Taking the step up to Ironman? Unless you come from a strong running background, the chances are your biggest concern is going to be the 42.2km at the end of the day. But with smart and consistent training, solid nutrition and a realistic approach to pacing on race day, the marathon need not be an exercise in suffering and survival.
For a long-course triathlete, cycling is arguably the key discipline. It represents the biggest chunk of the race and has a huge impact on the run. Never neglect your cycling training and make sure you’re getting in those long rides. If you’re strong on the bike and can avoid the temptation to overcook it on race day, you’ll hit the run in better shape than a weaker cyclist. Time on the bike will also make you a stronger runner, and if you want to include some higher intensity work, doing it on the bike is far less likely to result in injury than faster paced runs.
Do enough swim training so you can cover the 3.8km swim in a reasonable time without it taking too much out of you. But, for time invested in training versus time gained on race day, the swim yields the poorest return by far.
You’ll read about long-course pros doing significant amounts of running speedwork, but for the majority of age-groupers it’s counterproductive and will lead to injury and unnecessary fatigue. Tempo (heart rate Zone 3) is as fast as you need go. The key run session is the long, steady distance with a chunk at race pace. You’ll be running with fatigue in your legs.
Training Zones Explained
Here we’re working with Joe Friel’s HR zones for the run, measured by your lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR). To do this, warm up properly before cycling at your hardest pace for 20mins while using a heart rate monitor. Your average heart rate for this period is your lactate threshold heart rate.
Zone 1 Less than 85% of LTHR
Zone 2 85% to 89% of LTHR
Zone 3 90% to 94% of LTHR
Zone 4 95% to 99% of LTHR
Zone 5 100% to 106% of LTHR
The Ironman run training plan
This plan includes the key running and brick workouts for the typical Olympic or half-Ironman triathlete who’s looking to advance to a full Ironman.
Don’t forget you’ll also need to fit in three bike sessions (with 10-15min runs off the bike when possible) and two-to-three swim sessions a week.
- 15 Ironman training sessions from the pros
- What is the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and why is it important for athletes?
Once you get to the bricks by week nine, you’ll only have the swims to slot in. You can also use this Ironman marathon run training plan to train for a standalone marathon.
(Image: Ben Winston)