Your First Ironman Bike

The best choice for your first ironman bike might be far different than you first imagined.

If you are a newly-minted triathletes who’s bitten by the Ironman bug, you might think your first ironman bike is going to cost a barrel of money.

When you check out online websites you’re bombarded with an array of shiny, high-end triathlon bikes all tricked out with the latest accessories.

It’s unfortunate that many people who consider taking up the sport are turned off by the prices they see. They might even decide to give it a pass, because spending thousands of dollars for a bike is just way beyond their means.


Yes, there is a difference.

By their very nature, most triathlon bikes have a lower profile than a road bike, and are configured for optimum aerodynamics and straight ahead speed.

Personally, I found that a road bike wasn’t as stiff and was much more forgiving when it came to taking corners at speed or climbing up hills while standing on the pedals.

your first ironman bike

You can spend thousands on a triathlon bike or you can start out with a less expensive road bike.

Sure, if you’re an experienced cyclist and biking is your strong suit as you kick off your triathlon career, a triathlon bike might be the way to go. This is especially true if money is no object.

Your basic road bike most likely won’t have quick release pedals or profile handle bars. You will also notice that for the most part, they are priced lower than a triathlon bike.


…If you’re new to biking out on the open highway, it would be a much easier task with a bike that’s easier to handle.

…For the most part, it will cost you less for a basic road bike.

…If you’re new to biking out on the highway the best way to learn how a bike handles is to ride it without profile-bars and just go with the standard drop handlebars at first. Once you become more comfortable and confident with your biking, you can always buy profile-bars to put on your road bike.

…You might not be sure if you’re going to make triathlon a career or not. Or maybe you just want to do the Ironman Triathlon just once and call it a career. In that case, why spend a ton of money on your first ironman bike when a less expensive road bike will do just fine.



A New Age Of Ironman Bike Training

There’s little doubt that a new age of Ironman bike training is upon us

The days of being able to find a seldom traveled paved road for Ironman bike training are becoming a thing of the past.

It seems that every season we hear of pros who are suffering catastrophic injuries after having a run in with a motor vehicle. Unfortunately, some of these accidents are career ending, and at times, life ending.

It’s not just the pros who suffer this fate. Age-triathletes and often just groups from bike clubs out for a weekend ride have suffered the same fate.

We live in an impatient world. Motorists are so focused on getting from point A to point B that they have no tolerance for anyone on a bike who impedes their progress. Motorist and cyclist confrontations are taking place all over the world at an ever-increasing rate.


Of course biking at home often defeats the purpose for Sunday riders who want to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.

It’s a different story however for those solitary triathletes spending hours in the saddle training for the next triathlon.

Just how do you get in the training required for surviving the 112-mile distance of the Ironman bike if the highways in the area where you live are not very bike friendly?

Is it possible to do most of your bike training for an Ironman in your basement or living room?

Of course it is.


At the end of my Ironman career I competed in the 2003 and 2004 Ironman Couer d’Alene races. For the first race I did pretty much all of my bike training out on a highway outside of the city.

It was also how I had trained for the previous nine Ironman races I finished. I had to drive about 30 minutes each way to find a road less traveled by vehicular traffic.

The next year I wondered what would happen if I did the majority of my bike training on my wind-trainer parked in front of the T.V. set? As an experiment, I decided to give it a try.

I even had a two-movie work out. I would watch a couple of recorded movies and when they were over about four hours later, my ride was done. I didn’t just watch T.V. I also did interval training, and simulated hill climbing by increasing the resistance and standing on the pedals.

indoor bicycle training

One of the early wind-trainers.

In a nutshell, I felt pretty much the same in both races and I don’t think it made a bit of difference training inside as opposed to outside.

Lets face it. Your cardiovascular system doesn’t know the difference if you’re on a wind-trainer or on the road. You’re still working the same muscles either way and your heart has to pump just as hard to keep the blood flowing to those muscles.

Your lungs still get a workout when you do intervals on the carpet highway. Your leg muscles still burn when you stand up on the pedals and push big gears on your wind-trainer.


The cycling purists will say that biking inside is just not the same biking indoors. What about the wind, cornering, and balance?

They’re right.

That’s why during the last month of bike training before the big race I hit the dusty highway to ensure my cornering, hill climbing, balance, and biking in the aero position into the wind were brushed up.

That’s why I did 90% inside and 10% outside. You can break it down any way you’re comfortable with. It could be 80%-20% or 75%-25% inside and out.


There’s no doubting there are numerous advantages to biking at home.

There are no potholes, dogs nipping at your heels, moronic motorists, or diving hawks.

Yes, it does really happen. There was even a race out in these parts called the Mad Hawk race.

You don’t have to worry about sudden rainstorms, gale-force winds, hail, or sunburn. Flat tire? No problem.

