The Reluctant Triathlete

It’s once again time for the reluctant triathlete to consider making a leap of faith

With another new year about to begin, the flood of resolutions to become slimmer and fitter will once again resonate across North America.

It’s a mystery why people feel they have to wait until January 1 before considering improving their quality of life, but it is what it is. At least the magical date has succeeded in changing the lives of those who have stuck to their resolutions for more than a month. That in itself is cause for celebration.

Maybe all through the Spring and Summer of the past year you heard about, or perhaps witnessed, the achievements of family members, friends, or co-workers who have taken up the sport of triathlon.

Often you were in awe of their achievements and more than once you wished it was something that you could do. You convinced yourself that it was for the fitter, more athletic types and it was beyond your level of ability.


When you look in the mirror, perhaps what you see is enough to convince you that triathlon is simply not for your. You’re out of shape, over-weight, and your body language proclaims you believe this is all you’ll ever be.

“What has my body done to me?” you ask yourself.

Not so fast. Your body has done nothing but do your bidding. The one in charge is you. You should be asking, “what have I done to myself?”

Whatever you did in your lifetime has been assimilated and delegated by your body according to your every whim. Every bit of booze, cigarettes, drugs, vitamins, health foods, junk foods, fat, protein, simple or complex carbohydrate has been dealt with as efficiently as possible. Your sedentary or active lifestyle has also been taken into account by your ever willing to please body.

It’s actually a miracle of creation how our body can adapt to the way of life we choose to follow.

Eat more calories than you burn? Whether these calories come from fat, protein, or simple or complex carbohydrates, your body will store them for future use. It assumes you’re eating the way you do for a reason and will do the logical thing. Extra calories will be converted to fat for future use and stored around the waist for easy access, and will eventually spread out from there.

reluctant triathlete diet

Save these for a treat after your first triathlon.

Do you sit around and spend much of your spare time watching T.V. or playing video games? Is the sedentary lifestyle more your cup of tea? That’s fine. Your body will assume you don’t need a strong heart to pump blood to working muscles because well, they’re not working. As a matter of fact, it will go a step further. Why keep idle muscles toned, vibrant, and strong anyway? If they’re not being used, it makes more sense to let them soften or fall victim to atrophy.

After all, this is the message you’re sending your body, and you’re the boss. Well, aren’t you?

So maybe you don’t like what you see when you look in the mirror. Maybe you think there’s no hope for you.

Nothing could be further from the truth. You weren’t always the way you are. It took years to reach this point in your life. What you see is what you are today. It has no bearing on what you can become tomorrow.


Are you ready for positive change and ready to find the real you? Are you ready to believe in yourself?

Just watch the changes take place as soon as you take your life in a fitter, healthier direction. Make better food choices. Learn how to swim. Buy a used road bike for a few hundred bucks, buy a wind-trainer, and start spinning in your living room or basement. Take it outside when you’re ready.

walk then run

Just start somewhere. The sky’s the limit.

Not used to running or simply too out of shape? No problem. Start by walking with purpose around the block or on the bike path by the river. In a few weeks add some running into the mix. Run-walk, run-walk, run-walk. Maybe walk five minutes and run for two and repeat. As you get fitter, walk less and run more. It won’t be that long before you’ll just be running.

Your body will pick up on the new demands and immediately begin to compensate to comply with your wishes. Because after all. You’re the boss. Well, aren’t you?

Your heart will get stronger in order to pump blood to working muscles. Muscles will shed old tissue and be replaced with new. They will get strong and toned. Your lungs will get stronger too. They have to in order to compensate for the extra oxygen you need in order to increase your level of physical activity.

You’ll start burning calories for fuel and soon all your stored fat will begin to disappear. Complex carbohydrates will burn in the fire of the quality fats you eat and be converted to high-octane fuel.

You’re no longer a clunker of a car.

You are a Ferrari who is leaving the reluctant triathlete that was once you in your dust.


It’s always a good idea to have a goal in mind when you make the brave and life-changing decision to shed the chains of mediocrity and discontent and begin the search for the new you.

People are often amazed when they realize the potential that has been locked up inside them for years. They didn’t know it was there, because they spent their lives as spectators.

It was when they resolved to step onto the highway of self-discovery and accomplishment that their true selves began to emerge.

So, pick a race down the road as your goal. It can be a try-a-tri, Sprint Triathlon, Olympic Distance Triathlon, Ironman 70.3, or even an Ironman.

Pick whatever goal suits you, but be sure to give yourself all the time you need to prepare.

The important thing to remember is that the biggest accomplishment is getting to the start line, and not necessarily how the race itself unfolds.

