The Last Push in an IRONMAN Training Plan
With about two months to go (6-8 weeks), you only have a a few key workouts to go before you begin the taper. This is when everything becomes really rather critical. Now is the time to settle in to your own thoughts and build your self-belief by avoiding common pitfalls as you enter the ‘last push’.
You have done months of training, you have built steadily, seen improvements and become one of those hardcore triathletes! Two months out one of three things could happen:
You get distracted by other races and lose the will to do the big training sessions in favour of the more fun social shorter efforts telling yourself these are still purposeful
You end up over-reaching and injuring yourself or burning out
You nail it!
Clearly we all want to choose option number three. However, the other courses of action may well end up ruining your race preparation.
Let's take option number 1: the distraction. This is very easy to fall into and though you want to race your IRONMAN well, the better weather, the more exciting group rides or races are tempting and you end up deviating from your set plan in order to join in. "It is only one session or a weekend" you may think and for the odd occasion, you would be correct. However, the way most IRONMAN plans are set up, 8-4 weeks out from race day is when you are building your specificity for the event. You have accumulated the long, hard miles and have done the tough training. Now it is time to groove your paces, your intensities, your nutrition plan, your effort so that you can really race the IRONMAN. Some of your longest most specific training sessions would be in this block of training, so that is where your focus should be.
How could you accidentally follow option 2 instead and push too hard? Notice that in the above paragraph, the "tough" training has been done. You don't need to dig deep or push hard, it is about grooving the effort. You should find the pace initially rather easy. This means you can focus on your nutrition plan, your kit, your bike etc to make sure everything is working as it should do and it becomes second nature. You want to be starting to feel both ready and tired, but if you just feel tired, you need to pay attention to how your body is responding to training – have you accidentally under-recovered or over-reached? If the sessions are not feeling easy to begin with, then either your intensity is too hard, or perhaps you need to focus on recovery now. No one session will make your training for the event, but one session too hard or too deep can break the race. It is about consistently ticking off the sessions (and the recovery) into the final few weeks of the taper.
In many ways all the IRONMAN preparation has built to these next few weeks. You have built the training fitness to be able to training specifically for the event. This will be your most substantial block of training, with some big rides, longer runs and larger brick sessions than you would have done before. Therefore, it is easy to end up tired, especially when you factor in things like work and family life as well. Make sure you are recovering well, make sure you are eating well and make sure you are focused on doing your own thing. If people want to join you, then let them by all means, but don't let that distract you from what you need to do. If you can consistently manage all that, then these next few weeks will make you smile as you know you will be ready when race day comes around after a couple more weeks time.