Monday, January 11, 2016

A Few Early-Season Ironman Tips

It’s more than a little dubious that a guy who did not finish his only attempt at an Ironman is giving advice but I think I do have a few worthwhile things to say. Since I did not make it to the run last year, I’ll refrain from mentioning anything about that.

Tip#1: Be Prepared for a Non-Wetsuit Swim

This may be less of an issue in colder climes but if you live in a place where the summer time highs regularly break 90* and your swim venue is not replenished by snowmelt, be ready for the wetsuit to be an optional event. That means that you are not considered for purposes of Kona qualification (not an issue for most of us) andyou get to go to the back of the pack. It was warm but not triple digit warm in Boulder last year and despite a fair amount of cloud cover the day before, the reservoir actually warmed up overnight. I was grateful that I had trained hard swimming. Going without the suit was not a big deal.

Tip#2: Ease into your new season, but not too much

Six or seven months may not go by all that quickly in a general sense, but in terms of training, it’s faster than a jet. If you’re not hurting at the high end of your bike and run intervals and if you don’t have moments where your arms feel heavy in the pool, you may need to be doing a little more. I can’t stress enough how happy you’ll be on race day.

Tip#3: Start practicing nutrition now.

It’s not easy to ingest hundreds of calories while biking along, sometimes at high effort. It is, however, absolutely essential. Even with a dedicated nutrition regimen, you’ll still probably be falling behind in terms of calories. Just as you have to train your muscles and your cardiovascular system, you have to train your gut as well.

Tip#4: Don’t buy any claims about fast and flat.

These might actually have some relevance on shorter course events, but even small hills are going to hurt when you’re out there for hours. The last hill of any height or length in Boulder was the one that finally did me in (though it probably was going to happen anyway). It’s far better for your mental state if you go into the race expecting it to be hard work. Not dreading, just expecting. No one (at least no normal person) was ever disappointed that a course turned out to be easier than expected.

Tip#5: Be consistent.

Training Peaks users can appreciate the gratification of green squares on their weekly training plans. Completing what you set out to do (or if coached what was assigned to you) is not only satisfying, it’s also important. One good indicator is the Chronic Training Load (CTL) on Training Peaks. It’s the rolling average of your Training Stress Score (TSS) for the time period you have designate (say 30 days). Essentially, only missing workouts due to uncontrollable events (illness, personal emergencies, etc.) and not because “I was totally fried that day” is my general rule. That’s not to say that I have not completely crapped out on a workout when I was tired—I have. What it means is trying to find a way to push through even if the overall performance on a given day suffers. Making sure you have regular recovery weeks is a key to making sure you stay consistent for the harder time frames.

I plan on offering more of this advice, for whatever it’s worth, as the season progresses and as we get closer to the season, I can also share some of my experiences and lessons learned about race day, particularly pre-race.

Thanks for reading!

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