Ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes

The ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes no matter what part of the world the race is taking place in.

No matter what Ironman race is happening someplace in the world there is a very good chance that the same mistakes are being made over and over again.

Whether a triathlete is taking a run at their very first Ironman finish line or has reached it a few times, it seems that the same ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes are being made race after race.

Often it is not the triathlete who is to blame.

The Ironman Triathlon is a complex event and in a search for answers it is very easy to be inundated with misinformation that can cause the same problems to occur over and over again. There is a lot advice to be found on the sport these days and much of it does more harm than good.

The Ironman does not have to be over-whelming. It has to be understood and once you figure out the basic fundamentals the whole Ironman experience changes for the better.

Sometimes like I did in my early Ironman years, a triathlete will keep doing the same thing over and over again and getting the very same results.

How often does someone have to end up in the marathon death march before they finally realize that something is not quite right?

Some people never do. They begin to believe the incredible pain and suffering comes with the package and one day they leave the sport without ever realizing what they were truly capable of.

Insanity is often described as Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

It’s a good definition for wayward Ironman preparation when I think back to all the thousands of laps I swam with the wrong technique and with the wrong goals in mind.

And when I think back to the hours and hours of biking through all kinds of weather that were basically empty miles that never focused on technique, so I never improved.

When I think back to the days when rest was an after-thought and got in the way of getting ready for the next Ironman down the road.

Train, eat, sleep, work. The constant mantra year after year and day after day with little thought to total rest and recovery time for a body that was being pushed to the limit.

So with 2013 upon us and a new year ahead and and the sport of Triathlon reaching new heights with many people taking part in their first Ironman Triathlon ever, you might just have a better shot of achieving your goal if you try and avoid these ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes.


Almost without fail, the first time Ironman will go into the race over-trained. The hardest thing to learn about your training, is when to rest. For many triathletes new to the Ironman distance this could well be at the top of ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes.

Its really difficult to convince some athletes that rest is an essential component of their Ironman preparation. Some will insist on training no matter how tired they are or how sore they are and that’s pretty much the most common Ironman mistake of all.

They will completely forget to factor in the physical and mental effort they expend at work every day.

Worse yet, as the big day approaches they often are fearful of slowing down as they wrongly believe they might lose the endurance they worked so hard for. This line of reasoning almost always results in going into the race tired as they start their taper far too late to do any good.

They continue to pound out the mileage for fear they’ll lose the conditioning they worked so hard to achieve. Don’t let this way of thinking be the mistake that hurts your Ironman chances.

Here are a few tips that will help you avoid this ironman mistake:

If you begin a workout and just know its going to be a struggle–you just have no energy–stop the work-out and go home. Your body is trying to send you a message and ignoring it is not a wise decision.

You obviously need more rest and it’s not a mistake to take an unscheduled day off from training. When it gets really bad, take an entire week-end and do “nothing” associated with Ironman training. Go away for a few days.

You won’t lose a thing and will resume your training rested and refreshed. As far as tapering, your longest workout day should be “4 weeks” before race day. Begin your taper there.


Its almost sad to see the effort some people put into their Ironman training only to stall their strength and endurance growth with an improper diet.

This is most common mistake next to over-training.

Avoid the junk food, eat a proper balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat. Enhance a proper diet with vitamin supplements.

Learn the difference between complex and simple carbohydrates and how they effect your body. Learn why superior fat products like coconut oil and virgin olive oil are great choices. Poor diet makes the list of the ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes.


It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype on Ironman week. Too much time is spent in restaurants eating food you don’t normally eat. Do the smart thing and book yourself a room with a kitchenette and prepare the same foods that got you through all your training.

Ironman week is not a good time to make radical changes of any type that will throw your body out of sync.

Far too many athletes will also do the swim course several times or hammer out long bike rides or pound through ten mile runs in the blazing heat. Why would you want to do that? Most likely you already trained all year? Pounding out more distance in the last few days will do more harm than good.

None of this helps you. You must stay relaxed and get lots of rest that final week. Before you arrive at the venue, make sure you have a plan set out for the entire week, right up to race morning.


Either athletes will drink too much or not enough leading up to the race. You should start hydrating several days before the race. Wednesday before a Sunday race is about right.

The rule of thumb is, when urine is clear and copious, you are properly hydrated. This is where you want to be on Saturday if the race is Sunday. Too much drinking will flush too many nutrients out of your system and could lead to hyponatremia.

More is not better.

Avoid drinking too much on race morning. You don’t want fluid sloshing around in your stomach during the swim. In the early years of the Ironman, athletes never drank enough, now there are many who make the mistake of drinking too much.

