Dear Coach: I’m a competitive age-grouper who has always done sprints and Olympic-distance races, but I feel like I should make the move to Ironman. How do I know if I’m really ready?
Ask yourself this: What’s driving my urge to do an Ironman? I’m always a little concerned when an athlete tells me what they feel they “should” do. If you’re thinking about it because you like going long and are willing to put in the requisite hours of training, then by all means go for it. But if you’re considering it because you think it validates you as a triathlete, please reconsider.
Certainly Ironman is the glamour event of our sport, and it presents the ultimate challenge for a lot of triathletes. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone, and it doesn’t mean that you’re not an accomplished athlete if you don’t want anything to do with 140.6.
Consider some of the advantages of shorter races. Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, you get to compete far more often. (If you love racing more than you love training, this is a big plus.) If your sprint race is derailed by illness, injury or a mechanical, you can bounce back and do another one a few weeks later. (Good luck getting into an Ironman in a few weeks’ notice.) And don’t underestimate the value of doing well in sprints, or the challenges they present. Sprints allow for less of a margin for error than longer races since even a small lapse of concentration and effort can make the difference between earning hardware or watching the awards ceremony from the sidelines.
If you’ve got a major sponsor or book publisher pressuring you to make your Ironman debut, by all means do what you “should.” Otherwise, do what you want.
Jonathan Cane is founder and president of City Coach Multisport in New York City. He is co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Weight Training, and has coached for Nike Running and JackRabbit Sports.
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