DON’T SKIP THE LONG RUN
One of the key sessions for Ironman is the long run, and one of my favourites is this 30km set. Warm-up 3km easy Main session 3 x 7km at 5-10secs faster than desired Ironman pace, which for me is around 3:40mins per kilometre pace. Jog 2km between each effort. Cool-down 2km easy. The pace shouldn’t feel scorchingly fast, but it’s all about building an aerobic base and conditioning the body to give it the best chance of turning the legs over quickly enough during the latter part of the Ironman marathon.
PREP FOR TIRED LEGS
Doing an Ironman-specific brick session is also a great idea. Ideally after your long bike of the week, or at least after a hard bike session. Aim to run 10-15km after the bike at Ironman goal pace. It’s also a chance to test your race nutrition and become accustomed to the feeling of your race pace on tired legs.
PACING IS KEY ON RACE DAY
Pacing is critical to Ironman success and limiting your suffering. Over the first 5km, just slip into an easy rhythm and take stock of your nutrition strategy. Have you over/ under fuelled on the bike? What are your plans for the upcoming aid stations? Once you shake off the initial stiffness from the bike, it should feel easy at this point, so don’t get too excited, too early. It takes confidence to hold back, but if you pace properly, you’ll pass a lot more people over the final 5-10km than you will in the first 5-10km. And passing people late in the race is great for motivation.
ACTIVATE THE MUSCLES
I still do run drills twice a week, but many stepping up to long-distance racing forget muscle activation work. One of my favourites is a walking high knee lift. The key here is to make sure that you engage your glutes not your lower back – a way to ensure that your glutes are firing is by simply lifting your arms above your head. Even if you can improve your run technique by just 1% it makes a big difference over 42.2km.
“Even improving your run technique by just 1% will make a difference over an iron marathon”
INVEST IN YOUR A-RACE
Building my season towards one big race – i.e. Kona – could add pressure, knowing that I’ve made a conscious choice for it to define my year. But there’s another way to look at it. Focusing on a key ‘A’-race allows you more time to prepare and invest in your training, ready for that one big day. It’s like paying into a savings account. When it comes to making that withdrawal on race day, it should come with added interest.
NERVES ARE GOOD
The pre-race nerves before an Ironman are almost unavoidable. In fact, if you didn’t have them, it’d probably be time to call it quits. Seeing any nervousness as a positive to get the adrenaline pumping is the way I look at it. All the work in training has already been done, so although bad luck might happen - after all, it is a long day - being worried about it isn’t going to change anything.
ACCEPT THE IRON CHALLENGE
One of the best mantras for Ironman racing is that of acceptance. Accept that any race involving a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and a 42.2km marathon run is going to be a long day and that you will go through bad patches both mentally and physically. But you also need to understand and believe that you’ll recover from any lows and make it to the finish line of one of the world’s true endurance challenges.