The key is to have the optimum balance of hydration when the gun goes off to start the swim and then to maintain it over the course of the day.

Taking in fluids at regular intervals(by setting you watch to beep every 25-30 minutes once on the bike)will remind you to replace the fluid you just used in the previous 30 minutes.

In a perfect world, if you did it right you would be just as well hydrated when you cross he finish line as you were when the start gun sounded.

In the real world many Ironman finishers require two, three, four, or even more units of I.V. replacement fluid in the medical tent in order to achieve this.

It is simply the result of poor hydration planning and can be easily avoided.


The day before the race is crucial! You shouldn’t be doing much of anything. Rest is the order of the day. Do your best to stay out of the sun.

Eat your final large meal early in the day if possible.(I never ate after 4 p.m. on that last day). This gives your digestive system time to work.

Do what you must do. For instance–bike check-in, pre-race meeting and then go back to your room and relax. It’s a common ironman mistake to get all tired out trying to burn off nervous energy in the days leading up to the race.

The day before the race is not the best time to be wandering around the expo under the beating sun. Do that when it’s cooler or perhaps earlier in the week.


It’s an Ironman tradition to have mass swim starts and I can’t see that changing anytime in the near future(Unless you are doing a Challenge Race). Most races have upwards of 2000 starters in a congested swim area.

To convince yourself that the best strategy is to follow the course markers is a recipe for disaster. To decide to wait a minute or so, and then follow the markers is still a disaster.

When you look around, there will be hundreds of others waiting as well. Go in with a workable strategy. Avoid the crush.

Making these common mistake can have a huge impact on your race-day. If you over-stress yourself in the swim you will no doubt pay for it on the bike course and the marathon. An improperly planned swim is directly related to the Ironman marathon death march.

I have an excellent swim strategy in my book “Ironstruck…The Ironman Triathlon Journey.

Visit my ironstruck book store and find the perfect book for the new or experienced triathlete doing their very first try a tri triathlon or the Ironman.

Also, visit Total Immersion. Terry Laughlin has devised the best swim technique in the world for relaxed, efficient open water swimming. He is even offering Ironstruck visitors a 10% discount. Just follow the instructions on the Total Immersion image on the right side of this page.


The last place you should be running is in the transition area. If this is your first Ironman there is absolutely nothing to be gained by it.

It will drive your heart rate up. It will cause you to make mistakes. Take your time. In the chaos that surrounds you, keep in your own relaxed space.

Many times you will see triathletes get on their bikes and struggle to get it moving. For some reason they left their bike in a big gear before the race started.

This leads to a lack of control in the chaotic swim to bike transition and often leads to accidents. Leave your bike in the easiest gear you have and you will find that you have way more control. I like to call it the “leaving transition gear.


Relax!! Don’t eat or drink for twenty minutes or so. Let your body adjust to the new demands you’re placing on it. Then begin to fuel up for the bike ahead and keep nutrition and fluid on an even keel for the entire bike ride.

Also, remember to set your watch beeper to go off every 30 minutes or so. As I mentioned, this will remind you to hydrate and eat at steady intervals.

Set it up before the race and just press the button to activate it once you have given yourself some time to adjust to the bike.

Spin at a nice relaxed pace for the first 40 km or so and then pick it up a little to the pace you feel you can maintain for the bulk of the ride.

If you feel strong it is wiser to use that strength near the end of the bike and not the beginning. Going out to fast on the bike is one of the ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes.


Don’t just go out and wing it.

Have a well-conceived run plan.

Train months ahead for how you will approach the marathon on race-day.

In the big scheme of things there are very few people who can go into their first Ironman and run the whole thing from start to finish. Many, many triathletes will never be able to accomplish this no matter how many Ironman races they enter.

So train for the eventuality.

Do long run-walks in training. In other words, try a three hour training run like this.

Run for the first 30-45 minutes and then begin walking for two minutes and running for 12-15 minutes at a steady workable pace.

Keep repeating the run/walk sequence for the majority of the training session. If you feel great in the last half hour then take it home with a steady run.

In effect, what you’re doing is practicing walking the aid stations and running in between as much as possible.

If you feel relatively strong when you first head out on the marathon course then try and put in as much uninterrupted running as you can comfortably handle. Don’t feel discouraged when you seem to run out of energy after putting in some steady distance.

This is the reason why I suggest doing that long three-hour training run and beginning it with 40-45 minutes of running before you begin to run/walk. It will prepare you mentally for what will most likely happen on race day.

