General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Advice for first Ironman needed. Rss Feed  
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2017-05-16 4:57 AM


Subject: Advice for first Ironman needed.
Hello everyone,
Im a 20 year old guy hoping to complete my first ironman the 20'th of August (Copenhagen), Im training alone and have some questions regarding my training which have started to worry me.

1. What time should I realistically aim for? (Cut off is 15:30 hours)

2. How do I deal with not being able to hit the desired training zone (eg. 86% mhr) during bike and swim

3. Should I consider making my programme less intense in terms of intervals?

I've always been fairly athletic, I did karate when I was a kid and finished my first marathon when I turned 16 in 4:45 with 2 months loose training prior. From I was 17-18 I went loosely into triathlon, learned how to swim with a 1:50 pace in a circular 100m pool for 2km, bike 100km (62 miles) averaging 25-28 km/h and also set some decent run times such as a half-marathon in 1:31 and 5km in 18:30 and similar.
In august 2015 I did a half-ironman (after 6 months without training) in 6:12 finishing in a relaxed manner.

Recent stuff:

1,5 years after finishing my half-ironman (and with no real training in between) I started training for KMD Ironman this february as I have time on my hands for the time being. In February I had 17 hours of training (split over 2-3 weeks), In march and april I averaged 8 hours and 8,5 hours per week on average. Here in may it's closer to 9-10 hours on average. That's roughly 331 km running (205 miles), 1165 km of biking (723 miles) and 27km (17 miles) of swimming since february. Fitness wise my vo2max is around 60 now (used to be 65-67).

I've gotten a bit worried recently as I can't hit the desired training zones when I need to do hard intervals on the bike (eg. 6x5 min 86%mhr<). My legs die before I reach the desired training zone which is very frustrating as I can't get my heart rate above 85% on the bike before my legs die. When I swim as well I can't get above 85% (not because of my legs though), running is no problem (even though Im sore 1-2 days after hard run intervals which has an impact on my other training sessions).

How do I deal with this? After training I always get a restitution meal of roughly 75grams of fast carbohydrates and 25g proteins (chocolate milk) and I try to eat a lot of healthy food during the day. Is it my diet or something else?

In my programme im supposed to be doing 12-13 hours of training at this point as well, which im averaging under. I make sure to hit most bike and run workouts but in a week it's not uncommon for me to miss some swimming, stability training, gym, stretch etc. which eventually adds up (due to work and motivation). On a bad week I might miss one important workout like last week where I had to skip my long bike+run brick (probably happened 3 times since february for different reasons).

How should I deal with this situation? I considered focusing hard intervals on running and just doing treshold (below 85%mhr) intervals on the bike and does it sound like I should train to complete in 15 hours? 13-14? less? My original hope was below 12, but since I can't do all the hard intervals and have to skip training now and then I suspect 13-14 would be more realistic?

Any help is highly appreciated!

2017-05-16 11:18 AM
in reply to: Musars

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Katy, Texas
Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.
We'll need a bit more information on your current training. Could you provide what your last couple weeks looked like (planned vs completed)?

From what you say, I would think you have enough speed on the run, so I would concentrate more on running volume at lower intensity without intervals or tempos. You're bike and swim are lagging WAY behind your run based on the times you posted. As for not making the intervals on the bike; it's likely more mental than anything. You have to learn to suffer on the bike and that takes time. That being said, I wouldn't be doing a ton of heavy interval training if you're just looking to complete your first Ironman. Swimming you need to work on form as much as you do volume and speed. At 1:50/100m you are likely doing a number of things wrong in the water which are slowing you down. Do you have access to a good swimming coach or lessons?

Regarding the time goals......and I'll be subtle here...THROW THEM OUT THE WINDOW!!!! Do NOT go by time on an Ironman (or any race for that matter) it is a recipe for disaster. Build your race plan around effort levels, whether that is power on the bike (if you have a power meter) or heart rate or RPE, but do not use speed or time. Same for the run. I don't even have that as an option on my watch when I do a full. I have nothing but power and HR on the bike and nothing but HR on the run. I have no clue how fast or slow I'm going, and that is (in my opinion) the best way to properly execute.

Another big piece that you don't mention is nailing down your nutrition plan. If anything is going to make you crash in the race it will be either pace, or nutrition. You should be working a lot on how much and what kinds of nutrition your body can take during the race. A half Ironman gives you a lot of room for error...a full does not.
2017-05-16 3:19 PM
in reply to: 3mar


Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.
Thanks for the reply!
My training schedule for may is:

Mon: Swim 2km with 12x100m intervals (93%<) + stretch
Tue: 1 hour bike intervals with 3x10min (86-93%mhr) in heavy gear + 10km run with intervals 4x1km (93%<)+ stability
Wed: off
Thu: 1 hour bike intervals 6x5min (93%<) + gym
Fri: half-marathon in hills + stability
Sat: swim 2500m with 5x400 intervals (80-86%)
Sun: 3-4 hour bike with 3x20 minutes in heavy gear and 10km run after.

