Balancing your Race Plan with an IRONMAN

As you get your teeth stuck into training for an IRONMAN, you start raising questions about how to plan your season and what races to enter aside from your IRONMAN. This then leads naturally onto how you will fuel for your training and racing. Here we cover some of these points and the great thing is that by thinking about this early in your season there will be plenty of time to make changes, adapt and improve.

After the first couple of months of training, you will begin to see a steady increase in training load and you will start seeing a few more sessions appear as your body adapts and the volume increases. Welcome to the build phase! You should start to see a clear progression of how the training plan has developed and where it is going as well as reflecting on how some of the consistent, base training has started to pay off.

 Races don’t (usually) have cafe stops – have you started planning your nutrition plan?

Races don’t (usually) have cafe stops – have you started planning your nutrition plan?

As we look towards the race season, now would be a good time (if you haven't already) to think about putting some low key practice races into your schedule. These are sometimes called B races, or even C races, with your A race being the main race of the year. For IRONMAN distance races, it is definitely worth doing a half IRONMAN between 10 and 6 weeks out from your A event. Furthermore, you can sprinkle some standard distance races a few weeks before the half IRONMAN distance and a few weeks after it. Any other races can be dotted around as part of normal training. We would certainly suggest doing a sprint distance as the open water season begins as they will allow you a safe environment to practice your open water skills on a shorter course. They are also very intense and can almost seem harder than IRONMAN training! In our training plans, we include frequent brick sessions. These can readily be replaced by actual events and would be good ways to help structure your training plan around any events you may want to do. However, be careful not to race too much and leave yourself burnt out by the time your A race comes round!

For the more experienced athletes, i.e. those who are looking at improving from their previous race results at IRONMAN, the above still holds true, but in the practice races, the focus should be more than “just get round” and you should be focussing on learning something or practicing something at each event. This isn’t to say that first timers won’t learn something from the earlier events (In fact they will probably learn more from these events). However, for the experiened athlete it is important to focus on what you want to get out of the event to show you are “on track”. For example, running hard off the bike at a key pace, working on a nutrition plan which is different to the one before, putting the ghosts to bed if your first race didn’t go to plan. For those looking to punch the qualification ticket, though it is possible of a training plan alone, with the competitiveness, we would suggest working with a coach to get the most out of your training.

In general we would advise against a spring marathon (read here for more information), except for the strongest athletes. However, even then, that has to be managed very carefully and would be worth doing with a coach helping navigate the training implications. Half marathons though are great and you will find are almost a weekly occurrence in your training!

Now is the time to consider how you are fuelling both through training and also on race day itself. Our partnered nutritionalist has put together an excellent guide to help get an idea of what your daily macronutrient quantities should be and how to adapt it as your training increases here. Your race nutrition plan needs to be started now and you should begin using it through training so you can flag up anything that works well for you and also things that possibly don’t work so well! Everyone is different and nutrition is personal: what works for him, may not work for her. What is effective for your friend may simply not work for you. Taking the time now to start understanding what works best for you is really wise. Follow our top tips here.

This is an 8 part series of blogs focusing on IRONMAN Preparation. Read the next one here.