Hardest ironman course: Ironman-distance triathlons: the 11 toughest
Ironman-distance triathlons: the 11 toughest
14. Patagonman, Chile
Bucketlist races don’t come more exciting than Patagonman, set in the wilds of Chilean Patagonia and luring 250 lucky racers to the Southern Hemisphere since its debut in 2018. Yet an iron picnic this isn’t, with a leap from a ferry into a bitingly-cold fjord, a winding wilderness ride on windswept roads, and a dirt road run flanked by arguably triathlon’s greatest scenery. The BBC’s Louise Minchin crossed the line after 16:34hrs in 2018. “Before the race, the event organisers claimed it would be a life-changing experience and would create unforgettable memories. For me, it did both. It’s brilliant, beautiful and brutal. The race of a lifetime.” xtriworldtour
PATAGONMAN TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Fjord
Swim temp: 12°C
Bike elevation: 2,439m
Run elevation: 914m
Run surface: Rocky trails
Avg high temp: 22°C
Median time: 14:36:59
DNF rate: 14%
13. Challenge Wanaka, New Zealand
The triathlon that’s famed as the most scenic tri in the world, but how does this Challenge beauty fare in the tough Iron stakes as well? Let’s head over to New Zealand’s South Island to find out…
“Wanaka is beautiful, but it’s beautifully brutal too, so don’t let the scenic mountains and gorgeous lakes lull you into a false sense of security,” says Laura Siddall who came 2nd in 2015.
“If the wind is up, the swim can be choppy. The bike course has no let-up; it’s constant rolling terrain and the road surface is a killer, with the chipseal just adding more excitement. You’ll always get some wind, and there’s no real place on the course to escape it, so you just have to manage however much wind turns up! The run is again one of the prettiest run courses ever. For 75% of the race you’re on trails and tracks, which take you along the banks of the Clutha River, before you’re faced with Gunn Road, a 1.5km steep hill that you’re lucky enough to face twice. Wanaka is, however, my favourite race, and you’ll keep wanting to come back once you’ve done it.”
CHALLENGE WANAKA TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Choppy lake
Swim temp: 17°C
Bike elevation: 1,684m
Run elevation: 472m
Run surface type: Trail and road
Avg high temperature: 23.4C
DNF rate: 9%
Median time: 12:14:00
12. Stone Brixia Man, Italy
Set in Lombardy, Italy’s Stone Brixia Man is part of the new Extreme Tri Series and begins with a moonlit 4am swim across Lago d’Iseo before a bike leg involving three Alpine passes. The run, meanwhile, is frankly bonkers, with 2,341m of elevation gain leading to the bitingly-cold Passo Paradiso mountaintop
finish line and surely the world’s most deserved slice of pizza.
“The climbs are surrounded by beautiful landscapes and beyond the race you appreciate everything that also keeps you company; you’re overcome and you overcome,” says finisher Elena Marocchi on her Brixia experience. stonebrixiamanxtri.com
STONE BRIXIA MAN TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Lake
Swim temp: 24°C
Bike elevation: 4,686m
Run elevation: 2,341m
Run surface: Rocky trails
Avg high temp: 21°C
DNF rate: 17.8%
Median time: 17:56:41
11. Embrunman, France
With 3,600m of climbing on the bike alone, this southern France-set classic has been troubling triathletes since 1984. But are you brave enough to battle Embrunman?
“From Hawaii to Lanzarote and Bolton, out of all the Iron races I’ve done Embrunman is the toughest,” says Bella Bayliss, three times winner.
“Diving into the water at 5:50am in the pitch dark is certainly different! 188km on the bike with some really decent climbs makes for a long day out. The marathon isn’t so hard, just tough after an extra hard bike. Sometimes I’ve raced Embrunman when it was snowing on top of the mountains, sometimes in heat waves in the valleys, so this also plays its part in the day. Put simply, I love it. It’s a true test of fitness.”
EMBRUNMAN TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Lake
Swim temp: 23°C
Bike elevation: 3,600m
Run elevation: 480m
Run surface type: Tarmac
Avg high temperature: 19.5°C
DNF rate: 8%
Median time: 13:53:25
10. Ironman Wales, Pembrokeshire
“Once you finish Wales you know you can finish anything,” says reigning champ Lucy Gossage on this painful day in Pembrokeshire.
“Everyone knows I love a tough Ironman. As someone who’s won both Lanzarote and Wales, I think it’s fair to say the tough courses suit me.
“Of all the races I’ve done, Wales is probably the hardest, but also my favourite. The choppy swim, the long, long run uphill to T1, the relentless hills on the bike and the marathon that’s, quite literally, entirely up or down, make for a physically tough day out. Add on the high probability of somewhat inclement weather and there isn’t much about it that’s easy! On average, Wales is probably an hour (at least) slower than other Ironman races. But I’d argue that it’s more rewarding. And once you finish Ironman Wales? Then you know you can finish anything!”
