Ironman Triathlon DNF

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Ironman Triathlon DNF

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

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


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

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

Ironman Triathlon DNF-female triathlete swim training in pool

The learning and the training is never wasted.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ironman Triathlon DNF

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

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

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

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

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

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



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