It’s quite natural to feel like you are running out of gas and this is the time to begin the run/walk sequence and if you plan ahead for this it will not have any negative psychological impact on race-day.

Often you will regain quite a lot of strength and energy if you use this Ironman Marathon strategy and in that case the last half of the marathon would be the best time to pick up the pace.

Perhaps run through two aid stations before taking a walking break. Some people even discover that they have a second wind and can run the final miles to the finish line without stopping.

There is nothing quite like passing dozens and dozens(and perhaps hundreds)of people in the last ten miles of the marathon as you motor along using a carefully planned run strategy that you implemented to perfection.

Ideally, this is how you want your marathon to unfold and it is very doable.

Not only will it involve far less pain, chances are you will have your best possible finish time.


As the marathon progresses and your energy and endurance are being challenged to the max, the normal reaction is to try eating a bit of everything available at the aid stations.

This is another disaster in the making. The last thing you need is cookies, fruit, coke, etc., etc. trashing your stomach. If you trained all year with gels and a certain type of replacement drink, then that’s what you should stick with.

Don’t make the common mistake of searching everywhere for a miracle cure. It isn’t there. The Ironman hurts.

That is the nature of the beast.

Don’t let it get the best of you.

Fight through it with an eating and drinking plan that you’ve thought out long before race day and you will have a far better chance of success.

Pretty much all the ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes listed on this page are not that difficult to overcome. You just have to take a step back and look at the big picture.

So many people put so much energy into their training yet ignore the obvious. They don’t take into account how important it is for their body to be in sync through-out the entire Ironman.

Planning your diet, hydration strategy, rest days, and pacing yourself on the big day are all just as important as pounding out mile after mile on the bike and swimming hundreds and hundreds of laps in the pool for months on end.

Actually, in many cases it’s more important.

It’s almost as if people forget that they are taking on one of the most difficult endurance races in the world.

Everything you do has to be carefully planned out and orchestrated so all the pieces fall into place on race day.

The Ironman has a way of finding a weakness.

It has a way of weeding out the pretenders from the contenders, so be sure and cover all the bases and be prepared for every aspect of Ironman day.

Once you understand and manage the ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes your experience will be that much more enjoyable and successful and for the rest of your life you will never forget the thrill and overwhelming sense of accomplishment of crossing the Ironman finish line knowing you ran your best possible race.

I just found this review of my first book Ironstruck the Ironman Triathlon Journey on Amazon U.K. and if I never sell another book this review makes it all worth it.

This review is from: IRONSTRUCK … The Ironman Triathlon Journey

I love this book. I’ve had it (and a few other Ironman books) for a few months and only picked it up to read in the last couple of weeks. Wow, what a fabulous book. Ray really gets into the soul of Ironman racing and it’s an absolute must for anybody embarking on their first ironman journey and equally for those contemplating the long training journey, whether it’s this year, next year or at some point in their life. It’s inspirational and I found myself reading through misty eyes as I could relate to the pain and joy of each step of the journey. The “Do’s and Don’ts” are excellent, the helpful insight to the swim and the inspiring “Ironman Bubble” will give any ironman novice that extra bit of confidence to realise their dream. It’s my first ironman this year; I’ll be racing in Switzerland in July – this book will accompany me everywhere over the next few weeks and will be my bible right up until Race Morning. A wonderful book. An absolute MUST BUY for the novice and seasoned Ironman athlete everywhere.

Hopefully this article on the Ten most common Ironman Triathlon mistakes will help you reach the Ironman finish line.

You can visit my ironstruck book store for more information on the books I have written.



Ironman Burnout

Not knowing when to take a rest from Ironman training can lead to Ironman burnout and have an adverse effect on your race results.

For many, reaching the Ironman finish line just once is their main objective and often Ironman burnout prevents them from getting there.

There’s no doubt that becoming an Ironman is worthy goal because it makes you a member of a very special family.

More and more novice Ironmen are taking up the Ironman challenge. A very small segment of the world population that will ever experience what it’s like to cross the Ironman finish line.

There are those who return year after year to take on yet another Ironman. It becomes a constant cycle of training, dieting, racing and sacrificing all else to relive the magic of crossing the finish line. Often this leads to over extending oneself physically and Ironman burnout is the result.


I know from experience what a heavy toll racing year after year can take on your body and also the family, career and social aspects of your life.

Ironman burnout

Sometimes you need a break from racing

Its important to consider how year after year of tackling the Ironman can impact your life and the life of those around you.

At one stretch I raced in the Ironman for nine years in a row. It seemed that after reaching the finish line for the first time the next one presented a new set of challenges.