In the last 2 weeks I missed 1,5 swim workout, I did all the cycling workouts, I did all the runs I did however miss one long bike+run (because of technical problems with my bike I had to quit at 45km), I missed most of the stretch and stability training and also one of the two gym sessions.
My big issue is that it's difficult for me to achieve the targeted heart zones and that it leaves me sore.

I considered that if my goal is to finish the Ironman and have a good day, wouldn't it be more sensible to do the swimming without intervals and only have one session with bike intervals in the 80-86% zone (heavy gear) + keeping the run intervals? Or should I scrap all intervals or even find a new programme? (as said my programme right now is a standardized programme from former triathlete torbjorn sindballe)
Should I even try to put some more hours on the 1hour bike sessions so that they're longer instead?

I don't have access to a swim coach, even though I plan to attend 1-2 free swim trainings arranged by the local triathlon club this summer. Is my swim form a big issue though? If I can swim comfortably in 1:10-1:20 then wouldn't that be sufficient?

I do however think my bike form is the culprit. I can feel that I bonk when I have long (100km) bike sessions, in the start I do around 28km/h average but towards the end my pace decreases as the strength in my legs do (last time I did 100km in 4 hours on the bike).
Im aware that I should probably work on my nutrition as well so that I take around 2 bars and some energy drink per hour in order to not bonk (right now It's more like one energy bar per hour and 250ml of energy drink). I assume that this is what you primarily mean by nutrition plan?
Im not sure how much of my bike form is because of insufficient energy intake and how much is because of my legs.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to help me out!
2017-05-17 3:00 PM
in reply to: Musars

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Albuquerque, New Mexico
Bronze member
Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.

Welcome,  I've been away from BT for a while.  

First:  Why did you sign up for your Ironman race?  Your answer to this should drive how you approach training for and then racing.  If your goal is simply to finish, aim for 60 minutes under the cutoff time (bike & run).  

Second:  An Ironman race and the training is all about consistency.  (Really, about consistency in workouts over the year.)  Intervals will improve your speed and maybe power for hills or wind, but only after you've developed a base through consistent training.  If your legs won't support max intervals, it's more a sign of inadequate base. hurts to do proper intervals...

You are at an age where your body is quite resilient and will bounce back quickly when you endeavor to complete a marathon (or Ironman) on sparse training.  

You are at an age where your mind is still not equipped to deal with the mental demons that come out during a day-long race, especially when going in on sparse training.  

I'll offer counter advice about times.  You probably already have a "goal time" in your head.  To pretend it isn't there isn't helpful.  Acknowledge you have a goal time.  You (and only you) can determine whether it is a realistic goal or not based on your goals for signing up, dedication to training, and physiological response to training.  With a race less than 3 months away, you won't necessarily change how fast you are.  What you can change is your confidence in finishing the segments of the race.  If you're averaging 25 km/hr for a 100 km ride today, you can probably build up to finishing a 180 km ride at a similar pace in August.  Would a 7:12 bike split be enough to make the bike cutoff with a cushion and set you up for a successful run?  

Now that we've acknowledged you have time goals, there are things within your control (consistency and discipline training) and things beyond your control (race day weather).  It takes practice to know when to press through the current discomfort or to back off to preserve some other goal.  Good luck!

2017-05-17 3:43 PM
in reply to: McFuzz

, California
Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.

OK what I see:

the good:

- Ironman Copenhagen bike course is not super hilly.
- you've acknowledged your weakness (bike) and put more focus on it at 3 days/week.
- you have good top-end running speed.

the bad:
- you drop off running pace a lot at marathon distance compared to what a fully trained person could expect on the McMillan calculator.
- bike pace / endurance needs work

I'm not too worried about your swim - your pace isn't super fast but if you can get through the full distance while staying relaxed, it should be ok.

From the schedule you listed, I assume you'll slowly be building distance into some of those workouts, as you approach the race.   But right now you have 2 runs per week, which will not prepare you for marathon distance (Ironman or not).

I'd suggest adding a run as a 2nd workout on one of your swim days, and possibly as a brick on a bike day.