Getting to the start line means that you have taken a risk. You are going into undiscovered territory, not knowing what the outcome will be.

That takes courage.

We learned to walk by falling down. If we never took that risk, we’d still be crawling.

Read about endurance athletes and food that fuels them.

Four weeks away from your Ironman Triathlon

The training and waiting may be drawing to a close, but just four weeks away from Ironman Triathlon and the anticipation, self-doubt, and second-guessing is hitting full stride.

That very moment when you decided to take on the Ironman challenge seems like so long ago and yet here you are, looking into the eye of the tiger.

The nearer the race gets, the more you begin to question your preparedness and perhaps the choice you made so long ago that has led you down this path.

I am writing this as a suggestion for those who may be taking on their first Ironman, or perhaps have done a few and came up short of personal expectations.

Of course the pros have their own game and are basically on their own planet, and there are also age-group athletes who have a coach who has everything planned out for them as the race nears.

By all means, listen to your coach if you feel comfortable and confident in the direction you are being taken.

However, every year there are thousands of novice Ironman around the world who are twisting in the wind and doing the best they can on their own and might welcome a bit of direction.

Perhaps I can make a few suggestions based on what I have learned over the years from experience and years of researching distance running and the Ironman Triathlon.

Lets begin with one very important point.


This one singular thought is often what leads triathletes to go into an Ironman over-trained and tired.

From the moment the gun sounds to begin the swim they have put themselves at a disadvantage because they simply did not know when to stop pushing the training envelope.

There is always a nagging doubt that easing off and resting will somehow take away all you have gained from the weeks, months, and perhaps years of training that you have endured. Will all your sacrifices be for nothing if you ease off on the training four weeks away from your Ironman Triathlon?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It sounds a lot like how I thought 30 years ago when I ran every day of the year except for one(against my better judgement I took Xmas day off) for fear of my marathon training going backwards.

I could not have been more wrong. What really happened is that for all those wayward early years I never ever raced to my full potential and had both knees “scoped” before most of the world had ever heard of arthroscopic knee surgery.

As far as endurance is concerned, there is nothing to be gained in the last four weeks of training before the big race.

Endurance is built up slowly over time and what you have built up with four weeks to go is what you can expect to be taking into the race with you.

It’s time to ease off and accept that endurance-wise are as ready as you will ever be.

There are no amount of five-mile swims, 25-mile runs, or century bike rides that will help your cause this near to the race.

In fact these will be a detriment and your body will be spending more time recovering from those efforts when in fact it should be healing and charging your battery to capacity for the big day ahead.

A more sensible time to tackle a few of those last long training efforts is in the second last month before your race. By going long with six or seven weeks left before your race, you will have plenty of time to recover from those efforts and will be perfectly positioned to begin your four-week taper into the race.

For each of those last four weeks, cut down the amount of time you spend training, but at the same time train at about the same intensity as you did for most of the year. You want to rest and recover, but at the same time want to stay sharp.

You can stay sharp without the long bikes and runs.


To simplify things, lets talk about time spent training as opposed to speeds and distances. As I just mentioned, during that last month maintain the same level of intensity and concentrate more on time spent training.

In other words, if you normally trained 16 hours per week on average, cut that time down to 12-13 hours in the fourth last week, 8-9 hours in the third last week and 4-5 hours with two weeks to go.(adjust this example to suit the amount of training you normally do)

When you are two full weeks away from your race it would not hurt to do your own mini-triathlon.

I would not enter a race, but rather would plan to swim for 30 minutes, bike for 45 minutes or so, and run for 35-40 minutes. Keep the time(transitions)in between short. What you are doing is preparing your body and reminding it what you will be doing two weeks down the road. This should take up less than two hours in total.

Another 2-3 hours of short brisk workouts in that 2nd last week and you should be perfectly tuned and ready to go.

It also serves to give you a last chance to work out your transitions as far as gear etc. and will keep you sharp as hopefully you have eased off on the training considerably by this time.


Now you will be into race week where you will hopefully do very little in the way of swimming, biking, or running.

This is the time to be staying in the shade, topping up your glycogen stores, hydrating(beginning about Wednesday for a Sunday race)and visualizing yourself swimming a perfectly relaxed stroke, spinning easily on the bike, moving steadily on the marathon course, and crossing the Ironman finish line.

four weeks away from your ironman triathlon-

Never under-estimate the power of visualization.

The importance of visualization cannot be over-stated. It will do you a hundred times more good than running or biking in the heat in the days preceding the race. Because others will be doing it, does not mean you should be as well.

