There are hundreds of suggestions out there on how a triathlete can become a better runner but these three tips for Ironman triathlon run success come from years of trial and error.
How fast should you run when you train? How far should you run? How often should you run? What and how much should you drink?
These are just a few of the challenges faced by those who are perhaps thinking of crossing the Ironman Triathlon finish line for the very first time.
Even if you are an experienced and highly successful runner long before triathlon is on your radar, it’s a whole new ball-game once you are faced with swimming and biking before you get to put your running shoes on.
Many a great endurance runner has been humbled by their first Ironman Triathlon experience.
How can it be that their 2:59 best marathon time quickly became a 4:15 death march when they decided to take on the challenge of the Iron Gods?
What happened in that 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike that sucked the energy out of them and had them stumbling, bumbling, and bewildered at the 2-mile mark of the marathon?
(1)RE-THINK YOUR RUN TRAINING DISTANCE
It’s surprising how many hard-core runners find it difficult to cut back their run mileage when they venture into the world of Ironman.
They are so used to pounding the pavement six days a week and putting in those long three-hour runs every weekend that it’s difficult to switch gears and perhaps go from running 70-80 miles a week to a paltry 35-40 miles a week.
After all, how can they possibly expect to maintain their running fitness if they are spending valuable run-training time in the pool or out on a distant highway biking mile after dusty mile?
It may be a difficult concept to get ones head around, but often by running less and incorporating cross-training effects of swimming and biking into the fitness/endurance mix it’s quite possible not only to have Ironman marathon success, but also to become a better runner in general.
Many endurance runners who think they are pretty successful as marathoners often don’t realize they could unknowingly be stifling their true potential because of simply running too much.
Although they always rest up for a few weeks before the big marathon they have failed to factor in the deep-rooted impact that the weeks and months of relentless run-training has had on their body.
It’s quite possible that a runner could be racing tired for years on end and not realize it until something like triathlon training comes along and their body gets a reprieve from mega-mile, year-round run training.
By training in three disciplines–without excessive amounts of training in any one of them–overall improved fitness and endurance is often the result.
It’s not unusual at all for an endurance runner turned triathlete to actually set personal best finish times in a 10k or marathon even though they are running far less in training than they did as pure runners.
One year I did a marathon in early July as a tune-up for Ironman Canada that was coming up the last week of August. I had no particular goals in mind that day, but ran a 2:54 marathon that was a personal best by over three minutes.
In over 20 years of running monster mileage I had never run that fast over the distance. My running mileage in Ironman training was one-third of the norm for me, but somehow running less and incorporating swimming and biking into the mix made me a better athlete.
(2)CONSERVE GLYCOGEN-BUN FAT FOR FUEL
Perhaps the most important and most misunderstood tool for endurance athlete training is the heart-rate monitor.
I have come across a lot of people who wear a heart monitor but aren’t quite sure how to use the information to their best advantage.
In simple terms, the normal person can store enough glycogen in their body to fuel them through about 19-20 miles of a marathon……after that they are in big trouble.
No matter how many plates of pasta you eat in the days before the big race there is only so much glycogen that your body can store, so more carbohydrates are not necessarily better.
To put it simply the average athlete most likely stores enough fat to fuel them through three marathons and probably an Ironman as well. Learning to burn fat for fuel means you will run through the mystical wall instead of crashing into it head-first.
A heart-rate monitor will teach you how to run aerobically in your fat-burning zone and once you learn how to do this and incorporate in into your races you will conserve your stores of glycogen and this will result in increased endurance and much more enjoyable marathons and Ironman Triathlons.
If you want to know more about using a heart-rate monitor to your best advantage and improve your endurance and race results read my article on heart-rate monitor training.
(3)PACE IS ALWAYS THE KEY
Many runners spend years training but give little thought to the concept and importance of pace.
A world class sprinter might be able to run 100 meters in under 10 seconds, but if he tried to run the 400 meters at that same pace he would run out of fuel and his speed would greatly diminish before he reached the finish line.
The same is true of a runner who tries to run a marathon at the same pace as his best ever 10k race. It’s a recipe for disaster.
There are very few age-group runners in the world who run the last half of their distance races as fast or faster than the first half.
It takes a lot of discipline to hold back when the starting gun sounds and everyone else seems to be leaving you in the dust.
More often than not, triathletes will push themselves far too hard over the days, weeks, months, and even years of training as they prepare for the Ironman.
They will continue on with the same mentality in the final weeks before the big race and not allow enough time for rest and recovery in what should be the taper period.
Then when the gun sounds they will blast off and won’t slow down for 2.4-miles of the swim, the transition, and perhaps as far as they can make it into the bike until their body finally shuts down.
By the time they get to the marathon they join the multitude of fellow triathletes in the IRONMAN TRIATHON DEATH MARCH. Be sure to read all about it.
Pace is the key and easing your body into a challenge as daunting as an Ironman Triathlon is the best think you could ever do to ensure your best possible result and more importantly you will enjoy the experience a whole lot more.
Here is a strategy for you to consider that could well change the way you look at the Ironman Triathlon. It might be your first one or your fifth one. It doesn’t matter. There is no time like the present to take control of your Ironman destiny.
I was that guy who ran himself into the ground in training and in racing year after year until I finally figured out the importance of pace and it was a revelation that changed the way I approached endurance events from that day forward.
Read what I wrote about THE NEGATIVE-SPLIT IRONMAN TRIATHLON STRATEGY.
If you would like to read more of my articles on training or perhaps inspiration here are a few links for you.