With the growing amount of Ironman races around the world it’s become the norm for some triathletes to take on the Ironman challenge 3 or 4 times a year.

In Ironman Los Cabos there was one guy in the race who finished this 164th Ironman. You might say he has the Ironman bug.

When I think back to when I trained all year for one race. I might just as well have raced 6 or 8 Ironman’s a year because I was constantly in a state of training or racing anyway.

These always seemed to be new challenges in the Ironman. To swim faster, run the marathon without stopping, achieve a personal best overall time, or even place in your age group and go to Kona.


The problem is your body never totally recovers and it could mean that you will never realize your full potential. It gets to the point that you are just going through the motions and doing just enough to get to the finish line.

The point of diminishing returns is often reached and you stop improving from pushing too hard.

Like many, I believed that the more I raced and the more I trained, the more experience I would have and the faster I would go.

That was true for a few years, but then I started to slide backwards. Regardless of how much I trained or how long I prepared for a race, I just couldn’t improve. My times began to get slower.

Looking back I believe it was Ironman burnout brought on by years and years of constant training with insufficient rest. In my last few races I reverted back to where I started in the very beginning of my career.

I eventually gave up on trying to improve my Ironman time and just went into the races to experience the high of being part of such a great event.

It would not surprise me if this pretty well describes the triathlete who finished his 164th Ironman.


In my case, the constant training had taken away the competitive edge that drove me in the early years of my career. Probably all I had to do was take some time off from intense training and I would have remained competitive for years.

Consider taking a year off from Ironman and “then” coming back.

I really believe that if you are planning a long Ironman career it might beneficial to take a complete year off after you’ve competed in 3 or 4 Ironman races.

This will let your body fully recover and will also give you time to get back in touch with the other aspects of your life. Take some time for all those things that were put on the back-burner while you pursued your Ironman goals.

It doesn’t necessarily mean letting yourself fall completely out of shape. There’s no reason that you can’t stay fit and compete in shorter races. Run some 10K races, Olympic distance tri’s or maybe plan one marathon a year.

Go for nice relaxing swims and go for easy bike rides in the country. Don’t worry about times and splits and training schedules. Stay physically active 3 or 4 days a week to maintain your fitness, but make it enjoyable and easy.

When you resume Ironman training after giving yourself a long break you’ll be completely rejuvenated. You should have no problem settling back into your Ironman training program.


If you enjoyed this article you might also like Ironman did not finish.

Visit Ironman.com for race info.

Women triathletes and weight training

Women triathletes and weight training for optimum results

Gaining a competitive edge is very possible when women triathletes incorporate weight training into their race preparation.

There are many who believe there is nothing to be gained by women hitting the weight room in order to improve as triathletes. However that’s a myth and weight training is becoming the norm among women of all ages.

Almost half of the people who are new to the sport of triathlon in any give year are females. Many are new to swimming, biking, or running. The concept of women lifting weights could well be foreign to them.

It’s a common misconception that the testesterone charged atmosphere of the weight rooms of the world is a male domain. Some women might feel they would sort of stand out in the weight room and so avoid it.

Recently women of all ages have been adopting weight training

These days it’s highly possible that you will see women of all ages in the weight room pumping some iron. Seniors are becoming more familiar with the advantages of improving their overall fitness. Sure they might not be using much weight but you don’t really have to lift super-heavy weights in order to realize positive results.

Weight training can improve strength, endurance, and flexibility and does not have to necessarily be geared toward having big muscles.

women triathletes and weight training

Don’t forget about strengthening hamstrings

Women triathletes and weight training should be centered around developing strength and endurance over the long haul of a triathlon run and bike especially.

I would not worry so much about specific upper body muscles but rather would focus on spending your time on exercises that focus on full body strength and endurance.

If you improve your biking ability through strengthening and conditioning, then a better run will often be the end result. So by doing one exercise properly and spending just 20 minutes in the weight room at least 2 or optimally 3 time per week you stand a very good chance of realizing better results on race day.

The squat is the best all-around weight training exercise for women triathletes

Of course this is just my own personal opinion and you can take it or leave it, but I believe that doing “squats” is most likely the key exercise for women triathletes and weight training.

Although it might seem squats only strength the lower body, nothing could be further from the truth. Of course it will greatly benefit the bike and run that comprise some 90% of an Ironman but squats also impact back and shoulder muscles for the swim.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do upper body exercises specifically for the swim, but you have to look at the time spent training/reward ratio.

weight training-woman triathletes

Squats are a key exercise for triathletes

In the early 1980’s the Puntos twins from Quebec were beginning to make a splash on the Ironman Hawaii scene as pro women triathletes.

