Secondly, I stumbled across an article from the site Coach Gordo titled Golden Rules For Your First Ironman which, although aimed at first timers, is a good reminder to all abilities alike of what you need to consider when training for an Ironman Triathlon. I have summarised the main points below:
Rule One: You don’t have to kill yourself in training.
You’ve signed yourself up for an Ironman. You know it’s a grueling race, so you better toughen yourself up by signing up for two marathons, half a dozen Century rides and a three-mile rough water swim. Not recommended!
Endurance training is exactly like turning a Styrofoam cup inside out. So long as you take it slowly you’ll be able to do it. Try to rush things and – rip – you’ll tear the cup. You are the cup. [Interesting analysis but I think it gets the point across pretty well]
Rule Two: Build technique and endurance in your first year.
Laying out a sketch of the year is essential. The core of your week is your long slow distance session in each sport. Plan to build your swim up to 4K, your ride up to five hours and your run up to two and a half hours. Build up very slowly (no more than 5-10% in terms of duration in any week )three weeks forward, one week back, repeat.
A classic “Ironman Weekend” is a six-hour ride on Saturday followed by a three hour run on Sunday. These sessions are typically billed as “confidence builders”. However, these sessions are counterproductive leaving you destroyed until at least Wednesday. Spread your key sessions for best results.
Rule Three: Focus on your key sessions and make your key sessions focused.
With your key sessions laid out, the rest of the week is easy to plan. Add your other workouts so you get three sessions of each sport. You have one goal each week-hit your key sessions fresh and injury free. Everything else is filler. If you are whipped, take a rest day. The most important predictor of success is the quality of your key sessions rather than the overall volume of your sessions. So, if you are recovering well from your long sessions, don’t sweat the volume.
A word on your key sessions: If you are following these guidelines, make sure your long workouts are quality. Avoid long breaks and make sure that they are true endurance sessions that build your base. Know your HR training zones for endurance and stick with them. Long slow distance always starts at an easy pace, but after three hours on the bike, you are working no matter what the pace.
Rule Four: Sleep is more valuable than training.
Better to have a lie-in miss a short workout on Thursday, than a whole weekend with an unexpected illness. (Of course, going to bed an extra hour early every night is a better option than missing training). Weekend naps are also great for the working athlete. Keep them under an hour for best results.
Rule Five: Forget about speedwork.
Be honest with yourself. Are you expecting to run sub-four hours? Are you expecting to run the whole marathon? If the answer to either of these questions is “no”, then running speedwork is a complete waste of time. Some people disagree on this point but it is firmly believed. A track session can leave you worn-out for 12-36 hours. If you are going to beast yourself, then do it in a manner that most benefits your race (i.e. a four to five hour ride).
I am actually training in contrary to this when following the Tri-Ripped Training Programme in which some elements of speed work is done and a shedload of hills are incorporated. I suppose these are not speed sessions as such but are definitely high intensity. This personally for me in the preparation for my third Ironman season is imperative as speed / leg strength is something that I am seriously lacking in.
Rule Six: Recovery is your friend.
Make sure that you drop the volume WAY down every four weeks. Your recovery strategy is the most important part of your plan. Recovery is when you will make all your fitness gains.
You should end every recovery week feeling fresh and dying to get back on it. If you don’t feel like this after a week, then your total volume is likely too high. Note that it is called a recovery week rather than a rest week. Stay active in your recovery. Maintain frequency, but drop the volume and intensity way down.
Rule Seven: Check your ego at the door.
Any time you are in a group situation, there will always be someone who wants to go faster than you, in these situations, swallow your pride and get dropped. It is tough, but eventually you get used to it, kind of.
Know your session goals before you start and do everything you can to stick to your goals. Group rides are the most dangerous; the pace slowly creeps up and before you know it… hammer time! For that reason, either ride alone or with friends that accept your pace in advance.
Rule Eight: Keep your eyes on the prize.
Remember your goals when you decided to start this journey and keep the training fun. There is no point in putting all this time into the sport unless you are having a good time. When it all becomes a bit much (and it will eventually), back off and re-assess. The right answers will come to you.