Anatomy of an Ironman triathlete

The anatomy of an Ironman triathlete and what inspires them to do what they do is a question that has stumped side-line observers since the birth of the Ironman Triathlon in the late 1970’s.

What is it that drives people to take on the challenge of the Ironman Triathlon? What is it that makes them tick and stand apart from so many other people in the world?

It’s almost as if those who answer the challenge of the Iron Gods have long had the pent-up need buried deep within to find a way to push themselves to the absolute limit in every aspect of their being.

anatomy of an ironman triathlete-Ironman Triathlon swim course changes by WTC

Ironman Canada swim start 2012. Image taken by author

Just perhaps the path they have traveled in their lives has left them unfulfilled in a way they have never quite been able to grasp. As hard as they try in everything they do, there is always the feeling deep inside that they are capable of so much more.

They are frustrated from searching and never finding that mystical, unreachable finish line that has eluded them for so long.

That’s until they were IronStruck and were exposed to an Ironman Triathlon for the very first time. It triggered something inside them that said…..this is it! I have to reach that finish line no matter what it takes, no matter what anyone says or thinks, no matter what I have to sacrifice. This is the challenge I have been waiting for all my life.

One of the definitions of ANATOMY is the structure or internal workings of something.

Welcome to the anatomy of an Ironman triathlete….the Type A personality.


For the most part, a Type A Ironman finds it difficult to relax. The favorite chair of the Type A Ironman is heavily worn on the front edge because that’s where they normally sit. They don’t usually sit back in a chair because that can prevent them from springing into action. It’s a challenge for them to simply sit still.

Relaxing is a waste of time. They almost feel guilty if they are sitting around and not out there training. After all, there’s a finish line to get to and it’s going to be a tough one to reach.

It’s this Type A personality trait that also works against the unwary Ironman triathlete. It’s the main reason why in race after race, most of the triathletes in an Ironman are tired and over-trained when the starting gun sounds to begin the swim on race morning.

It may be that there personality type inspired them to take on the Ironman, but that same personality and drive to move ever forward is difficult to harness.

Like an out of control freight train on a down-grade, it can be an impossible task to convince these people to slow down and rest and recover in the taper weeks before the big race.

Usually they simply can’t take it easy and implode somewhere on the 26.2-mile run course and join the all to familiar Ironman Death March.


Almost without fail those in the Type A family like to have control of their schedules and time.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that training for an Ironman is often best done alone. It just suits the personality trait so much better.

At first when they begin training for an Ironman they set up training rides and runs with other people.

Anatomy of an Ironman

The clock is ticking

The inevitable often happens that really gets under their skin. Someone is late and that really bugs them because they want to get moving. Not only is the training partner late, but now they are making them late. They have their day all planned and somebody is messing with their schedule.

It’s for this reason that one way or the other, an aspiring Ironman will eventually find that it’s best to do the majority of their Ironman training on their own.

Years ago, long before there ever was an Ironman Triathlon there was a phrase for marathoners that seems to fit today’s triathlete…The loneliness of the long distance runner. Many a Type A Ironman has taken that loneliness to a whole new level and for the most part really enjoy it.


There is the urge to always keep on moving for the Type A personality. Ever forward, ever onward toward the goal and often it’s a win and succeed at all cost mentality.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a friendly game of pool, a game of Monopoly, or the Ironman Triathlon. It’s simply too hard to do anything in half-measures.

anatomy of an ironman triathlete

Type A personalities know how to get things done no matter what it takes.

For the majority of triathletes, to reach the Ironman finish line is to win and those with Type A character traits will push themselves to the brink emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically in order to realize their goal.

Regardless of where an Ironman event takes place in the world the chances are very good these driven athletes will succeed and realize their Ironman dream for one main reason.

When you factor everything into the equation, Type A personalities know how to get things done.


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