I remember them saying back in Kona in 1984 that early in their career they struggled with the bike portion of the triathlon. They were excellent swimmers and ran well enough to consider trying to qualify for the Olympic Marathon. The twins claimed that it was being introduced to squat repetitions by their coach that made them much improved cyclists. Once they became well-rounded Ironman triathletes they reached the top of the podium and in 1984 Sylvianne and Patricia were first and second in Ironman Hawaii in Kona.

They did squat repeats almost to failure but did many, many repetitions in order to get there. They used about 50%-55% of the maximum weight they could manage. For example, when I decided to adopt their squat weight training philosophy I would max out at around 380 pounds of weight for a few squats, so I used 200 pounds for my squat repetitions. I did half-squats and not full squats. With a full squat the stress on your knees is just too much and a half-squat will produce the results you want.

I worked my way up to 75 squats at the peak of my Ironman training. They were done in 3 sets of 25 repetitions with about a 2 minute rest in between sets.

Each set was done at a fast steady pace one rep after another until the 25 were done. The third set was challenging and at first I could not do all 25 of the last set, but eventually I was able to complete the entire workout every time.

weight training and women triathletes

Weight training made Puntos Twins better cyclists.

If you look at the image, the woman pictured weight training is doing a half-squat using a squat lifting station. Also make note of her straight back as this is crucial to good form. You do have the option of putting a small weight behind your heel as she has. It does help maintain a better body position, but personally I never used it.

I found that the change in my strength and endurance especially out on the Ironman bike course was dramatic and because the bike went better, so did the run.

It made a big difference on the hills and I was able to sustain a good pace for a longer period of time on the flats. So obviously there was an improvement in both strength and endurance.

I always did 15-20 reps first with a very light weight just to warm up the muscles and they were not part of the 75 rep workout. For instance you could just use the bar with no weight to warm up.

All you really need is about 15-20 minutes in order to do the entire workout and it will produce results. I did this work-out 3 times per week and usually just before my swim work-out. I would suggest at least 2 times a week and 3 times as a maximum with rest days in between to allow time for the muscles to re-build.


Each individual will use a different amount of weight. So for example if you are a a woman and can squat no more than 80 lbs. 4 or 5 times at your maximum, you would use 40-55 lbs. for the squat repetitions.

At that weight you should be able to do far more repetitions yet at the same time be challenging your muscles to improve in strength and endurance. At first you could try 3 sets of 10 reps and then increase it over time to 15 and then 20 and 25.

Be sure to use a squat exercise “station”as opposed to doing the squats freestyle. This allows for much more control and they have safety stops you can put in place in case you tire and have to let the weight down. When you use a squat machine you will not require a spotter in order to do the workout.

It’s all relative. The benefit is the same regardless of the difference between the amount of weight each person can squat, so don’t think you have to squat 100’s of pounds in order to see results.

So yes, I believe that women triathletes and weight training exercises can help women triathletes perform at their highest level and if you can fit it into your training schedule I would consider giving it a try for 12-14 weeks before the big race and see how you do.


Visit Ironman.com for excellent training tips

Women of triathlon

Over the years the women of triathlon have come a long way

In the early days of the Ironman it was mostly men who took part in the race. Lyn Lemaire was the first woman to complete the Ironman distance. That was in 1979 and because she was the only woman in the race and by default will always be known as the first female Ironman winner.

There is a lot of history that people are not aware of when it comes to the women of triathlon and endurance sports in general.

Every year there are more and more amazing female triathletes who not only manage to hold their own in a race as grueling as the Ironman Triathlon, but seem to be edging closer and closer to the results posted by the best male pros on the planet.

It’s hard to believe that less than 5 decades ago women were not allowed to take part in endurance events like the Boston Marathon as it was deemed beyond the female athlete’s ability and such races were strictly an all-male domain.

Breaking into this forbidden territory was an important step as far as women and endurance racing in any sport was concerned. It all began with some of the first women marathoners who would not accept their exclusion from races like the Boston Marathon.

To fully grasp how far women have come in the world of triathlon, it’s important to first know the story of a handful of women endurance runners who were instrumental in changing the way the world viewed women and their role in endurance sports in general.


In 1966, Sports Illustrated published the story of a woman named Bobbie(Roberta)Gibb who had hidden in some bushes and waited for about half the men to pass in the running of the Boston Marathon and then slipped into the race.

She finished the marathon, but her time was not recorded and she was not recognized as she did not wear a race number and was not an official entry.

