Keys to Ironman Success

Written By: Tony Hammett, Endurance Coach
What does it take to successfully complete an Iron-distance race? It can be a long but very rewarding experience and I find that each time I prepare for one I learn something new about myself or the training… Continue Reading

What does it take to successfully complete an Iron-distance race? It can be a long but very rewarding experience and I find that each time I prepare for one I learn something new about myself or the training. There is quite a bit involved in the journey, but here are some tips that should assist you along the way.

Consistency and Planning

Prior to starting the specific preparation phase for your big day, you should begin training your body and mind months in advance. Consistent training is key to your success and creating and executing a plan that fits your lifestyle will assist you in reaching your specific goals. When considering a race, some over-looked items to keep in mind might include:
Time of year: Does this race occur during a peak period in your life where the training will be difficult to complete due to family, school or work responsibilities? If you will be overwhelmed or too stressed to “hit the mark” each week, it might be best to find a race that allows you to train with some consistency, especially during the phase leading up to the race. What weather conditions will you encounter in the months leading up to the race? Training in extreme conditions does not always allow us to maximize our training when preparing for longer races but with a little creativity it can be done.
The actual race: Are you targeting a race where you “just finish”, or one where you want a specific challenge? If hilly bike courses do not suit you well, consider a race with flatter or rolling terrain. Would you rather swim with a wetsuit, and in a lake, river or ocean? Make sure your race typically allows for wetsuit legal swims and you know the body of water for the race. If you live in a terrain that is flat and the key race you are targeting is hilly, you might reconsider if that is the best choice for you!
Specific Training
During your build for the 140.6 distance, there are a few key targets I believe an athlete should hit in preparation. In addition to swim, bike and run sessions, athletes should also incorporate race simulation workouts as they get closer to the race.
Swim: At least one big swim per week in the pool. This is a “broken” Ironman swim that covers 4,000-4,500 yards or meters. Open water swim sessions of at least 4,000 yards should occur regularly, ideally in a safe, group environment.
Bike: Most triathletes need to build up to a 6-hour bike ride with a transition run directly afterwards. This ride should be on terrain that is very similar to your race and paced appropriately so a nice steady effort can be held for the duration. I find it helpful to minimize stops and even do some of these rides solo. This requires careful planning of your route, including the location of water stops.
Run: Although this depends on the athlete, the key runs should be between 2.5 – 3 hours in length. Much more than this requires extra recovery time, which can set you back a little during the week. If possible, a Tuesday or Wednesday long run is the perfect placement for this session as it allows for recovery between the long bike and long run and helps the body and mind better absorb the training each week.
Nutrition
A big part of iron-distance training is nutrition, and this covers what you eat before, during, and after training and races, and everything in between. Finding what works for you is key and needs to be solidified and practiced so there is no guessing come race day. Directly after my long sessions, I consume a recovery drink such as chocolate milk or Mix1. I find that it is nutritionally on target for what the body needs during this critical time period after a long day of training.
Recovery
Last but not least, one needs to consider how they plan to recover on a daily basis, but this is especially important after the longer sessions. Commonly used methods are elevating your feet in order to get the blood moving back towards your heart and the use of compression socks or tights. Ensure you are scheduling down time and rest into your week as well. If you are constantly on the go and moving, it leaves little time to absorb the training and recharge the body and mind.
Hopefully these tips are helpful, and best of luck on your journey!

Change

Written By: Dan Arnett, Owner/Head Coach
As a coach, I have learned to anticipate several questions during the first weeks of a new athletes training. The first month of training is what I call the push-back phase. This is where the athlete is not comfortable with the training for several reasons. Usually about 2-3 weeks into the first month, I get the expected question… Continue Reading

As a coach, I have learned to anticipate several questions during the first weeks of a new athletes training. The first month of training is what I call the push-back phase. This is where the athlete is not comfortable with the training for several reasons. Usually about 2-3 weeks into the first month, I get the expected question. It always starts with the same phrase: “This isn’t what I normally do.”

My answer: “That’s right, it’s not. That is one of the reasons you hired me.” Too many people hire a coach and are unwilling to change their current habits or training methods. Let’s think about this for a moment. Did you not seek guidance because what you were currently doing was not working or you wanted to improve upon it? It’s this simple thought process that is sometimes lost in the forest.

We as people do not like change. We like to discuss change. We like to say how we are going to change. But when it comes down to the time to change, it’s the biggest hurdle to jump over. It takes faith and trust. There is nothing magical about what your designated coach is proposing. If they propose otherwise, then run! There is no magical secret to training. But I digress. There is simply one test that must be met when you decide to let this person guide your training. Can they explain why we are doing it? No results are guaranteed, but the method must be understood and accepted.

If you are not confident that your coach knows what they are doing, then why are you spending your hard earned money paying them? Also, if you do not believe in your coach and the change they are proposing why is the coach wasting their time on you?

Change takes time to accomplish. You are doing yourself and your coach a disservice if you continually change how you are doing something. Give the program time to work. I’ve seen several athletes come to me after bouncing from coach to coach or program to program and wondering why nothing has improved. Simple answer…time. Some methods take more time than others, but that should be discussed and accepted from the beginning.

Training is ever evolving and the methods used to accomplish adaptations are changing as well. A good coach evolves with the times. That does not mean follow fads. Proper evolution is evidence based, not Guru based. That does not mean that every ‘trend’ is a new coaching method. Evidence-based coaching means taking your observations in coaching and combining them with research in the field and coming to your own conclusion and using that. It does not mean regurgitating what everyone else says. That’s what I call lazy coaching and unfortunately all too common in today’s environment.

In the end, ask the question WHY and listen to the explanation. Coaching is a two-way street built on trust, feedback and competency. Listen with an open mind, not with the typical “well that’s not what this coach, that coach, Tri magazine, etc” says. If you don’t truly feel that the type of change that your coach is proposing is for you, then continue to interview coaches. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because it’s not what you were doing before it won’t work. Because what you were doing wasn’t working…remember?

Coach Tips: Pre Race Fueling

Read Coach Dan’s article on pre race fueling

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