“Must read Ironman Triathlon tips for beginners. Read it now!”
Ever wondered how to train for an Ironman race: a 3.86km swim and 180km cycle, followed by a marathon? UK champion Fraser Cartmell shares his elite regime, while his coach, Gordon Crawford, offers some top tips for novices.
Signing up to your first Ironman is an exhilirating, scary prospect. Whether you’ve just put your name down or are still hovering over the ‘enter now’ button, here are a few points to bear in mind about Ironman racing.
1. WANT IT
It’s easy to get carried away when your clubmates start planning a trip to a big IM race for next year, especially if they’ve just come back from a 2009 race full of inspiring stories and PBs. But to make a good job of Ironman (and enjoy it) you must want to do it for yourself.
2. BE CONSISTENT
You’ll need a break from hard training after this season, but don’t let it fall off completely over the winter. Your race may be a long way off, but you risk injury if you stop training then suddenly jump back in six months later.
3. TALK TO FRIENDS
No one’s ironman experience is the same, but you’ll have a better idea what you’re getting into if you speak to as many Ironman friends as possible. They will have learnt lessons during their build-up and can help you avoid little pitfalls that can make a big difference.
4. GET A PLAN
You’re already a triathlete, so you know there’s more to training than just totting up a couple of sessions in each discipline every week. You need to plan your training to make sure you’re doing enough of everything and keeping your sessions well balanced.
5. BE TOUGH – BUT NOT TOO TOUGH
An ironman race lasts a day, so don’t make excuses when training: if you’ve planned a five-hour bike ride, stick it out. But you’ll also need to learn when to back off: persistent fatigue, sniffles and niggles and low mood are all signs of overtraining. Take a few days off to regroup.
6. SLOW IT DOWN
Don’t stop your sprint and Olympicdistance races in the build up to your Ironman; they’re invaluable race practice and will add interest to your training. But don’t expect to be at your fastest after months of slow Ironman training if you haven’t done any intense speedwork. If you’re keen to set new PBs, wait till after your IM and use your endurance base as the foundation for a few weeks’ speedwork.
7. CHOOSE YOUR RACE CAREFULLY
Not all ironman races are equal. If this is your first race, you’ll probably want to minimise travel and jetlag by doing a UK or European event (these coincide with the UK race season; see p8). You must also decide whether you’re looking for a particularly tough course, just want to get round, or really want to race hard. There are 24 Ironman races in total: visit ironman.com for a full list. More at 25 Beginner’s Ironman Tips