Jen Rulon

The off season has began but it is always a great time to think about your 2019 Triathlon Season. Have you figured out what race you want to do? Have you figured out your season? Most people have but if you are getting ready for an Ironman race and you haven’t signed up for one, chances are the a lot of the Ironman races in the US are full. Ironman AZ 2015 filled up on the spot in AZ and people online couldn’t even get in.

As you sit on the computer looking at to figure out your race schedule, there are 5 questions you should ask yourself before you sign up for an Ironman and your success at the race. This is what I came up with…

What Ironman Should I Do?

  1. Do you want to swim in the river, ocean or a lake?
  2. Do you like flats, hills or mountains on the bike?
  3. Do you want 2-3 loops on the run? Flat or hilly?
  4. Do you want to train during the winter, spring, fall or summer?
  5. Do you want to travel via flight or car?

Let me break them down for you…

1. Do you want to swim in the river, ocean or a lake?

You need to ask yourself,  “How comfortable are you in the open water?” Did you grow up swimming in a nasty lake and the thought of ugly fish and sharks DON’T bother you? Pick an ocean swim. Did you grow up swimming in the community pool and the thought of swimming with ugly fish and sharks bother you? I would pick a river or a lake.

Ironman FL is one of my FAVORITE Ironman races BUT you are swimming in the ocean. Florida was canceled in 2014 due to high rip tides, so it wouldn’t have been safe for anyone. Ironman Mont Tremblant and Boulder are in a lake. Are those swims wetsuit swims? (Most of the time, yes). Is the water too cold? Sometimes that can play a huge role on athletes, is the cold water.  Let’s look at Ironman Texas. You start off in a lake but then it narrows down to the river. Will you feel claustrophobic? Those are some of the thoughts that I have before I sign up for an Ironman.

2. Do you like flats, hills or mountains on the bike?

You can also ask yourself, “Are you a strong, average or weak cyclist?” A triathlete needs to have a solid foundation and fit on the bike, especially heading on those mountains but also on the flats. The bike is the longest portion of the race AND you can gain a lot of the bike.

When I think of flat Ironman, I think of Ironman FL and Ironman Western Australia. Do you have the core and back strength to stay in aero position about 95% of the time? When I think of hills on the bike, I think of IM Mont Tremblant or Wisconsin. There are some flats, but mostly rollers and hills. Do you enjoy heading up those hills but getting reinforced going down hill and flying? When I think of mountains, I think of IM Nice. You may be walking your bike up those mountains. Do you have a power meter? Power meter will keep you accountable for those all of these courses but make sure you are being smart on your ride, so you can go have a decent run.

3. Do you want 2-3 loops on the run? Flat or hilly?

Do you train around hills on your runs or are you running mostly flat for your training? The Ironman runs lately have been at least 2 or 3 loops, which can be a good or bad thing. It can mentally put you in a funk, seeing the same thing OR you can figure out how to negative spilt each loop. You learn to put your head down and “run ugly.” Remember if you went out to hard on the bike, you will have a tough run, whether it is 2-3 loops, flat or hilly.

Ironman FL has 2 loops and flat as all get out. The support is WONDERFUL! Ironman AZ has 3 loops and flat with a little hill, until 2018. Ironman Mont Tremblant has 2 loops with some good little hills in the beginning but flat on the back part of the course. Do you want to walk up those hills or opt to shuffle up it?

4. Do you want to train during the winter, spring, fall or summer?

With Ironman Triathlons going on from March to December, you can pick whatever month you want BUT, you also need to look at when you are doing most of your quality training. Do you want to train in the middle of winter, possibly on the trainer, with no friends? What about training in the heat in San Antonio during the summer? Are you a teacher? Is it easier to do your race during the summer, when you are off OR do you want your summer off? Those are the questions you need to ask yourself.

Check out Ironman Website and you will see a race pretty much every month, other than January and February. You can do Ironman Western Australia in December (Highly recommend it). Your heavy training months will be September-November. Check out Ironman New Zealand, which is in March but remember your heavy training days will be Dec-February. Do you have anyone to train with? Will you be inside training, if you live in the Mid-West?

5. Do you want to travel via flight or car? 

It is very easy to drive to a race. You place all of your stuff in your car, pack it full with bike, nutrition, and race gear, possibly the dog and off you go. BUT, you can’t really do that for all races. (Granted depends on where you live) BUT if you live in the US, and you want to check out a race in Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand…time to fly.

Ask yourself these questions for traveling to a race…do you have a bike box? Do you know how to break your bike down and put it back together for the box? Does TriBike Transport go to the race? (Highly recommend this company!) What do they do? They ship your bike via UHAUL, along with a bike bag and BAM, your bike and bag are there by the time you get there for the race.  I know there are other companies like this. I am not familiar with them. Overseas traveling with the bike can be hard BUT way worth it. Learn how to pack light!

Deciding on an Ironman can be challenging…there are a lot of factors BUT look at these factors and how they apply to you, so you can have the best race out there for yourself. Don’t pick a race because it is about to close or because all of your friends are doing it. Pick a race because you can’t wait to do it and you are craving to do it.   

Side note: I chose to do Ironman Texas in 2016 and in my heart, I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I did it because there were more KQ slots. It was shit show. The swim was awful. The bike was cut short due to flooding earlier in TX and the run was also cut short because we got hailed on and was stopped for 25 minutes. Races that I chose will be races that what I want to do versus what I have to do to earn a slot. That’s not the way to race an Ironman Triathlon!

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AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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