Iron Woman Tsheli

The Ultimate Tri Challenge


Five weeks of training done. Five to go! How are you feeling? Strong and relaxed? You should be! The next four weeks is when you need to FOCUS on your training. Rest and recovery is as important as training. Focus on the weekend training – these are the key sessions – rest or go very easy on Fridays to ensure you can do the weekend training without strain!

During this KEY training period I hope that you have found a group of athletes with similar ability to train with. Training will be hard but should be fun with like-minded athletes, whereas chasing some lean, mean racing ‘snakes’ on the weekend is not fun!

Your frame of mind is very important during this phase of hard training. Keep this in mind to stay motivated: it is a fantastic feeling when the race announcer shouts out ‘YOU ARE AN IRONMAN’ as you cross the finish line in PE before 12 midnight on 10 April! This is reinforced by the presence of the Ironman Champion of the day being present at the finish to hand the last athlete who crosses the line his or her medal. This does not happen in Comrades or any other major marathon. No matter what your finish time, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Hours and hours have been dedicated to training just to get you to the start of the race! And everybody respects that commitment – ask anyone who has finished their first IM! Use this as motivation when the training gets tough and you will get through it.

The training plan for the KEY five weeks ahead is as follows:

Your pool sessions should be 2.5 to 3km and should include some longer intervals. One open water swim per week of 3km is essential.
• Work on your technique.
• Get used to swimming close to other swimmers and try to find a pace that is relaxed, which you can comfortably maintain.
• Always do this session with other swimmers.

The bike rides increase in distance and a good part of each long ride should be done without drafting. It is very important to get used to this aspect of the bike leg – 180km riding on your own without drafting is a long way!
• By now you should have got your nutrition right in terms of what food/drinks/energy bars and gels you want to use on race day. Ironman is a long day out and it is impossible to get through the day without proper nutrition. The bike leg takes up about 50% of your race time and it is therefore during the bike leg that you need to take in the major part of the days’ energy requirements.

The weekend runs will be between 24km and 28km
• Do these at a slow steady pace.
• One of the major issues with the Ironman marathon is that the pace at which most athletes run/jog/walk the marathon is much slower than what they do in training. Often the body finds it difficult to adapt to this during the event. It might sound strange, but I recommend that all Ironman training include some very slow running to get used to this!
• The weekday runs will include some faster running.

Brick training (bike to run) will continue, but make sure you keep the runs quite short, especially after the long bikes.
• These brick runs are just to get your legs accustomed to the change from biking to running.
• There is no real benefit for the average Ironman competitor to do longer brick runs, as the risk of injury or overtraining is high.

We continue to use the same basic plan as for all triathlon training: the aim is to do a minimum of two sessions each week of each sport, with a maximum of three sessions. We will also do something a little different in that this five-week plan will include a ‘running block’ and a ‘bike block’. This is where we will run consecutively for a few days and cut down on the bike training for one week, and do the reverse the following week. The ‘bike block’ will be over the March public holiday. The training taper will start on 1 April for 10 days.

Click here for the training programme.

Look out for my article in next month’s edition which will give you some final advice for RACE DAY!


Modern Athlete Expert
Derick has 41 years’ experience as a runner, cyclist and triathlete. He is the current 2010 SA Triathlon Champ in the Olympic distance for the age group 55-59 years.