If you need a nature break, the bathrooms just down the hall. Need something to eat or drink. It’s not all that far to the kitchen.

a new age of ironman bike training

All set for a spin class

One of the biggest benefits I found was the amount of time I saved. I no longer had to load my bike on a rack and spend an hour driving too and from.

Biking inside is perfect for someone short on training time. You can bike before work, after work, or at any time day or night.

Biking indoors is excellent for transition training. My favorite training scenario was a 60 minute bike followed by a one hour run. You’re off your bike, into your running shoes. and out the door in a flash. It’s ideal training for triathlon transitions for the bike to run.


Wind-trainers have come a long way over the years.

We’ve gone from the basic mag-turbo wind-trainers to trainers that can have you biking your favorite Ironman bike course.

There are bike spin classes in pretty much every major city.

But perhaps the biggest thing to ever appear on the indoor bike training market is the Onepeloton interactive system.

Now, indoor bike training can take on a whole new meaning. You can choose your own program and bike with large groups and world-class instructors. Sure it’s not your road bike you’re sitting on, but indoor training on a Peloton bike would be a perfect compliment to training on your triathlon bike on the open road.

What intrigues me most is the fitness level one could achieve. I don’t know about everyone else out there in the triathlon world, but it was the interval training that produced some of my best results over the years.

In fact it was not the century rides that in the early years of my Ironman career I thought I had to do over and over again in order to become a stronger cyclist.

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.

Endurance athletes and hyponatremia

There can never be enough discussion about Endurance athletes and hyponatremia

I don’t claim to be a health expert with a host of degrees to my name. Just the same, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the important topic of hyponatremia over the last decade or so.

Also, over the course of my endurance career I bought into the ceaseless chatter about how important it was to drink water……more and more water. This mantra was especially front and center when involved in endurance racing like marathons or the Ironman Triathlon.

I think it would be safe to say that on many occasions I was in the early stages of hyponatremia when I crossed the finish line of an Ironman Triathlon.

There are two ways you can trigger hyponatremia.

–You can drink so much water and sport replacement drink that you dilute the sodium in your body to a dangerously low level. In other words you drink more than your body can eliminate through sweating or urination. Sure, there’s sodium in electrolyte replacement drinks, but ultimately there’s a lot of water as well.

–You can become so dehydrated during a race in the heat that you sweat all the sodium out of your body and don’t replace it.

For example…It’s estimated that on average, 30% of Ironman Hawaii finishers are both hyponatremic and dehydrated. This is often referred to as EAH (endurance associated hyponatremia).

Symptoms can include nausea, cramps, confusion, slurred speech, and disorientation. Severe cases can result in seizure and coma and on occasion have resulted in death.

About 14 deaths, including one at Ironman Frankfurt in 2015, have been directly attributed to EAH during sporting events since 1981.


I have this image in my mind of something I witnessed about 25 years ago when drinking water and more water was king.

I was at the start line of a 10k race. There was this heavier set fellow with five…yes five full-sized water bottles hanging around his waist. Sort of like an Ironman fuel belt, except these here a Helluva lot bigger at a standard size of 16-20 ounces each.

I remember thinking, “how in the name of all that’s holy can he possibly drink that much in a 10k race?” Even if he put back a water bottle every mile and it took him 20 minutes to do a mile, he would be drinking at a rate of 48-60 ounces of water an hour. Endless studies have shown that the optimum amount even for an Ironman is around 18-22 ounces an hour. In this example, I’m sure he was covering a mile much faster than 20 minutes, so his hourly intake average was most likely around 75-80 ounces.

I can say with all honesty that over the course of the 80-100 10k races I was in over the years, I never took one drink of water. Why would I? It was over in 36 or 37 minutes. I have always had difficulty drinking water. There in no way on this earth I could gag back six glasses of water a day that many websites still insist on.

Even when putting in three and four hour training runs, I never bothered to take along water. I just never sweated very much. Sure, I would lose three or four pounds after a long run, but by the end of the day it was back.

race water aid station

Sometimes, there’s just too much water.

Slow runners and back of the back Ironman triathletes are more likely to develop hyponatremia than the front runners. If someone is running a marathon in five, five and a half hours they are sweating less and every time they drink they add to the fluid that isn’t being dispelled by sweating or urination. Of course, this dilutes the sodium in their bodies to a very low level.

The fast runners are sweating more and when they drink it’s not excess, it’s needed to replace their sweat loss and prevent dehydration. If they don’t drink enough, their performance suffers and they risk EAH (endurance associated hyponatremia).

So it follows that if the faster athletes wait until they’re thirsty before they drink, they will be too late and won’t be able to catch up to their fluid loss. By the same token, an athlete who tries to stay ahead of thirst can end up with hyponatremia because the fluid builds up faster then they can dispel it through sweating.


