Ironman is not a race against others; it is a battle between your body and your mind. Whether you want to finish it less than 17 hours or qualify for Kona, it doesn’t matter; through the 140.6 miles you will feel pain, you will want to give up, you will feel great and over the clouds, you might even shed a few tears here and there.
I completed my first Ironman race in Tempe, Arizona in November 2011. It took me 9 months of training to get there (and 5 years of previous triathlon experience). My plan was to finish between 12-13 hrs and I completed the race in 11 hrs and 56 minutes. Getting to the starting line was the hard part, if you can get thru the training; the race is all about execution.
So what are the dos and don’ts of Ironman training and racing? What did I learn from it?
· Find a coach: Even if you are a seasoned triathlete, you will gain huge benefits from an experienced coach for your Ironman preparation. You will be logging many hours in training, so do yourself a favor and save yourself sometime in making your weekly and monthly training plans. Let an expert handle that part for you. Moreover, nutrition becomes such a key element for this distance; there is a lot of trial and error during the training to perfect your nutrition for the race day and your coach will arm you with all the information you need.
In the last five years prior to my Ironman race, I ran marathons, half marathons, sprint and Olympic distance races and half ironman races. Never used a coach; always came up with a training plan on my own and I did okay, but still got injured every year. Nothing major, but something always sidelined me for 3-4 weeks every season.
However, during the Ironman training which was the most intense training regimen I have ever gone through, I didn’t get injured at all. As I said, the right coach can add a lot of value.
· Plan with your family: It is not just about you when it comes to Ironman – unless you’re single, of course. Depending on your ambition, Ironman training will take 15-25 hrs a week of your time. Especially when you are peaking for the event, you will be logging 6-7 hr bike rides on Saturdays/Sundays. And when you come home, you will be tired.
So get your family involved from the beginning. Celebrate milestones with them. Let them know about the upcoming long bike rides so they can plan as well. Share this amazing endeavor with them, everybody will benefit. And do yourself a favor and bring something special to the finish line for the person who has been with you for 9 months of training. Sky is the limit J
· Find a good physical/massage therapist: You can ignore this one if you are under 30 years old. But the average age for the Ironman distance is over 35 J Recovery is the key after the long work out sessions. Biweekly visit to a great PT will go a long way. Get that lactic acid out of your system as soon as possible. I even used acupuncture and saw great benefits.
· Use a HR monitor: If you hire a coach, he or she will tell you all about this, but in case you are crazy and decided to go on your own, make sure you know your limits for each leg of the race. HR zones are different for swimming, biking and running. Ironman race is all about staying in a “comfortable” zone for a long period of time. Riding the 112 miles in less than 5.5 hrs means “nothing” if you end up running a 6+ hr marathon. Know your limits, study them and never cross the red zone until mile 23 on the run J
· Don’t eat the paste: You will hear about this all the time. Race your own race! Remember this is a battle between your body and your mind. Nothing else matters, you have no competition out there.
· Accommodations: As soon as you sign up for your race, take care of your accommodations. Closer hotels will fill up very fast, don’t make it difficult for yourself and your significant others for the race weekend.
· Use tribiketransport.com: Do the math, but shipping your bike with these guys will help you save time and money. You can also ship your race wheels and race bag. Same deal on the way back, it will make your life easy.
I wish the best of luck who will attempt to train for and race the Ironman distance. When you cross that finish line, your life will change. The sense of accomplishment is hard to describe.
Once you get to the start line, you will have your fellow athletes, spectators and volunteers cheering for you all along. Everybody wants you to be successful; every Ironman race is a great day for the human race.
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