IRONMAN WALES TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Sea
Swim temp: 16°C
Bike elevation: 2,450m
Run elevation: 500m
Run surface type: Tarmac
Avg. high temp: 17°C
DNF rate: 8.3%
Median time: 13:41:03
9. Ironman Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Next on the list is Ironman Lanzarote. Wind, heat, hills and more wind. Ironman Lanza is a long-established classic on the calendar that’s been putting triathletes through the wringer for over two decades…
“Of the 12 Ironmans I’ve done, Lanzarote is the hardest by miles, which is my excuse for why it’s also my personal worst time by over an hour,” says Martyn Brunt who came 782nd in 2011.
“After a swim with more aggro than a 1980’s football punch-up, you take on the infamous bike course and its unholy trinity of heat, hills and wind that make you feel like you’ve headbutted a comet. Finally, there’s the boiling hot marathon conducted in full view of the many bars of Puerto Del Carmen with their tantalisingly out-of-reach glasses of cold beer. Somehow it’s all worth it when you shake [race organiser] Kenneth Gasque’s hand at the finish line, though.”
IRONMAN LANZAROTE TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Sea
Swim temp: 19°C
Bike elevation: 2,551m
Run elevation: 286m
Run surface type: Tarmac
Avg high temperature: 25C plus winds
DNF rate: 11%
Median time: 13:48:23
8. Blacklake, Montenegro
A pitch-black swim. A ride through Europe’s deepest canyon. A marathon run with more climbing than most bike legs can muster. Montenegro’s Blacklake made its debut in 2019 and attracted 26 searchers of excessive sinew strain to the Balkans. German Sebastian Zimmerman, who finished third after 16:30hrs of toil, transports us to the start of the swim.
“A torch-lit path leads us down to the swallowing darkness of Black Lake. Lights on the shore reveal the icy deep ahead. My feet sink into the soft, muddy ground. We wait for the signal to begin the 3.8km swim. The water bites my skin and I can feel the blood pumping through my veins.” The 2020 edition is set for 12 September. xtriworldtour.com
BLACKLAKE TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Lake
Swim temp: 13°C
Bike elevation: 3,200m
Run elevation: 2,600m
Run surface: Rocky trails
Avg high temp: 16°C
Median time: 17:13hrs
7. Norseman Xtreme, Norway
Long fabled as the hardest race on planet tri, the Norseman is so tough you’ll need a support crew throughout. And with a 15:35hr median finish time, the stats don’t lie…
“The Norseman is an adventure. I could prepare for Kona,” says Tim DeBoom who is a two-time Ironman world champ and won here in 2011, “but this one is a lot more abstract as you have to train on the course descriptions. The swim and the bike were what I expected, but the final 20km of the run caught me off guard. There’s a 12km section with a gradient of 10% called Zombie Hill, and that’s a good description. The finale is a 1,500m slog up rocks and scree – it was like power hiking – that ends at the top of Gaustatoppen. Put simply, it’s the toughest race I’ve ever done.
NORSEMAN TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Icy fjord
Swim temp: 14°C
Bike elevation: 2,933m
Run elevation: 1,798m
Run surface type: Rocky climbs
Avg high temperature: 13°C
DNF rate: 2.8% 3
Median time: 15:53:10
6. Swissman Xtreme, Ascona, Switzerland
As part of the Xtreme triathlon races, Swissman – along with Celtman and Norseman – is definitely one of the hardest and most beautiful races in the world. How does it fare in our Iron showdown?
“When I travel to Switzerland I take all my gear and winter clothes: jacket, rain jacket, rain trousers, hat, gloves. Be prepared to wear extra layers of clothes,” said Julia Nikolopoulos, 3 x Swissman podium athlete. “For bike training, you need to do a lot of climbing and riding downhill. For the run it’s a good thing to train for the uphill, but the muscles also need to be prepared for the downhill.
“Don’t forget to eat during the race. You need a lot of energy for this (especially if it’s cold) and having a bonk here is no fun.”
SWISSMAN TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Lake
Swim temp: 20°C
Bike elevation: 399m
Run elevation: 1,594m
Run surface type: Mountain trails
Avg high temperature: 26°C
DNF rate: 11.8%
Median time: 16:16
5. Celtman Extreme, Scotland
It’s a sibling to the Norseman in the Xtreme Tri family, but this North West Highlands event may be even harder than its big bro. Time then to assess the Celtman’s tough cookie credentials…
“The Celtman experience is an adventure in nature and a battle against the elements, as much as it is a race against fellow competitors,” says Chris Stirling who came 2nd in 2015.
“A bracing swim in a Scottish sea loch full of locals (jelly fish) starts the day. The bike is 202km and you’re exposed to Atlantic winds on the hilliest parts. Expect the final 40km to be into a headwind with long, draggy climbs, lonely and exposed. Onto the run, it’s uphill straight off to shake the biking legs before the mountain of Ben Eighe looms. The climb to its summit is like a wall (over 950m of ascent in a few kms), basically it’s extreme power hiking onto the rocky spine of the mountain. The rough downhill has your quads in agony, before a final cruel stretch of flat tarmac to finish. Yet it’s worth every second of pain… 1,000 times over.”
THE CELTMAN TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Sea loch
Swim temp: 10°C
Bike elevation: 2,000m
Run elevation: 1,410m
Run surface type: 85% off-road
Avg high temperature: 12°C
Median time: 15:18:25
4. Austria Extreme, Graz, Austria
The Austria Extreme has a 43% DNF rate. We repeat. A 43% DNF rate. So what makes this mountain wonder so tough?