The method I found after many years of hit and miss was to set my watch to beep every 30 minutes in an Ironman race.

This was my cue to drink about five ounces of plain water and five ounces of electrolyte replacement. My favorite back in the day was Cytomax.(the kind I had to order from the USA, not the nutrient-butchered variety sold in Canada.)

So that translates to 20 ounces of fluid per hour on average.

There is no cookie-cutter fluid intake program that is one-size-fits-all. Everyone has different body composition, sweat rates, and completes at different levels. Find what works for you through experimentation in distance training. You may get a way with less fluid intake or may require 25 ounces an hour if you sweat a lot.

electrolyte replacement drinks

There are many replacement drinks to choose from.

The best way to figure this out is by weighing yourself before and after a long bike or run. If you actually gain weight, something is amiss. An endurance athlete should not have a higher body mass after a race or long training session. You’re drinking too much or eating too much, or both.

It’s almost impossible to finish a marathon or Ironman with the same body weight you started with. Most likely you will lose 4-6 pounds. It’s normal to lose some weight. If you’re losing weight in the double digits on your 80-100 mile training rides, you’re not drinking enough.


It seems that most triathletes will begin to hydrate with a mix of water and electrolyte drinks on about Wednesday for a Sunday Ironman.

If you’re urine is clear and copious by Friday, it’s a signal to dial back your hydrating. Once your urine is clear it might be a good time to concentrate more on an electrolyte replacement drink of choice as race day gets closer.

You’ve flushed a lot of electrolytes out of your system and risk over-hydrating. An electrolyte drink in prudent amounts will help restore balance to your sodium levels.

Even it you’re hydrating with an electrolyte replacement as well as water you could throw you sodium balance out of kilter if you drink too much.

Don’t forget, you’re tapering and won’t be sweating so fluid will build up much easier.

Understanding the ins and outs of endurance athletes and hyponatremia will go a long way toward providing best possible results and a more enjoyable race.


Consequences of Ironman over training syndrome

Push yourself too hard and Ironman over training syndrome could end your career.

It would probably be not far off the mark to state that a good majority of endurance athletes suffer from obsessive/compulsive behavior of varying degrees.

Instead of succumbing to drug or alcohol addiction they channel their obsessiveness into endurance sports. I like to think of it as creative compulsions.

Take Lionel Sanders of Canada for instance. At one time he battled alcohol and drug addiction and then stumbled onto this event called Ironman. He decided to give it a try and the results were astounding.

Ultimately he set an Ironman world record in Ironman Arizona 2016 when he posted a time of 7:44:29.

However we are not all blessed with the same level of ability and talent.

Basically triathletes who have compulsive tendencies have Type A personalities on steroids. They live in a world of constant motion and they chase a finish line they will never reach. They never truly reach it because they keep setting the bar higher.

Clock a sub three hour marathon, bike further and faster, set personal bests, win your Ironman age-group. Train, train, train.

Rest becomes an afterthought and inconvenience. You attain a level of fitness that’s simply amazing and you want more. It’s almost like you push yourself to the outer limits of your ability because you have convinced yourself that your body will never break. It will never say enough.

This way of thinking is the fast track to Ironman over training syndrome. Your body will break and eventually it will say enough. When it happens it can be catastrophic.

Renowned South African exercise-science professor Timothy Noakes wrote in detail about the condition in The Lore of Running. Published in 1985, it’s one of the few books athletes with OTS have as a reference. The runners Noakes examined had pushed themselves to a point at which their bodies—and, more perplexingly, their minds—had simply stopped responding. As a result, they suffered everything from “generalized fatigue” and “recurrent headaches” to “an inability to relax, listlessness,” and “the swelling of lymph glands.”

When you think about it, it’s not really all that complicated. Over training syndrome happens when your body never gets rest. Normally you train and rest.

When you train your heart races and blood is channeled to the organs that are being stressed. Your system has a counter-balance. After a hard workout your heart rate and blood flow return to normal when you rest. However if you train and then train some more and leave rest out of the equation and suffer from OTS this re-balancing doesn’t occur and things start to go haywire.

Once you get to this state it can take weeks, months, or even several years to return to normal. Some athletes never return to normal and their careers are effectively over.


  • When you do decide to rest it doesn’t seem to help. You still feel tired. You’re tired all the time.
  • Your race results get worse instead of better.
  • Your muscles are weak and tired all the time.
  • You have pain in your joints.
  • You have headaches, sore throat, and always seem to have a cold.

That’s just the beginning. Those are just some of the early warning signs. It gets worse from there if you don’t start including rest into your training program on a regular basis.

I try and make it a point not to write about something I have never actually experienced myself. My Ironman career ended 13 years ago. For the longest time I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I know now that I have a severe case of Over training syndrome and there is no cure as far as I know.

