What to Know Before Your First Event
By Angela Heydorn
That moment you push submit and then BOOM! Suddenly, you’re signed up for your first Ironman or Ironman 70.3. You giggle at first in a fit of joy. Fast-forward three months into training and you’re wondering, “What the hell was I thinking?”
Yes, I knew training for the Ironman 70.3 St. George was going to be mentally and physically tough. I was prepared for the concept of swimming 1.2 miles, cycling 56 miles, and finishing it off with a 13.1-mile run, as well as the 6–7 hours it would take me to complete it. I wasn’t, however, prepared with a strategy to combat what I like to call, “the dark place.”
When I first started training, I hit the ground running. I was so excited to embark on this new adventure…until I hit Week Three. I recall getting into the pool, swimming about 700 meters (my typical swim sessions at this point were between 1800 and 2400m) and saying to myself nope, not today. I was so incredibly frustrated with my performance, but eventually I learned that one mediocre swim is not going to make or break my training.
You know you’re in the dark place when this mental state continues on with every single workout. Someone once told me that some days, there just aren’t any good waves. It’s true. You have to be okay with not every day being rainbows and butterflies. The best way to get out of the dark place is first admitting that’s where you are. The second is understanding that almost everyone goes through this stage and it’s okay. Take it easy for a few days and do something completely different than your triathlon workouts. Go skiing, hiking, or try paddle boarding, anything that is irrelevant to triathlon training. Getting your mind off of it for a bit is likely the best remedy.
As for the fueling side of things, when I began this journey, I was about a buck twenty-five. If you can imagine, I didn’t have much weight to lose. I lost a few pounds and figured I’d stay there. Nope, wrong again! I felt like my intake of calories was pretty high, and I ate anything and everything I wanted. After speaking to my coach about it, she gave a little more insight. I learned there truly is a science behind it. Everyone is different, but the key is taking in enough calories and more importantly the right kind of calories i.e.: protein, healthy fats, etc. The Ironman website (ironman.com) has amazing resources on fueling your body during training as well as, pre, during, and post-race nutrition.
Hiring a Coach
Triathlon coaching can be a bit pricey. However, anyone can go online, drop a Benjamin, and receive a cookie-cutter training plan. My advice, DON’T! If you can swing it, I highly recommend hiring a coach for your first Ironman race. I assure you they will be your Yoda throughout your training. There are so many things you don’t think about when you’re training for an Ironman, that they already know and can shed some light on.
The other benefit is accountability. If you’re only accountable to yourself, you don’t feel bad about missing workouts or slacking off. Personally, I know my coach will see all of my workouts. She knows where I need to be in my training and when I need to be there. When training for such an enduring event, that’s not something you want to have to think about. Let someone else do it for you. Finally, when you need that mental pick-me-up, they’ll know exactly what to say!
If you’re looking for a reputable coach, try Braveheart Coaching (braveheartcoach.com). Your training plan will be completely customized. Braveheart Coaching takes time to invest in their athletes and making sure they are overcoming fears, conquering struggles, and meeting goals. Not to mention, they have an amazing triathlon kit created by Betty Designs. You may not be the best at first, but at least you’ll look the best!
In the end, if you decide not to go with a personalized coach, the next best option is to download training plans from Training Peaks at home.trainingpeaks.com. They’re less expensive and Training Peaks is the online coaching system that’s backed by Ironman.
What Training Entails
Training for an endurance event like an Ironman takes a lot of time and is incredibly taxing on your body. Rest, recovery, and proper nutrition are the keys to physically being able to train. If you’re not getting the proper amount of rest your body will never be able to recover from the grueling workouts that training entails. Four hours of sleep simply isn’t enough. You should be getting at least 7–9 hours of sleep every night to recharge.
Fueling your body throughout the day is equally important for your training success. A little trick I’ve learned that has made a world of difference is drinking a protein shake as soon as I wake up and before I go to bed. That way your body has the fuel it needs to get your motor running for early morning workouts and to rebuild at night. Remember: your body is like a machine, if you let pieces break down the rest of it won’t work correctly.
How to Fit Ironman Training Into a Work Schedule
Depending on whether you’re racing a half or full Ironman, you’ll be spending anywhere from 10–15 hours training. If like me, you’re training while also maintaining a full-time job, it can be difficult to find the time to train. I’d be lying if I said sometimes it isn’t totally, completely, and utterly exhausting, especially considering that three or four days a week you’ll be working out twice a day.
Establish the habit of waking up early and doing your first workout in the morning. If your job is flexible enough, get your second workout in on a lunch break. Trying to muster up energy after work is nearly impossible sometimes. Finally, save the longer workouts for the weekend. Then you can spend more time focusing on form and technique for each discipline.
After months of training I’ve decided to also take on a full Ironman in 2015 at Ironman Boulder in August! I’m nervous and excited for the race and hope that no matter which Ironman you choose to tackle, remember to smile and enjoy the ride!Angela is a Pittsburgh native who currently resides in Salt Lake City and works as a Market Development Manager for Ragnar. When she isn’t traveling to one of the many amazing Ragnar destinations you can find her rocking her Betty Designs gear while swimming endless laps in the pool, chasing butterflies on her bike, or running hill repeats. Don’t be fooled by her small stature, she can still do a higher box jump than you.