“Bring a big pack of mental fitness for this race,” said Michael Strasser, 2015 winner. “The Austria Extreme is very hard, with four mountains on the bike – and sometimes headwinds in between the climbs. So don’t bring your disc wheel. You should bring a low-gear-cassette; the final climb on the last mountain is the steepest and all athletes will are tired by then. Make sure you choose to pack a bike jacket; it’ll especially be needed on the downhill sections.”
AUSTRIA EXTREME THE STATS
Swim type: River
Swim temp: 14°C
Bike elevation: 3,923m
Run elevation: 1,863m
Run surface type: Trails
Avg high temperature: 26°C and winds
DNF rate: 43%
Median time: 15:31
3. Altriman, Pyrenees, France
Five thousand metres of elevation on the bike? A 25% DNF rate? Holy moly! Time to assess the Pyrenees-set Altriman in our iron analysis…
“I toed the line at Altriman in 2012 as a pretty experienced long-distance athlete. But at Altriman I spent nearly twice the time on the bike than I did at Challenge Roth, said Christophe Fernandez, multiple Altriman finisher.
“Nothing prepares you to spend 10hrs on the saddle and to tackle those 5,000m of climbing on this continuous up and down loop. On the marathon, I was on my knees at the start of the first gradient (yes, the run is hilly too). My race was over… I came back in 2013 for this unfinished business and, after 15:19hrs of battle, I finally grabbed the finisher fleece of which I’m so proud!”
ALTRIMAN TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Altitude lake
Swim temp: 18-20°C
Bike elevation: 5,000m
Run elevation: 720
Run surface type: Tarmac and trail
Avg high temperature: 28°C
DNF rate: 25%
Median time: 16:49:15
2. The Brutal, Snowdonia
Extremely cruel or harsh. Very bad or unpleasant. Harsh, burdensome, cruel, excruciating, grim, hard, rugged. The Merriam-Webster dictionary pulls no punches in its definition of ‘Brutal’ and its synonyms. And neither do the Brutal race organisers…
Launched in 2012 by ultra athlete Claire Smith, the Brutal is known for its low-key feel and friendliness. And yet there’s nothing welcoming about the course, which submerges athletes in the chilly Lake Padarn for 3.8km before subjecting them to over 3,000m of climbing on the 180km Snowdonian bike leg. The 1,394m of climbing on the run keeps the pain a coming, and all of this without a support crew, with athletes isolated throughout.
“The results say it all,” says the Lincolnshire Iron legend Anthony Gerundini who’s raced 108 Ironmans. “The Brutal winner’s time in 2015 was 12:22hrs with no support, 30mins slower than the Celtman’s supported winner. The full 3.8km swim has the potential to be damn cold and choppy, the bike stats tell you how hard it is and the run throws everything at you. Quite simply, it’s a true extreme triathlon.”
THE BRUTAL TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Lake
Swim temp: 15°C
Bike elevation: 3,027m
Run elevation: 1,349
Run surface type: Mountain paths
Avg high temperature: 14°C
DNF rate: 10%
Median time: 16:50:51
1. TriathlonX, Ambleside, Cumbria
And the winner is… TriathlonX in the Lake District. A bike route on the legendary Fred Whitton cyclosportive route and a run up Scafell Pike and down again makes the new-entry TriathlonX the world’s toughest 226km triathlon.
“The bike is based on the infamous Fred Whitton cyclosportive route, the hilly granddaddy of all classic bike rides that happens to be 180km long. So it’s been an obvious long-held dream to have it as the showpiece of an iron-distance race,” said Anthony Gerundini, 10th 2016 and 120+ time Iron finisher.
“The route takes in the iconic passes of the Lake District, including Wrynose and Hardknott, the cherry on this hilly cake. And it further spices up the route to include ‘The Struggle’ at Kirkstone Pass, familiar to anyone who’s done Helvellyn Tri, and the tough 25% gradient of the Honister Pass. The run then takes in the ascents through Mickelden, Rossett Ghyll and Esk Hause before the rock fields of Great End and Broad Crag. And then the challenge of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, and back down again.”
TRIATHLON X TOUGH STATS
Swim type: Lake
Swim temp: 18°C
Bike elevation: 3,419m
Run elevation: 1,450m
Run surface type: Rocks, trail
Avg high temperature: 17.2°C
DNF rate: 13.3%
Median time: 18:15:50
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Hardest Ironman Course? Easiest? RunTri’s 30 Toughest Ironman Races
By Raymond Britt — There is no such thing as an Easy Ironman. Covering 140.6 miles on any course, any day, in any variety of conditions, is a monumental challenge. Everyone who crosses the finish line knows how hard an Ironman triathlon is. But we were curious . . .
The RunTri Challenge Index. We had long been interested in a quantitative comparison, but found none, so we created the list — the RunTri Challenge Index. RunTri analyzed results of more than 150,000 finishers (each year sees about 65,000 finishers) competing in 30 Ironman distance triathlons (including Lake Tahoe, Sweden, and Mont-Tremblant, which still need to be added) to answer the question: which Ironman triathlon is hardest? Easiest? We’ve completed this analysis twice, and both are presented here.
