Date of Award

Fall 8-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Beth Kania-Gosche

Second Advisor

Dr. Annie Alameda

Third Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Schroeder


The Ironman Triathlon is an epic endurance event consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. There is paucity in the literature relating to how athletes learn how to negotiate this event. This qualitative study was conducted over a 9 month period, to align with the 2013 Ironman training and racing season. Seven athletes were selected for participation in the study. Utilizing a case study approach, the Ironman athletes’ learning pathways were examined through in-depth interviews and audio and video content personally captured by the participants. The learning pathways revealed the athletes initially learned through cognitive means, i.e. social interaction, reading, Internet sources, and the observation of others. As athletes traversed the learning pathway, they subsequently operationalized the knowledge they learned and constructively made it meaningful to their respective personal training and racing situations. At the terminal end of the learning pathway, the athletes operationalized the learned content in an experiential learning cycle. During the entire learning pathway, the athletes practiced the learned content, which is best characterized as behavioral learning. The audio and video content provided by the athletes empirically validated the interviews. The interviews with the athletes were coded. Some unifying themes emerged from the data independent of cognitive, constructivist, behavioral, or experiential learning theories; e.g. the importance of mental toughness, the understanding of pain during the training and racing process, how success is measured, the importance of training with a power meter, and motivating factors.


Copyright 2014