Tame your first Ironman: Pt 3

And the final part of our Ironman prep series looks at goals, life balance and selecting the optimum event



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The first time you went for a ride or a run, you started training for the race. But don’t think about the Ironman from day one. This will only wear you down; by the time you get to race day, you’ll be sick to death of it. Instead, have micro goals all the way through.

The discipline in which you’ll need to gain the most endurance is the bike. If you’re tired when you dismount the bike, then it doesn’t matter how well you can run, as you’ll definitely be walking. So building up your cycling starts first. One fun way to do this could be to do a sportive. It’s not Ironman-specific but it’ll help to build bike strength.

The going really gets tough in an Ironman when you’re running. Running a marathon can give you a taste of what this will be like; try to find one about four months before race day. Although there are many options, the key here is to break your build-up into smaller sections, each preparing you mentally and physically for the final training phase.


All other things that take up time and energy affect your ability to train. Efficiently managing all your life variables can make a huge difference to the training load you can handle. You’ll need to gain clearance from your significant other and kids (if applicable), and you’ll also need as much support from friends as possible.

Anything you can do to reduce load in other areas of your life in the final 12 weeks of your programme will help. Everyone’s personal circumstances are different. Think of your own and whether there’s anything you can do to reduce load. If the people around you understand when and why you will be a little low on energy, then life tends to run a little more smoothly.


The quality of your Ironman performance will be defined by the quality of your build-up. When choosing from the many races available, don’t make it too hard for yourself. Remember that timing is everything. For example, Ironman Lanzarote is great but, being in mid-May, it means that the bulk of your Ironman-specific training will have to be completed during the winter.

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Image: James Mitchell/Ironman UK