RunTri’s Toughest/Easiest Ironman Races: Edition
Our rankings, portions of which have been published in Triathlete Magazine issues, have taken our original analysis into a deeper, more comprehensive direction, ranking races by discipline — swim, bike or run — to help athletes more accurately assess which races are easiest or toughest, depending on which elements of their triathlon skills are best or weakest. (we know you’ll have many questions; see FAQs further down in this post)
RunTri’s Original Top 25 Toughest/Easiest Ironman Races
Next, our original analysis, the Top 25 Toughest/Easiest Ironman Races and related analysis. Our original analytics in response to key questions about comparing the races still hold true for the new rankings.
We expect there will be much discussion about this list, and we are pleased to start the conversation. Is it perfect? No, and it doesn’t pretend to be. But we’ve gone to great lengths to verify and validate as much as possible.
We’ve finished 29 Ironman triathlons (as documented in the book Qualifying for Kona: The Road to the Ironman World Championship), including nearly half the races in this analysis, some multiple times, and are more than familiar with the difficulty of many others. In addition, we’ve also conducted in-depth results analysis for most ranked races. The ranking is more than numbers, as we have taken care to test available qualitative factors where possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Discussions and threads on chat boards from iamtri.com to beginnertriathlete. com, slowtwitch.com, to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have been animated and active for quite some time. Each contains thoughtful observations and questions, including the following:
- How many athletes were analyzed?
- What data is used to rank races?
- What are the Swim, Bike, Run details?
- Do rankings differ by age group?
- Why not rank based on Kona qualifying times?
- What about Kona race results?
- DNFs? Kona DNFs?
- Difficult conditions? Weather?
- Why don’t you just look at the top x%?
- Why are Europe races ‘fast’?
- Lanzarote is as hard as Kona, right?
- Cut-off Times?
- Weak fields?
- Flat bike courses?
See notes below to understand how the list was generated, how we reconciled some non-quantitative factors, and discussion of some suggested alternative approaches. To start, dive into our results analysis by race or more detail behind our Toughest/Easiest Ironman Triathlon Rankings.
How many athletes were analyzed? The initial data were compiled for one or more years for each race, involving more than 50,000 athletes across races. This number included 41,000+ finishers, plus several thousand who raced in half ironman 70.3 events that offered slots. As of 2012, new races have been added and more than 65,000 athletes are registered to compete in 30 Ironman events.
Data. We cut and pivot-tabled the data several ways, modes, medians, standard deviations, etc., and the results are similar enough that we are using average finish times. The data are updated as needed (e.g., Louisville), if new results change the ranking, and are based on new race data availability. For example, the Inaugural Ironman Texas earned a spot among the toughest overall at 13:17. We’ll be revising the rankings to reflect recent results, shortly.
For further details and links to data for each race, see Detailed Comparisons between races.
For similar comparative charts, see our Toughest/Easiest Swim, Bike, Run analyses.
Wondering if the list differs by Age Group? See our AG Analysis table, below.
Another alternative view: look at Kona Qualifying times by Age Group.
Kona: For most triathletes, Kona would rank in the top 5, if not toughest overall. World-class Kona qualifiers are, of course, very skilled, and their average finish times are deceptively fast: average finish time is 11:37. This time would rank Kona among the ‘easiest’ Ironman events, and it’s misleading in that respect. We’ve put Kona at the top of the chart, without finish time data to account for Kona’s universally acknowledged difficulty.
Splits for 2002 to 2010 are shown in the chart, above. Comparative splits for 2010 vs other races are available in our detailed comparisons. See Kona Qualifying Times for an alternative view.
DNFs. We’ve concluded that the impact of DNFs is effectively captured in the average times. Harder courses, harsher conditions lead to higher DNF but also higher average times. Kona is a perfect example; as our analysis of DNFs and Average finish times 2002 to 2010 clearly shows.
In another example, at St. George, DNFs were higher than usual, but so is the average time of those who finished. One goes with the other. IM Louisville in 2010 is another example, due to difficult conditions, and we adjusted as appropriate. See our North American Ironman DNF analysis and Ironman Wisconsin 2002-2010 DNS and DNF Analysis.
Kona Qualifiers vs Lottery Winners: DNS and DNF. Another look at DNFs: Kona lottery slot winners had a much lower DNF rate than Kona qualifiers, on the Kona course itself. Does that mean lottery winners are better triathletes than qualifiers? Certainly not. But those who did show up — after a 9% DNS rate — did apparently fight harder to cross the finish line.
More Athletes per Race = Weaker Triathletes? Most Ironman races reach ‘Sold Out’ status quickly, though the maximum number of athletes per race differs. Not only that, but the cap on many races increases annually, especially in North America where several races feature close to 3000 entrants.
Do races that allow upwards of 3,000 entrants end up having a weaker field overall, resulting in a tougher rating? It could be the case, except by the time race day arrives, as many as 500 entrants choose not to race. Those that show up, for the most part, have trained hard and are prepared to race. And generally, lower DNF rates confirm the point (except, as noted often, when extraordinary conditions present)
Weather. Course conditions do vary from year to year, but overall results tend to be less impacted than you may expect. Personal experiences on races courses more than 5 times, through sun, heat, humidity, wind, rain, hail, fog and almost snow, bear this out.
