For most triathletes out there their journey to Ironman distance racing is an evolutionary proceeding which starts with the sprint triathlon. There are exceptions, and most likely quite a few that simply kick-off their triathlon age-grouper career with an Ironman distance race. However, these individuals are usually in the minority. The evolution of your typical triathlete goes something like this.
Stage 1: Sprint Triathlete:
I wanted to get into shape so I decided to enter a sprint triathlon to lose some weight and help motivate me to train, and to be more healthy. These individuals are usually in need of some exercise and benefit a great deal from their training, coaching, and time spent on the bike, at the pool, and on the trails/road running. They usually feel very vulnerable and much like a fish out of water for several triathlons but they soon become adept at the transitions, pacing strategies, and the whole triathlon culture within a couple years of racing.
Stage 2: Olympic/70.3 or Half-Ironman Triathlete:
If a little is okay then a bit more is better. Or so the belief goes. This may hold true, especially for the Olympic distance racers, depending on one’s goals. Now that is the operative word, “goals”. The triathlete’s goals tend to change from wanting to be healthy and in decent shape to wanting to see where one stands when compared to age mates. This may not always be the case, as there are quite a few ultra-competitive sprint triathletes. However, the tendency in the triathlon/endurance community is “longer is better” when it comes to training and racing.
At this point you will begin to see individuals spending more and more money on coaching, race wheels, bikes, wetsuits and so on. Now the goal has definitely changed from simply being healthy to being competitive in one’s age group. The initial goal of being healthy has suddenly taken a secondary position to placing in one’s age group. As a result, weight training is more often than not neglected for more time on the bike/in the pool/on the road etc.. NSAIDS are beginning to be used more often in order to speed recovery for overuse injury.
Training regiments become more demanding. Diet becomes more focused on weight loss rather than healthy nutrition. As a result, the triathlete begins to start trading health for speed. Fitness increases in one’s specific sport but overall health declines due to over training, poor diet, muscle loss, excessive fatigue, less time for family/loved ones, and so on. Of course this is a continuum and may or may not occur depending on one’s physical attributes, age, life situation (kids) and so on. However, for your typical 30-40 something age grouper, this is usually the case.
Stage 3: Ironman Triathlete:
The Ironman triathlete has completed the distance and may have done so a number of times. This is usually 3-5 years along the evolutionary process of becoming an Ironman. Yet again, there are those that simply go out and complete an … Read More