If you have ever considered and Ironman distance race then there is a good chance you have lots of questions. Here are the most frequently asked questions I receive from athletes contemplating the Ironman distance.
1. How many hours a week should I spend training?
Your total training time should be an increase from your current training load. For every 10 Ironman athletes you talk to you will find 10 different training approaches. Your training should be a progression from where YOU currently are. Do not compare your training to an Ironman veteran. Most first time Ironman triathletes will find that 12 – 20 hours a week is typical.
2. What kind of bike rides should I be doing?
Before thinking about getting in high intensity bike rides, make sure you are able to cover 100 – 110 miles at an even pace. You may need to build up to this. Once you have mastered the even pacing, then I would suggest a challenging effort for the last 15 miles of your ride. Then try the last 25 miles of your bike. As you become comfortable with pacing, it is ok to start peppering your long rides with a little intensity. As the race date gets closer you will want to try and figure out a pacing strategy and start experimenting with it.
3. How long should my long run be?
If you are venturing down to path of Ironman racing, it is probably safe to assume you have completed a few half Ironman triathlons, so a 13 – 14 mile run should be well within range. Runs in the 16 -18 mile range are going to help your body transition to the longer distance. I am not a big advocate of running the full marathon distance, so I typically recommend two, maybe three 20 mile runs within the build up toward your race.
4. How long do I need to train to be adequately prepared?
Assuming you have completed a half Ironman in the last year and you have kept a pretty good fitness level, I would say six months is a good amount of time to start your official Ironman training. Of course a full year will allow you to do so much more with your training, but six months should be enough for most people.
5. Is it OK to try and race my first Ironman?
Your goal for your first Ironman should be to complete the race. Racing and pushing hard is not practical because you have never been down the Ironman road before and what you will be feeling at the end of the race is something that will be entirely new to you. There is nothing worse than realizing you pushed way too hard on the bike when you are only on mile 5 of the run. This will make for a long painful finish.
6. What advice do you have for me as I begin my training?
First, make sure you respect the run. Train your body to do this. For first time Ironman triathletes, I like to recommend alternating between a long bike ride one weekend and a long transition workout the next weekend. Your body will not miraculously know how to run on tired legs so. A great workout is a 45 – 55 mile ride followed by a 10 – 15 mile run. Push the pace a little on the bike so that you are running on tired legs. You may also need to build up to this distance on the run. Secondly, practice your nutrition during your long rides as well as your long transition runs. Do not leave this for race day.
If you are ready to take the plunge into Ironman racing, let me assure you it will change your life. Completing one of the most grueling endurance events is a huge accomplishment and something you can be proud of for the rest of your life.