However, in the cases where conditions do, in fact, lead to drastically different times in a race from one year to the next, e.g., Wisconsin (weather-affected DNF rates; chart below) and Louisville 2009 vs. 2010, we make adjustments depending on data availability.
Speedsters — Average vs Top x%. For those who might believe a top 100 or top 10% per age group might sway the analysis, the answer is generally no, it won’t. Our analysis of 17 races — Top 100 results vs All Finishers — still ranks St. George, Louisville and UK among the toughest, Lanzarote and Lake Placid next tier, and Austria, Regensburg and Western Australia still are among the fastest. Others like Wisconsin, Cozumel, Canada and France vary somewhat, and we’ve factored that in to the overall results.
For another way to test this hypothesis, see our Kona Qualifying Times by race and age group.
Europe. Others might say faster times in Europe indicate better athletes. I’d say there is a small degree of truth, based on personal experience racing in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. But the difference is less than you would think; see above ‘Speedsters’ analysis.
Further, the courses in Europe have been modified to reduce some of the challenge. Switzerland in particular; those of us who raced there a decade ago faced a daunting, steep, technical 3-loop course. That’s long gone now.
The Austria time strikes us as too good to be true, so did the 5:46 average bike split, for example (and it’s even faster in 2011). Same is true on some other courses. Here’s the evidence: bike splits examples across the board.
And we’ve looked at the ‘better athlete’ question a different way, comparing Kona qualifiers from 13 top countries, competing head-to-head by age group at Kona 2010. the results are inconclusive overall; country dominance varies by age group, as illustrated in the chart below. For more, see Which Countries Have the Fastest Triathletes?
What about Challenge Roth? Performance there raises skepticism about course measurement; we’ve raced Roth, we agree. So it’s not included.
Lanzarote. Yes, the bike course at Ironman Lanzarote is a monster, with a roughly 7-hour average time. Yes, your friend says Lanzarote is as tough as Kona, and on the bike course, that’s probably true. But, surprisingly, the average marathon times in Lanzarote are quite fast, in the mid 4-hour range.
Combined, Lanzarote’s average finish time is a brisk 12:30 or so. It’s been that way for the last 2 years. One factor behind these fast times is self-selection; a younger group of triathletes race Lanzarote. Taking that into consideration, we rank Lanzarote at the 13-hour level, a more likely time if the field’s demographic was consistent with most other races.
Cut-off Time Adjustments. Some European races have shorter overall cutoff times. France and Switzerland ends in 16 hours, not 17. Germany ends in 15 hours. We’ve done the analysis to adjust for the difference using Ironman Canada results and calculating average 15 and 16 hour cutoff times. The answer: add 26 minutes to Germany’s time, and 11 minutes to Switzerland’s time to make all three comparable to all other 17 hour cutoff races.
The 50% Rule. Another benchmark we look at is what we call The 50% Rule. In race after race, the bike split is approximately 50% of overall time.
Even for races with 15 or 16 hour cutoff times, this test holds true. If the bike split was 60% in these races, reflecting faster marathons to beat the cutoff, we’d be more concerned.
Flat Bike Courses = Easier? Many assume: Ironman Florida and Arizona should be considered ‘easy’ because the bike course is so flat. Flat does not always = faster. Ask any pro who expected a PR bike split on either course, and left disappointed: flat is deceptively hard. Note: no Ironman bike split record has been set on either course; not even close.
Same muscles used 112 miles, no variation, it takes a surprising toll. Race Florida and you’ll actually wish for hills and descents, anything for the chance to use different leg muscles. In Arizona, expect brisk desert winds to hinder your progress; see how speeds drop sharply by lap 3 on the bike course.
Correlation between Bike and Run Splits. We’ve cut the data to show the correlation between bike and run splits for several races, including Kona, Wisconsin, Canada, Louisville and others. Click on the bike or run split link for the respective races above. Below, the Ironman Wisconsin 2010 chart.
Other Toughest Lists. For perspective, we’ve done similar analysis for top 25 marathons and 35 half ironman 70.3 races. Take a look.
So. Reading the data literally Ironman Switzerland and Ironman Austria appear to have the fastest average time, while Ironman St. George is clearly the hardest, followed by Ironman Malaysia and Ironman Wisconsin. But you have to dig deeper, into the race splits, to see what makes these races stand out. See links above.
New Zealand, Arizona, Florida, Lake Placid, Canada and Wisconsin times seem spot-on, based on our experience racing there. Malaysia triathletes clearly suffer in the heat and humidity, perhaps the same was true in Cozumel.
Finale. After all the charts, tables, debates, and comments, one thing remains definitive: there is no such thing as an easy Ironman triathlon. Swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles, run a marathon, and you’ve done what you once — be honest — considered impossible.
All of us, at one time or another, felt the same way. But we committed, we trained, we started and we finished the toughest triathlon there is: an Ironman triathlon.
No matter where in the world you race, getting to the Ironman finish line is special. We’ve shared the experience, we’ve conquered it. Nothing was easy, it was often tougher than expected, and without question, it was worth it to be a proud member of an triathlon’s most exclusive club: Ironman finisher.
