Triathlon: Ironman Triathlon Training Plan - Beginner: 4.5 to 14.25 hrs/wk

Wow, I wish I could be an ironman—I mean, just finish the event. I’d be happy to step across that awesome line and receive a finisher’s medal around my neck. (Big sigh.) I’ve got too much going on in my life to think about an ironman distance event and I’m not good enough. I mean, those folks have a training schedule that looks like a part-time job, swim like speed boats, ride a bike at Mach 1 for 112 miles and then run an entire marathon looking like the Roadrunner dancing away from Wiley Coyote. There is no way I’ll ever have enough time or speed—even in my wildest dreams. Finishing an ironman distance event is out of my reach…

If the words above read as though they came from your personal thought-bubble, I disagree with you. There is a common misperception that in order to complete an ironman distance event, one must train 20 to 30 hours per week and average speeds that few athletes can accomplish. To comfortably complete an ironman distance event, 20 to 30 hours per week of training is simply not necessary. The average speed needed is not that of The Roadrunner. So, what does it take? For race day, if you estimate it is possible to swim 2.4 miles at a pace of 2’50” per 100 yards (2:00 swim time), ride 112 miles averaging 15.7 miles per hour (7:08 bike time), run or run/walk 26.2 miles at a 12’47” pace per mile (5:38 marathon time) and add about 30 minutes in for transitions, these times make it possible to finish an ironman race in 15:16. That gives you 1:44 of “reserve” time for unforeseen problems. Ironman is possible. This 16-week plan begins with Week 1 between 5:30 and 6:30 total training time. The long run begins at 1:00 and the long ride between 1:30 and 2:00. (See the plan preview.) The plan builds fitness so you swim 1:30, run about 3:00 and ride about 6:00 on the weekend of Week 12. The total training for Week 12 is between 13:15 and 14:15. Yes, that amount of training is enough. After Week 12, a few weeks of tapering volume has you rested and ready to go on race day.

Originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of “Triathlete” magazine

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