Pros and Cons of Staging My Own Iron-Distance Triathlon

In my post about staging my own race I mentioned that I had considered the pros and cons. That post was WAY too long as it was, so I saved them up for you for this post!


I’m super excited about this, but there are cons to doing my own race:

If I finish, I will still not be an IRONMAN. I talked about this during my appearance on Plus This, when I originally made the announcement – being an IRONMAN means completing an IM sanctioned race under their rules and cut-off times. That’s not what I’m doing. I will be an Iron-Distance triathlete. As I also mentioned on the show, the IM organization has been incredibly kind and supportive of me, the rules were clear when I started this, and I have no hard feelings toward them. (And… I always encourage races with time limits to work on increasing them so that more people can be involved!)

No Official IRONMAN Stuff. See above – not an IRONMAN, so no official medal, no M-dot tattoo, no IM sticker for my car, no IM FINISHER shirt or backpack or hat or shoelaces or whatever (though, at this point it’s not likely that I would get those things anyway, at least not without another year of training.)

I won’t get the race weekend experience – I’ll miss everything from the intense safety lecture at check-in, to hanging out at the athlete village, to seeing and meeting people I’ve connected with throughout this journey, to the party at the finish line (though, again, I would have probably missed that anyway)

Mike Reilly (the official announcer who, as you cross the finish line yells “[your name] from [your town] you are an IRONMAN!”) will not call my name. This one really hurts. It’s one of the first things I blogged about, and meeting him in person (he is so genuine and kind,) and having him tell me that he couldn’t wait to call my name, was what convinced me to try for another year. I’ve spent a lot of time during my training thinking about the moment when I cross the finish line and hear his voice call my name. I’m sad about it.


But the news isn’t all bad. There are a ton of things on the Pros list (which is why I ultimately decided to go with this option!)

A, dare-I-say-it, good chance of actually finishing. There are no guarantees in an event as long and grueling as this. But at least this way I can’t be taken out by missing the cutoff because of equipment malfunction, or unexpected weather etc. If I’m going to bet on something (and that’s exactly what I’m doing with this,) I’m going to bet on me continuing to move forward until I cross the finish line. That’s what I did in both my marathons, and I believe I can do it here, too.

Familiar course. It’s completely closed, so no cars to deal with. And this is where I have done the majority of my training – I’ve swam, biked, and run hundreds and hundreds of miles here, shedding blood, sweat, and tears – sometimes all at once! Which means I am extremely familiar with the course. It also means that the journey will end at the place where it started, and I think that’s kind of beautiful.

This picture of me under a rainbow was taken near the very beginning of this journey, just feet from what will now be my finish line!

An extremely looped course. Depending on how I construct it, there could be more than 20 loops between the bike and the run. Some people would loathe this kind of course, and I fully support them. For me, lots of loops are better because it feels like I’m actually making progress rather than just throwing myself into the void for half of forever.

Reasonable wake up and start times. I don’t have to get up at 3am for a 7am start time just because I’m one of a couple thousand people who have to get their bags turned in, transitions set up, bodies marked, and asses into the water on time. (Again – total respect to IM for how they coordinate these events, that is just part of what it takes to do a triathlon with a ton of people vs what it takes for a single-athlete event.)

Not chasing the cut-offs. Cut-offs on the official course mean that I would likely be in a position, possibly repeatedly, to have to push harder than I want to/than is wise in the long run in order to make the cut-offs, which could hurt my chances of finishing. Without them, I can use body signals like heart rate to guide me and give me the best chance of getting to the finish line.

Meeting basic human needs. Not chasing cut-offs also means that I can change clothes between disciplines and use the restroom. I would never have thought that I would be listing this on a list of “pros,” as if they weren’t just constant options, but here we are.

My race, my rules. If I’m not going to be an IRONMAN, then I don’t have to abide by those rules. I get to strip it all the way down to the basics – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run – 140.6 total miles. I don’t have to hit time cut-offs, I can listen to music (which is much safer on a closed course with no cars and only one athlete in the race!) I can have whatever nutrition and hydration I want at the my Personal Aid Station.

My Personal Aid Station – doing a course with short loops means that I just need one aid station which can be set up with easy access to parking and for disability access so that anyone who wants to can come. Julianne is excited to set it up and person it for the duration of my event, because she is ridiculously awesome and supportive. And since I’ll go by it 20ish times during the race, my family, friends, and supporters can come by, hang out, listen to music (I’m creating an aid station playlist!) party, and eat good drinks and snacks (which is to say – not what I’ll be eating and drinking,) and have plenty of chances to cheer me on if they’re into that sort of thing.

My own tattoo design. “Literally anything but the IRONMAN logo” leaves a lot of awesome tattoo options to fill the empty space on my right inside forearm where that M-Dot was going to go.

I don’t have to train for a another year. This has been an interesting experiment. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I wanted to push outside of my comfort zone and try sports that I’m not good at. I have certainly succeeded at that. But it’s gone on way longer than I initially planned,it’s time to close this chapter and I think this is the best way to get it done for me, so this is the pro-iest pro of them all.

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About Ragen Chastain

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be Iron-distance triathlete, Activist, Fat Person.
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4 Responses to Pros and Cons of Staging My Own Iron-Distance Triathlon

  1. gsantollo says:

    I started doing triathlon in 05, I signed up for my first to be Florida 07 never showed. Completed my first Ironman 2015.
    These things can take a long time. I don’t think you’re bad at this because your timeline is longer than you originally though it would be or should be or could be. The perseverance through that is all what (“I” have come to believe anyway) it takes to be an official Ironman. This is your journey and only you can do what it right for you. In my 10 year span from starting triathlon I took whole years off from triathlon training. I also did a lot of smaller races. I remember one summer I just wanted to cover an Ironman distance over the course of a month for June and July back to back. Many times I thought I would never be an Ironman. Here I am 12 years after I didn’t show up for my first “ironman” I’m a 4x finisher. And there is absolutely NOTHING like it. I believe you can do it, I believe (if anyone can get the work in) then “anything is possible” just like iroman says. The work ALWAYS takes longer than we hope/think/expect

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I will be there if at all possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Moniqa Aylin says:

    I hope I can be there. This post actually has me tearing up—I am SO excited and happy for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lsstrout says:

    I think this is still awesome! I don’t know if Mike Reilly an announce you finishing an unofficial IronPerson race, but it would be cool if he could, even over the phone. I think in addition to you learning a lot, all of us following you learned a lot too.

    I mean, the fact that you get leg cramps REGARDLESS of what precautions you took floored me. Exercise is always presented as this easy thing to do, and people who don’t do it are flat out lazy. When really, it might be cramps you can’t resolve, or not getting the right gear (I’m sure people of all sizes can’t find or afford the right gear) or just time.

    Maybe if more people trying to encourage exercise/movement/trying new things were upfront about the potential problems, and then tried to offer places to find solutions, fewer people would get discouraged and keep on with whatever they are interested in.

    Certainly I had forgotten my untreated asthma was a problem, but a) money and b) asthma is usually presented as a big, life-threatening issue. Nobody says, ‘hey, if you get breathless while walking, maybe it’s asthma, and we can treat that!” Now that I have the funds t treat it, I am enjoying walking again.

    Anyway *HUGS* and *GOOD MOJO* for your plans!


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