Which is more difficult, Ironman or Ultra?



run 100


I know, I know I have not done a full ironman yet so I can’t really compare them right? I have done a half ironman and run a bunch of ultras. So, I have an idea. My goal is to complete an Ironman, but the logistics haven’t worked out. Plus, I really like ultrarunning.

I’m not sure you can really compare the two races side by side beyond both being an ultra endurance sport. I’m over simplifying in this post, but it will give you an idea. I’m really comparing the full iron distance and 100 milers. Some people think the 50 and the full iron are more comparative.

As far as gear, the ultra is so much less complicated. All you really need is a hydration system, shoes, and some clothes. You don’t technically have to have a hydration system, but it’s highly recommended. For an Ironman you need a lot of stuff such as a bike, a wetsuit, swimming suit, bike clothes, running clothes, bike shoes, swim pass, and running shoes. The clothing can be combined in a tri-suit.

Overall time spent training is similar, I would say. A full ironman and a 100 mile run both take about 6 months to train for, if you have done shorter distances. Day to Day training is similar, but in triathlon you are spreading your time between three sports rather than the one, which may make travel time increase depending on where you live.

The ironman is definitely more expensive than the 100 miler not only in gear, but registration fees, especially, if you are competing in Ironman sanctioned events. Full iron distance races are out there, which are run by other groups and they tend to be similar in registration fee to a 100 mile race.

Ultra running is harder on your body in many respects because you are using one muscle system to compete in the event where in the ironman you are using different muscles (there is some cross over with biking and running). Ultrarunning also puts your body through more impact. I’m not sure which would have a higher injury rate because the ironman includes a full marathon and full marathon runners have a higher injury rate than ultrarunners, seems counterintuitive I know. The ironman includes high speeds on the bike and training around pedestrians and vehicles.

Duration of the race is a big difference. Most Ironman events have a finish line cut off at 18 hours. In ultras 18 hour finishes are the front of the pack. Most 100 mile ultra’s are between 30-36 hour finish cut offs.

As far as the competitive nature of each race, Ironman takes the cake. Ironman athletes are very competitive to the point where they will not stop to help other athletes. I’m sure this is not all athletes. I’m also sure there are ultrarunners who are the same, but I think you find more non helpers in the ironman than the ultra. Most ultrarunners will give you their food, clothing, and water if they can spare it and sometimes if they really can’t. Ultra runners are a very down to earth and good natured crowd. There is tons of comradery and support of one another. It’s not just about who can finish first, but who can finish at all. This characteristic is what makes me love ultrarunning.

It Gets Easier, I Promise


How do you run so much and do everything else?

Ummm, I just do.

No really, if things need to be done, I just do them regardless of how tired I am or how many miles I ran that morning. Your body does adjust to the workload. It’s pretty remarkable the way it adapts to the challenges you present it with.

I remember when I first started running and was training for my first marathon. I was worthless after a 20-mile run. The run was a struggle and I hurt the next day. Now, 20 miles is my favorite distance to run. It’s long enough that I can relax into it and let my mind and body go, but it’s short enough that I feel great for the whole run and then afterwards my head is cleared of cobwebs and my body is ready for whatever comes that day.

Sunday I ran 20 miles in the morning, did laundry, cleared out the garden, went to the grocery story, and cleaned house. This used to wipe me out, but not anymore. My body has adjusted. I have plenty of energy to complete all of this without being grouchy and irritable toward everyone. In fact, I get grouchy and irritable if I don’t get the 18 miles in because I have so much pent up energy that I feel on edge.

Training is hard, there are always days where you don’t want to get out there. The hardest part is always getting out the door. Once you’re out there, you will be thrilled with your choice. And the next time you don’t want to get out there, you will remember all the times before that when you didn’t want to but did anyway and how amazing it felt, and it will get easier to choose.

There are three things that you need to make any training program work: Determination, family/friend support, and keeping your priorities straight.

The balancing act comes in not because of the energy (which will adapt), but the time. We are all limited to the same twenty-four hour day. I recently put together my Iron-100 training program, which begins November 10, 2014 and goes through June of 2015.

It combines an ironman training program with a 100-mile program. The two events will be three months apart allowing me to peak for one, recover, and peak for the next.

I will admit it is a little daunting. It is going to require support from family and friends along with setting and sticking to my priorities. I can post it if anyone is interested, just leave me message in the comments.