2017-05-17 4:14 PM
in reply to: Musars

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Katy, Texas
Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.
Here's what jumps out at me from your training plan:

Your long run shouldn't be more than 33% of your total weekly running volume. Right now it's 70% of your running

You're only at about 5-6 hrs on the bike per week. Since this is your weak link, you need to spend a lot more time on the bike, otherwise your running is going to suffer a lot.

Bike intervals should hurt and it's important to build that mental toughness, especially considering your age. The 18-24 age group at Ironman Florida last year performed about the same as the 60-65 age group and didn't even come close to the age groups in between. Think about the physical differences between a 20 year old and a 63 year old...that's what the mental aspect will do, as well as not having the base of years of endurance training. Your body can easily do those intervals, it's your brain that's the problem.

Swimming 4,500 meters a week would be ok for a sprint, but not an IM.

My advice would be to skip the "gym" (which I'm assuming is weight training), stretching, stability, etc. You're young and probably don't need all that for recovery. My current training load is almost 3 times yours and I'm old, and I don't need all that.

Do more biking and spread out your runs throughout the week so that all your running isn't coming on your long run day. Do a lot of brick runs (anywhere from 3-6 km runs immediately after every bike ride)

Swim a lot more. As much as you have time for. Substitute a long swim day for your rest day, that way you're still resting your legs, but getting in some meters in the pool.

2017-05-17 4:41 PM
in reply to: 3mar

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Overland Park, KS
Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.
You might be over-thinking the whole training zone thing for this long of a race.

I did my first Ironman last October and my bike training consisted of doing 2 maybe 3 rides during the weekdays of 40-60 km then on the weekend do one long ride of 5 to 6 hours (approx. 160 - 180km) The short weekday rides were a mix of time trial solo rides and group rides with a road bike. The group rides had "built-in" intervals as we would surge up hills etc.

I rode with a gal who was trianing for Kona on the weekend for my long rides and what she would do was warmup for 30 km then ride at Ironman race pace for 30 km then easy for 10 minutes then repeat the 30 km at race pace a few times with 10 minutes rest in between. I just followed her and on race day I had a great bike split so that worked for me.

I just thing getting those miles in is key.
2017-05-18 8:39 AM
in reply to: reecealan

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Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.
Best advice I can give is to enjoy the race.

My first Ironman I had trained extensively and worried constantly about. Day of the race everything seemed to come together, swim (my slowest area) went well, good T1, bike started with a 5 mile long 1500m climb, couldn't get into my lowest gear at the steepest part, but still that didn't discourage me. Finished the bike and hit T2 worried about my run, after about 3 miles in I did some mental math and realized that I could slow walk the rest of the race and still finish. It was at this point that I relaxed and just enjoyed the race, I placed second in my AG that day, and its still my IM PR.

Enjoy the race!
2017-05-18 10:19 AM
in reply to: #5220513

New user
Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.
I think you've got some excellent advice here. I would quit worrying about 'speed' so much and focus on longer bikes, higher swim volume (the one exception where you should be doing shorter, more intense intervals with short rest), and running (at EASY paces) , but spreading the run volume over multiple days per week. Also, have you look at the various other free plans, such as right here on BT?
2017-05-18 1:47 PM
in reply to: Musars

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Smithtown, New York
Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.
Can I give you a piece of advice? Ignore all those numbers, you're getting very caught up in it all. Go out and swim, work on good form, get out and ride that bike and lace up your shoes and run! Enjoy the warm weather and scenery, live it in the moment and relax

For pacing I suggest going at easier intensities, build your endurance, simulate as much of the race as you can including being out there for 12+ hours! Most of all just enjoy the experience, don't worry about not hitting your times, getting in that interval workout, needing to cut workouts short, etc. What matters most is that you stay consistent and easy. You should only go fast if it's easy, don't force speed or you'll end up hurting yourself.
2017-12-12 12:17 AM
in reply to: Rileyvb91

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Alturas, California
Subject: RE: Advice for first Ironman needed.
You have enough speed to make the time cutoffs. It sounds like you have a history of not going into events well trained. It is tough to do an IM on crappy training. At this point getting in the miles/workouts consistently will be most important, especially the long workouts. Your workout fatigue will impact your ability to get your HR up. You may need to strategically drop a short workout if you get too fatigued, but being young you should bounce back fine in a day or two. IM is a long race, follow your training plan and it will see you through to the finish line. It is hard to pick an ideal time for an IM, especailly this far out. Ya you could do a 12-13 hour IM with proper training. Most folks are not properly trained for their first IM, but they can perfectly pace the race and have a great day. Or they can mess up their nutrition or hydration or try to go out to fast and have a tough day. Consistency is your friend. Welcome and enjoy. Anxiety about your training and the race distance is just part of the journey, completely normal.

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