Triathlon Blogger and Personal Trainer Alice Clare shares her tips for your first Ironman, based on her own experiences.
The year of 2017 was hands down one of the best years I’ve had purely because of my incredible journey to Ironman Switzerland. It was full of rich experiences, meeting and training with some amazing people, seeing some fantastic places, all powered by me.
I feel that my life and weekends have so much more depth and fulfilment to them, so I hope to inspire many others to follow suit and enter an event that also gives them the same rewards.
I have collated a few of my top tips to share with you on your journey to your first Ironman.
Choosing the right event for you
To chose your ironman look at what key factors matter to you- lake swim or sea swim? How much climbing is there in the cycle? Pick what you are comfortable with. Hilly or flat run? How many laps of the run would you like? I picked Ironman Austria this year based on it's 2 laps of the run course. I wasn't too much of a fan of 4 laps at Ironman Switzerland.
Understanding the sacrifice
Prep your family, friends and employers for what a challenge this is and the time that it will take you away from them. It’s well worth the sacrifice though. Tell your family how important it is for them to support you during race day too. You will need to sacrifice nights out, parties, drinking because there will many early mornings. But also know that you’ll meet many people through your journey to Ironman as well.
Find your tribe
Tap into a support network and find training buddies on your journey to Ironman. Training can be a lonely place, often we are training to a certain training plan. But it’s also important/fun to have others to share the journey with you! I found some of my closest friends on my journey to Ironman Zurich.
Utilise social media to find others who are training for the same event. Search for the official hashtag of the event.
Life often gets in the way, and you may not be able to stick to the training plan you set yourself. Allow for moving your training sessions around and don't put too much pressure on yourself if you need to miss sessions. Recovery is key!
There is no doubt that Ironman is one of the most truly exhausting sporting events to train for. It’s not called Ironman for nothing! The biggest reason for injury is not allowing your body to recover sufficiently. Ensure at least 1 rest day a week and train in 4-week cycles: 3 weeks build, 1 drop back/recovery week. Your body can’t get stronger if it’s not given the time to adapt, recovery and get stronger.
Focus on your weakest
Swap out a session of your strongest discipline for your weakest. 3 sessions per discipline (2 midweek and 1 long at the weekend). Swimming was my strongest so I swam once a week and ran three times and cycled three times.
Get rid of junk miles
Each session needs to have a key focus whether it be a slow long run or long ride, a shorter interval run or a shorter 'hill' ride.
Periodisation/4 Week Cycles
To aid recovery I’d recommend training in 4-week blocks. 3 weeks build, 1-week recovery. This is the key part where your body adapts to the training. You overload/stress your body with training, then recovery allows your body to adapt.
Towards your event I’d recommend implementing brick training, this is training from one sport to another, so your legs get used to running off the bike. It’s a strange feeling. Also to practise transitioning as quickly as possible, with as least amount of stress as possible. Practise laying out your kit as you would in transition on race day.
Fuelling during Ironman training is just as important as the training itself. You are training your body to take in the right amount of fuel at the right time, to keep your body moving. There is varying advice out there, so my recommendation would be to test out what works for you. I found eating 1g of carb per body weight worked for me. So I would eat 58g worth peanut butter and jam sandwiches per hour.
And don’t forget to enjoy the journey! It may well be one of the toughest physical and mental challenges you do, but I promise you it will be worth it.