In 2016, Vision athlete Cameron Brown broke the Ironman New Zealand course record en route to winning an incredible 12th IMNZ title – and all this at 43 years old. To break that down, Brown swam 3.8km in 48:37mins, ticked off the 180km bike in 4:29:13 before consuming the marathon in a staggering 2:44:54. Those of you looking to take on your first iron-distance event in 2017 might not match those lofty heights but, with some training, gear and nutrition fundamentals, you can still be your household’s very own Cameron Brown…
While the professionals train up to 30hrs each week – with Vision athlete Terenzo Bozzone historically peaking at 40hrs – many age-group triathletes complete an Ironman on a weekly 8-12hrs of training. Broadly speaking, fit in two swim, bike and run sessions each week and, ideally, have a complete day off. This is good for mind and body.
And to start with, keep intensity of training at around 70-80% maximum heart rate. To finish an Ironman doesn’t require sprinting – you need to teach your muscles, organs and stomach to train for long periods of time. And you can only achieve this by swimming, biking and running at a reasonably low intensity.
Traditional pool swimming focuses on increasing the distance you glide through the water with each stroke. In open-water, however, that can lead to lost momentum. That’s why stroke rate in open water should typically be higher, with the elites achieving upwards of 80spm. Sessions that comprise short, fast repeats encourage a faster arm turnover, as does band work that isolates the arms.
As for down below, many coaches, including six-time Iroman Hawaii winner Mark Allen, suggest less kick is better than a frantic effort as it sucks up precious oxygen for little gain; instead, save that energy for the bike and run.
While there are some superb bikes and wheels on the market, including Ironman favorites like Vision’s Metron 55 wheels, don’t neglect how you sit on a bike. Placing your body into a bent-over position for 112 miles, steering yourself into angles that clearly aren’t mimicked in any facet of life, is a delicate balancing act. You’re after a streamlined shape to reduce drag but not so extreme that you can’t maintain power output. That’s where we’d recommend a professional bike fit. The qualified practitioner will ensure you’re correctly aligned and guide you into a position that balances optimum power output and aerodynamics.
“There’s a reason why Haile Gebrselassie was so fast,” top triathlon coach Brett Sutton once said. “He only weighed 55kg.” Losing a few pounds will come naturally once you achieve consistent training but throwing in the occasional fasted run, where you run for an hour on water alone at around 70% of your maximum heart rate, has been proven to increase the amount of fat you burn for energy.
When it comes to running, you should also: save your knees by running off-road as frequently as possible; improve your aerobic base by long bike rides rather than trying to run the marathon in training – again, this saves your joints and running a ‘training marathon’ detrimentally impacts subsequent training; and throw in a half-marathon race or two for a good workout and to invigorate your training.
Six-time Ironman Hawaii winner Dave Scott’s rinsing of cottage cheese is legendary, his unorthodox methods purportedly designed to reduce fat content. A myriad of nutrition products exist to fuel your personal best… it’s a nutritional quagmire out there. All you really need to know, however, is that for sessions over an hour, aim to consume around 60g per hour of carbohydrates. Achieve this via drinks (Vision’s Metron front hydration system is a good choice for delivery), gels and bars, albeit reserve bars for the bike where they’re easier to digest. Despite these portable packets of nutritional science, don’t forget ‘real food’. Bananas, cheese and ham sandwiches, rice cakes – they’re all popular for Ironman racing and training with bananas a particular favorite of Vision athlete Cameron Brown.
Grab some inspiration for your triathlon season with our guide to the World’s Craziest Triathlons.