… I'm working, no chance of time off… I will also have to ask my family…." I said I would ring back as soon as I know more.
After a long time wheeling and dealing with my boss, I was granted the week off in return for many extra hours of hard labour and to make up the time lost by slaving away over the midterm break. Next, I had to get the green light from my other half Natalia and my super cute newborn daughter Yana. I asked Yana to pass on the message to mum, then booked the flight!
10 days before my flight I was hit hard with the flu. I was devastated because my training had been going so well; I had been hitting all my targets and hadn’t missed a workout but now I was in a bad way. I told Eamonn I was sick and he just said don’t worry, don’t do any training, rest and recover, chat soon.
I was just getting over the flu when I arrived in the USA. Sarasota, FL is a beautiful place, the people are so nice and the race venue - Nathan Benderson Park - was a perfect location to host a triathlon. The course suited me well but it was seriously hot and humid, conditions we Irish are not to familiar with. We were also informed that the swim had been cancelled, which meant my chances at winning a medal just increased dramatically as I’m not a fantastic swimmer.
On the day of the race it was 33 degrees Celsius (91 F) with 98% humidity. I went through the usual pre-race routine: check everything - check in - keep cool - hydrate - warm up and go to the toilet about 1000 times.
We were off! I felt rough, 100 meters in my throat was burning and I was roasting hot, but I told myself the others must be dying as well so I kept the pressure on and made it into transition first. I necked a bottle of salty surgery water as I knew I would need it to get though the rest of the race.
Transition went well and I left on the bike the same time as Oliver from Austria, a legend of an athlete but also a lovely guy. The bike course consisted of 3 laps around the lake within the park. I could see Oliver getting away from me so I dug deep and kept pushing the peddles. Up one side of the lake there was a very strong headwind but a super tailwind down the other side. On the last lap I couldn’t wait for the pain to end but this pain would only be replaced by a new more intense pain on the run!
The bike was fast and I finished a minute or so after Oliver. I heard the commentator shout his name as he left transition and I was entering, I was second! I knew I had a great chance if could hold it together on the run.
2km in I was in another world, the intense heat and pushing myself to the max had brought my mind into a state of deliriousness, I just kept putting one foot in front of another and tried to catch up with the man in the red trisuit in the distance.
I grabbed bottles of cold water at every water station and just covered myself, the shock would bring me round and cool me off for a few seconds until the water evaporated and I was just as hot as I had been before. I kept pushing. I knew a lot of guys were chasing me down. I passed an athlete who went off 1 minute before us in another category. He looked like a guy who had been lost in the desert for a long time, I shouted some words of encouragement and kept going.
I crossed the line in second place! I was never so happy to cross the line, very hot, dizzy and exhausted, suddenly I lost the ability to walk let alone run, with the help of the support crew I was covered in cold towels and led to an ice bath which brought me back to life.
My Friend Havard from Denmark came 3rd soon after me, and that was it, we went out for dinner, cheesecake and a well earned Guinness.
I'm so thankful to everyone that helped me this year, I couldn't train and race without the support from my family, coach, sponsors, Velocity Bikes, Lough Allen Adventure and triathlon Ireland. Currently, I'm really looking forward to putting in hours of training over the winter so I can come back stronger. If you believe you will achieve and I'm a believer. Bring on 2018!