For a triathlete, completing an Ironman is the challenge to top all challenges. Your first Ironman is a feat in uncharted territory: It’s one big adventure that you strive to complete to the best of your ability. Several days or weeks later, after a chance to reflect on your maiden Ironman, you may start to wonder: Can I go faster? How fast can I go? Can I qualify for the big show?
The competition to get to Kona has never been steeper, but a targeted programme can make all the difference. Ironman is one sport that rewards solid work ethic over natural talent. You can qualify!
About the plan
This program is for athletes who are targeting a full Ironman to qualify for the Hawaii Ironman.
It should be noted that evolving an athlete to the highest level is a slightly longer path than just this final seven weeks of training. This training program is an example of the kind of work you have to do to take your goals to the next level.
This training plan combines pace and heart rate targets. Key Ironman work- outs are structured around a qualifying time pace for the discipline (once you select your goal Ironman event, find the race splits of the most recent age-group winners). Other sessions will be heart rate-oriented, so you can let your heart rate dictate the pace for the day rather than trying to push for pace or time.
This particular plan is designed primarily for experienced triathletes between the ages of 25 and 55. Outside of this age bracket, training emphasis should be shifted to less overall volume and more recovery time. In the case of younger athletes, lower volume should be coupled with higher intensity.
As for ability, currently, your race performance and fitness should indicate that you are capable of finishing within an hour of the goal qualifying finish time. This would be on a steady day, not on an exceptional or “magical” day!
You should be healthy and willing to commit a fair bit of time and energy to prioritize your training. You must have had at least 16 weeks of consistent training under your belt. Over the past 12 weeks, you should have a minimum of four long runs of more than two hours (including one at 2.5–3 hours), and 4–5 long rides of more than 4.5 hours, including two at more than five hours. It is preferable that you have raced a minimum of once or twice during this period over an Olympic-distance or half- Ironman, and generally have a high level of triathlon fitness.
Qualifying for Kona is a big goal. Consider getting an experienced coach with a track record of excellence to help personalize and refine your individual program. Like an Olympian or professional athlete, it takes a deeper look at the finer details of your training environment, skills and goals to maximize your potential.
Swim abbreviations and notes
This program emphasizes six kinds of swims:
- Pace work: This swim focuses primarily on achieving your goal race pace. This is a great set for learning even pacing.
- Build threshold: Swimming done at faster than goal pace, but slower than sprinting.
- DPS: “Distance per stroke,” reducing the number of strokes per pool length (and your stroke count) means you are pulling more water and gliding more efficiently. This session is combined with an increased emphasis on drills. Stroke length is a key part of the formula for faster swimming.
- Aerobic power: Sustained sets of aerobic swimming, which build endurance at a moderate level of intensity while maintaining good form.
- Strength: Includes pull buoy (P) and pull with paddles (PPdl) swimming to build strength.
- TT: Time trials to build fitness, learn pacing and gauge progress.