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What's the best triathlon distance race for you? (part 2)

Posted Feb 13 2011 9:00am


Editor's Note: This is part 2 of Ben's story. You can read part 1 HERE.

To help you with your triathlon race season preparation, here's a quick peak at the pros and cons of each triathlon distance.


Pros - Congratulations, you now have bragging rights for having completed a triathlon distance that contains the word "Ironman," without actually having to give up your entire day. As a matter of fact, in many Half-Ironman events, you can be done by lunch, feel very good about yourself, and still have the rest of the day to make excuses not to mow the lawn (C'mon, I just did an Ironman event! ) or to go drink lots of cold beer.

If you don't like the red-hot intensity of Sprint and Olympic distance training and racing, but don't have the time to devote to Ironman, then this triathlon distance is a nice compromise. Plus, you can travel long distances to race a Half-Ironman without the same type of race day stress as you experience in Ironman.

Finally, if you make a mistake during a Half-Ironman race, such as remembering to poo halfway through the half-marathon, you'll still have lots of time to make up for those lost seconds.

Cons - With all the training and effort you you'll put in for a Half-Ironman triathlon distance, you'll sometimes find yourself asking the question, "Why didn't I just sign up for an Ironman?" After all, you're typically just as sore the next day after a Half-Ironman as an Ironman, and you still have to do lots of logistical race planning when it comes to hydration, electrolytes or food. Also, the "Half" part of "Half-Ironman" doesn't lend itself quite as well to bragging rights ("You only did half of it? How come? Did you quit halfway through?"), but you'll sound desperate and boring trying to explain what a 70.3 is ("Well, a full Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run, which is 140.6 miles, but what "I've done...dude, wake up.")



Pros - It's Ironman, for crying out loud. This event has been elevated to tattoo-worthiness status. Did you hear me? You get to swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles, run a marathon, and then get a tattoo and your parents will still be proud of you. Heck, your boss probably will too. Unless you're a musician, Harley fanatic or artist, in what other social situation are tattoos acceptable? Even if you skip out on the tattoo, you'll have bragging rights for life, you'll feel very good about yourself and you will get to eat over 4,000 calories a day and stay skinny.

Cons - Ironman is a logistical nightmare. Not only do you need to squeeze 12-25 training hours into any given week, but you also need to figure out how to eat and drink while moving long distances without your gut distending like a swollen balloon or your fragile bodily sphincters crying out in distress. You will become best friends with your local sports medicine doctor and physical therapist, and this is not a good thing.

During the actual race, you will go through periods that have been compared to childbirth, a death-march, and a "very dark place." When you finish, you may experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. You may forget what your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife looks like, and you romantic times with them may involve nothing more than you lying like a sack of potatoes on the couch while they lovingly stroke their hands through your sweat-caked hair. You may have to appease them by allowing them to help you design your tattoo.

While the information above will give you a good baseline for making your triathlon distance decision, I can't vouch for your safety or sanity if you choose to think outside box of the triathlon distances described in this article, and decide to go do a race like the American Triple T, which packs a Sprint, 2 Olympics, and a Half-Ironman triathlon all into one weekend, or a back-to-back Ironman triathlon like Ultraman

Be sure to check out the Rock Star Triathlete Academy, at , where you can join me for a weekly webinar to talk about your triathlon training, nutrition, and more.

Whoisben Ben Greenfield has been coaching athletes for over a decade from the website , and is author of the modern triathlon coaching manual, "How To Be A Triathlon Coach," at .

Follow on twitter @ everymantri or view latest videos on YouTube .

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