An Ironman triathlon is an emotional experience. The physical and mental challenge presented by the event (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run) slowly removes the layers of complexity within you until there is nothing left but raw emotion. Watch the faces of triathletes as they cross the line after an Ironman and you’ll understand.
It’s an awesome – in the true sense of the word – experience, whether you’re competing or spectating, but Ironman racing is not simply about physical ability. Being fit, very fit, is, of course, essential, but so is a deep understanding of the needs and limits of your body. If you’re thinking of going long and signing up for an Ironman triathlon, follow this expert advice to get to the start – and finish – line in great shape and good spirits.
A little time spent analysing your position on the bike could translate to huge time savings during the race. “The aim is to find the optimum combination of comfort, aerodynamics and the ability to produce sustainable power,” says coach Joe Beer, author of Triathlon: How to Swim, Ride and Run for Racing, Fitness or Fun. This optimum position will vary depending on the bike-course profile – so you must do some research on the course.
With three disciplines to train for, the idea of adding core stability work to your training regime may fill you with dread, but strength and conditioning play a key part in Ironman training. Your running in particular will benefit from improved core stability. The exercises should be specific to your individual needs, which, to an extent, are determined by your running style (heel, mid- or fore-foot strike). “Core stability exercises tailored to your running style can reduce the risk of injury, improve running efficiency and, ultimately running, performance,” says Mark Saunders of Physio 4 life (www.physio4life.co.uk). Ensuring you have the correct footwear to support your running style is also crucial.
On Your Bike
Select a route that will take you two hours to complete riding at a base endurance pace. The distance is not important. Ride this route three times back to back. Ride the first lap at a pace slightly lower than your goal race effort (measured by either power or heart rate), ride the second lap at your goal race effort and ride the final lap slightly higher than race effort. After the bike do a 20-minute run and make a note of how you feel. “If you have doubts about your ability to run a marathon it might be worth lowering the intensity on the bike,” says coach and veteran Ironman Gordo Byrn.
On The Run
Race like you have one more gear in you. That means maintaining a pace slightly slower than you think you are capable of. “You will be less likely to hit the wall or bonk,” says Jones. “Race within your capabilities and be patient.”
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when training for an Ironman is to place too little emphasis on recovery. “Sleep is where most of your recovery and regeneration occur,” says Shona Halson, a Senior Recovery Physiologist at the Australian Institute of Sport. Aim for consistently good nights’ sleep, especially as your training increases
Subscribers can view all 21 tips in the full article (as featured in the September issue of Triathlete's World). If you'd like to subscribe, you can make a significant saving on the newsstand price by subscribing online now.