Vikingman 70.3


70.3 miles Total 7:04:42

1.2 mile Swim 40 minutes

T1 6 minutes

56 mile Bike 3:50 (15 miles an hour)

T2 8:30

13.1 Run 2:19 (10:30 minute per mile)

Clearly, the bike is my weakness! I didn’t expected that to change, since the only two triathlons I’ve competed in were two weeks apart. I really wanted to see where I was at so I could focus my training and compare results to next year.

Next year, I want to complete the St. George half Ironman (May 2015) and the Tahoe full Ironman (September 2015).

Vikingman was an adventure. J$ and I pulled into Heywood, Idaho during a downpour. He looked at me and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

I grinned. “It can’t keep this up. It will blow itself out and tomorrow will be beautiful.”

He was not optimistic. It continued to rain alternating between a sprinkle to torrential rains throughout the afternoon and night. The wind crept in every now and again along with lightning and thunder.

We woke up at 5:00 am and drove to get coffee (me) and Mountain Dew (J$). When we got back, we put our numbers on our legs and arms and took our running and bike stuff over to transition.

I can describe the transition area in one word. Swamp. The rains from the last few days had turned the entire area into a grassy muddy mess. We set up our stuff trying to keep things dry and still have quick access to it.

We took the shuttle to the swim start at 7 a.m. It was 50 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no wind which both J$ and I were grateful for. J$’s start time was 7:30 a.m. and mine was 7:35 a.m. The water temperature was 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

We stood around shivering while the officials told us absolutely no drafting on the bike and no ipods or music during the entire event.

The water was cold, but warmer than standing on shore. I didn’t have any problems during the swim portion of the race, other than getting out of the current once. Since they had the half, Olympic, and sprint distances starting between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m., when I saw a group of swimmers on the shore I started to go toward the shore thinking it was the swim out. It wasn’t. It was the sprint start. Thank goodness I realized it before I was completely ashore.

Once I was out of the water and my wetsuit was stripped off, I was freezing cold. I shoved food in my mouth with shaking hands, pulled on bike shorts, and a jacket. I tried to dry my feet and keep them mud free before putting them into socks and shoes, but it didn’t work out too well.

The bike course consisted of four loops. I don’t mind doing loops, but four is a lot. The course was flat, but southern Idaho is known for its wind. We had a tail wind going east (don’t quote me on the direction I could be wrong, but you get the idea). A cross wind going north and south, and a head wind going west.

The wind was constant at about 20 mph and the gusts were probably about 30 mph, needless to say, they slowed us down going north, south and especially west. I’m not the best cyclist, but I’ve done my share of 100 mile rides. I can typically finish in 4 hours and 30 minutes. So, when 56 miles took 3 hours and 50 minutes, I was a little frustrated and just wanted to get off the freaking bike!

Once into transition, I again tried to stay out of the swampy mess by standing on plastic bags and my towel, which was now covered in mud. I pulled off my bike shorts and changed socks and shoes.

During the swim, I had passed J$, but he caught up to me in the last two miles of the bike. We came into transition about a minute apart and headed out on the run together.

That first mile after being on a bike is tough! But once we got our running legs back, we trucked along at a steady pace. We worked in some walk breaks because we were both beat to death by the wind on the bike course. I have to say a loop course that comes within a tenth of a mile to the finish line is cruel and unusual punishment, not motivation.

On the second loop of the run course, I looked at J$ and said, “So I guess you need more than five days to taper for a half ironman. Next time, I won’t run back to back long runs (25/20 mile) the weekend before.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” he said.

What’s the plan from here? I refuse to drop my running miles or give up running ultramarathons, so I know I will not be as strong on the bike as other triathletes. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I am going to try to work in a spin class in during the fall and winter one night a week. I am also going to work on doing intervals on my trainer on my own. Finally, I am going to save up and get a tri-bike next spring/summer.

And the Battle begins

mind vs body

Body draws a double-handed broadsword from its scabbard. Mind secures itself with a wide staggered stance and raises the circular shield to shoulder height.

“You must rest, you have a half ironman in five days,” Mind calls from around the shield.

“Yeah, but we got this. Half Ironman pshhhht. Whatever.” Body hefts the six-foot silver blade.

“You want to do well don’t you?” my mind asks, crouching low in preparation.

“Well yeah, we’re going to freaking crush it!” The blade arches back and up.