Feel free to Contact us with questions or comments.
— Raymond Britt, 29-time Ironman finisher.
Enduroman Arch to Arc – the most difficult triathlon in the world – Triit.ru – Blogs
In July Evgeny Nikitin from St. Petersburg plans to participate in the Enduroman Arch to Arc, an extreme ultratriathlon that only 26 people have completed since 2001. In early June, for the first time in this race, the Russian team, consisting of three athletes, finished.
Enduroman Arch to Arc (“From arch to arch”) – triathlon for the elite. Its total length is close to 480 kilometers. Start – from the Marble Arch in London, finish – at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The sequence of stages is non-standard: athletes first run to Dover (140 km), then swim across the English Channel (about 36 km) and ride a bike for 290 km.
Route Enduroman Arch to Arc. Photo: Teapot Trust – Arch to Arc on Facebook
The running stage is not flat – there are several hills. The cycling route is also characterized by ups and downs. Do not forget about transport traffic – no one blocks the roads. The swim across the English Channel is considered one of the most difficult swimming marathons in the world due to low water temperatures and tides, which usually lengthen the distance. nine0003
Two deaths of athletes in the last three years have been linked to the English Channel. Briton Nick Thomas, 45, who completed the race in 80 hours and 50 minutes in 2014, decided to repeat the race in the summer of 2016, but lost consciousness at the finish of the swimming stage and died in the hospital. A year later, the same fate befell another experienced English athlete, 44-year-old Douglas Waymark.
Do not touch the boat during the swim. Photo: Enduroman on Flickr
In order to register for Arch to Arc, you must have experience running, swimming and cycling long distances, document this, and then take a test swim for 6 hours in water temperature not higher than 16 degrees.
You will also have to pay a lot. Bookings for 2019 are £300. The race itself is £3,500. Escorted boat rides are between £2,900 and £3,200. Even so, the demand for this triathlon is high. Registered athletes can wait a year or even two for their turn. nine0003
The rules for passing the course are quite strict. The referee accompanies the athlete throughout the route. The race must start no later than 48 hours before the scheduled swim. During the swim, you must not touch the boat. Recovery before the bike stage – no more than 12 hours.
Edgar Ette (left) starts at the Marble Arch. Photo: Edgar Ette on Facebook
The first ever Arch to Arc was completed by Briton Edgar Ette in 81 hours and 5 minutes. It was in 2001. Actually Edgar is the director and organizer of Enduroman Arch to Arc. The latest finisher at the moment is Rachel Hill, who reached the Arc de Triomphe in August 2017, 88:30 after the start. nine0003
Since 2016, the best time to complete the course belongs to the Frenchman Cyril Blanchard – 59 hours 56 minutes.
However, a record in Arch to Arc is a relative concept. There are no identical races here. You may be delayed in Dover due to unexpected changes in weather conditions, you may encounter road closures. The clock does not stop.
There is very little information about the Russians who completed the race on June 2 with a team of three. On the enduroman.com website, only their names are named – Alla, Alex and Dmitry, as well as a breakdown of the stages: running – 11:54, T1 – 3:30, swimming – 12:08, T2 – 2:51, cycling – 10 :45. The result is 41:08. This is the best time for teams of three. nine0003
Alla, Alex and Dmitry, if you are with us, please respond! The same request to all who know these brave guys.
Alla, Alex and Dmitry. Photo: Enduroman Events
Evgeny Nikitin is a famous Russian triathlete, founder of the JustTri triathlon club. He is 29 years old and has 15 iron races in his career.
“I love solving difficult problems, and in recent years I have tried to overcome one particularly difficult race per season,” Evgeny says in an interview with marathonec.ru. “Last year, for example, it was the Alpe d’Huez Alpine Mountain Triathlon.” nine0003
At the Enduroman Arch to Arc, Nikitin registered with no problems as he had open water swimming victories and 6 IRONMAN finishes under 10 hours.
Evgeny Nikitin. Photo: VKontakte Evgeny Nikitin
He developed the training plan for the race himself: “The first training session starts at 7 am. This is usually a two-hour low heart rate run or a swim. Then I have a normal work day. Occasionally I allow myself 1-1.5 hours of sleep at lunchtime. Well, the evening training starts around 20:00 and usually lasts 1-1.5 hours. There are already intervals, work on speed and strength. On weekends I wind the main volumes. In order not to be bored, I decided to run on weekends almost all the competitions that are held in St. Petersburg and the region. nine0003
We wish Evgeny good luck. You can follow his preparations for the launch on the Instagram page.
RedLava Team’s Top 5 most impressive Ironman races
RedLava Team triathletes have traveled the world and tested most of the Ironman series races first hand. We were asked to select the TOP 5 races that the team would recommend to athletes seeking to get a vivid impression of the level of competition, the location of the race and its entertainment.
1Ironman European Championship Frankfurt, Germany
End of June. If in the spring the athlete had the opportunity to go to the training camp and prepare, then the end of June will fit well into the calendar of starts for the season. In early June, there is an opportunity to warm up in Sochi on the “half”.
