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10 Tips for Your First Full Ironman Race by Coach Noy Basa


An IRONMAN can either make you love the sport of triathlon even more, or be the last endurance event you’ll ever do. If you do most things right—from the day you register all the way to gun start, it can be one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life. If you’re doing it for the first time, here are 10 key points to consider on your journey to that finish line with your head up high and arms raised in glory, after the gruelling 3.8km swim, 180km bike, and 42km run—regardless of the outcome.


  1. Begin early. The sooner you start, the better. Avoid zeroing out on being active just because it’s the holidays. Just getting out, even with no structured training, keeps you from the needless weight gain. It helps you maintain your rhythm and avoid falling into a long training slump—the longer the slump, the harder it becomes to get your rhythm back. Celebrations may keep you from training for a few days but limiting your inactivity to not more than a week makes it easier for you to get back on track.


  1. Get your circle. Tell your loved ones and co-workers about what you’re getting into, why you are doing it, and how it’s going to be for the months to come. Letting your friends know that you’re going to be one of the most boring titos in town when you need to be in bed by 9 P.M. on a Friday night to get up at 4am the next day for a morning ride will make them understand that “It’s not them, it’s you”. Having a heart-to-heart talk with your partner and kids will help them understand why you’re falling asleep on your movie dates and why you’re gone and out of reach on weekend mornings. Talking to your boss and officemates will help them understand what you’re up to outside work, and whenever needed, see how you can make reasonable adjustments given your packed schedule. Getting them in the loop may even earn you new-found respect, and inspire them to start getting fitter themselves.


  1. Volume is the friend you shouldn’t avoid. If you’ve only recently gotten into triathlon and haven’t really logged more than 10 hours of training per week, it’s time to bump it up to the neighborhood of at least 13 to 15 hours. It’s a long race, and you’ve got to work on your long game. Those who say that “intensity over volume” works already have lots of mileage under their belt to speak of. Consider volume as step 1, and intensity as step 2 towards triathlon success. Doing long and steady mileage for swims, rides and runs sets up a solid foundation of fitness and musculoskeletal endurance and strength, lowering the risk of injury. The consistent 4-5 hour weekend rides will surely pay dividends on race day.


  1. Consistency is key. Regarded by some as the most important element of athletic success, consistent compliance to a prescribed training plan will lock in the most improvement in performance provided that the plan is a best fit for you. A training plan that suits your life circumstances, fitness level, and performance goals with the right mix of intensity and volume at the right time will more likely be followed versus another that is poorly designed for you.


  1. Practice and Simulate. Accept that you can never perfectly predict race conditions, and that there will be many things out of your control come race day. However, know that what you can control is how well you prepare for whatever the race may throw at you. Unfamiliar conditions and areas you perceive as your weaknesses are must-do’s in training. Are you expecting a choppy swim? Time to work on strength and higher stroke, turnover, and getting in a few more ocean swims before the race. Dreading steep climbs? Time to hit the mountains and deal with those ascents. Still don’t know how to fix a flat confidently? Well, it’s time to practice that too.


  1. Eat enough and healthy. A moderate 45-minute swim can burn about 400 calories. A 5-hour ride can burn at least 2,500. You’ll be doing both, and everything in between. Fuelling well and adequate daily nutrition is critical. If your body as an athlete-in-training were a car, imagine that it’s a Ferrari. Much as a Ferrari can function on low-grade fuel, you wouldn’t want it to run on that. Your IRONMAN-in-training body needs nutrient-dense food in the proper amounts at the right time in your daily diet—veggies, fruits, fresh meats, and healthy oils and carbohydrates that provide the essential nutrients and micronutrients to perform at the levels of exertion you will be putting in while keeping you healthier throughout your training.


  1. Train your tummy. While you train your swim, bike, and run, remember to train the fourth discipline as well—race nutrition. Training your tummy and GI (glycemic index) system to deal with the calories, electrolytes and fluids needed to fuel you on race day is a process in itself. Many have learned the hard way wasting away minutes in portalets instead of racing them in on the course.


  1. Fast is slow, slow is fast. In IRONMAN training, most of your workouts will be within that “easy”, or dare I say, “conversational” zone even. Building your aerobic engine will trump focusing on peak power for the most part, since most of the race will also be done at an aerobic effort. So find a training buddy that runs the same pace as you, and maybe you can even learn about the latest “chismis” on your next long run.


  1. Catch your Z’s. Getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep daily ensures some solid recovery and enables you not just to do your workouts consistently, but to also to do them well. Not sure how much sleep you’ve been getting lately? Technology can help. There are many mobile apps that measure both the duration and quality of your sleep while being able to gradually wake you up calmly within your needed waking time instead of jarring you into existence for the day. We personally like Sleep Cycle, but see what may work similarly for you.


  1. “This one’s for me.” Sure, it’s easy to get sucked in because your training buddies are doing it and it’s definitely much more fun training and racing with your friends. But this shouldn’t be the ONLY reason why you’re doing an IRONMAN. What happens when their schedules vary from yours, or if they get busy and decide to cancel out altogether? The reality is that triathlon is an individual sport. Be clear on the reasons behind why YOU are taking this IRONMAN journey. Keeping these reasons close to heart and top of mind will help get you out of bed for that difficult training session ahead of you, running under the Philippine heat, and biking despite the rain.

ITA Coaches Al Gonzales, Noy Basa and Paolo Leaño.

  1. Noy Basa is the co-founder and head coach of Inside Track Athletics (ITA) – Streamline Sports Instruction (www.insidetrackathletics.com). It is an integrated coaching system for age-grouper swimmers, runners, and multi-sport athletes. Developed by its founding coaches, Noy Basa, Al Gonzales, and Paolo Leaño, ITA brings to the forefront a coaching system not borne by the experience of one, but strengthened by the expertise of many. Their complementary coaching styles and backgrounds allow them to develop seasonal and race specific programs for individuals, training groups and multi-sport teams.

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