Last Minute Ironman Training and Racing
By Vinnie Santana – triathlon coach at www.ironguides.net
With the hype of the Ironman World Championships in Kona this a week ago, several athletes are committed to debut on the distance in the new season that officially starts straight after Kona. The first races of the new season can be very appealing and easy to travel for especially for Asian-based triathletes, Ironman Langkawi (Malaysia) and Ironman Busselton (Australia) are 1 and months away respectively and Busselton still have registration open.
While ironman training ideally should be a long term goal, a process in which the athlete slowly builds the fitness and experience starting with short course events, then half ironman distances to finally have a shot at the full distance, it is possible to finish an ironman without the multi-year plan, as long as your expectations, race day strategy and training are adjusted, the article below will guide you on how to cruise safely to finish your first ironman on minimal training.
Treat it as an adventure race
Ironman races are very predictable, not only you know the distance you need to cover but also the profile of the course, expected temperatures, when most of the challenges during the race will be (based on other athletes experiences) and most ironman athletes come to race day with a plan to address every specific challenge of the course. Some decide to walk only during aid stations, other have a power meter pacing plan.
However if your goal is to only finish the event on minimal training, you should race an ironman as if the event was an adventure race, at those events the course isn’t known to the participants, you don’t even know what discipline will come next or how long the race will be, this result in a different mindset, rather than “race” you go into “explore” mode, this makes you slow down and always be saving some energy for possible emergencies.
Another way to look into this is that most athletes find the training required to do an ironman a lot more challenging than the race itself, as you are out there training consistently week in week out for several months leading into the race, on a consistent fatigued state, while still managing your professional and personal life outside training, with a last minute ironman racing approach, the challenge shifts from training to race day, training won’t be as hard as the challenges you will deal with comes race day
Related: Ironman Malaysia – New course review
Pacing, Nutrition and equipment are priorities
Pacing and nutrition is all it will matter on race day and in the final month, there is nothing you can do on race day and only so much training you can cram into the final month, making the most of what you have is the priority.
Start learning pacing and build a bonk-proof race day strategy, that can be broken down into the three disciplines:
SWIM: There is little to gain in the swim by pushing it too hard, instead, find a sustainable and efficient pace that will ensure you make the cut off time without taking too much out of you, the swim should be seeing almost as a warm up for the whole day
BIKE: Learn negative split pacing, make sure the final third of the bike leg is the quickest of them all. Start out very easy then build the intensity, this will ensure your optimal bike split while still setting you up nicely for the run leg.
RUN: Learn the run:walk strategy, this will ensure that walking becomes part of your plan rather than just trying to run until you can’t do it anymore then being forced to walk the rest of the course. Take frequent walk breaks, walk for one or two minutes for every five to ten minutes that you run, find a ration that works well for you and practice it on your long runs.
Nutrition on race day is also another priority, if you don’t stay fueled, you will be forced to stop. Build a race day nutrition strategy, practice on your long sessions and stick to it on race day, a basic formula is ‘Grams of Carbohydrate per hour, in your body weight (in kg)”, for example an athlete that weighs 70kg, should aim to consume 70 grams of carbs per hour. Another two crucial points are salts and water, for those, a generic formula is 1g of sodium with 1 liter of water per hour.
Finally, choose a set of equipment for race day that will fit your goal, comfort is certainly the priority over speed. Opt for a more conservative approach. Make sure you use everything in training since you may experience problems with blisters or chafing. Don’t be afraid to take that extra tools set or spare tubes on the bike if that gives you confidence that a mechanical won’t be what will stop you.
Stay healthy and fresh with your training
If you are racing an Ironman event which is just one month away, you just don’t have enough time to do all the specific training and volume required to start the event as ready as possible. Be realistic about it and opt for a training routine that will get you used to pacing, nutrition and equipment of race day.
Related: Ironman Malaysia 2015 – Best Photos
For example, rather than keep on trying to add as much volume to your long run, you are better off by keeping it to a healthy volume that you can recover quickly and train the day after, while you also practice your pacing and nutrition during that run.
You want to finish most of your training feeling relatively well and never leaving it all over there. Keep in mind that doing a little every day is more beneficial than doing one massive session then being forced to rest for several days after that to recover from that workout.
Enjoy the race day adventure!
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