Any careless expenditure of energy during race-week is unrecoverable in time for the race and will work against you.

You can visualize yourself doing the entire Ironman course while laying in the shade without expending one ounce of energy unnecessarily, getting sore, tired muscles, or getting dehydrated. Those are all things that will happen if you decide to tackle 60-70 miles of the bike course or run fifteen miles in the week before the race.


Welcome to the world of the Ironman Triathlon. Join the club of all the novice Ironmen over the years who begin to think they have bitten off a bit too much as the race gets closer and closer.

One of the biggest accomplishments of becoming an Ironman is overcoming these fears and finding yourself standing knee-deep in the water waiting for the race start as the anthem is playing in the background.

It is a moment you will remember forever and the moment you deserve because you have worked for it.

If not you……then who?

The very soul of the Ironman Triathlon is all of those people who have overcome so much adversity in order to make it to the finish line.

The Ironman family is comprised of people who were not willing to settle for mediocrity and watch life pass them by.

It is a time for ordinary people to do something extraordinary.

Don’t doubt it for a minute.

It’s your time to fly with the eagles and find out just how much you are truly capable of once you start believing in yourself.



Morning After Ironman

The morning after ironman will eventually come and how do you think you’ll feel

Most likely everything will hurt. Trust me, if you just finished your first ironman it will be a “good” hurt.

When you wake up the morning after Ironman, you will be overwhelmed by several things.

First of all it will hit you that you have just succeeded in one of the most difficult challenges of your life. You will also ache in almost every fiber of your body.

Despite the pain, you will be on top of the world. YOU will be an Ironman triathlete. Believe me the pain becomes insignificant the morning after ironman if you succeed in your quest for the finish line.

Morning After Ironman

you may become attached to your triathlon bike

As a matter of fact, in a way, you will welcome it as a testament to the effort it required to reach your goal. The morning after crossing the ironman finish line for the first time will be an exciting moment as you realize that you have really done it.

Chances are there were many times during the race when you really felt like giving up but your didn’t. Perhaps shortly after you crossed the finish line the day before, you swore to yourself you would never, never put yourself through anything like that again.

You will be “amazed” how quickly you’ll forget how much you hurt right at that moment. Almost overnight you will be wondering where the registration will be for the next years race.

As for getting out of bed the morning after, well, that’s another story. You will most likely feel that you’ll never walk the same again. Trust me, it gets better. The way you will feel in the morning after finishing an ironman the day before is a unique feeling but you’ll get over it.

First of all, when you first get up, you would be wise to have some sort of replacement drink, because your body was asked to perform above and beyond during the race and must be refueled.

As much as the thought of drinking anything might disgust you, it’s a very important step to aid in a speedy recovery.

Morning After Ironman

Your Ironman I.D. bracelet. Wear it for at least a week after.

Have a nice long shower. You may have to do some serious scrubbing to get those magic marker numbers to disappear from your arms and legs. You may not want to make them disappear completely.

It is not unusual to see faint race numbers all over town, worn proudly as a badge of honor, until days later when they slowly disappear on their own.

Usually your ID bracelet will still be on when you get back home. Some Ironman finishers have been know to put on their finisher t-shirts the morning after and leave them on for a week.


This is important advice when it comes to your finishers t-shirt. You will only ever get one. No matter how many of these amazing races you attempt, you will only ever get one “first” Ironman finisher shirt.

Wear it for a week or so and then clean it well and store it away. This will be really important to you years down the road. Just looking at mine now–over 28 years later brings back such a rush of amazing memories of that first time I crossed the finish of my first Ironman in Kona.

Sometimes I wonder how many of these t-shirts still remain in my country, Canada. I remember, despite this being a big country, there were only around 50 Canadians in Hawaii in 1984.

I could well have one of the few finisher t-shirts left from that race. Even though it seems to have shrunk. At least I hope that’s why it fits a bit tight.

Morning After Ironman

Cherish your finisher medal

Take a minute to look at the finisher’s medal that was put around your neck when you crossed the finish line.

It is something very special that you may want to frame one day.

Don’t forget, once you are officially recorded as a finisher, you can purchase the Ironman Trademark finisher clothes that are on sale for that year.

Make sure you bring along extra money for this. These are finisher clothes you can wear year round at home after you pack your finish line t-shirt away.

O.K. When you get out of the shower, its time to eat something. Your digestive system may be in a bit of a mess, but don’t worry, this soon goes away and you will be eating everything is sight later in the day.

For breakfast however take it a bit easy. Your digestive system can be a bit of a mess the morning after ironman.

After you have something to eat, “get out that door and go for a walk!” As hard as that may sound, its for the best. Plus you have to find a newspaper anyway.

