If you’re interested in competing in an Ironman event, you’ll likely be working hard to prepare for it. Exercising well, eating well, and making sure you get good and regular sleep. Part of your preparation has to be mental too – getting yourself in the right mindframe for the event.
You know it’s going to be tough – after all, that could well be part of why you’re doing it in the first place!
With that in mind, it’s important to have a good idea of what sort of times you should expect to hit. It’s only when you’ve got some idea of what level of performance you’ll need, that you can work out a proper training regimen to achieve your goals.
Knowing is half the battle – so if you know your goals and how to train to achieve them, you’re halfway there! You still have to put a lot of work in, but knowing exactly how much you’ll need to pull out of the bag is a vital part of preparation.
This article will give you an idea of what sort of times are considered average – and also what times would be considered to be very good performances.
Bear in mind though, that competing at all in an Ironman triathlon is a big accomplishment – and finishing one even more so! Getting great times is just the cherry on top – Ironman triathlons are hard enough as it is. So, be proud of yourself, whatever your result!
What Is An Ironman?
Ironman is a shortened version of the name Ironman Triathlon. An Ironman triathlon consists of events in three different disciplines. Swimming, bicycling, and running are the events, and they’re done in that order.
This is because swimming could be extremely dangerous with fatigued participants! Triathlons will often use open water for the swimming section of the event, which means that conditions are always uncontrollable – they can be predicted, but remain changeable.
This combined with fatigue could well make swimming a deadly activity – so for safety, swimming is always the first event.
How Long Is An Ironman Swim?
An Ironman swimming event is 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) long. This is an extremely long swim – and this is made more difficult because of being done in open water!
This means that not only will you have to contend with the distance itself, but many other factors. Water temperature can’t be controlled at all – if the water is cold, then it’s staying cold the whole time!
Weather can also change – and again, there’s nothing you can do to stop that! Water currents and tides can also be a factor, meaning you can end up expending lots more energy than in a pool.
This is why it almost goes without saying that you’ll need to be an extremely strong swimmer, with a lot of stamina to compete in an Ironman triathlon! You’ll be in the open water for an extended period of time, so every bit of prep you can do will be important.
Average Swim Times
Now that you’ve read a brief explanation of what an Ironman event is, and learned a little about the swimming section, let’s look at average times for swimming in an Ironman triathlon!
Collating and analyzing Ironman swim times is a lengthy and difficult job – so thanks should be given to both Coach Cox for their brilliant collection of Ironman triathlon statistics, and to My Tri World for their excellent analysis of them!
This article uses statistics that were reported in 2019.
Swim times for Ironman triathlon events vary between age groups and sex.
The differences in times are far more pronounced when it comes to age groups than sex – on average, women are slower than men of the same age group by just 3 to 5 minutes over the course of an entire swim event.
The pace of women and men in the same age groups only differs by around 8 seconds at the very most per 100m.
However, the average pace difference between the youngest age groups and the oldest can differ by a lot more. Men in the 18-24 age group averaged swim paces 30 seconds faster over 100m than men in the oldest age group, 70-74.
An average time in the men’s 45-49 age group is beaten by the average women’s time in the 18-24 and 25-29 age groups.
On average, women can swim an Ironman event in around 1 hour and 22 minutes, with a pace of 2 minutes and 10 seconds over 100m, when all age groups are taken into account. An average time for men is 1 hour and 18 minutes, with a pace of 2 minutes and 3 seconds over 100m.
Combined, that makes for an average swim time across sexes and age groups of 1 hour and 19 minutes, with a pace of 2 minutes and 4 seconds over 100m.
Good Or Great Swim Times
Now that we’ve looked at the average times for an Ironman swimming event, lets have a look at the top 25% of times!
The top 25% of women swam their Ironman events in under 1 hour and 12 minutes, with a pace of 1 minute and 54 seconds over 100m. For men, the top 25% swam in under 1 hour and 9 minutes, with a pace of 1 minute and 49 seconds over 100m.
And at the absolute top end, pros can regularly swim an Ironman triathlon event in under 50 minutes across genders, with a pace of 1 minute and 19 seconds over 100m! That’s extremely fast!
With these stats in mind, you should have a better idea of what level of performance you’ll need to achieve for your Ironman swim event! Good luck!