For those first timers out there Ironman is an inviting challenge to take up - there are many traps for new players however so make sure you plan well and set appropriate goals early.
First step is make the goal more than doing a certain time or beating another person. Finishing the event should probably be your number one goal and there are few people who I would recommend having a more difficult main goal and stick to it!
Expand and flesh out your goal, be a bit more specific about what you want to achieve. When you get 75% through the event and it's starting to hurt you'd better have a good reason for finishing, for completing the job and staying focused on task. Also make sure you know why you are doing it. Have a good reason for taking up the challenge.
Make one of your goals to enjoy the PROCESS. If you have not already, visit the Breath4CF website (www.breath4cf.co.nz) and read Tracey's training dairy, it's a real example of embracing the process on the way to Ironman. Tracey is an example of how to get your moneys worth, and I don't mean that because it took her 15hr and 46min!
Another thing to remember is to stick to your original goal and don't get sucked into meeting other people's expectations. As you start training, uninformed people will start to ask you what sort of time you will do and if you can beat some other person. Don't go there... it's way cool just to finish your first Ironman. I think that's one of the beauty's of Ironman, everyone is a winner. A friend of mine doing his first Ironman put the added pressure of breaking 10 hours in his FIRST attempt, he ended up walking a fair bit of the run. After the race he needed a good dose of reality - Dude you FINISHED Ironman!
Goals for First Timers at Ironman
1) Finish (that's huge in itself)
2) Enjoying getting fitter and becoming an 'Athlete'
3) Enjoy the process of preparing for Ironman
4) Work on becoming more efficient in each sport (Technique!)
5) Work on becoming fitter and more robust
Some examples of good reasons for taking up the challenge include:
1) Daring to chase your dreams
2) To find out what you are capable of physically and mentally
3) To learn the power of commitment and determination
4) Doing something for your personal satisfaction
5) Becoming a role model for your family and/or Friends
6) Learning about the process of reaching difficult long term goals
7) Striving to achieve something personally difficult & challenging
Make it something that really pushes your buttons, you'll find it comes back to help you on race day and helps get out the door on those really tough times training too!
Deal with the mirage of other competitors
You cannot control how fast anyone else races. Don't go there. If you want to beat someone else the most important thing to do is focus on your own training and your own race on the day. That will give you YOUR best time and ultimately the greatest chance to beat someone else. In Ironman someone can be 20min ahead at 25k in the run and fall over. There were heaps of people who finished the bike ahead of me at this years Ironman New Zealand who I didn't pass because they DNF.
Develop appropriate, logical mid term goals
You need to bust the goal up into mid term goals that step progressively towards your big goal event. Without an appropriate set of mid term goals you are likely to over train, train hard at the wrong time, and ultimately miss the window of opportunity for the event. It is well known that 6 weeks working on an area is enough to see good improvements, especially if you are just starting out. It's also well known that if you go too many weeks focused on something without a break, there is risk of going stale or losing sight of your goal. I find 10-12 weeks to be ideal, especially if you are new to the game. This is one of the reasons that the Taupo (approx 12 weeks out) and Tauranga (approx 8 weeks out) 1/2 Ironman events are so well placed for Ironman New Zealand. The harder bit is what to do before summer. I recommend that you work with a coach and set some intermediary goals as these will form the basis for your approach.
As a general rule our coaching group at Endurancecoach.com use the following:
6 months out - either a 2hour run or a 4hour bike ride, Swimming 1km / 0.6 miles with ease. Can include a 1/2 Marathon, Swim Skill focus for the non swimmers or a long bike ride
4 months out - 2 hour run, 4 hour bike ride, 2km / 1.2 mile Swim. Can include a 1/2 Ironman but the 2hr/4hr run/bike rule is more important. From my experience more people have problems if they have done a 1/2 Ironman but not met the 2hr/4hr rule, than those who skip doing a 1/2 Ironman.
6 weeks out - 3 hour run, 6 hour bike ride, comfortable swimming 3km / 1.8 miles
4 weeks out - Bike/Run half distance TT, another 6 hour bike ride.
The best investment you can make in your Ironman experience is getting a good coach. I cannot emphasis enough how much a professional knowledgeable experienced coach can make to your Ironman experience, seriously consider this if you're thinking of giving Ironman a go. Compared to the total cost of doing Ironman money spent here is peanuts.
Group Training Essential
At EnduranceCoach.com have also found that utilizing a group approach at key times is also of great value. Our two training camps before Ironman NZ were very effective this year and are timed to meet our 6 week and 4 week pre race goals. Our participants found it very easy to get the sessions done. Indeed generally the biggest challenge was getting people to hold back enough, which we managed this year.
Socially the 'boot camps' were also great. Shared common goals and experience, athletes learning from athletes, and direct coach input. Plus it was a lot of fun! If you are going to train for Ironman, you need something like this, so it's either attend an appropriate 'boot camp' or manufacture your own with other Ironman athletes or roping in some training buddies for the key sessions, runners, and or cyclist you know are valuable for this!
Don't ignore or underestimate the value of support from friends and family (used loosely in this context). Work colleagues may also bear the brunt of increased workloads, while you embark on this quest - make sure you consider this. It's the time that's committed which is the issue, especially in the final 2 months. Once you have developed your goals, check that they are compatible with your realistic available time (travelling to the race venue for training and entering other events along the way, up to 20 or 25 hours per week PLUS down time because you are shagged). You should do a time and financial budget. If it's not compatible, revisit your goals or you need to find a way to increase the available resource (time or finance). Thinking about this now and sorting it before you ramp up the training is a very effective way to improve your final outcome! Include strategies to ensure stability in other areas of your life - business, relationships, and get buy in from your key support people around you.
Right then who among you dares to chase their dreams?