Don’t leave it too long because souvenir newspaper ‘fly’ off the rack the morning after an Ironman Triathlon. The local morning paper will most likely have the entire race front and center and who knows, your picture might even be in it.

In later years, I started going for an easy run the morning after. Yes! A run! Just an easy walk at first. Then stretch it out into longer strides.

Then try and run really, really easy for a minute or so. Do this a few times. You will be amazed how much this will speed up your recovery. In later years, I was able to run 15-20 minutes quite easily the day after.

Some Ironmen prefer to go for a swim the day after the race, but I always found that took too much work to go to the beach and change and dry off etc. A simple easy jog always worked the best.

I used to love taking that morning after Ironman paper and finding a really great coffee shop and reading through the entire race story.

Often you will run into lots of other Ironmen who will be more than happy to share their race experience with you. Its just a really great day.


By early afternoon, (after entering for the next year, if I had decided to)I was ready to make the fast food run. Every Ironman town or city has a “fast-food” street.

I would walk up and down that street and have all those forbidden foods I had passed by during training. Fried chicken, pizza, french fries, maybe a hamburger, and my all time favorite–ice cream. Treat yourself. You earned it.

Morning After Ironman

Treat yourself. You deserve it.

If you go on to do even more of these incredible races, you will develop your own Ironman ritual. You will find ways that you just love to spend that day after you have crossed the finish line. It soon becomes a part of your total Ironman experience.

The morning after Ironman is time to celebrate. Regardless how you spend the next day, enjoy it! You have joined a very special group. You have become part of the Ironman family and that will be yours to cherish forever.

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Seeing the Ironman Triathlon for the first time

Shortly after seeing the Ironman Triathlon for the first time it inspired you and most likely the first question to cross your mind was “I wonder if I could do that?”

You just happened to be at the venue the day the triathlon is taking place. Maybe you were there to cheer someone else on, or maybe you decided to volunteer.

Perhaps you just lived nearby and went to see what waS going on. Maybe you saw your first Ironman race on television.

You watched in awe and amazement as hundreds of athletes all decked out in wet suits hit the water in a frenzy of arms and legs when the starting gun sounds. The water boils into a white froth as the swimmers vie for position and make their way to the first turn marker far out from shore

You watched as the first swimmers complete the swim course and make a quick change into their cycling gear. Bike after bike headed out onto the highway as the second leg of the triathlon begins.


You were somehow mesmerized by the event and spent the whole day on the course as it gets later in the day and the triathletes are out on the run course.

However the best is yet to come as the leaders arrive at the finish line to the cheers of the crowd and once they start arriving, it continues on for hours as more and more athletes accomplish their goal and reach the finish line.

As it grows dark and the last finisher begin to arrive, you were moved by the effort and determination they are showing. You are almost moved to tears when you see a middle-aged mother greeted by her children at the finish line.

The one thing that stands out in your mind is that some of the finishers don’t look like the slim and toned winners of the event. They look like, well, ordinary people! It’s seeing the Ironman Triathlon for the first time that makes them realize that it’s not just for ripped super athletes.

The truth is, they are ordinary people who have taken up the challenge to do something extraordinary in their lives. They have taken up the challenge of a triathlon. An event that is not just a test of physical stamina and strength, but also of emotional and mental abilities to challenge oneself to “become more.”

Can you do something like this? It looks pretty hard. Is it beyond you?


Of course it’s not! People are capable of so much if only they give themselves a chance. Our bodies are amazing and given half a chance, it will respond in a positive way if you begin to train yourself to become a fitter version of your self.

Can’t swim? So what? Many of the people you are watching cross the finish line most likely couldn’t swim or were poor swimmers when they decided to take up the challenge of the triathlon. They just got out there and learned.

Can’t bike? Sure you can! Most of us have some skill at riding a bike. The only difference is, the triathlon bike you will be using will be much lighter and faster than what you rode as a child or teen. Your body will still remember how to bike.

You just have to get out there and practice and train until your body adapts to the new demands you are placing on it.

“That long swim and long bike and then I still have to run!” you think to yourself. “I could never run that far after all that.”

Maybe not, but there is nothing saying you “have” to run all the way. Once you get off that bike, you have a pretty good chance of reaching the finish line. You can walk some, and you can run some, but the main thing is to keep moving forward.

The others around you trying to accomplish the same thing will help and inspire you. So will the spectators and volunteers.


Visit for information on upcoming WTC Ironman Triathlon events.

Ironman Triathlon DNF

Many first time Ironman have a fear of having an Ironman Triathlon DNF beside their name.