Frankfurt is good if you want a slot for the World Championship in Hawaii. There are 2 times more slots than in a regular race, since Ironman Frankfurt has the status of a Continental Championship. 80 slots instead of 40.
Logistics and accommodation
Getting to Frankfurt is easy. A direct flight from Moscow by Lufthansa will take 3.5-4 hours. Acclimatization is not required.
The finish and the transit area of the race are located in the city center, so it is convenient to choose hotels in the same place – near the Town Hall.
The weather at the starts is unpredictable: in the summer of 2015 it was hot at 40 degrees, in 2016 – wind and rain.
The level of competition and features of the race
For many years, the start in Frankfurt has the status of the Continental Championship – the European Championship, which means that the rivals will be worthy. Moreover, the Germans are one of the leading and strongest nations in triathlon. nine0003
Start has two transit zones: in the city center and near the lake. Buses run between them literally every minute.
Swimming will start with a rolling start. Professional athletes start first. The water is unsalted, swimming is almost always in wetsuits. Two circles of swimming – the first is about 2.2 km, the second is less. Swimming stage with “Australian” run-out (shore run after the first lap). Swimming is pleasant and comfortable – a large number of guide buoys. From the unpleasant: after finishing the swim, you need to run 100 – 150 meters uphill on sand and earth to get to your bike. nine0003
Elevation difference on the cycle stage – 1100-1200 m. There is a small section of the road on cobblestones. The rest of the cycle route runs along fields, low hills and slopes. By the end of the circle, a pleasant bonus awaits as visual support uphill 300-400 m long. You need to drive through it in the easiest gears.
The running stage takes place in 4 circles of 10.5 km along the river along the embankments. Of the benefits: at least 3 food points on the circle, a lot of additional watering stations.
Ironman European Championship Frankfurt is one of the most memorable races in my life. The race is not suitable for beginners, but for more experienced triathletes.
2Ironman Cozumel, Mexico
November. An excellent extension of the season, you can approach in the maximum competitive form. It’s time for the Russians, since Russia is a winter country, and there is an opportunity to “roll out” in the summer and autumn on the street, and only then start the race. nine0003
Qualifying for the Kona
40 slots for the World Championship will be up for grabs at the start.
Logistics and accommodation
Cozumel is an island surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, located 16 km off the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo (Mexico). The path to it can be built in a separate journey. The most convenient way to get to the island is through the state capital, Cancun. It is the largest and most popular resort city. A large number of airlines fly to it through major European transport centers: Paris, Frankfurt. And then from Cancun you have to go by ferry directly to the island itself. nine0003
Usually everyone lives near the finish area. Hotels and hotels around for every taste and budget. This is the most touristic place, and there will be a lot of spectators at the race.
As a rule, the island has very hot weather and high humidity, and such weather conditions are almost identical to the start on Kona. The only thing is that the running track here is located for the most part in the shade, unlike the running track on Kona.
Level of competition and race features
The race is a regular Ironman race, but due to the amount of prize money paid to athletes, it’s not uncommon to see top 10 pros in the world. nine0003
The start is interesting because the start of the race, the first transit, the second transit and the finish are divided on the track. The swim goes from point A to point B, teeming with tropical fish in the sheltered reef waters of the Cozumel National Park at Chakanaab Park Beach. Not without reason, for several years in a row, the swimming stage of this race has been awarded a special Ironman Athlete’s Choice Awards.
The cycle track (180 km), consisting of three laps – completely flat, runs along an impressive coastline of beaches and resorts through the city of San Miguel de Cozumel. Due to the very windy weather, disc wheels are banned here. nine0003
The finish line of the race is in the town square in San Miguel de Cozumel, where the locals provide all the finishers with the kind of support that even a seasoned Ironman fan can’t.
The island may also interest you because it has a reputation as one of the world’s best dive sites. Thousands of divers visit this place every year to see countless fish and coral within a radius of 60 meters. If diving isn’t your thing, the island offers adventure and relaxation for all tastes: pristine jungles, white sand beaches and a year-round Caribbean climate are just some of the perks an athlete can look forward to during the pre-launch week. nine0003
Great start. Not the most difficult in terms of competition, very picturesque, one might even say exotic. Who are tired of European starts, be sure to participate. The start is recommended for both experienced triathletes and beginners. Unforgettable beauty trip.
In 2019, the start will take place on July 21. nine0003
Qualifying for the Kona
At the start, 40 slots for the World Championship are up for grabs.
Logistics and accommodation
There are direct flights from Moscow to Zurich, three and a half hours of comfortable flight by Aeroflot. The launch site and the prelaunch camp are well located, practically in the center of the city. Therefore, there should be no problems with logistics.
There will be no questions about housing either – the choice is very large. When calculating funds for the start, you need to take into account the cost of accommodation and meals, which is an order of magnitude higher than in other European countries. nine0003
July in Zurich is the driest and hottest month of the summer. The average temperature varies from 21 to 25 degrees during the day.