From the first day I took up running I was obsessed. At that point I had never heard of triathlon. I ran 100 mile weeks all the time. One year I ran every day except for Christmas Day. Yes, I ran 364 days. My rest days were easy five mile runs. My distance days were anywhere from 3-5 hours. Complete rest was never in the equation.

I documented run training weeks that were 150 miles. I often ran twice a day. Obsessed may not be a strong enough word for it. Possessed would be a better description. Something deep in my psyche was driving me to push the outer boundaries of my physical capabilities.

Then the Ironman happened. Initially like most novice Ironman triathletes I just wanted to finish. After realizing that goal I wanted to finish faster. It was a never-ending quest. Soon I was an age-group triathlete training harder than Olympic athletes. They knew enough to rest. I didn’t.

The final straw was the year I was making the big push to be at or near the top of my age-group in Ironman Canada in Penticton. I had gone 10:46 and thought if I trained as hard as humanly possible I could get near the ten hour mark.

Five days a week I did interval training in the swim, bike, and run. On the sixth day I did distance. I lifted weights three times a week. I took one rest day and then did it all over again. At one point in those desperate days of training to exhaustion I went three weeks with no rest day.

One day I did 30 run repeats. Ninety seconds at 75% of effort–thirty seconds rest….repeat 30 times. Then I went to the pool and did twenty 100 meter repeats. Then I went home and got on my bike and did twenty 90 second repeats with 30 second rests on my wind-trainer. Then I went to work.

My full time job involved heavy, constant lifting. I was fifty and was outworking twenty year old co-workers. I was as driven at work as I was with my training yet I never considered work part of the equation when it came to burning energy and stressing my body. I was under physical duress for around 12 hours every day.

I went to my Ironman race that I’d trained insanely hard for and the Wednesday before the race I couldn’t sleep. The same thing happened Thursday, Friday, and Saturday–the eve of the race. I had never had insomnia in my life until that week. When the gun went off I was already on empty. I had about eight hours rem sleep in four days. I pulled myself out of the race 2km into the run. It was a miracle I made it that far.

That was 2002 and I have had insomnia ever since and without a sleeping pill can’t sleep more than an hour or two at a time.

It still never dawned on me what was wrong. I kept trying to train but I was always tired. I did two more Ironman races and they were both disasters.


Finally I had no recourse but to leave the sport I loved. Everything started to break down.

Here is what I deal with now. It was a complete physical breakdown.

I have…

  • Tinitus in one ear
  • Microscopic Colitis
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Fibromyagia
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Tingling sensation in face and arms
  • Constant headaches
  • Depression
  • Muscle soreness
  • Very poor circulation leading to blood clots

For the longest time I thought it was all these different diseases and symptoms that were taking away my energy and ability to train and race. But it was the other way around. I had it backwards and realize now that it was the training and racing with inadequate rest that caused this cascading physical meltdown.

I didn’t realize some 15 years ago that I was a victim of Ironman Over Training Syndrome. It’s extremely frustrating because for all intents and purposes I look normal and healthy. As a matter of fact my body weight is exactly the same as it was in 1984 when I did my first Ironman.
ironman over training syndrome-Ironstruck
Doctors don’t have an answer. There are no drugs they can prescribe to cure Ironman over training syndrome, so they’re lost. Instead they treat the symptoms. I kept going to my doctor and specialists trying to find out what was wrong with me. All the tests came back negative. “Things are great!” my doctor said. No they weren’t. Things were a million freaking miles from great.

It’s tiresome trying to make people understand just how bad I feel pretty much all of the time. I have found it easier to just withdraw from people and stick to myself. I don’t have relationships of any kind because I don’t have the energy to do anything and I’m tired of trying to explain myself. Most likely there are people who wonder what has become of me.

There are people in the world who understand what’s happening, but they are few and far between.

David Nieman, former vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine once said, “OTS is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my 30 plus years of working with athletes. To watch someone go from that degree of proficiency to a shell of their former self is unbelievably painful and frustrating.”

I still try and run. It takes everything I have to run at a slow pace for 30 minutes and it often takes two days to recover. Hard to believe there was a time I ran over 30 marathons, two 50 mile races, finished 11 Ironman Triathlons, and clocked a 35:30 10K.

I think it was critically important to write this article. If nothing else I hope it inspires someone out there to take it to heart and begin to incorporate more rest time into their training program and avoid Ironman over training syndrome.

There has been considerable evidence published that reducing the volume of your training for up to three weeks will not decrease performance. If need be take an entire week off from training. Take a year off from the Ironman and do shorter races. Listen to those early warning signs of Ironman over training syndrome and make adjustments to your training.

That’s how you will get faster and that’s how you will have a healthy lifestyle for years to come.


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