So, how do you train for an Ironman?

Well, the short answer is, I don’t know, as I haven’t finished one yet but I won’t let that stop me sharing what I’ve been doing…..


I sort of started training (“sort of”, “started” and “training” all being contenders there for the operative word) for this event back in mid November. At the Olympic distance I felt I could comfortably not drown/not crash/not keel over, and after finishing the beautiful Monterey Half Marathon on the same day I started it my confidence was boosted that I could at least fake a continuous forward motion for a couple of hours. It was time to get a little more serious.

I looked around for a triathlon club but the nearest one involved a crappy commute every night after work so I took to the interwebs and found TriDot. In summary they provide an online coaching program that uses machine learning to adapt the training to your specific needs, which seemed far better than a generic approach that doesn’t take in to account your strengths/weaknesses or weaknesses/weaker weaknesses.

It started with a baseline assessment of my levels of swimming, biking and running and using their proprietary scoring algorithms out of 100 for each discipline I soared in to the double digits (when adding all three scores together).

The program generates these workouts for you to follow, takes the data from my Garmin watch, rates each session and then uses my data, along with the data from thousands of other athletes, to figure out what areas I need to work on. Here’s a sample of how a recent week looked:

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I vaguely remember the swimming lessons at the local pool some time in the 1970s, probably before the first (or do we now call it the third?) Star Wars movie came out. While the lessons remain vague, I have vivid memories of being reluctantly dragged there by my mother, and the hot soup from the vending machine afterwards. While learning to swim I really couldn’t be bothered with all that turning your head to breathe stuff, it seemed so tiring, so I’d just swim a length on one breath, breathe and repeat that every 25 meters. My swimming since the 70s has mainly consisted of being underwater in scuba gear with the occasional manly breaststroke, keeping my hair dry, while on vacation.

My technique proved to be spectacularly useless some 40 years later, so it was back to lessons, with a definite upgrade in available post-swim snacks at the Renaissance ClubSport  from 25p vending-machine soup. My form was pretty dire but in a few short weeks Coach Lara had (mostly) stopped laughing. This became a regular fixture during the week.

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Sadly, not too much of this….

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I initially figured that my biking was relatively ok but it quickly dawned on me that cruising down California, stopping at Starbucks when I felt like it and taking 8 hours to travel 80/90 miles was probably not going to cut it. Apparently the Ironman organizers haven’t caught up with the idea of a few relaxing coffee breaks along the way. “Ironman sponsored by Dunkin Donuts”…..mmmm…. I feel a suggestion-box letter coming on.

There were terms like ‘cadence’, ‘functional threshold power’ (FTP) and ‘aero’ that were completely foreign to me. “On bike nutrition” I kind of understood, but no, this was actually eating and drinking on the bike. I’d have to ride pretty steady for the plate and silverware not to slide off. This was going to be interesting.

I soon discovered things like riding at a higher cadence (pedal faster in a lower gear) was less exhausting than grinding away in too high of a gear, having a consistent power output was key to being able to ride non-stop 7+ hours etc. Fascinating stuff eh?

The biggest change in this area was the wonderful gift of a CycleOps Hammer indoor smart trainer and Zwift (the virtual cycling world that allows me to ride around the streets of London or a volcanic island). Since I live in an area with pretty dismal weather (wait, what???), ok scratch that, since I have a busy life it would have been very difficult to get out on the roads in the dark every night after work so hopping on my actual bike on a trainer that could simulate the road was truly a godsend! I would have been totally lost without it.

Zwift helps take away the boredom of just sitting there and pedaling and it also enabled me to program the workouts that TriDot was giving me for time/power etc.  I spent most of my time virtually riding around London but Zwift even featured snowy hills so I could imagine I was riding in Wales, sort of….

I did manage to get out on some actual rides on the Ironman Santa Rosa course with my former motorcycle racing pal Dave, and I am so glad that we did. I learned a few things:

  1.  The roads are truly shite and rough enough to shake my filings loose,  let alone eject water bottles from my bike. Thank you Velcro!
  2.   My gearing was way off and I was getting worn out from grinding up the hills while Dave spun away at a happy pace.
  3.  It’s a beautiful area, and the only reason I stopped was to take photos of the scenery, some of which I spoiled by appearing in them…..

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Ah yes, running. Since my last post this discipline has grown on me, slightly. I’ve actually enjoyed a few runs along our local canal trail system, blazing past old people and new mothers pushing buggies.

As you’ll tell from the brevity of this section, and in the words of my running hero, Forrest Gump – “That’s all I have to say about that”….


According to Strava, so far I’ve logged:

  • 35 miles in the pool (if add my inner-tubing in the lazy river at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Vegas this would be more like 400 miles)
  • 900 miles on the bike
  • 220 miles of running

We’ll see in a few days whether this was enough!

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