Many people believe that it was Kathrine Switzer who was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, but actually she was the first one to be “officially entered” when she ran Boston in 1967. It was actually Robert’s gutsy move that helped inspire katherine to enter the race.

Race official trying to remove Katherine Switzer from course.

When Katherine read the entry rules, there was no mention that it was for men only that women were forbidden to enter. It was just assumed that it was beyond their capabilities so it was never actually stipulated in the rules.

When Katherine Switzer took part in the 1967 Boston Marathon it made world headlines. Katherine had officially entered and wore a race number but her time of around 4:20 was considered unofficial because she was a woman. The BAA(Boston Athletic Association)chose to ignore her accomplishment.

At one point in the 1967 Boston Marathon a race official ran onto the course and tried to physically stop Katherine Switzer from running once he realized a woman had dared to enter the sanctity of the male-only event. Her football playing boyfriend intervened and threw a body block and knocked the official off his feet and Katherine went on to finish the marathon.

In 1969, three women including Nina Kuscsik ran the Boston Marathon unofficially. Katherine stayed away for a few years, but returned in 1970 and along with four other women ran in Boston. This time Katherine’s time of 3:34 was officially recorded.

After taking part in the 1971 race, Nina Kuscsik, Katherine Switzer, and a woman named Sara Mae Berman joined forces to try and have the ban on women in the Boston Marathon officially lifted and also championed the cause for the inclusion of women’s long distance events in the Olympics.

It was the efforts of these early trail-blazers that resulted in the running of the first women’s Olympic Marathon in 1984.


While all this was going on in the world of running, the very first triathlon was taking place. It was called the Mission Bay Triathlon and on September 25, 1974 46 people entered the historic race.

A woman named Eileen Water was 23rd in that race and it appears that she was the first woman in the history of the sport to cross a triathlon finish line. Of all the women of triathlon who have entered the sport, Eileen Water was the trail-blazer.

In February 1978, the very first Ironman Triathlon took place and there were 12 entries and they were all male.

In 1979 15 people stood on the start line of the 2nd Ironman race and one of them was Lyn Lemaire a championship cyclist who was from (would you believe)Boston.

Lyn place sixth overall and was the first woman to cross the Ironman finish line. Actually, her time was quite spectacular when you consider it was a rough water swim and the equipment of the day and knowledge of training and diet were a long way from what is available today.

Women of triathlon

Women are just as tough as men when it comes to triathlon.

Her finish time was 12:55:38 with a 1:16:20 swim, a 6:30 bike, and a 5:10 marathon. I suppose it helped that Lyn biked from Vancouver, British Columbia to Los Angeles in her senior year of college. She also held the U.S. woman’s record for a 25-mile time trial when she posted a 1:06.7 in 1976.

To the credit of the creators of the Ironman at “no time” were women ever considered unable to compete in the race. They were “never” told that it was beyond their capabilities.

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Judy Collins, the wife of John Collins one of the creators of the Ironman, was an athlete in her own right and also took part in that very first triathlon in Mission Bay in 1974 along with John Collins.


In the 30-plus years that the Ironman Triathlon has been taking place there have been so many great female triathletes who have entered the pro ranks. Even in the very beginning their were pro women of triathlon making their mark on the sport.

There were the Puntos Twins of the 1980’s, Laurie Bowden in the 1990’s, Paula Newby-Fraser who would win eight Ironman Hawaii championships, Natashcha Badmann(the Swiss Miss) who won her sixth Ironman Hawaii in 2005 and the list goes on and on.

Now there are dozens and dozens of female pros taking part in Ironman races all over the world.

One thing is certain, there is no longer any question that woman have what it takes to compete in endurance events. As a matter of fact, there is not all that much separating the top men from the top women and one wonders if the day will come when a pro woman triathlete is first-overall in an Ironman Triathlon.


So will a woman ever win an official M-dot Ironman Triathlon outright?

Many people think it’s simply not possible for a woman to match the physical strength that seems to keep men one step(or spin of the wheel)ahead of the women on the bike course and therein lies the biggest difference. The most gifted women of triathlon might come close, but the 112-mile bike might make it impossible.

The swim is not that big of a factor because women can stay close in the swim. It’s much the same in the run. The Ironman Marathon takes endurance, stamina, and courage, and women have shown over and over that they are not lacking any of these attributes.

So just how do they catch up to the men?

Well, they can always do what the East Germans did in the 70’s and 80’s and pump themselves full of steroids. After all, in 1976 the oddly broad-shouldered women of East Germany won 11 of 13 swim medals.

