An Ironman is a big accomplishment and shouldn’t be taken lightly. To complete your first Ironman, you need a lot of time, a huge amount of motivation, and a good support group. Doing an Ironman is hard enough in itself, doing it without the support of your friends, family and peers is even harder. An Ironman shouldn’t be something that you check off your bucket list. Instead, it should be a lifestyle that you keep for many years.
Never underestimate the length of an Ironman!
An Ironman is 3.8 km of swimming, 180km of cycling, and 42.2 km of running. Each event in itself is really long, so together, it’s huge! You therefore need to train accordingly. You need to make sure that you would be able to cross the finish line with a smile and without any injuries. That means that you need to be patient and start with sprint distance events, then Olympic distance and half Ironman events. Jumping right away to the Ironman distance is really risky and chances are you’ll either get injured getting ready for the race or you won’t enjoy the race because you weren’t prepared enough.
On the day of the race, you should not underestimate the distance of the Ironman. You need to have a good racing strategy and make sure that you have enough energy at the end of the bike to be able to run a marathon. It’s better to be a bit more conservative on the bike and run faster than to bike too fast and have to walk most of the marathon.
You don’t need (and shouldn’t) do an Ironman in training
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is that they want to complete the Ironman distance in training to make sure that they are able to do it. The day of the race is the day you should race, not 2-3 weeks before the event. The reason that a lot of people want to complete the whole distance in training is usually due to a lack of confidence in themselves or in the process. You need to believe that you can do it and you also need to trust your training plan, which is supposed to get you fitter and fitter until the day of the race.
It is still interesting to do a big training day a few weeks before the race that covers about 2/3 of the total length of the race or of the time you expect to do. So, if you expect to complete the Ironman in 12 hours, you could do a big 8-hour day to train your body to be active for a long period of time. However, doing a 12-hour day for training is way too much and it will take too much time to recover and will therefore affect the rest of your training.
Don’t spend all your money on expensive equipment
It can be tempting to buy the newest bike or wheels or all the techno tools. However, I think you should prioritize your training and recovery before spending too much money on expensive equipment. You’ll get a much better return on your investment if you invest directly in yourself by paying for a great coach, a good bike fit, and getting regular massages and physiotherapy treatments. There’s no point in having the best bike if your position on your bike is inadequate or if you are injured. So, before thinking about marginal gains, it’s much better to think about what really matters: training, sleep, and nutrition.
Keep it simple!
If you start in triathlon, you might be confused by all the scientific terms like (FTP, Cda, lactate, etc), all the different equipment, training techniques, and nutrition products available. It can be very complex. You can be easily discouraged even before starting training. A lot of people get so confused that they don’t know how to start training.
So, I suggest that you keep it as simple as possible to begin. Just go to a pool, jump on your bike, and put on your running shoes. With time you’ll learn a lot about different types of training and equipment. There are many resources available on the internet to learn about training. Experienced triathletes will also share their experiences and answer all of your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask. Also, if you can get a coach, especially as you start training, he/she can guide you and answer all your questions.
Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches
Triathlete & Coach
BSC in nutrition and food science