What is the Ironman?
The Ironman is a triathlon and widely considered to be one of the world’s most challenging single day sporting events. It was founded in 1978 in Hawaii as a result of a debate as to who were the most fit athletes on the island: runners or swimmers. Sports Illustrated at the time declared cyclists to have the highest oxygen intake, thereby introducing cyclists into the discussion. The first Ironman winner was U.S. Navy Communications specialist, Gordon Haller, with second place award to U.S. Navy Seal, John Dunbar.
The two days preceding the Ironman, participants are required to register themselves and are recommended to attend a race briefing, which discusses the course, rules, recommendations, and provides a bit of motivation and hype around the event.
The day before the race participants are to rack and register their bike and all transition gear for the run and bike (biking shoes, running shoes, any additional clothing, etc.).
The race itself
The transition area usually closes thirty minutes prior to the race start, so any last minute changes are made then. Post-race clothing is hung up in the athletes garden and participants are suited up in their wetsuits.
The swim course is 2.4 miles (3.86 km) with a dedicated start and finish line separate from each other. After finishing the athletes run to the transition area where they change to their biking gear and take off.
The bicycle course is 112 miles (180.25 km). Depending on the race, it is sometimes comprised of heavy winds and hills. The Ironman Italy Emilia-Romagna course I participated in had a hill which was done twice. The hill itself was a few kilometers long and intense, but nothing compared to a place like Lanzarote.
Following the cycling, racers transition to their running shoes and additional gear to run 26.22 miles (42.20 km).
There are a few aid stations during the cycling that provide bananas, energy bars, water bottles, and sports drinks; the run aid stations also provide biscuits, pretzels, and fruits. The nature of the food is dependent on the race and course - it’s best to check with the specific race on the Ironman website.
The Ironman race is not to be taken lightly, and is arguably one of the most challenging sporting events. To complete in an Ironman requires will power, strength, endurance, and the mental fortitude to continue through the tough times.