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  • The featured image is our artwork from the IMWC. We had the honor of providing design services for the professional’s bike racks.

With the Ironman World Championships canceled this year, we dissect (from an outside/amateur perspective) what it takes to get to triathlon’s biggest stage. In other words, what does it take to compete with the best?

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii is the home of The Ironman World Championship. The best triathletes – both pro and amateur – compete yearly in arguably the hardest single-day event in one of the most brutal locations on the planet. To understand just how tough this race is let’s start at the beginning. A triathlon is a single race where you swim, then bike, and then run. The distances range from a “Sprint” all the way up to the “Iron” distance. An Ironman consists of:

  • 2.4 mile swim
  • 112 mile bike
  • 26.2 mile run

Now imagine traveling 140.6 miles under your own power in one of the hottest, most humid, and windiest places on earth. Boom – that’s Kona. This is not the best spectator sport, especially if you aren’t a triathlete yourself. It’s looooonnnnggggggg. Most of the pros finish around 9 hours, where mere mortals average about 12 hours. Every year, it’s fun to watch the start, a bit of the middle, to check-in on standings, and then watch the top male and female pros finish. It’s exciting to watch on TV. It’s hard to watch any bit of the race (or the awesome 1.5-hour production NBC Sports puts together a few months after) and not think, “I could totally do that distance!”. Or maybe more insane, “I could compete and punch my ticket to Kona!”. The pros make it look so easy, and it’s pretty comfortable from my couch or on the bike trainer, so how hard could it really be? The sobering answer – darn near impossible. The pros and age groupers fast enough to qualify have to be extremely prepared to not only make it to the race but to compete. When you see the participants cross the finish line on Ali’i Drive, most are smiling. There is no way to even comprehend the amount of pain they went through or the work that went into it. The “best of the best” sacrifice so much to be there. They do everything they can to put themselves in the best position to compete by:

  • Setting goals
  • Getting the best equipment to suit them
  • Hiring a coach
  • Having a rigorous training plan to get them to their goals
  • Dialing-in nutrition
  • Working at recovery
  • And the list goes on…

In looking at those fast enough to claim a chance to compete in the IMWC, it would be foolish for someone new to the sport to aspire to compete at The World Championships right out of the gate.

When I originally wrote this article, I had done a few shorter-distance races and two half-Iron distance races, but had not competed in a full-distance. In November 2019 I fulfilled a long-time goal to finish an Ironman at Ironman Florida. Having trained for and completed that race, this post has been updated and I can attest to just how hard the actual race is.

Triathlon, no matter how talented you are, takes patience and diligence. It’s a process of training your mind and body, and it is pretty much impossible for anyone to attempt their very first triathlon by skipping every distance and going straight to the Iron distance, and even more far-fetched to think that someone could qualify for Kona in their first race.

Even Rich Roll DNF’d his first Olympic distance (and then went on to do 5 Iron distance triathlons, one on a different Hawaiian island, in 5 days – EPIC5 Challenge)

So What Does This Have to do with Business?

The same premise above can be equated to your business. I have a lot of companies that come to me because they want to be ‘the best‘. The business owners see their competitors and friends at the top and want to be there as well. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be the best, but you have to understand what it takes to get there. The road to greatness is not easy!

Do you want to be the ‘it’ firm? Do you want to rank #1 on Google for a ton of highly searched keywords? Do you want to build a brand that people love? Do you want extreme growth? Great! But are you willing to invest? That is typically the disconnect. People want to lose weight to look like celebrities, race Kona, or build a great business. However, what most people want and what they are willing to do to get it is very different.

Are you truly willing to invest?

I don’t just mean dollars – I mean invest your time, do work yourself, lead your team, make a cultural change, and yes, even invest in experts and technology to help you?

How Badly Do You Want It?

Years ago I heard a story from a friend who is a 9-time Ironman World Championship Pro Finisher.

A competitor during one of the races was early into the bike portion when his seat fell off. For anyone who has spent any amount of time on a bike, I’ll let that set in for a second…

For most, this bike malfunction would certainly end your day. In going back to the setup of this post, this competitor had put in too much time and invested too much to let this derail his race. So what did he do? He jammed a water bottle onto his seat post and rode over 80 miles on a water bottle. Yeah, he wanted it. There are other legendary stories, both old and new, in the triathlon world.

How about the epic Julie Moss finish in 1982? Would you new-born deer limp and fall your way through the final miles of a race?

My point, how badly do you really want to hit your goal? How much are you really willing to do?

How to Get There

Just like getting to Kona (which I do not pretend to fully understand or have the ability currently to do so), getting to the top of your market (something I, fortunately, do have some experience with) takes discipline and a true understanding of the sacrifice to do so.

Realistic Goals

I encourage businesses to set stretch goals. Again, you want to be the ‘it’ firm in your marketplace? Great! Let’s do this. You just have to understand that it isn’t going to happen tomorrow. Just as the example of going out in your first race and qualifying, you need to set realistic interim goals for yourself while always working toward your big goal.

The Right Mindset & Expectations

Not seeing a huge ROI within 30 days does not equate to failure. Progress needs to be celebrated and you need to set milestones along the way to hit a realistic goal. You have to understand what it is going to take to get you to your goal. You can’t hope for a huge result and just let things happen. You have to be purposeful.

Get Obsessed With Your Goal

Any successful athlete or business person will tell you, your goal has to consume you. Ask anyone you have ever competed in a long-distance triathlon, racing is an obsession, not a hobby. You breathe, sleep, eat, train, and annoy people with your training. It’s all-consuming. When is the last time a business goal had you that fired up?!?

Get a Coach!

Chances are, you are top-notch at what you do. For me, I am pretty darn good at building brands and helping people win big with digital marketing. I am not an insurance agent, an accountant, lawyer, etc. I rely heavily on a team of experts to help me grow my business. You need someone or a team who can bring you their expertise and keep you accountable for reaching your goal.

Support Team

Any triathlete (or human for that matter) can tell you that reaching a ‘finish line’ is not a solo act. Yes, have to do the work and you are the one responsible on race day. However, everyone needs a support system. As you look at your business goals, you can’t do it alone. Do you want to start a huge digital marketing push? You can’t do that in a silo. You have to involve your team. Let them know what you want to do and involve them.

Well, there you have it. Are you willing to finally go all-in to reach your goal?

The “Next Level”

As mentioned above, the way to really win is to be purposeful in your pursuits.  Even if you are “doing marketing”, are you doing it the right way or are you just guessing?

If you answered ‘just guessing’ you are in the majority of companies.  If you are trying to attract new customers and delight your current ones, a strategic plan is important. Planning and executing your inbound campaign correctly helps you stand out from your competition.

Contact us if you want to see what it takes to compete with the best!