“What do I need to know to train for and finish an Ironman?”

“What do I need to do to go faster in an Ironman?”

As a triathlon coach and a sub-nine Ironman-distance athlete, I hear these question a lot.

I thought it might be interesting and helpful to others for me to reflect back on mistakes made, what I learned and tips for success from 28 Ironman distance finishes.

With my next door neighbor and training partner, Phil Young, I signed up for the 1997 Ironman Canada in October 2006. At this point in time, the race filled up only 9 months in advance, not the day after the current year’s race. Phil had done an Ironman in New Hampshire (no longer in existence) several years prior so he had some experience with training for the distance. Phil purchased a 24-week training plan from a triathlon coach that we shared and in early March 2007, our training began.

Lesson Learned: Follow a structured training plan from a trusted source. Training for an Ironman takes substantial time, energy and commitment. Following a structured training plan helps take away the anxiety of “What am I supposed doing?” Using a trusted source will give you the confidence to know that you’re doing the right thing and not wasting your time. Because we had a custom plan crafted by an experienced Ironman-distance athlete, I felt good about my training and my fitness going into the event – money well spent!

Reality Check: You Don’t Need a $5,000 Bike to Finish an Ironman. I raced my first two Ironman races on a $600 Cannondale road bike with clip-on aerobars and no race wheels.

Lesson Learned: Don’t start the run too fast. I felt good to be off the bike. My strength at the time was running so I started running fast. I heard a few comments from spectators like, “Slow it down,” but I ignored them. I ran my first 10km averaging under 7:00 min miles with a big smile on my face then the smile slowly inverted as my pace slowly spiraled downward from there as I went from “passer” to “passe” and as I moved from being in the top 50 overall to 169th place overall. Reality check.

Still, I crossed the line in 10:14, only 2 minutes away from a coveted Ironman Hawaii slot. I was now an Ironman.


P.S. Need help training for your next IRONMAN Triathlon? Be sure to check out our online IRONMAN Triathlon Training Plans.

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