Am I ready to do an Ironman? This is a question that I get asked quite a bit at this time of year. Athletes come up to me very curious if they are capable of taking on the iron distance. For those of you who do not know, the Ironman distance is comprised of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. And yes we have one day to complete the Ironman, or actually up to 17 hours.
Don't you agree that the distances are quite daunting by themselves, yet alone strung together in one event? I remember when I completed my first ironman it took me a year to wrap my head around what it was that I signed up to do.
If you are asking the question "Am I ready?" you probably have already given Ironman a bit of thought.
I am going to try and be as brief as possible to answer the question, "Am I ready for an Ironman?".
First you need support. You need support from your family, friends and work. If you do not have the support of family and work signing up for an ironman is probably not a good choice. Having the support of loved ones and your work will go a very long way in your training.
This is what you can expect:
For swimming plan to swim 2-3x a week.
For running plan to train 2-3x a week.
For cycling plan to ride 2-3x a week.
In my ideal world of coaching I like to have my athletes train 3x in each sport ( 3 swims, 3 bikes and 3 runs). This means you will be completing 9 workouts each week. Remember this is ideal, most athletes do not get in 9 full weekly workouts.
This is what you can plan for the workouts:
Plan to swim 45-60 min each workout.
Plan to get in 2 runs at 60 mins and 1 longer run that will vary from 75 min to a maximum of 3 hours.
Plan to get in 2 bikes at 60 mins and 1 longer ride that will vary from 90 min to a maximum of 6 hours.
The great news is that you do not have to complete many 3 hour runs or 6 hour rides. I would plan for a maximum of two-three 3 hour runs and two-three 6 hour rides. Your remaining long rides and runs will be shorter than that. Not too bad right?
Adding up those hours you will find that your longest training week will be ~16 hours. You will be required to do that 1-2x during your training.
How much shorter?
Well, as I type this article we are in the Fall season. For most triathletes this is the off-season. This is a great time to start your training for a summer Ironman. I highly encourage athletes to train 10-12 months for their Ironman.
Especially if this is your first.
The first 3-4 months are really not that bad. You will probably need 10-12 hours a week available to train. It will be shorter in duration if you are unable to fit in 9 weekly workouts. Don't worry, the weekly volume will gradually climb towards the longest 16 hour week but remember you will only need to do that once or twice. In my opinion the last 2-3 months can be the hardest due to the increase in volume and anticipation of the race. But remember it is only 2-3 months and then it is over.
If you are able to get the support from family and work and think that the above training hours are possible, then the next step is to look at your physical shape.
In order to complete the ironman distance you will be exercising for a very long time. How do you know if you will make the 17 hour cutoff? An easy check is this. Double the finish time from your most recent half ironman and then add 1.5 hours. For example if your half finish time was 6 hours you could expect to finish an Ironman in ~13.5 hours. Please note that many factors will affect your finish time but this rough estimate is a good place to start.
I highly recommend athletes to complete a half Ironman before they tackle on the full ironman distance. Completing a half prior to the full will allow you to train and see how half the distance feels before going the full distance. Having said that, I have known athletes to train solely for an Ironman without any previous shorter races and they were successful.
If after reading this article you think you may have what it takes to train for an Ironman, I highly suggest you book a coffee talk session with a triathlon coach to see if this is truly possible. Each year I am very fortunate to be on the other side of the coffee table while I listen to the dreams of aspiring ironmen and ironwomen. When I first mention to many that they are now an athlete I watch them smile. I ask why and they say because they have never been called an athlete before. The transformation I witness over the year is remarkable and watching them cross the line of their race while having the announcer say they are an Ironman is a very rewarding day for myself as a coach and a life changing event for the athlete. You may say that life changing is a strong word. Well I stand by that because so many people find that after they train and complete an Ironman they truly realize that they indeed have No Limits.
As an aside, I once read somewhere that anyone can train and complete an Ironman. I disagree with that statement. I do not believe that just anyone can do this. If however you are reading this line there is a chance that you are not just anyone, you are someone special who believes strongly in finding out if they are ready to complete an Ironman.
I wish you the best of luck in determining if you are indeed Ready for an Ironman.
Coach Todd Malcolm
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