I came across an Ironman FAQ article by an athlete called Suar on a website called shutupandrun.net and thought that a Q&A is a good basis for me to start summarising my experiences to date following the two IM events that I have completed. I hope that this will help me to better prepare myself for the Ironman UK 2014 than I did for Ironman UK 2013 this year.
I have said previously that the main reason that I am writing on this website is to collect my thoughts and improve my performances during next season and if anyone chooses to read and gains any kind of benefit at all from any of the posts that is all the better for me. If you are reading this please comment and ask any further questions that I have not covered. I am by no means an expert but I have completed two IMUK’s as a ‘self-taught’ triathlete and have done a stack of reading, watching and listening around the subject over the last couple of years and would like to share and continue to learn from others.
I’ll get to the questions.
How many months did you train and how many hours per week?
My first Ironman I trained for 13 weeks and tried to base it on the 13 in 13 model. My usual week was:
M: Rest Day / Active Recovery
T: 30 mins Bike to and from work
W: 60 mins Bike
T: 30 min AM Run, 60 mins PM Swim Drill Session
F: 60 mins Bike
S: Long Run building to 3 hours
S: Long Bike building to 6 hours
This year I tried to add a lot more structure to my training and training sessions using the advice gained from The Triathlete’s Training Bible. What resulted was the complete opposite. The training plan that I produced required a lot more time and was pretty inflexible which did not suit me due to the increase in time constraints I had due to working commitments and with each session that I missed I became increasingly de-motivated and frustrated. I planned on training for 36 weeks but ended up really only completing 8-10 weeks when I reverted back to the above type schedule which meant that I could fit my training in whenever and wherever it suited me.
What was your favourite fuelling/hydration during training and on race day?
I fuel during longer (above 1 hour) sessions using the products that will be provided at the aid stations of the IMUK. I make sure that I get in 60g or 240 calories of carbs per hour through one bar and one gel per hour on the bike and 3 gels per hour on the run. I find that if I top this up with liquids I can continue the day with too much issue in the stomach area.
I aim to eat every 20 minutes, ½ Bar – Gel – ½ Bar each hour on the bike and Gel – Gel – Gel every hour on the run. This may look silly but I find that this helps me to break down the day into manageable chunks. I’d much sooner be telling myself “Just 9 more minutes until you eat again” rather than “Just 76 miles before the marathon”!
Was it worth it to hire a coach?
I have never hired a coach. I am a member The Endurance Store triathlon club and do go to most of the group swimming sessions and some of the rides and runs. They also hold a couple of Ironman training days which are organised by Team True Spirit in which the day consists of a full Ironman distance open water swim followed by two out of the three laps of the Ironman UK Bike Course (the course is rumoured to be changing for IMUK 2014 so a single lap may be enough next year?).
What I find at these ‘ironman’ sessions is that there is a wealth of experience and a free flow of advice within the group and with such expertise in the club itself I have found that this has been adequate for me to be confident enough to get to the start line feeling that I can accomplish my goal of hearing the words “you are an Ironman!”
Would I have prepared a lot better last year with a coach? I say the answer would have to be, yes! This leads me to the question of why will I not be hiring a coach this year? I find this very difficult to answer but I think it is because I want to be a master of my own destiny, I don’t want to have to get up for run at 5:30 in the morning become I am being told to I want to choose to get up at 5:30 in the morning and go for a run because I want to. This involves a lot of self-discipline and will power and I find the best motivator is to make my goal as public as possible.
What was the hardest part about your training?
The hardest part of training, for me, is to not overthink it. I have spent hours upon hours reading, watching, planning, preparing, analysing and reviewing when what I should have been doing during that time is training, fuelling or resting.
During my first Ironman, probably due to naivety as much as anything else, I simply bought a pair of trainers, a £250 ($400) second-hand bike from someone at work and bought a wet suit when someone told me I wasn’t allow to swim in shorts. I found a training plan that seemed to fit (outlined above) and just got on with it. As I moved into my second year I read lots and lots on a number of training plans and methodologies, nutrition plans, fuelling plans, bikes and bike gear, running shoes, expensive wetsuits with ‘catch panels’ the list went on. All I did by doing this was to put myself in a state of ‘analysis paralysis’ and I never really got going until I reverted back to my old training structure (rather than a plan).
Did you think taking the X2 Performance supplement every day made a difference?
I have never used X2 Performance so cannot comment on it. I have used CNP Professional Pro Slams to some success at T1 and T2 and find that this gives me the reassurance that I have covered some of the protein requirements of the day. I have also used CNP Professional Pro-MR before bedtimes when my training really ramps up and have found this to be quite effective to relieve muscle soreness.
However, I feel that I need to undertake a little more research on this subject and will report back in future updates.
I have kept the original answer below from the shutupandrun.net website if you are interested in X2 Performance specifically. Please note that the author is sponsored by the product.
