All Aboard for Ironman Switzerland 2009

IM Zurich 2005: Lindi, Ratbag, Oxy, Zilla and Candy

In need of a challenge for the next 12 months?  New to running, loving it, and wanting to take things one (enormous) step further?  Want to drink lots of beer and have a great time?  Have a secret penchant for yellow lycra?  Then look no further.

The Runner’s World forum Ironman team is now recruiting for its next annual outing – Ironman Switzerland, which takes place in beautiful (but rather hilly) Zurich in July 2009.  The trip promises to be the biggest and best ever with already over 60 forumites paid up and entered, including a record number of absolute beginners.

Add to that the world-famous Pirate support crew - the envy of every non-Pirate triathlete - and a great time is guaranteed for all, racers and spectators alike. 

Still only toying with the idea of jumping aboard?  Then this handy Q+A might help make your mind up...

What is an Ironman?

A long-distance triathlon.  Swim 2.4 miles through open water, cycle 112 miles and then run a full marathon.

Who are the Pirates?

The RW forum Ironman team, named after their fetching yellow and black kit.  The basic premise of the group, when it was first thrown together in 2004, was that anybody can train from nowhere to be able to complete an Ironman in less than a year.  Since then, more than 50 forumites have gone on to prove this basic premise beyond any doubt and the Pirate army has grown beyond all recognition in the process.  But the main focus of the group, above everything else, remains team spirit (with plenty of mickey taking) and having fun. 

But I can’t even swim, haven’t ridden a bike since school, and I haven’t even run a half-marathon yet!  Surely an Ironman is beyond me?

Not at all, especially if you believe in yourself and you’re prepared to put in some consistent training over the next 12 months.  Many of the Pirates completed their first Ironman in nine months or less, from precisely the same position.

What if I’m really slow?

You’ll be in good company.  In this year’s trip - to Ironman France - the last finisher was a Pirate and he came in 15 minutes after the race officially closed.  But he’s still justifiably proud of his finisher’s medal and T-shirt.  In fact more than half the team finished slower than 14 hours this year, which constitutes being "back of the pack" in Ironman terms. Of course, if you discover you have a real talent for tri, you won't be alone either - the first Pirate finished in 10:28:57 this year.

So how long have I got to finish?

Plenty of time.  You need to finish the 2.4-mile swim in 2:30 (people can, and do, use breaststroke – although front crawl is faster and preferable) and then be off the bike course within 10 hours of the race start.  So even a very slow swim will still leave you 7:30 for the bike.  Together with the marathon, you need to be finished within a total of 16 hours. Don't get us wrong, completing an Ironman isn't easy, but it is achievable.

The Pirate support crew are the envy of every non-Pirate triathlete

OK, I might be able to do the race, but why go with the Pirates?

Doing an Ironman with such a large and friendly team multiplies the enjoyment enormously.  The group is supportive, experienced and welcoming to intrepid newbies.  It's also sometimes been said that the Pirates are best described as "drinkers with a triathlon problem" - the post-race awards ceremony (held the day after the main event) has been known to go on for longer than the race itself...

How do I join?

Just pop along to the IM 2009 thread and introduce yourself. You’ll be guaranteed a warm welcome.

What kit do I need and how much does it all cost?

You’ll need a wetsuit, a road bike, and various extras (helmet, etc).  Many retailers sell starter kits for around £500, which include all the kit you’ll need.  The race itself costs around £300 to enter and this doesn't include accommodation, but if you’re quick, you can join the Pirates heading to the Zurich youth hostel. It's cheap, surprisingly upmarket, and right next to the race start.

How long have I got to decide?

Not long – entries for the 2009 race have been open three days and already, half of the 1,800 places have been taken.

How do I get hold of some of that beautiful yellow lycra?

The team kit is custom-made to order.  The next order will be made in August/September – watch out for the kit thread appearing on the tri forum soon.  There is also a Pirate Shop so all your friends, family and random supporters can be kitted out in teeshirts, hoodies, umbrellas and thongs in distinctive yellow and black.

Any more questions?  Then just go to the tri forum, and ask.  The newbie training thread is as good place to start as any.