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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.