It is tough to gauge because I’ve never trained for an Ironman without it. What I will say is that I was shocked by how much energy I had throughout training and how after one day of rest I would come back rejuvenated and ready to go. I did not miss one workout in 18 weeks (okay, that’s a lie. When we had the huge flood and were stranded at home I, ironically, missed one swim). Most importantly, after the Ironman I had no fatigue, no soreness. These results are enough to have me hooked on the product. I will continue to use throughout all of my future training.
What books did you read while training? What else motivated you?
During my training so far I have only read one book which is the above mentioned The Triathlete’s Training Bible. I however I have had a couple of interesting finds on the internet recently. I have listed some of the ones that come to mind below:
http://www.theendurancecoach.com/ – especially their Research Articles
http://www.theendurancestore.com/blog/ – great regular articles on all things triathlon
http://www.samiinkinen.com/post/11347268687/hawaii-ironman-secrets – I recently mentioned this article on a previous post and the teachings in this will definitely be adopting in my training. I will get out there and train but make sure that I am constantly improving, if not I will rest up.
http://www.cluboceano.com/13.htm – This site is the basis of my success in my first Ironman. I did not follow the plan to the letter but adopted many of the structure that it puts in place.
http://www.ironman.com/ – The ironman site itself is a great source of information and advice on training, nutrition and all things Ironman Triathlon.
There are a lot more of these which will form the basis of most of my future posts.
Did your family, professional and social lives suffer during your training?
This question for me is easily split between Mon-Fri (professional time) and Sat-Sun (personal / social / family time).
My professional life has not had to suffer at all due to training for an Ironman. If anything I think that it has been enhanced due to the increased energy I have due to the feeling of being fit and healthy. Also, as I have been raising money for charity, the fact that I am training for an Ironman has been made public which in-directly improves moral and motivation to get out there and train. Also, I still love the look on people faces when you provide an answer to the question “So what does an Ironman entail?”
My personal time has not really suffered at all during my training for either Ironman also. I can’t think of a social or family event that I have had to miss as I make a big effort to fit my training in around my life rather than my life around my training. This tends to culminate in a ‘big’ weekend of training with the week used for recovery and skills of up to an hour per day.
I suppose not having any kids makes a big difference to the different strains on my time but I think if you make an effort to get out on the Bike at 6am you can be home, showered and re-fuelled before lunch-time at the latest with the rest of the day ahead to enjoy. Knowing I had to be up and out in the morning also helps with the temptation of having a couple of beers the night before!
However, if I knew that I had a big social event during the week-end, a Wedding for example, I would try and plan my working week so that I could have Friday afternoon off and use this time to get the long ride or run in that I would have otherwise missed.
Did you gain or lose weight while training?
I have starting training for both Ironman events at around 15 st 7 lbs (217lbs). For IMUK 2012 I competed at about 14 st (196lb) and at about 14 st 4 lbs (200lbs) in 2013. So I normally lose anywhere between a stone and a stone and a half (14-21lbs) which usually happens all at once within the last 2-4 weeks of training but even though my weight during the first 10 or so weeks training didn’t change very much the change in my body was quite dramatic (so much so that I have ‘season’ and ‘off-season’ sets of clothing in my wardrobe.
Did you strength train?
Yes, but only occasionally and during the very early stages of my training. One thing that I did pick up and continue to do so is to participate in a weekly Pilates lesson at my local gym. This all came about from advice of a Physio when I was having some trouble with my Sciatic Nerve in my back. I have had no such problems at all since I have been doing Pilates and I can definitely feel the benefits of the increased flexibility, core strength and stability. I have the intentions of doing a lot more strength work next season but with training time at a premium the swim / bike / run sessions will always take priority.
One thing new to this upcoming season that I will be implementing is substituting the endurance swim session that I plan each week with an indoor rowing session. I talk about this more in a previous post.
How did you change your regular eating/drinking habits while training?
I have never really changed very much of my diet. If I am training enough this is not a problem, however, if I am not I will put weight on quite quickly. This is something that I will be really trying to change as I enter training for the IMUK 2014. Not really the quantity of food that I am eating as my appetite is relentless when I am training but the types of foods I am eating (examples are whole grains, veggies, proteins, avocadoes, beans, cheese/eggs wrapped in a tortilla , spinach, peanut butter, oatmeal, and blueberries as quoted in the article on the website).
One thing that I have found to be useful is to have a glass (or two) or red wine the night before an event. I have found this to help me sleep soundly the night before and to have no effects the morning after. I suppose this is not for everyone and I would advocate trying it the night before a big training day on a trial basis, don’t wait until the morning of your Ironman!
What was the furthest distance you ever swam, biked or ran during training?
Swim: 2.4 miles (twice in open water), bike 100 miles (once, plus a few 80 mile rides), run: 18 miles (once, plus a few half marathons), Longest brick: HIM 6 weeks before IM.
What kind of bike do you have?
I completed IMUK 2012, 2013 on a Bianchi Reparto Corse with Ironman Stryke clip on aero bars as mentioned in a previous post. I am, however, as mentioned in the same post looking at purchasing a bike for this year’s IMUK 2014 and at the moment I think that I will be going down the tri bike options instead of the road bike this year.
Do you think you have to have a tri bike to do an Ironman?
