So you're training for your first (or 5th, or 6th) Ironman!
How is your training going? Do you feel deader than a doornail on a lot of your workouts, almost feeling slower each time? Do you have a certain sense of doom as the deadline approaches and the days tick by? You're still waking up to an early alarm wondering why people swim so early, and how you'll ever run a marathon after your legs are toasted from the bike?
Perfect. You're right on schedule and most likely doing exactly the right thing. You are working hard and your body is letting you know it. It's a good thing -- it just doesn't feel that good. Trust me, I know.
Training for an event like this is a massive accomplishment. The race itself is really the icing on the cake. It's the day people show up for you and cheer you on, hand you delicious cold drinks (ok, sometimes they're warm) and any snacks you'd want (well, no hot dogs). It is truly an amazing day -- and it's because of all the hard work you've done leading up to it.
But in the thick of the summer, as you lead towards your race, you can hit a bit of a wall, and interestingly enough, you'll hit this wall in the race too. The trick is to just keep going through it, and that's how you need to approach your training right now.
The most important staple for the newcomer is getting those distances done so psychologically you feel confident that you can complete them during the race.
Set up a time when you commit to a 3,800m swim. No stopping, no chatting. Wetsuits are ok because you might as well get used to being in one for that long. Open water swims in oceans or lakes are even better, granted you have a swim buddy (or 10) and even better a kayaker friend who will watch over you (suggestion: bribe them with coffee). If you can, swim right beside other people, who may cramp your space a little bit. It can be intimidating to get into a lake with thousands of people all headed to the same turn buoy. Getting nervous? It's ok. Take a deep breath and visualize getting there, because you will.
Now think about the bike portion of training. Fitting in 180km is tough depending on where you live, but I'd say anything over 140km or 5 hours plus is key. Take as much nutrition and hydration with you as possible so you can limit yourself to 1-2 stops at most. My bias to this workout is to do it solo, as torturous as that sounds. But there is no drafting or group riding in Ironman, so you better get used to some of the mind games that your brain will play on you all by yourself, and find a way to work through it. Get this done well in advance of race day because meltdowns on the side of the road with an easily changeable flat tire while experiencing mental fog, leg cramps, and an "I hate this" attitude are best as the rehearsal, and not the premiere event.
Onto the run. This is the only time where all you need to do is get about 33-35 km of the distance done under your feet. The rest is a bonus, and quite honestly, you'll feel so tired by the end that absolutely nothing short of doing an Ironman will prepare you for the final kilometres. Get out and do the long runs on a day where you don't feel fresh (maybe you did a 100km plus bike the day before). That way you'll get used to running with a bit of byproduct (also known as "cement") in your legs. Don't forget to eat. You will eat more gels in this Ironman than you will ever realistically want to eat in a lifetime, so you have to practice cooperating with them in your system.
I know you didn't just sign up for this race and you've been training for a long time. I know the number of workouts that have gone into getting your training to this point. Now I'm here to help you wrap your brain around your final preparations over the next two months. The physical elements are a work in progress. Now it's time to get a hold on your psychology. What makes you tick? Why are you doing this? What will you do if you think you can't go on? Think about these things in advance. Visualize to the best of your ability what the race will be like. It is such a useful skill. I go over a race hundreds of times in my head before I line up on the start line.
Enjoy this experience. I will be rooting for all of you at the Whistler Ironman come August 25 (unless, of course, I'm in labour delivering my first baby, which is a definite possibility!).
Good luck/ Bon Chance!
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