Registering for your first IRONMAN race is exhilarating and terrifying all at once. While the prospect of conquering a new long-course distance might be exciting, the pressure to choose an event with conditions that favor a strong finish can be overwhelming. Before you click submit on that race registration, take a look at our top three tips for choosing the best race for your maiden IRONMAN voyage.
Find a Perfect Match
Let's face it—everyone has an area of strength when it comes to the multi-sport line-up. Some triathletes crush steep hills on the bike while others know how to turn up the heat on the run. Whatever your strength is, IRONMAN and ITU World Champion Greg Welch says, "Choosing a race with a course that suits your ability is key."
If you live and train in the Florida flatland, select a race with similar terrain to minimize trashing your legs. Similarly, if you don't have the ability to integrate open-water swimming in the ocean into your training regimen, think about choosing a race with a lake course. Reducing the amount of unknown for your first shot at a long-distance race will allow you to get to the start line with the most confidence possible.
Prioritize Easy Access
Tackling a new distance is stressful enough without having to worry about anything else. Welch recommends considering a race location with easy access for your first event. While shipping your bike, renting a car or coordinating accommodations cannot always be avoided, look for a location close to home in order to reduce your ancillary planning.
As a bonus, racing near your home means guaranteed cheer stations full of family and friends. And if racing nearby isn't possible, think about choosing an event set in a location with plenty of attractions. An abundance of sightseeing activities means your support crew can keep busy while you focus on the race.
Strategize Your Season
Similar to picking a race that plays to your strength, first-timers should also consider event dates before making a final selection. "Try to pick a race that will give you enough time to train outdoors on similar course conditions," says Liz Kollar, IRONMAN director of athlete development and communication.
If you live in the northern states, racing in the early spring may present challenges due to training restrictions during the icy months of winter. Conversely, training for a fall race while living in the south during the sweltering months of summer can be stifling. Take the time to plan out your training conditions before choosing the best time of year for your race.
In addition to matching your ability, accessing the race and timing your training, Welch recommends newbie IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 racers ensure they can complete the distance of all three discipline in the cutoff times before signing on the dotted line. Starting your race off on the right foot will pay dividends towards your belief that you can—and will—complete the distance.
Sign up for an IRONMAN.