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Why Do An Iron Distance Event?

Monday, 7 August 2017, 1:56 PM
By Silas Cullen


Silas Cullen takes you through the first steps in preparation for Ironman.

If you talk to someone who has completed an Ironman you’ll soon find they describe it as one of the best life experiences they have ever had. Words can’t describe the feeling of elation when crossing the finish line in an event that you did not know you could finish when you started training. It is something that if you complete can leave you wondering what life would be like if you had not gone through the experience.

It can change your life and make you think about things differently.

Do you have what it takes to do an Ironman or Iron distance event?

From the time you first wonder if you could do an Ironman to the time you cross the finish line, you will have gone through more extreme highs and lows than you thought were possible. The lows will be tough but that is what makes the highs so high. That is what makes you different from everybody else. That is what makes you an Ironman finisher!

Who can complete an Ironman?

It is not a case of anybody can do Ironman; it is a case of ‘any mind’ can do Ironman. The mental battle is far harder than the physical one and the battle starts as soon as you think about taking on the challenge. From the very second you start to think, ‘I wonder if I could’ you will have doubts and fears. Is this realistic? Will I make a fool of myself? So and so says you need iron quads and bionic arms to do Ironman. Whatever your level or physical talent the self doubt will be right there trying to take you down. But you have one huge advantage, one thing that gives you the upper hand - you don’t need to know if you can do it, you don’t even need to tell anybody. All you need to do is decide you want to. That is step one, if you do that you are closer to taking on the beast than you think!

Where do I start?

This is where ‘most people’, get tripped up. They think that they need to do far more training at the beginning than they actually do. They get so caught up in time and distance and what they hear other people say, that they blow themselves to pieces before they have even had a chance to start. To begin with all you need to do is be able to bike, run and swim a little. Getting a good pair of running shoes and a bike that fits you are the first steps. Swimming can come later - it is probably the swim that you fear the most, but the swim is the smallest part of the Ironman equation. The biggest thing to remember at this point is that you don’t know what is possible at this stage, so don’t beat yourself up trying to work it out. Just take the first step and go from there!

How much training will I have to do?

There are 4-6 weeks of high volume training that make up the key weeks in your Ironman build-up, including some key sessions (your longest workouts).

The rest of the training is just there to prepare you for the training in those key weeks. Some athletes will train as much as 30 hours in the biggest week and others will get through in as little as 13 hours in the biggest week. It depends on three things: what else you have going on in your life, what your goal is for the event, and your training history. An experienced coach will be able to give you accurate feedback about your build up based on your individual situation.

Piecing it all together

There are a series of tasks that make things far easier. When you complete each task you gain both confidence and momentum and things slowly seem that little bit more achievable. The idea is to focus only on the next task and not on Ironman itself until near the end. This way - you maintain motivation and avoid feeling intimidated. Once you have been for a swim, bike and run, then doing a short triathlon is the next step - first a sprint distance and then a standard distance triathlon. The goal in these events as far as Ironman is concerned, is not important, just that you finish and enjoy yourself. Then slowly the tasks get tougher and more specific for the Iron distance - a long bike, a long run or a marathon, a half Ironman or an event simulation. Training on the course (if possible) will follow, but one step at a time.

For now, if you are thinking about Challenge Wanaka or Ironman Taupo, the task is simple. Decide you want to. From there anything can happen! If you have completed an Ironman before and want to step up a level, do not fall into the trap of building up for longer and harder than last time. Be smarter about how you approach this next assault on the event - improve your weaknesses, develop your strengths. Ironman will throw fear and self doubt at you, but you will be ready!

Have a think about taking on Challenge Wanaka or Ironman Taupo, don’t think, ‘Could I do it?’ think, “Would I get a kick out of finishing?” Then if you dare, take the first step!

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