I have to say no as I have completed two Ironman events using a road bike. However, as mentioned above I am probably going to go down the route of a tri-bike this year due to the much documented benefits associated with using a tri-bike such as; being comfortable, being in a position that maximizes efficiency and being in a position that saves your legs for the marathon. The only doubt I have at the moment is that the IMUK 2014 will include a much hillier bike course from what I have been told and this may mean a road bike is more suited.
How much did you spend total to do the Ironman?
Race entry: about £400 ($650)
Tri bike: £250 ($400) second-hand bike
Bike service: £250 ($400)
Pre-race bike tune up: £100 ($160)
Bike tyres, tubes etc.: £150 ($250)
Race clothes: £300 ($490)
Bikes shoes: £70 ($115)
Bike helmet: £70 ($115)
Swimsuit: £100 ($160)
Fuelling/hydration: £100 ($160)
Pool sessions: £150 ($250)
Physio/Massage: £150 ($250)
Entries to races during training: £200 ($320)
Total: £2,290 ($3,747) (I recommend that you don’t try this at home!!)
Did you wear a race helmet?
No, I wore a Giro helmet like the one here. They are pretty expensive so I think that I would have to try before I buy.
Did you set goals for the race? Did you meet them?
My main goal has been to finish in both completed Ironman events. However, I will answer this question by year. One consistent was that I used HRM on both occasions which I would say is a must. In 2012 I used a Polar FT1 and in 2013 I used a Forerunner 910 XT:
Swim: I knew I had the fitness to complete the swim within the cut-off time. Therefore, the goal was to stay out of trouble which in this instance meant staying to the right hand side of the bunch on an anti-clockwise course.
Bike: Keep HR around, but under, 145 BPM (simple). One energy bar, and one energy gel per hour eating and drinking every 20 minutes.
Run: 1st Half Marathon with HR around, but under, 156 BPM then just get through the last 12-13 miles. Three Gels per hour every eating and drinking every 20 mins.
Everything went to plan during the day. The last half marathon was my strongest part of the day. I had to stop eating at certain points when my stomach felt like it couldn’t take anymore. My private goal was to finish in 15 hours and I completed the event in under 14!
Swim: stay out of trouble as per the previous year.
Bike: HR under 141 BPM going for it on the long downhills.
Run: 10 min miles throughout with the same nutrition plan as the previous year.
Actual: The swim went to plan. Had a puncture and my chain came off twice during the bike leg. My run was strong for the first half then I struggled badly at the end. All in all I came in at just under 14 hours so was happy as the main issue with my day was my preparation in the preceding weeks.
One thing that I found interesting from the original article is that there is an equation to estimate your Ironman time based upon you Half-Ironman time. The equation is HIM time x 2.1 + 40 minutes. If I apply this to my two previous years HIM times 6:00 in 2012 and 5:45 in 2013 I would have had a projected IM time of 13:16 and 12:44 respectively. I finished both in a little under 14 hours…
What did you race in? Did you change clothes during the race?
I always race in a two-piece tri suit which I wear during the whole event changing my socks after the bike for the run in T2. This year I chose to wear a pair of Compressport Shorts under my tri shorts, I was very comfortable on my bike due to the extra padding and my legs off the run were the best I have ever felt. I will be trying this out again combined with my Compressport Calf Guards.
How did you carry all of your fuel/hydration on the bike?
I use a number belt with elastic loops to carry my gels. As mentioned previously, I train using the products that are provided at the aid stations of IMUK and I aim to consume one gel and one bar per hour (eating every 20 mins). The bars are provided every 15 miles or so on the bike course so this covers the bars (putting them into the pocket on the back of my tri-suit) and I have more than enough room to carry 8 gels which give me a bit of ‘bonk insurance’ if needed. On the run I aim to consume three gels every hour. I have enough waiting for me in T2 to get me to the first aid station and make sure I take enough to get me to the next then the next (usually every 3 miles at IMUK).
Did you pee on the bike?
No. I have tried this once in training but never again. I am never going to be a contender for a Kona spot so a couple of minutes spent during a comfort break is time well spent for me.
What was the toughest part of the race for you?
Two places for me. One when I had been out on the bike for about 3 hours and I realised that I had another 4 hours or so left to go before the marathon as my brain cannot comprehend how long and how far I have travelled against how long and far I have to go. I combat this trying to break the ride into 20 minutes chunks which aligns with how often I intend to fuel and hydrate.
The second is about 8 miles into the marathon when everything is aching and I still have 18 miles to go! I try to look around, engage with the crowd, sing songs and again chunk the marathon up into 20 minute sections. Whatever it takes to keep going! Another method I use is to challenge myself to quit, “go on, stop” I say to myself. I quickly come to the conclusion that I am not going to quit so I may as well stop whining and get on with it.
Did you crap your pants?
No! Does anyone?
Would you do another Ironman?
Yes! I plan to continue to do the IMUK (and maybe international ones) for as long as I can. I am by no means an endurance junkie and remain a pie-eater at heart. I do love the Ironman events and all that come with them.