With all of the time and training I put into preparing for the Ironman, I learned a variety of things:
It seems to be a running joke among Ironman triathletes that “the fourth event” of Ironman races is eating. Mess up one of the four events, and you’re toast. In order to do a 140.6 mile race, you have to fuel up on the go. The best estimates conclude that triathletes burn around 10,000 calories during an Ironman (varies by gender, weight, age, etc.). Athletes burn off most of their body’s readily available energy stores (roughly 2000 calories in the form of glycogen) by the time they finish the 2.4 mile swim. That’s a problem when you still have 138 miles to go. Beyond making sure you eat properly and rest leading up to the event, it’s important to have a game-plan for constantly fueling up during the race. Everyone is different, so you need to figure out what food works best for you, but the following may be a good starting point.
So you swam 2.4 miles, and cranked away on the bike for 112 miles… time to take off that helmet and run a marathon. In my opinion, the last 26.2 miles is the hardest leg of the Ironman. That may be because I had a light foot injury early on in my training (from ramping up the distance I was running too fast) that led me to train the least for the marathon.
So after you swim 2.4 miles, you have to hop on the bike and ride 112 miles. It isn’t as daunting as it sounds after you start riding regularly.
To start preparing for the bike, you need to gather a smattering of gear. This includes, a road bike, helmet, cycling shoes, water bottles, bike computer(for tracking speed at a minimum), safety glasses(to keep bugs and rocks out of your eyes), bike shorts, form fitting shirt, bike gloves, chain lube, and a saddlebag with a tire repair kit… Cycling can get expensive really quick. In deciding how much you spend, figure out if your goal is to finish or become the next Ironman World Champion. You can get relatively inexpensive gear if you simply want to finish. To save money I bought a used road bike off of KSL/Craigslist, and it has served me very well. As I trained, I decided I wanted to take things up a notch, so I purchased a pair of aerobars to tag onto my road bike. You could easily spend $10,000 dollars on an insane carbon fiber triathlon specific bike and it may cut your time down by a healthy chunk, but an aluminum road bike will work great.
You don’t win or lose an Ironman during the swim. In fact, no one has ever been the first one out of the water at the world championships in Kona and won the whole race. That being said, you have to give some time and preparation to the swim in order to come out of the water with enough energy to take on the bike and run.
A wetsuit is recommended for both comfort and speed.
Why? 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 mile run (marathon)… Sounds like a good idea right?
They show multiple clips of world class athletes bonking and passing out yards from the finish line – really motivating stuff.
After a couple of friends and cousins had talked about their experiences training for and completing an Ironman, Anne started to try and convince me it was a good idea and “something that would keep us active.” Anne was reading Chrissie Wellington’s book “A Life Without Limits” and finally got me to sit down and watch the NBC coverage of the 2013 World Ironman Championship on Youtube… It was one of those shows that pulls you in and gets your blood pumping. They show multiple clips of world class athletes bonking and passing out yards from the finish line – really motivating stuff. We proceeded to watch 2014 coverage as well and I started thinking about it more seriously.