In many cases East German athletes were administered steroids by coaches and sports federation officials without their knowledge. It was virtually involuntary drug abuse and had serious side effects that ruined many lives for the sake of athletic superiority that was meaningless anyway.

Heidi Krieger was a GDR shot-putter who was given so many testosterone injections that she finally threw in the towel and opted for a gender change and went by the name of Andreas Krieger.

So is the only way a woman will ever be able to win an Ironman Triathlon outright?

Of course not.

This is just an extreme example of the perceived need to change the physical make-up of a woman so she has the physical strength of a man.


In many ways the Russians and Germans had if figured out when they were dominating so many Olympic events and it was not all about drugs.

When they spotted a young athlete with potential they were introduced to training regimens at a very young age. These “sports camps” would mold them into world and Olympic champions.

So to be the world’s best at any sport it only makes sense that the basic fundamentals should be learned at a young age. In other words pre-teens and teens should be introduced into the world of fitness as a way of life early on.

women of triathlon

Chrissie Wellington at the Challenge Roth finish line.

Find me a pro woman triathlete who does the 2.4 mile swim in around 50 minutes and chances are you will find someone who grew up in and around the water and perhaps swam competitively.

Find a woman who is capable of stressing herself physically and mentally during the Ironman bike and marathon and you will most likely find someone who has done just that in training more than once and who has perhaps trained “out of the box” in order to be head and shoulders above anyone else.

When you find that woman she might tell you that the right coach came along at the right time and was instrumental in sending her down the path to athletic success.

Find a woman with all these stars lining up in her Universe and you will most likely find Chrissie Wellington.


Chrissie was a self-proclaimed “sporty kid” who embraced sports as a way of life for it’s social aspects and not so much to be a star. She was also a competitive swimmer in her teens. This early development do doubt was a big factor in molding Chrissie into the athlete she became.

She experienced her first triathlon in May, 2004 and soon after began a sabbatical in Kathmandu, Nepal at an altitude of 1350m. While in Nepal she mountain-biked and ran around the surrounding villages on almost a daily basis. During one religious holiday she biked 1400k from Lhasa the capital of Tibet to Kathmandu and navigated mountain passes over 5000m high though all types of weather.

She reached Base Camp on the Tibetan side of Mount Everest at 5208m(17,090 feet). Talk about training out of the box. There is no doubt that this time in Nepal helped get Chrissie where she is today. One can only imagine the mental strength that she gained from this that puts her head and shoulders above the world’s most accomplished pro women.

You can have the all the potential in the world, but somewhere on your journey it’s crucial to have guidance that will set you out in the right direction.

For Chrissie this may have come from one of her earliest triathlon coaches, Brett Sutton, who was instrumental in heading Chrissie toward her first Ironman Triathlon and the rest is history. It’s probably safe to say that behind all the great women of triathlon there is an excellent coach involved.

He believed there was no need for her to do long distance training and that she was ready. There is a huge lesson here that sometimes “quality” in training is much more important than “quantity.

In her very first attempt Chrissie won Ironman Hawaii and in July of 2011 did the Iron-distance Roth Challenge in a time of 8:18:13.

She set a world record in the marathon with a time of 2:44:35 in the Roth triathlon. Only four men beat her to the finish line and only the race winner, Andreas Raelert ran a faster marathon time and not by much.

So could Chrissie have won an M-dot Ironman Triathlon outright? You bet she could have. She had all the tools but decided to retire from the sport.

Could she perhaps have won one of these races outright?

Winning time Ironman Korea 2011..................8:48:21
Winning time Ironman Canada 2011.................8:28:09
Winning time Ironman Ironman Lanzarote 2011......8:30:34
Winning time Ironman Lake Placid 2011............8:25:15
Winning time Ironman Utah 2011...................8:32:03

Chrissie's personal best.................. ...8:18:13

I guess we’ll never know what might have happened.

Read more about women triathletes.

Check out Ironman.com for training tips are race info.

Do Real Ironman Triathletes shave their legs?

Do Real Ironman Triathletes shave their legs?

For many an Ironman triathlete shaving their legs for the Ironman is not just a tradition, it’s a ritual and in many ways a “right of passage.”

It is a sign that one has truly arrived on the Ironman Triathlon scene. “If my legs are smooth, stand back and keep out of my way. I’m an Ironman!”

Or perhaps in the process of trying to become one anyway.

One day in 1984 there were six of us guys lazing around the pool minding our own business in the Sea Village resort in Kona, just a stone’s throw from the Ironman Hawaii swim start beach in Kona Harbor. I’m sure we were all immersed in our own thoughts and dealing with our own demons concerning the big race that was set to take place the next morning.

