Eight weeks to your first Ironman – get ready
Training > Long distance

Eight weeks to your first Ironman – get ready to go

First Ironman approaching and doubts over your readiness setting in? We’ll get you to the finish line…

If Dick and Rick Hoyt were on commission for inspiring wannabe Iron men and women, they’d be contenders for the Forbes’ rich list.

Countless YouTube videos – some with 3million views – are dedicated to telling the story of how the duo completed the 1989 Ironman in Hawaii with dad Dick towing, pushing and pedalling his son with cerebral palsy to a triumphant finish over the 226km course.

One such inspired soul was Keith Jackson, a 47-year-old journalist from Brighton of a negligible endurance sport background, but who was sparked into a two-year plan to tick Ironman Cairns off the bucket list this June.

“I hadn’t done a single race, didn’t have a bicycle and was an absolute non-swimmer,” Keith says. “I didn’t think I’d ever have a passion for triathlon, I just wanted to do Ironman because of the outrageousness of the challenge, at my age and in my physical condition with zero skills.”

But like so many budding first-timers, Keith’s path to Ironman hasn’t been smooth. And with those 24 months whittled down to eight weeks, one of the toughest mental and physical challenges of his life is now a fast-approaching reality.

So we asked Mike Porteous, head coach at Brighton Triathlon Club and founder of triathlon coaching business zigzagalive.com, to help troubleshoot Keith to the start line.

“The most important thing on race day will be how Keith feels,” explains Mike. “Going into a major event without a great deal of experience and only a few races behind him, the next few weeks need to be all about building confidence.”

If you’re in a similar position to Keith, follow Porteous’ sessions, top, and essential advice, right, to not only help you finish a full Ironman but to also enjoy the experience! 

Structure is key

Although time is short, it’s still worthwhile Keith structuring a plan for these last few weeks to fit in a big training block and practise essential skills before tapering down. 

Keith Jackson in run training

Open-water specifics

It might be a small proportion of Ironman, but if the swim goes badly it can ruin your day. Keith breathes to one side so we wouldn’t change that to bilateral at this stage, but there is time to learn to relax, find a rhythm and develop sighting techniques.

He’s fortunate to be on the south coast. Plus, Brighton Tri Club has grown from zero members to 200 in just two years with 16 qualified coaches. With over half of members new to triathlon, there’s an extra buzz. 

Practise fuelling

His long training rides and runs should be used to settle on race-day nutrition. There’s no accounting for people’s tastes and what works for them, but it’s important that Keith tries out his choice of electrolyte drink, energy bars and favourite pick-me-ups well before the big day.

Plan how much, how often and set a timer for when to take on more fuel. I’d also recommend researching the frequency of the aid stations on the course and what they’ll provide.

Gear guide

Keith hasn’t used tri-bars in his training, so now’s not the time to start, as it’d be difficult to get the bike set-up correct and could jeopardise his run.

He also shouldn’t be fazed when he arrives on site and sees the most hideously expensive tri bikes racked up.

Keith Jackson in bike training

Stick to your plan!

As race day looms Keith will feel the need to squeeze in just one more hard session, but he won’t increase fitness a fortnight out and will only risk depleting his body when he’s about to embark on a 33hr journey to the other side of the world.

He should finish every session feeling like he could do more and taking as much rest as needed. Then, once in Cairns, do little more than light spinning, jogging and stretching.

Make your space

On race day, Keith needs to make his own space, both physically and mentally. It’s all too easy to get caught up in others’ frenetic pace once you finally get going. 

Keith should rehearse setting out his kit, make a mental note for each transition entry and exit and where his kit will be, and once the swim is underway focus on his own rhythm, not those around him. 

Enjoy it

Finally, Keith should be clear about the objectives so whatever else happens he’ll come away from Australia saying: ‘I am an Ironman!’

(Images: Romilly Lockyer)

For lots more long-distance advice head to our Triathlon training section

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