When I got hooked on the sport of triathlon back in 2010 not even a year into my weight loss journey, I knew that I’d eventually want to tackle a full Ironman… off road. Well, “eventually” is this July. And, as it turns out, I’m training to become part of a very, very small tribe of individuals who have ever tackled, let alone completed one of these events.
When one undertakes a challenge, particularly one as demanding as this, one usually starts with some research. Well, there’s not a whole heckuva lot to be found about “off road ironman.” By all accounts there have only been two organized off road iron-distance triathlons… ever. And those were back in 2003 (The Mountain Extreme Triathlon Park City and the Odyssey Off Road IRON Triathlon). The third off road ironman ever will be run this July in England (the X-Man Extreme Triathlon).
The number of people who have completed a full Ironman on the road is well into the six figures. Fewer than 100 individuals on the face of the planet have completed the combined 2.4 mile open water swim, 112 miles of mountain biking, and 26.2 mile trail running marathon (in under the 24-hour cutoff) comprising an Iron-distance off road triathlon . There are more people in the world who have been to outer space. More people have been to the South Pole on foot. Many more people have been to the summit of Everest.
I find all of this quite fascinating and it all only whets my appetite to “join the club.” It seems that full-length off road Iron-distance triathlons just don’t exist. For one, it’s very hard to find a venue with the sufficient water and trails for such a race – especially one that also has the necessary lodging/food/transportation accommodations. Than there’s the fact that there simply aren’t too many people on the planet with the combined mental and physical preparedness to string together three, grueling off road endurance disciplines which usually represent an endurance race on their own. Most off road endurance athletes are training for open water swims, OR endurance mountain biking events, OR trail ultra-marathons… not all three strung together. In fact, when I initially asked XTerra (the largest organizer of off road triathlons) why I couldn’t find any off road iron-distance races to register for – their response was (and I paraphrase), “um, nobody does those… that’d just be downright crazy.”
So all of this is to say that I’m happy to discover that my off road ironman solo attempt this July will be pioneering – helping to further establish and promote an emerging discipline of endurance racing that I hope grows exponentially over the years.