I was talking to a guy this morning who told others and me about the race he did this weekend. It was an Ironman distance race, aka full distance (aka “long course” in the European dialect of tri), but he insisted on calling it an “ultra” distance triathlon. His reasoning was “Ironman” is a brand name, which I totally get (don’t get me started on “Ironman 70.3”…), and this was not an M-dot event, so he called it an ultra and claimed that was a normal label. Having done Ironman-distance triathlons from 2000 through 2019 and and at least a dozen ultramarathons, I’ve never heard a mere Iron-distance triathlon referred to as an “ultra” nor does it make sense to me (unless your point of reference is “Ironman 70.3” I suppose).
My question: have I missed an evolution in the lingo? Is calling 140.6mi triathlons “ultras” a thing now?
Nope. That’s what I assumed when he said “ultra.” I confirmed it was a 140.6 event and he defended the use of the term saying that’s what it’s called. He doesn’t know that I’ve done a tri, let alone iron-distance, and he’s never asked,* though he helpfully explained what a tri is recently. He’s done many, he was at least near ten it seemed when he rattled off what he’s done and this was his second (at least) full this year.
He actually made a point that this “ultra” of only (my word) 140.6 wasn’t a double, deca, whatever. He’s not done those, but I guess he figures he’s done an “ultra”?
*it never seemed appropriate (i.e., not to sound like whatever) to interject, though today I was tempted (but I figured I’d sound like a dick by correcting him). I’m also dragging in the pool after 3.5yrs out of the water, managing 1-2 days / week for the last 6 or so weeks, and >25lbs over race weight (with all the muscle gone), so I’m not looking like I’ve done an IM…
to further muddy the waters, in 2001, USAT were calling this their “Long Course National Championship”, and it was about the time that non-branded IM distance races were being called “iron distance”. this was way before the 140.6 and 70.3 titles popped up. “Ultra” has historically been used for “longer than -x”. Ultra marathon = longer than 26.2. Ultra triathlons have (to my knowledge) always been either the double IM distance in one day, or a 3 day combination of swimming, biking and running totaling well beyond 140.6