"Ironman or Iron-Distancer?" That is a question.

ironman-logo-iconAre you an Ironman or an Iron-distancer?

That was the thought which faced me a couple of weeks back.

I only intend to do an Ironman once and so, at the end of it, I wanted to be able to answer the question “Have you done an Ironman?” with a simple “Yes” or “No”.

Most likely, the people that ask that question wouldn’t know that, if you haven’t done an Ironman-branded event then, technically (legally?), you are not an Ironman. Rather, instead, you are an Iron-distancer.  That certainly doesn’t sound catchy and you certainly wouldn’t be able to get the M-dot tattoo, would you?.

Most likely the person that asked the question wouldn’t care at all about the differentiation. Actually they probably wouldn’t care about triathlon, probably, unless a Brownlee or Jorgensen medal was involved in the discussion. They were probably just making polite conversation and wondering why you were looking a bit skinny and weren’t drinking. Or maybe they were eyeing-up your lycra? Maybe they thought that Brownlee/Jorgensen were the Ironman Olympic Champions? We know better of course 🙂

Either way, I thought, “if you are going to do it once then do it ‘properly’ “.

That’s no disrespect to some of the other Iron-distance events – no doubt some are ‘easier’ and some are ‘harder’ than the average Ironman-branded event. Probably some are more expensive, including travel, and some are cheaper. Either way they are going to be ‘challenging’.

Challenging is an appropriate word. Finishing that difficult Sudoko in your newspaper can be ‘challenging’ but sometimes, in this modern media-obsessed world, awesome superlatives are over-used to wanton oblivion for the simple purpose of dramatic & ill-advised (over-)effect.

Other challenges

I’m not quite sure exactly how difficult an Ironman will be.

I have a fair idea. I’ve done a few half distances and once you understand that you actually have to train for them (ahem) then they are not so bad and, with a good course on a pleasant day, can actually be a very rewarding to consume illegally high amounts of sugar.

But it REALLY is not a good chat-up line to start out by saying that you are a HALF-IRONMAN / IRONWOMAN / IRONPERSON. No-one likes half-measures. Then again, if you’ve done two half-ironman race would that make you an Ironman/woman/person 🙂

What about a marathon then? That’s a challenge.

Yep. It is.

But the ‘challenge’ of the marathon is sooo-1970s, I plan to do one this year wearing a John McEnroe headband. If you are vaguely fit and can run 10k relatively easily then 30 more won’t be too difficult in the grand scheme of things – still harder than your Sudoku and, of course, hard if you are only just planning on getting off the couch today to do one in 3 months time. But doing that marathon-thing after you’ve cycled 100 miles is probably tricky…after 112miles, even trickier.

Whilst ‘OK’, I’m not the world’s best swimmer and like to think myself half-decent at the bike/run bit but, honestly, after you’ve cycled ‘a fair way’ running becomes considerably more difficult than you might think it should be.

Summary: Gulp

Just let there be no lingering doubt that you might not have done it ‘properly’ and therefore have to do ANOTHER one! Train hard and always give the 110% your maths teacher told you you should..


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9 thoughts on “"Ironman or Iron-Distancer?" That is a question.

  1. I am not in the business of triathlons and am not so keen on details, but always thought that ‘being an Ironman’ is really about finishing this classic distance in defined time limit (17h I think?), and not necessarily an Ironman branded event.
    Following this thinking, anyone who finished just Boston Marathon is not marathoner since this event is not recognized as official marathon (due to elevation drop between start and finish). I dont think such an athlete would have problems being recognized as marathoner anywhere in the world, dont You think?

  2. Yeah, getting ready for my first full distance triathlon (aka “Ironman” distance) event, I thought “I know I can bike 112 miles. I know I can run a marathon. Just how am I going to run a marathon AFTER 112 miles biking??” After three such events (plus a hybrid full/half due to bike course being cut short), this still eludes me though I’ve gotten better. But, still working on it. What pros have said to me on this question is to bike more. Get stronger on the bike for a strong run. In addition, one other thing are using short runs after the bike so you get used to that transition. In addition, one tool to help is to get a power meter for the bike. It will help you in maintaining a power level on the bike so you don’t blow up and end up with a disastrous run. Definitely helped me in my third event (and really in the hybrid one too) as 13 guys who finished ahead of me on the bike spent their legs there and I ended up passing them on the run. Still had to walk through some aid stations and slowed over time. So, looking to have a more consistent run in my next full distance events. BTW, there are no “easy” full distance triathlons. You just have to train differently for different types of course (no, flatter is not easier because you’re always pedaling on the bike…no coasting). But, they’re all still 140.6 miles. If you don’t have a coach and looking for a plan, I recommend Don Fink’s “Be Iron Fit” which has beginner/just finish, intermediate, and advanced level plans. Got me through my first two and then I decided to get a coach for the next two and beyond.

  3. I didn’t bother. When I had the option I chose challenge Roth. The race was great and it was an iron distance race. Am I an Ironman? No doubt!
    Am I branded Ironman? Who cares…
    Are you buying a brand or an experience?
    Are you doing it to get a tattoo?
    If so then Conformism is great , have fun.
    The way you describe it like the branded ones are the true ones is really immature.
    It’s more about terrain and convenience, some Ironman races are really lame, and some are amazing.
    Unless you want to qualify for Kona, that’s a whole different story but I don’t think you are there yet.

    1. I did a challenge event and then ended up doing copenhagen for a fast time.
      some of the comments in the article mightjust be a bit tonge in cheek

  4. A few years ago I decided I’d like to do an ironman event before I was 40. To cut a long story short…that happens in a few months…turning 40, that is. Not doing an ironman.
    If I’m honest, the cost was ridiculous and I would need to train more than I could commit to right now, but if I was to do it, it would be the OUTLAW event near Nottingham. Not a branded ‘ironman’ one.
    Personally, that doesn’t bother me. The OUTLAW doesn’t go easy on toughness and the cut-offs are the same. Ask anyone who’s done it.
    The ironman brand have been very clever over time in planting that seed of ‘are you an ironman?’. They’re in business. Off course they want you to do their event rather than someone else’s…And charge a little more to be a part of that particular club maybe too.

    In summary, I’d say, if you think it matters… then it does. Like if you were planning to get the tattoo and would feel bad every time you looked at it otherwise, then go and do the named event.

    If you’re getting branded then go branded.

    But in my mind, if you’ve swam 2.4 miles, biked 112, and run a marathon within the cut-offs you are no less ‘iron’ than someone who did it somewhere with black and red colouring at the finish line.


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