The level of competition and features of the race
The race is not very popular, for many reasons. A rather difficult track, there is very little time left for recovery and preparation before Kona, not the most budget option (in terms of logistics, housing). Therefore, if you prioritize getting to the World Cup, then it is a very good option. nine0003
Swimming is absolutely comfortable – one lap in Lake Geneva without waves, fresh water and easy access to the shore. The water temperature in the heat is 19-20 degrees, so wetsuits are allowed. Bicycle stage – two circles of 90 km. The climb is 1600 meters, there are a couple of long slides, each 3-4 km long, as well as a slide of 800-500 meters after each lap (10-11%). Be prepared for 90-degree turns and 180-degree turns at the end of steep descents, volunteers stand at dangerous points and warn you – do not neglect the advice. nine0003
Places for food stations are chosen correctly – at the beginning of the ascents, when the speed is not so high and it is most convenient to take water. A nice bonus will be a cold cola at the second food point. The coverage is the same everywhere. In the city you will meet several speed bumps. The running stage takes place in 4 circles in the city center and the embankment.
Surface – asphalt and pavers with concrete. An unpleasant nuance is the numerous bridges along which you will wind the figure eights. Food and water points are located every 1.5 km. Due to the heat, ice is provided at almost all food stations. nine0003
Zurich is located on the northern coast of Lake Zurich in northern Switzerland. The picturesque lanes of the central Altstadt on both sides of the Limmat River reflect its history, much of the ancient center has been preserved. The city has also embraced modern trends by turning old factories into creative spaces for cultural events. Zurich is considered one of the most livable cities in Europe.
The race is excellent, with the right preparation, you can qualify for the World Championship in the same year. nine0003
4Ironman 70.3 St. Pölten, Austria
May. This means that you will need to spend the spring camp in order to come to the race in good shape.
Logistics and accommodation
The flight to Vienna from Moscow will take three hours, from there a train goes directly from the airport (30 min, 10-15 euros) to the city. Taxi minibuses are waiting at the station, they are comfortable to get to the hotel. nine0003
The race is not held in the city itself, but on its outskirts. All major facilities are located around the local stadium, making it convenient to drive up and park .
In the center of St. Pölten itself, housing is expensive. Some settle in towns nearby, one of these is St. Christophen, about 20 minutes by car from St. Pölten.
It’s either hot or cold here. It was cold in 2015. And in 2016, 2018 it was hot: + 28.
The level of competition and features of the race
Not high, as other races are held close in dates. For example, Ironman Mallorca 70.3. There are 60 slots up for grabs for the Nice 2019 World Cup. Therefore, many have a chance to take a slot in Nice.
The main feature of the start is the swimming stage, which takes place in the two lakes of St. Pölten! First you swim 1 km, then move between lakes 300 meters and continue to swim in the second lake – 900 m. part of the swim will be very difficult. nine0003
The water is clean and comfortable for swimming. The only negative is a large amount of algae near the shore. But the organizers try their best to remove them with the help of a special water harvester.
Bicycle stage. 20-30 km on the modern Wachau motorway, listed as a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage, where they accelerate at 55 km / h. Every athlete will enjoy here. Then 2 pulls. The last 10 km on the plain, which gives the opportunity to recover before the running segment. The entire route is accompanied by beautiful landscapes, the main slide passes through the forest through a waterfall. The total climb is 1000 meters. nine0003
We recommend putting mountain calculation on the bike. It is better to consult with a specialist who will help determine the desired set of gears.
Run – flat, consists of two circles of 10.5 km. By the time you get there, it will be hot, but the running track is located in the shade of fountains, and part of it runs through the forest, part of the city, and ends along the Traisen River, and the track is well ventilated. The distance passes through the city of St. Pölten, ends at the architectural masterpiece NV Arena. On the track there is medical assistance for those who have not coped with the heat. nine0003
Beautiful awards, awarding itself and issuing slots on the launch day. Before the start, be sure to smear with sunscreen. At the finish line, as a bonus for the journey, you will find free beer.
The race is rightly considered to start with the best organization that can be. A combination of excellent organization (German quality), perfect infrastructure and quality racing tracks on the Ironman 70.3 St.Pölten.
5Ironman Klagenfurt, Austria
The start is held in the summer, in mid-July. A very good time for Russian amateur triathletes. Especially for those who have the opportunity to hold a training camp in the middle of spring.
Qualifying for the Stake
There are 40 slots for the Ironman World Championship in the same season. 3 months before the World Cup is enough to tune in. Usually this time is enough to recover and prepare for the main start of the season. nine0003
Logistics and accommodation
The flight will have to be made with a change in Vienna. You can spend your time in Vienna with benefit, plan a walk or an excursion while waiting until the next flight. Or fly to Ljubljana, rent a car there and drive 3 hours to Klagenfurt.
Accommodation must be booked in advance, as there are not many hotels around. There is a guarded car park near the start, but only European residents have access to it. It will be the most difficult to get from Russia in this way. nine0003
Usually the weather in July is hot, around 26 degrees. However, at night the thermometer can drop to 10 degrees.
Level of competition and features of the race
A very popular start, everyone prepares for it thoroughly, 3 thousand athletes from all over Europe come for the Ironman Austria finisher medal.
Great location, very beautiful views. You can combine business with pleasure, take the whole family with you and spend a couple of weeks very cool.
This race has one of the most beautiful finish lines, comparable in atmosphere to the World Championship in Hawaii.