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Ironman for Mortals

by Meghann on October 10, 2011

Hi Meals and Miles readers! My name is Rae, and I write ‘Tri’ing for Balance’, a blog about triathlon training, sensible eating, indulgences, and how to balance them all without going crazy (most of the time!). I’ve been following Meals and Miles for 3 years, and was really excited to see Meghann’s foray into the world of multi-sport!



I’ve been a triathlete for 6 years, and have competed in every distance from sprint to Ironman. It’s been a long, interesting, fun “Iron Journey” starting back in 2005, when I couldn’t run a mile to save my life, to 2010, when I finished Ironman Lake Placid with tears in my eyes and a big smile on my face. Since then, I’ve done another Iron Distance race, and can’t wait to do my third!

Now, trust me when I say…if I can finish an Ironman, anyone can. And no, it doesn’t take 40 hours of training a week or a diet of celery sticks. But it does take discipline, a can do attitude…and a plan.

So, you want to take on 140.6? Well, here’s a little help getting started….

1. Pick a race. It’s ok to pick a race a few years out…I really recommend moving from a sprint triathlon (.5 mile swim, 12-15 mile bike, 5k run) to an Olympic (.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 10k run), to a Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, half marathon) to the actual Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). I took on one new distance each year, which made it seem a bit more do-able. Enjoy each distance, then move on up if you love it! Most Ironman races sell out a year in advance, so you have 364 days to contemplate your madness once you’ve plunked down your entry fee….

2. Find a training plan. Some athletes hire a coach, and there are plenty of good ones out there. However, I am a social worker, so my budget doesn’t really cover it! I bought my training plan off of trigeek.com, and paid 25 bucks for it. It detailed all of my workouts for the 37 week plan, and gave levels based on my fitness and how I was feeling that week. The weeks ranged from 10 hours a week to 20 hours a week, which sounds ridiculous, but is do-able if you plan ahead.

3. Get organized. Work backward on your calendar from your race date and find your training start date. Put your training plan on an actual calendar so that you can see when your key workouts fall and can adjust your schedule (yes, this takes some time, But it really is worth it to know months in advance when your “peak” weeks are so that you can plan your life!)

4. But be flexible. Every training plan has some flexibility. There are some workouts you should not miss, like your hundred mile rides or 20 mile runs, but some can be altered, shortened, or skipped. Most people will confirm that as long as you follow your plan 80% of the time, you should be good to go on race day.

5. Recruit an “Iron Sherpa”. Ironman is not a journey to go at alone. You need someone to support you, understand what you are doing, and help you out in terms of everyday life and with your mental sanity. I am lucky enough to have a husband that is not only supportive, but is also a triathlete. He gives excellent foot rubs and even does laundry on my 7 hour long ride days! I knew I married him for a reason…(I kid, I kid).

6. Get some toys! Ironman is expensive. But you don’t need a $3,000 bike or a million expensive pieces of equipment to complete the distance. However, there are some training gadgets that really help! Of course you need the basics-wetsuit, bike, helmet, running shoes, etc. But there are a few extra things that really help when going the distance-I love my bike trainer (especially living up north-I never miss a ride), my swim mp3 player (super helpful for long swim sets) and my grid foam roller (awesome after a long brick or run to roll out the knots, and so much more affordable than weekly massages!). Toys for race day: An aquacell for hydration and my cw-x compression tights for the marathon-my legs need all the TLC they can get after a 112 mile ride!

7. Create goals. After you have been training for a few months, you may have some ideas as to how long it will take to complete the distance. Goals are great, but I suggest making A, B and C goals (with the C goal being to finish!) especially for your first time at the distance. You never know what can happen on race day, and be ready should things not go according “to plan”!   The day is long, and no 140.6 is perfect. I created an A goal of 14 hours, a B goal of 15, and C for finishing, When I crossed the finish line in 13:54 my first time, I was elated!

8. Have a good reason. Why Ironman? Because it’s on your “bucket list”? Because you want to prove something? WHY? Have a darn good reason for doing it. Ironman is time consuming, expensive, and it hurts. And at mile 130, your mind is going to need to give your body a darn good reason to keep moving forward, because your body will be saying NO! I spent a lot of time on the mental aspect of training, and had some pick me ups on race day (notes from family in my special needs bags, miles dedicated to people on the marathon) and it really kept me going. The day can be so much fun (best day of my life after my wedding day) but you really need to be ok with the space between your ears to do an Ironman. And I know you can!

9. Do your homework. Know the race course….drive it, or better yet, go train on it if you can. I drove up to Placid for a weekend training camp a month before the race, and it really helped me figure out where to take in nutrition, where to coast, and where to push it. I also talked to people with Ironman experience…there are some really good sites out there for triathletes where you can ask people that have done the race and have wisdom to share. There are also a rising number of triathlete bloggers who can help you out (email me anytime!)There is no such thing as a dumb question!

10. HAVE FUN! You put in the miles, you created a plan, and you’ve spent 6-9 months training. Enjoy the journey-it’s amazing what your body can do. And enjoy your day-it is an amazing feat to take on 140.6, and so worth it once you cross the finish line and hear “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

Well, I hope that gets you started, or at least thinking about the multi sport lifestyle. It is an amazing sport with wonderful people, and if you have any questions, feel free to check out my blog or email me. Thank you!

 

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hillary October 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I’ve always told myself that I could never complete a race like this, but it is beyond inspiring to hear you say it’s possible!

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2 Jennifer Cook October 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I have HUGE Ironman dreams after completing my first sprint tri just a month ago. I loved reading this! The only Ironman blogs I can find are of the pros, and they make it seem so unattainable. But this made me really feel like it’s something I can do. Thank you!

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3 Rae October 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm

You so can do it….and I know what you mean! Chrissie Wellington is super inspiring, but I am nowhere near that fast :-P

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4 Courtney October 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm

As someone who is about to do her first Olympic tri, I love this post! Thanks for the insight :)

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5 Laura October 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Awesome post! My goal is to be an iron(wo)man before I’m 30, so that gives me 1 year at each distance. Thanks for all the tips, I’ll definitely be using these.

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6 kathleen @ the daily crumb October 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm

great tips! a triathlon is on my bucket list.. just have to find the time to train!

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7 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife October 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm

These are awesome tips!! I am going to do a half ironman next year, so this made me even more stoked! Wheeeee :) I’ve done a sprint tri, 2 marathons and some half marathons, so I kind of know a bit….but I definitely need a plan. Good point!

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8 Mary @ Bites and Bliss October 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Awesome!! It would be such an amazing thing to complete an ironman. I’m training for a marathon right now..but maybe one day!

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9 Nancy @ Beyoutiful Fitstyle October 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm

WOW! I am so impressed. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind what the distance of an Iron Man was! In college we did a “mini triathlon” for softball training. I think we swam .1 mile and it felt like FOREVER ha, but it was so much fun! I would absolutely consider doing a sprint or olympic triathlon.

I really enjoyed this post!

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10 Rae October 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Thanks everyone-I had fun writing it :-) Bottom line-don’t be intimidated. Ironmans are no joke, but are attainable if you put the time in!!

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