Ironman DNF is not what anyone wants to see on the race results form.

There are many people who avoid taking on the Ironman Challenge for fear of failing.

So why is it so terrible if you make an attempt at reaching the Ironman triathlon and don’t finish?


Personally I don’t believe there is any such thing as failing in the Ironman
Triathlon. I think it is a major victory to get to the start line.

It takes a pretty special person to look the tiger in the eye and stand knee-deep in the water beside a few thousand other triathletes waiting for that gun to go off.

The aspiring Ironman goes through a lot just to reach the start line and that in itself is quite an amazing feat. In the big scheme of things there is a very small percentage of people in the world who have what it takes to accept the Ironman Triathlon challenge.

Personally, of the 14 Ironman races I started, I had three Ironman Triathlon DNF results for various reasons that included everything from food poisoning to injury. If I had let it get to me the first time it happened I never would’ve had the long, successful Ironman career I eventually had. I never would have written four books on the subject and this website would not exist.

Ironman Triathlon DNF

Sure there was an initial disappointment but I didn’t lose sleep over it.

Instead I just rested up for a month or so and began training for the next year. The Ironman will always be waiting for your return and having an Ironman Triathlon DNF result is not the end of the world.


The experience–whether it lives up to your expectations or not– should be viewed as an opportunity to grow and learn and a reminder of just how tough the Ironman Triathlon is and the very reason it is such an accomplishment in the first place.

Besides, there are many benefits from all that time spent training and preparing yourself for the big race.

Ironman Triathlon DNF-female triathlete swim training in pool

The learning and the training is never wasted.

You probably worked yourself into the best shape of your life just to take your shot at one of the most difficult endurance races in the world.

It goes without saying that you earned a lot of respect from those around you who saw the day-to-day effort you put into making it to the big show.

You will no doubt learn new skills that may have at one time seemed so far beyond you. Who would ever have thought that one day you would consider swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and then covering the marathon distance of 26.2 miles to the finish line?


There’s lots of reasons why an Ironman race might not work out as you hoped.

There is always the chance of a mechanical problem with your bike or perhaps being involved in an accident.

Possibly you didn’t eat or drink properly in that final week leading into the race, the morning of the race, or during the race itself. The importance of proper nutrition and hydration simply cannot be over-stated.

What you put into your body is essentially your fuel and if you run out of fuel or use a low-grade fuel it could seriously impact your performance on race day.

Perhaps you simply over-trained and left your best race out on your favorite bike route back home. You will certainly not be the first or the last triathlete to make that mistake.

One of the most important aspects of preparing for an Ironman Triathlon is knowing when to rest.

Many people will go into an Ironman with a lingering training injury. If you have even the smallest injury, the Ironman will magnify it, so its extremely important that you’re a 100% going into the race.

If an injury flares up in the weeks before the race it might mean doing very little in the way of swimming, biking, or running for 2 or 3 weeks or more leading into the race and there’s nothing wrong with that.

You may feel you are losing all you worked for, but the training you did all year will carry you through the race. On the other hand, even the smallest seemingly insignificant injury could end your day abruptly if you do not allow time for it to heal.


Some people tend to become very depressed when the race doesn’t turn out as they hoped. They go home wondering how they will explain their Ironman DNF to everyone who asks them how the Ironman went.

You don’t owe an explanation to anyone, but if you must answer, there is one best answer.

“The Ironman is a tough race. That’s what makes it special. If it was that easy, where would the challenge be?”

Hopefully at that point you tell that person you intend to try as many times as it takes to reach the Ironman finish line.

Consider the races where you came up a bit short a learning experience that will help propel you to the finish line the next time. Use an Ironman triathlon DNF as a learning experience.

A few years ago I had an email from a triathlete who had failed five times to reach the Ironman South Africa finish line and at the time was preparing to make his sixth attempt in just a few weeks.

Ironman Triathlon DNF

It will all be worth it when you do get there.

He said he would not trade anything for the thrill of being part of such an amazing event as the Ironman Triathlon whether he finished or not and he knew that if he persisted he would have his day in the sun.

He did not for one second let the Ironman Triathlon DNF beside his name in the results book year after year deter him or keep him from holding onto his dream of one day reaching the Ironman finish line.

It was pretty special when I received an email from him a few weeks later with his finish line picture attached.

To me, he is the true definition of an Ironman. I can only imagine the huge amount of satisfaction he must have felt when the finish line was just a few meters away.

Don’t ever let the fear of having an Ironman Triathlon DNF beside your name be the reason for not taking on the Ironman Triathlon challenge.



Visit for race information.