Two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack explains how to get into the sport and what to expect during a race
An Ironman – a triathlon comprising a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and a 42km run – is the biggest physical challenge that’s available to everyone. It’s a bit like an achievable Everest. You’ll find an event to enter no matter where in the world you live, and it’s made up of three disciplines that most people can already do.
I took on my first one when I was 29. I had already been a pro triathlete for six years and was the world number one, and after the Sydney Olympics in 2000 I decided the time was right to move up to the longer distance. I really suffered during the first race, but when I crossed that finish line I’d never felt such a sense of achievement.
To train for one you need bags of motivation and a good base of fitness – you’re looking at about six months of training up to 20 hours a week to get ready. It’s best to have done a fair few triathlons before you take on an Ironman. You can go straight into one from the Olympic distance (1.6km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) without doing a half Ironman (1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21km run) – but you’re more likely to finish your first race if you move up through the distances.
Even if you do a half Ironman, be prepared for an Ironman to feel completely different. Although it’s only twice the distance, the cumulative fatigue makes it feel like it’s much further.
The first thing to do is link up with a triathlon club and find people you can go on the journey with. Training for an Ironman solo can be a lonely experience, but with a crew it’s fun. Getting suits, a bike and shoes that fit you properly is expensive but essential – if you’re uncomfortable, you’ll really suffer.
To my mind, achieving any goal is only worth the journey you take to accomplish it. And tackling an Ironman is pretty much the most epic journey all of us can go on. Chris McCormack’s book I’m Here To Win is available now. For more visit maccax.com