Fancy trying one of the most difficult sporting events in the world? The answer to this, if you're sane, should surely be no – but triathlons and, the next step, Ironman triathlons, are experiencing a massive surge in popularity, and who are we to judge?
An Ironman is essentially a triathlon but longer: think a 3.9km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run (a marathon) at the end, for good measure, without a break, and with a cut-off time of 17 hours.
So, with that mammoth task ahead of you, where do you even start?
Do a triathlon
Soz, bbz – but Ironman isn't something you just jump into, feet first (if you'll excuse the pun). Whet your appetite for going the whole hog with a shorter trio of events – starting with a sprint triathlon, which involves 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run or even a try-a-tri, 250m swim, 6km cycle and 3km run.
Join a club
There are a whole host of triathlon clubs around the country, which will give you access to coaching and – most importantly – other people who are insane, and will get up with you at 5am to get your dawn swim in before work. Because if there's one thing more impossible than training for any form of endurance sport, it's training on your own.
Ironman events don't come around all that often, at least not in Ireland, so you may need to travel abroad to compete, or wait for it to come back to our fair isle (the Dublin City Ironman took place in early August 2016). Check out the official Ironman site for a list of events.
Say goodbye to your mates, social life, cinema habit...
If there is one thing more all-consuming than training for a triathlon, it's training for an Ironman. You'll be training a minimum of 12 hours a week, and putting your training – and solid nutrition – ahead of everything else. And we mean everything. Get ready for your relationships to suffer (unless you manage to rope in your friends, family and significant other).
Get kitted out
We're not huge advocates of early investment, but once you're committed to the cause, it's worth investing in some good gear – a great road bike, well-fitted triathlon wetsuit and some decent runners. The guys at Wheelworx – athletes themselves – specialise in biking and triathlon training, and will be able to get you started.
...But know it won't be cheap
Ironman is not the kind of challenge you can undertake with a €100 bike and a pair of old runners you got in an outlet while you were on your J1; this puts your body under a serious amount of strain, so make sure you invest in the best.
Lastly? Embrace the smug
There is nothing to imbue you with a sense of self-satisfaction quite like the knowledge that you have done something that very few humans will ever do. Bask in that knowledge. Let it radiate from you like you are the sun. Except, y'know, fitter.