How to pick your Ironman (Long Distance Race)

With 128 Ironman and 70.3 races, over 40 challenge races plus other long distance events such as the Outlaw how do you decide and pick the one that best suits you and your family?

Most think a sub 10 hour Ironman (11 hours ladies) is the equivalent of the magic sub 3 hour marathon so if it’s this golden time you are after then a fast flat course is the way to go but then you also need to consider the following.

You have to consider if the swim is a Sea swim, Lake or River as all can have a massive effect on your race and also if it will be a wetsuit or non wetsuit swim?


  • Sea = Salt water and if you swallow a lot of this it can lead to tummy issues and you struggling to keep your nutrition down resulting in a very tough day
  • Sea can mean Waves, Swell, Chop again all can be massive obstacles for the weaker swimmer
  • Lake can be warm if shallow increasing the chance of a non wetsuit swim so make sure you look at the past history of the races and the predicted water temps.
  • Rivers again can be warm but also flowing sometimes this can go in your favour and others it can be working against you so again do your research.

As I said above if it’s a PB or a fast time then a flat bike and run gives you the best chance so things to consider about the bike are

  • Hills As a general rule history shows hilly courses tend to be slower for obvious reasons but if your a Kona chasing great climber than this type of course will suit you
  • Descending some think this automatically means free speed but descending is a skill and a good descender / bike handler will obviously go better than someone who is nervous on steep twisty descents.
  • Road Surfaces especially in the UK can be very poor compared to say Mallorca or Barcelona and this can make a huge difference over 112 miles
  • Technical if its a technical course this will obviously suit an experienced cyclist who can handle the bike better

Race Date depending on what month the race is depends on when you need to be putting the hours in training in the months leading up to it. So if you are UK based and pick an early race such as South Africa or Lanzarote you are going to need to put the training in during the potentially cold icy Jan-April months in the UK. Then if you chose a later race like Tenby in September you would hopefully have the British summer to get your longer bikes and runs in. Plus open water swimming is much kinder to the body in the summer.

Climate is something you must take into account Hot, Cold, Windy, Wet etc can all have a massive effect on your race and also your support crews day or weekend cheering you on so this one really is a big decision pick the climate that best suits you and your family and I assure you this will make everyone’s occasion a better one.

Cost these races are not cheap and thats just the entry fee so a race closer to home helps keep the cost down as once you start adding flights and hotels on top it really does have an effect on your bank account.

Coach whether you hire a coach, read a book and devise your own training plan give yourself the best chance by considering all the options.

Course design are T1, T2 and the finish line all in the same place as this can be a total nightmare after the race if you have miles in between each to collect your bike etc. Also consider is it a multi lap route as this is much better for spectators that have traveled to watch you. If it’s a single out and back 112 mile ride and 26.2 mile run it can be a lonely day not seeing your loved ones whilst racing.

Kona Slots if this is what your racing for then you really do have to pick the race that best suits your ability but also look at championship races as these have nearly double the amount of Kona slots than a standard Ironman. In 2016 Ironman UK and Wales (2017 Wales increased to 65 slots) will have 40 slots each where as Ironman Frankfurt which is the European Championships will have 75 slots available.

Hope this How to Pick guide helps you and if you need us to help you pick please get in touch

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