The Right Time to do a Full Ironman
By Elliot Bach
One of the more commonly asked questions among triathletes concerns the right time to do a Full Ironman. Endurance athletes are a strange breed of people who are always looking for that next hard thing to do and accomplish. As a coach, athletes come to me all the time saying they want to do an Ironman and check it off their bucket list. While I am always eager to help with this request, several factors play into the what constitutes the right timing - things such as work, family, and time available for training. For a beginner athlete or someone who is fairly new to the sport of triathlon, the before mentioned factors play a huge role. I would ask such things as: "Do you work in a field or environment that allows you to train on the weekends as well as before or after work; and how supportive is your family?" Ironman training can be hard and taxing on a family with all the time spent training and away from home, including many weekends. One has to be realistic about how much time is available for training. A good rule of thumb is to take whatever total hours you are available to train each week and then subtract about 25% from that.
Once the basic fundamentals are checked off, it's time to start the process! Athletes who come to me for Ironman coaching want to know first of all, where do we start? I have found the most success with athletes by taking an entire calendar year to properly train, by completing other distances and working up to the full distance. A trainee would race roughly each quarter beginning with sprint distance, followed by an olympic distance, and then onto a half ironman. At the end of the year in the fourth quarter, the athlete would complete a full Ironman. An important thing is to decide first on the Ironman that one is going to do and then work a year back from there to add in the other distances. If you wanted to race Ironman Texas for example in May, the following is what a typical race season might look like leading up to the Ironman. Your sprint distance would be done sometime in June or July and this could be a local race, nothing big, followed by a local olympic distance in late October. Next a great 70.3 to do do would be either 70.3 Pucon in mid January or, Taiwan 70.3 or Campeche 70.3 with both fall in the beginning of March which also both work great for your Ironman that is at the end of April. Having the ability to follow this linear approach allows for proper fitness testing, building a strong base and foundation, and fine tuning a nutrition plan for race day. The athlete needs to have a long training phase which builds up endurance as well as mileage. I highly encourage athletes to not rush this process, because more times than not, trying to rush or take shortcuts can lead lead to injury and therefore lengthening the time before the big race. Devoting an entire year can seem somewhat daunting and long, but this will result in a much better return on the investment. My goal is to show up to the Ironman fit, confidant, and ready to go. As one who has been in the sport of triathlon for over ten years, these are just a few of the things I have learned through personal experience and coaching numerous ironman athletes. Long distance racing is not only fun on race day, but the process of training and leading up to it is an amazing experience.