Four Reasons the Ironman Seems Impossible

You may be “Ironstruck” but there are four reasons the ironman seems impossible.

The sport of triathlon is growing at an unprecedented rate. Every year more and more people are inspired to take on the Ironman challenge even though they might not have an athletic background, own a bike, or have any idea how to swim.

In a word these people are “Ironstruck.”

Many aspiring triathletes have visions of crossing that distant finish line with friends and family proudly cheering them on. It’s just one of those things that never lets go.

There is something about witnessing an Ironman and watching people who are so excited when they reach the finish line that makes you want to do it yourself.

four reasons the ironman seems impossible

The path to the Ironman finish line

Here are four reasons why the ironman seems impossible and why so many people deny themselves the opportunity to live their dream of becoming an Ironman.


This might be number one of four reasons the ironman seems impossible.

Pretty well everyone knows how to bike and many aspiring ironmen have run several marathons, but no matter how badly they would love to do an Ironman Triathlon they manage to convince themselves they could never learn how to swim well enough to make it through the Ironman swim.

This is without a doubt the number one reason stopping the Ironstruck people of the world in their tracks when it comes to realizing their Ironman Triathlon dream of one day crossing the finish line.

four reasons the ironman seems impossible

The 2.4 mile swim seems impossible to some.

It’s a real shame because these people obviously have an endurance background and that’s a great start on the journey to becoming an Ironman.

Let’s face it, people are not meant to be in the water and its a struggle for many aspiring triathletes to make that transition.

What it really comes down to is just how badly you want it. Over the long history of the Ironman Triathlon many, many people have come up against the swimming “roadblock” and have overcome it.

When a person moves past this obstacle and succeeds in crossing the Ironman finish line, every single lap in the pool is paid back a hundred times over by the enormity of the accomplishment.

Not only have they overcome a huge obstacle and realized their dream, they have also learned an important skill they will never forget and that will be with them for the rest of their lives.


The actual cost of reaching the Ironman finish line is nowhere near what people think it is.

When I think back to the early days of the Ironman Triathlon when I was Ironstruck and signed up for Kona back in 1984 I can’t help but think that people who are taking up the sport now are not seeing the true picture.

Consider this.

four reasons the ironman seems impossible

Is becoming an Ironman expensive?

Back then I searched all over the city to find anything resembling something one might use in an Ironman Triathlon. There were no triathlon shorts, wetsuits, gels, replacement drinks, triathlon bikes with all the accessories, power-bars, training books, coaches, training diets and………well, you get the picture.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say that I went to Kona with a pair of running shoes and shorts, a headband, a swimsuit, and a $300 bike.

I actually bought swim goggles in Kona and a pair of triathlon shorts from some guy from the U.S. who was selling them out of his hotel room. It was the first time I had ever seen a pair.

My total equipment cost for Ironman Hawaii 1984 came in under $500. Keep in mind that clip-less pedals, aero-bars, bike computers, carbon fiber frames, and all the other triathlon toys that are readily available today were not yet invented back in 1984.

Of course I had to pay flight and accommodation in order to be part of Ironman Hawaii, but there were not many Ironman races to choose from back then.

Yes the cost of entering the ironman is up over $500 now and back then it was about $120.

On the other hand, there are more and more ironman races every year and it’s getting so that most people can drive to an Ironman Triathlon that is not too far from them and eliminate expensive air-fare. They can also share accommodations and pay a lot less for a place to stay.

For that matter you can even arrive 2 days before the race and book yourself a spot in a near-by campsite well in advance.

You don’t “have” to be at the race venue for a week or two, especially if you are on a tight budget. I have done the short stay thing before when competing at Ironman Canada.

The main problem today for those who are new to the sport is that there is so much to choose from when it comes to getting “geared-up.”

You can walk into a triathlon store and easily spend $1000 on wetsuits, triathlon clothes, supplements, and all the latest gadgets that claim to get you to the finish line faster. So if you don’t know any better you think it’s the norm and you have to have all this high-end gear.

It’s no different when you walk into a bike shop and tell them you are taking up triathlon and you need a bike.

Of course they are not going to show you the plain $900 road bike that is most likely 1000 times better than my ride back in 1984. They are going to take you to the $4000-$5000 tricked out “triathlon bikes.”

First of all, most standard road-bikes will handle just beautifully if you take care of them.