A group of us had made the trip from Calgary, Canada and the events that followed on that fateful day on the eve of Ironman Hawaii 1984 will forever have a sacred spot in a small corner of my memory bank of Ironman moments to treasure.(Or at least to have a good laugh over whenever I think about it).

Chip was the seventh guy and he weighed in at over two hundred pounds and officially went in as the biggest entry in the race. He sauntered on over to the pool area and said, “Okay you guys, I booked a beauty salon that closes in about two hours so we can go get shaved.”

Ironman triathlete leg shaving

Half-way there.

We all looked at him like he was suffering from too much sun. What the Hell……..

“What do you mean shave?”

You have to remember that we had no idea back then what we were doing or what we were getting ourselves into. Most of just happened to see this thing called “Ironman” on T.V. and just knew we had to go and do it.

We were……..We were “Ironstruck!”

Now you know where the name of this site and the name of my first two books came from. There were no coaches, or training books, or diets, or equipment, or bizarre concepts like shaving your body for an Ironman anywhere on the horizon. But Chip was deadly serious. He went on to explain. “We have to get shaved so we can swim faster.”

Yeah right.

Tony the Italian was a blur as he ran for the hills and in his wake we heard, “nobody’s getting near this chest with a razor!” I mean you had to be there. Tony had two inches of thick black hair on his chest and it was about the same on his arms and back.Come to think of it might have taken a lawn mower to do the job on Tony.

Anyway, the rest of us all trudged on over to the beauty salon. Chip banged on the door and when it opened there were these three gorgeous Hawaiian girls and their boss waiting for us. They all had mischievous glints in their eyes all were armed with electric-shavers. We had taken along a few bottles of wine as payment and it was pretty much non-stop laughing as those women shaved all our chest, arm, and leg hairs off. I still have picture of that day that one of the other guys had taken.

“Okay” Chip said. “When you go to your room tonight take a razor and shave off that final layer of stubble so you are completely smooth.”

At this point it was too late to argue as the damage was already done so that’s what we all did. Besides, I think Chip already knew the answer to the question Do Real Ironman Triathletes shave their legs?

When the gun sounded the next morning to start Ironman Hawaii 1984(and my first open water swim)I dove into that water and slid through it like I was covered in oil. I remember thinking at that moment that this must be why fish don’t have hair.

real ironman triathletes shave their legs

Shaved legs make road-rash easier to clean.

You see Chip had been a competitive swimmer and he knew that this was the way to go in order to have our best possible swim. And he was right. To this day I believe it was Chip’s leg-shaving escapade that got me through the swim that day. It gave me that one little physical and mental edge that I needed to survive the 2.4 mile swim.

He really knew what he was talking about and was a pretty smart guy. One day he would go on to create this company called LuluLemon so he must have had something going for him. So do real Ironman Triathletes shave their legs for the big race? Without a doubt I would say yes. If nothing else it makes you look cool and makes you feel like you have “arrived.”

It started out as something pro cyclists did in the event they crashed and ended up with road-rash. It is far easier to clean and heals much quicker if your skin is smooth. At least that’s where I think it all started. But if you have a “no-wetsuit” swim like Ironman Hawaii or like today in Ironman Austria 2012 then by all means you should shave anyway. It works best if you do it the night before the race so that it is a completely new sensation.

It can give you a huge boost of confidence because it makes you “feel” smoother and faster in the water with no added effort on your part. You virtually ‘slide’ through the water. After all that training, it was such a bonus to have this extra advantage on race morning. Don’t forget, it’s not just your legs you shave. For a no-wetsuit swim shave legs, arms, and chest.

It’s the overall sensation of smoothness that’s important. Just wear tri-shorts as opposed to a tri-suit because that sensation of smoothness on your chest is important.

leg shaving for Ironman triathletes

You’ll get by with a little help from a friend.

Also, I have learned that you will get a far better and more effective massage after the race if you shave for an Ironman. Just for that reason alone it might be well worth it.

There are those who honestly believe shaving their legs makes them bike faster and with less effort. If the sensation of the wind on your smooth skin makes you “feel” faster than it’s worth doing.

Anything you can do that might give you a psychological edge in the Ironman Triathlon is worth considering. For that reason alone it might just be worth going through the shaving process and enduring the unending itchiness once the hair begins to grow back.

So do real ironman triathletes shave their legs?

Most likely there’s a lot more to becoming and Ironman, but you might just be a smarter one for considering it.

Be sure to visit Ironman.com for some great training tips.