Mind rolls eyes.  “Sure you are.” Mind grunts as the sword crashes into the shield. Body staggers thrown off balance because of the weight of the swinging sword.

“What? This little half iron ain’t got shit on a 100 miler or even a 50!” Body says taking a few steps toward Mind.

Mind stands straight, drops the shield down, and looks Body up and down. “How many times you think you can swing that thing before you’re exhausted at this point in your training?”

Body again hefts the blade back and up over its head and it comes banging down upon Mind who is once again cowering beneath the shield.

“And what, Ms. Smarty pants, do you want us to do with all this extra energy?” Body asks. The sword tip rests on the ground.

“Conserve it and let it loose at Vikingman,” Mind says firmly standing its ground.

Body shakes its head and looks at the ground. “We won’t be sleeping by Wednesday if we do that. And my leg is going to bounce us into next week.”

“Now listen here, you fool. You ran 25 miles Saturday and 20 miles Sunday. You need to rest.” Mind is frustrated. “You’ve run races when you haven’t properly rested. They don’t go well.”

Mind looks at the sword still in Body’s hand. Body looks down at it too.

“How about, I swim Monday, run easy Tuesday, and ride on Wednesday?” Body says.

Mind rubs its pointy chin and nods its head. “That sounds reasonable. But can you stick to that? be honest now.”

“Alright. Alright. I’ll probably run on Thursday too but easy short five miles that’s it. I promise.”

Mind narrows its cool steel grey eyes. Body drops the broadsword and extends its hand to seal the agreement.

Mind reaches out.

Body quickly retracts its hand laughing, “Na, I’m just kidding.”

Mind drops the shield and dashes forward tackling Body. They land with a harrumph and dust flying into the air around them. Mind shakes Body by the shoulders, flips him over, and wrenches Body’s arm behind its back.

“Mercy!” Body squeaks out.

“Do you agree to the terms?” Mind asks calm.

“Cough. Cough. I agree.”

Slowly, Mind allowed body to get up. Mind wondered why it always had to overcome Body whether it was because Body wanted to quit or wanted to push when it just wasn’t the right time… yet.

Quick and Easy


It’s official, I’ve registered for the Vikingman half triathlon.

The swim is 1.2 miles (1.9km). The bike is 56 miles (90km). The run is 13.1 miles (21.1km). This is double the distance of the Spudman Tri I finished last weekend. I’ve wanted to do an Ironman for awhile. One of the things that has held me back is that I am not willing to stop running ultra’s to compete in triathlons. Last fall, two of my friends agreed to give it a try with me so I wrote up a plan and chose Tahoe Ironman 2015 as our goal race.

Is it possible to train for both an Ironman and 100 mile Ultra events? Guess we will find out.

Now, I’ve got to get faster on my bike.

We all want things to be quick and easy. That’s probably a little off, we want things immediately. Instant gratification is something I see in children, teens, and adults. It applies to all types of desires too. Money, fame, fitness, material possessions, education, you name it people want it and they want it right freaking now.

I fell prey to the desire for instant gratification this week, and I even searched the web for that quick and easy way. It took hours, all right days, for me to come to terms with reality, and accept my fate. I will have to put in the sweat and hours to get faster on my bike. I can’t just buy a new bike (although that would probably help a bit), and I can’t just do a few weeks of strength training, and voila I’m turbo the racing snail on my bike. I have to ride, ride, and ride. I’m going to have to ride hard and fast. I have to push myself with cycling just like I do with my running, if I want to get faster.

I found this realization rather entertaining because I know the truth of it completely I tell all the runners that I coach, if you want to get faster you have to run faster. I tell my children, others, and myself that nothing comes easy. You have to work for any goal worth achieving. Sky, my thirteen-year-old son, believes that he should be able to do everything instantly. Why does he believe this? Because he can understand the mechanics of how things work in his head. Unfortunately, what we can imagine in our minds does not translate immediately into the real world.

How great would it be if the Matrix movie idea of acquiring new knowledge and skills were true? Being able to just plug into a super virtual world/computer and have the mental and physical ability to do all that we can imagine would be phenomenal. I’m not so sure I would want all the outlets in the back of my head and spine though.

However, the value of many things is found not in achieving the goal, but the journey in reaching it. Reaching a goal requires strategies, time, dedication, ambition, and sacrifice. All of us have struggled and fallen flat on our faces, but we get up, and we are better people for it. We learn the value of both material and immaterial objects by having to work toward them.