You also have the option of buying a used bike for under $1000 and it will get you to the Ironman finish line just fine. It was okay for hundreds of the early ironmen who reached the finish line and it will work for you.

Dave Scott never had a carbon-fiber frame or aero-bars or clip-less pedals back in the early 80’s but he would get off his piece of crap bike and still run a sub-3 hour marathon.

So don’t get sucked into believing that you have to miss out on your Ironman dream because you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on it.

Rent a wetsuit for the race, coach yourself, buy a used bike, and just get the essential gear for the swim, run, and bike, and you have just as good a chance of becoming an ironman as the person who spends $10,000 before they reach the start line.

I am writing this for the people who have financial restraints and simply want their shot at becoming an Ironman. If finances are not an issue, than by all means get the best gear money will buy. After all you are working hard and have earned the right to treat yourself.

Just don’t let it be the one thing stopping you from embarking on the Ironman journey. There is always a way.


Some people will try and tell you that you have to train 25-30 hours a week and every day of the week if you want to be an ironman.

If you do that you will most likely become discouraged, over-trained, injured or perhaps all three. It’s simply not necessary.

For one thing, I believe you should have 2 rest days a week no matter what level you are training at. That leaves you two days completely free for your other commitments.

Quite a lot of training time is spent getting to and from a training facility or perhaps loading up your bike and finding a place free of traffic where you can ride.

On a day when you have a bike/run scheduled, why not try an hour on your wind-trainer at home, followed right after by a 45-60 minute run? This was one of my favorite work-outs when I had a lot of other things I had to do.

It’s making the most of your time and also helps you get used to the bike to run transition.

It’s also great because you can get up early before work and do it if you like and the rest of the day is yours to do whatever you have to do.

Of course everyone has to work on different aspects of their training. For instance if you are a competent swimmer and are quite sure you can handle the ironman 2.4-mile swim there is no reason to spend hours and hours in the pool.

45-60 minutes 3 times a week is plenty. Every six weeks or so you can do a 2-mile swim if you must just to reassure yourself that you can do the distance.

If you have 10 marathons in the bank there is no need to be out there doing 3 or 4 two-hour runs every week. 2 or 3 one-hour runs with a longer run (90min.-2 hours or so) on the weekend should be enough to maintain your endurance and fitness level.

So far with the swim and run you have used up about 6-7 hours. So if you are going to follow the wayward advice and train for 25 hours a week, what are you going to do now? Are you going to go on 3 100-mile bike rides to use up the other 18 hours?

Why would you want to do that?

I once had a very experienced cyclist tell me that he could get as much out of a two-hour bike ride as most people got out of a 100-mile bike ride. He simply raised the intensity level and did interval training.

Sure, before the big day arrives you should do one or two long rides to get used to sitting on that bike seat for a long period of time.

By the way, that bike guy’s best Ironman bike time was 4:53 as an age-grouper on the challenging Ironman Canada course and that made me a believer in shorter, more intense work-outs.

Even if you spend 9 hours a week on your bike, your total swim/bike/run training time is still only around 15-16 hours a week.

If your goal is to reach the ironman finish line regardless if you use all 17 hours allotted to get there before being pulled from the course, I really think it’s doable with this amount of training.

Of course if you require swim coaching because you are learning from the very beginning you will need more pool time, but chances are you can cut back on time spent biking and running depending on your ability level in these disciplines.

Don’t talk yourself out of a shot at the Ironman Triathlon because you simply don’t have the time. There is always a way to make it work. Do away with this part of the four reasons the ironman seems impossible.


It’s easy to find people who are anxious to tell you that “you shouldn’t, you can’t, or you don’t have what it takes.”

When it comes to achieving anything worthwhile in this life your greatest asset is believing in yourself regardless of any negativity you encounter.

There are also those who fail to take into account the power of the human spirit and get far too immersed in technical details.

They can’t imagine you having the skill level and physical ability necessary for swimming 2.4 miles in the open water, biking 112 miles and then completing the marathon run distance.

The Ironman is about so much more than being technically perfect and having the ideal athlete’s body.

Once people challenge themselves and realize what they are truly capable of when they cross the Ironman Triathlon finish line they put to rest the four reasons the ironman seems impossible.

Sometimes all it takes is to have one person believe in you and soon you will begin to believe in yourself and that is the biggest secret to becoming an Ironman or in fact to succeeding at anything in this world.

If you have nowhere else to turn, come and visit and overcome the four reasons the ironman seems impossible.



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