Entered Ironman? Here's some simple tips for your cycle training...
1. You need to reach a point where you ride over 100 miles on a regular basis. On race day you will have to ride 112 miles and have enough energy left to run a full marathon. Anyone who tells you that 80 miles will be far enough in training is most likely trying to make themselves feel better because they don't want to ride further than 80 miles either. If 80 is your longest ride, on Ironman day you will still have at least 2 hours of extra riding to go in uncharted territory, to complete the full 112 and then you'll have to run a marathon. Does that sound like adequate preparation to you? It's more than physical, it's about being mentally prepared to be on the bike for the length of time. If your initial thoughts are 'that's a long way and I don't need to be riding that far' ... Just check the website and take a look at the distances of the event you've just entered. It doesn't matter what your ability is... If you're a novice and weak cyclist, they're not going to shorten the course for you on race day, so take it on board.
2. If you're struggling to complete rides of 100 miles, it's because you are riding too hard. The answer to this problem is simple: If you normally ride at 16mph, then slow down to 13/14mph if you have to, but complete the distance. Don't try to justify riding only 60 miles by saying "but I rode it hard". Slow down (ride on your own if you have to) and spend 7-8 hours on your bike, so you're mentally and physically ready for race day. Whilst this is such a simple thing to understand, it's incredible how many people can't take this on board. Your main objective for the LONG RIDE is to RIDE LONG... the clue is in the title. It's not called a HARD RIDE... so slow down and cover as much time and distance as you can.
3. Don't slip into slow plodding by becoming overly focused on distance and endurance. This is one of the most common errors people make - "Ironman is a long race, so it's all about the miles". The above point regarding slowing down to cover the distance is very important, but other rides during the week should be shorter and higher intensity. If you only ride long and slow, you will become slow and your 'slow' will become hard. Don't get drawn into coffee shop riding all the time and convince yourself that you're training well.
4. Ride at a constant intensity and learn how to do it now. The biggest mistake you can make is to attack the hills and then recover on the down hill and flat sections. Large fluctuations in your heart rate burn a lot of fuel and you'll suffer later in the race. Slow down on the hills and hold a similar heart rate for flat sections. You'll need to learn it in advance, it's not as easy as it sounds and needs a lot of practice. You can use heart rate monitors and power meters to help maintain a constant intensity or you could be radical, listen to your breathing and use your brain... If it feels too hard, it probably is.
5. Stop blaming nutrition, it's your fitness and your pacing which is to blame. I get tired of people who struggle to ride 100 miles and struggle in Ironman, pointing the finger of blame at nutrition. "If only I'd nailed my nutrition" or "I got my nutrition completely wrong". It's really important to understand that NUTRITION IS NOT A MAGIC WAND. If you struggle and you're forced to slow down, you've gone too hard and your fitness level is not capable of maintaining that pace, it's not your nutrition and nothing you eat will lead to a miraculous recovery in pace. You need to understand that fact NOW or you'll do the same again and then scratch your head wondering why your nutrition didn't work. Your fitness and pacing are 90% responsible for your performance and nutrition is responsible for the other 10%. It's the nutrition companies job to make you think those stats are the other way round.
6. Ride on your own and be specific in the final phase. A lot of people are at the stage of riding 80-100 miles with a group and generally with a cafe stop. Whilst there's nothing wrong with that approach initially, you are going to have to get more specific in the final 8 weeks. Get used to riding long, get over the 100 barrier a few times, then switch to specific in the final 8 weeks, using your TT position etc. Your back might be a bit sore after a few hours in the TT position, so find out before race day.
7. Don't leave it late to start riding long. Most people start Ironman training way too late and then they find themselves having to build up their cycling over the last 10 weeks, whilst simultaneously trying to train for a marathon... something has got to give. Get some work in the bag now, so you can switch to run focus and feel confident about your cycling, rather than stressing.
8. If it's icy, don't even go out of the door. Go and do a high intensity interval session on the turbo. One simple fall can break your wrist or collar bone and it's pretty much game over in terms of training for a couple of months.
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