I have often admonished people for rushing into doing an Ironman too quickly. To be perfectly blunt, I think too many people sign up for an Ironman without being ready for it, especially when it comes to the swim. We at TSC prefer that people first dip their toes in sprints and Olympics then build up to the full distance instead of signing up for an Ironman first thing.
By focusing on the shorter distances first, you are able to build your speed, swim skills, and endurance which will translate into more resilience, confidence, and speed when you eventually make the move to longer distances.
Moreover, if you have a few seasons of consistent triathlon training, you are less likely to get injured. You have learned to balance your time properly, and know what you need to focus on when you start ramping up the volume.
This is not to say that making an Ironman your first race can’t be done.
Many athletes do so successfully. But for the majority of athletes we have coached to long distance and long-term success, taking the time to build up to a full distance tri has meant an overall, more enjoyable process.
Signing up for a long distance triathlon is a big and pricey decision that you should put some serious time and thought into. Recently, I decided to sign up for my first Ironman. After 10 years of triathlon training, I felt that I was ready on multiple levels. Consider everything together before hitting the pay button on active.com.
For one, I felt I was ready physically.
I have completed several years of consistent, injury-free training. I know what my body can handle, what my weak spots are, and what the ideal training schedule for me and my goals are.
For example, I know that my schedule works best swimming four times a week with two pool swims and two Vasa SwimErg workouts. I also know that if I push over 50 miles a week without making cutbacks in other areas or without adding more recovery, I start to feel some niggles in my hips. With this knowledge, we can make adjustments to the upcoming training blocks.
Secondly, I also needed to do a bit of personal, financial preparation. Ironman racing costs a lot more than just the entrance fee. I needed to consider the travel expenses, extra food to support the extra training, and even reduced working hours.
Fortunately, the other expenses like a bike, bike equipment, indoor trainer, pool/gym membership, and extra running shoes were already taken care of. But if you do not have those, then you need to add those to your calculations.
Thirdly, I had to ask myself whether my family and life was ready to handle the commitment. Family always comes first in my book.
Before signing up, I asked my partner if it was alright with her. And I made clear what my training would look like. Doing an Ironman is not worth her becoming a “triathlon widow”. I made her promise that if she was feeling at all neglected or unsupported, she would immediately tell me.
We do not have kids. But if we did, we would need to work out parental responsibilities so that she would not be overly burdened. Long rides on the weekends might mean shouldering more of the load during the week. Similarly, I needed to look at my workload and career.
Would my productivity suffer if I started training more? Would I still be able to maintain a healthful lifestyle and not compromise on sleep or nutrition?
Lastly, and most importantly (after family backing of course), I needed to look at my motivation. I had to ask myself what my “why” was. For me, I saw Ironman as one fun adventure and a perfect avenue for self-discovery. I simply love the training and love racing.
Even when I am sore and struggling, I enjoy how my body feels when I am active. And, I like the mental states that I go through in training and racing. Even bad training sessions take me to another level of mental discovery. Your “why” will obviously be different but make sure it’s strong and authentic enough.
With all those boxes checked, I think I am ready to take on this next challenge. Over the next 42 weeks of training (I officially started on Monday), I will be occasionally checking in with updates, tips, and tricks that I discover along the way.
Coach Chris Hague