Beginner to Ironman

Hi guys, I’m hoping a few of you and chip in and give me some advice. Four of us from work have had the bright idea of doing Ironman Wales, just finishing it is the goal as it’s a very tough course, and we’re all triathlon newbies.

We’ve pencilled in 2021 to do it, giving us just over 2 years prep, which I’m hoping will be adequate. I’ve been off the bike for over a year, my FTP has reverted to my untrained level of 160 at 80kg, but my previous FTP has been 250 from just doing SSB for about 6 months. My running sucks, I broke my leg skiing, and now whenever I run for over 3 miles my foot starts to go numb, so I’d have to race walk or run/walk the marathon. My swimming is also poor, I can swim 2k in about an hour.

My plan -
Year 1

  • Get my FTP to a more respectable level, somewhere over 250 should be easily manageable.
  • Get some swim coaching
  • Run a bit, combined with longer fast paced hikes.
    Do a couple of sprint tri’s, and the bike and swim leg of Ironman Wales on the long course weekend in June 2020.

Year 2
Traditional base X 2, SSB 1 and 2, Full distance triathlon (all mid volume).
Long hikes, concentrating on maintaining enough speed to do a marathon in a minimum of 6.5 hours.
Olympic distance or half iron Tri leading up to the main event.

Is this plan feasible? Could I improve it? Do you think it will take longer than 2 years training? Any thoughts and advice gratefully accepted. Cheers :+1:.

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Here is a good starting resource:

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It can be done in less than 2 years for sure. IM Wales is a tough one. Lots of fun though and you’ll always know you’re a proper Ironman when you complete it.

The key is consistency. You need to weave consistent weekly training and good habits into your lifestyle. You need to eat properly, all the time, you need to train a minimum of 8 - 10 hours a week, every week, all year. You need to think less pub - more gym and you need to get your family and wife on board as it takes up a LOT of time and they can get pissed off at you.

It’s easily doable though. Enjoy the journey. I always felt that the best bit was getting so fit that you can do 4 or 5 hour rides and then go for a run and it not being too onerous. It’ll change you forever. You’ll feel 10 years younger and enjoy life a lot more when you have a little bit of awesomeness on board.

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I took 18 months from the time I decided to do an IM to completing IM Austria this year. Loads of lessons learnt, in particular with swimming. Who knew it was technical?? :thinking: I would strongly recommend some lake\sea swimming once you feel your swimming is in a comfortable place; my first time in the lake last year was a real wake up call\eye opener! Good luck, stay consistent, and you will get there!

I like it. :+1:

Pretty much what I would recommend. You haven’t chosen plans for year 1, but a selection of ssb/spb and sprint/olympic should see you through. Start with Low Vol, see how that suits you.

Do you know why your leg goes numb on runs? I know you said you broke your leg but if that is something that is stopping you from running it is not exactly normal and is something I would want checked out before I began training for an Ironman? I would hate for it to get worse. I recommend getting checked by your doctor and/or physio to see if there is anything else that can be done for your leg. Even without the leg issues it is not a bad idea to get check out because Ironman training is no small endeavor and people die every year competing.

Once the medical side is sorted out this is what I would do.

Year 1

  • Train for and race Sprint and Olympic triathlons. Nothing like getting ready for a big triathlon like doing triathlons.
  • I would focus on swimming and running as these seem like your weaker areas.
  • If running isn’t an option you could try run/walk and see if there is a happy medium that gets you running as much as possible.
  • Work on your run form could also be helpful. I had a lot of issues with shin splints that completely resolved by improving my form and increasing my run cadence. Studies have shown that increasing cadence decreases running injuries.
  • A swim coach is a good idea. You could look into a triathlon coach instead. They should be able to help out with your run as well as the swim.
  • If you want you can ride the IM Wales course but I wouldn’t do it all in one day. Depending on where your fitness is this might take a lot out of you and the recovery time might be long.

Year 2

  • Working on base as much as possible is a good idea. Traditional base is a good option if you can handle the time commitment. Coach Chad has always said that unless you can do traditional base high volume it would be better to use that time in doing SSB.
  • That is also a long time to be doing a structure training program you might want to schedule a few buffer weeks for when life happens or you just need a break.
  • I would continue to do sprint/olympics and maybe a 70.3 or two to continue to hone and test your fitness.

Jrcoop - yeah that run thing is a major pain in the ass, I’ve seen various physios and orthopaedic docs, no concrete diagnosis. I’m seeing a physio at the moment, she’s given me some running form pointers, and told me my ankle mobility is poor in the affected foot, so least I’ve got something to work on. She’s also told me to generally get more mobile via yoga, and to strengthen the lower legs with various calf raises etc.

I think the biggest thing I can suggest is to race reguarly, 2 years is a long time. Try and sort something every couple of months even if its a local 5 or 10k or a small sprint. Have small regular goals to keep you motivated.

Regarding the swim: I went from being barely able to swim at all to being able to cover the IM distance comfortably in 2 years of group coached indoor swimming twice a week with an additional short outdoor swim during the summer months (so probably 2h:15m average per week over the year.) You’re starting from a stronger position and looking to get coaching so I think you will definitely ‘get round’ on raceday and could do a lot better than you might expect. As others have said, try to be consistent as much as you can and do shorter races as time/budget allows as they are great fun and build confidence.

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Thanks for all the feedback :+1:
I’d better get cracking and start training.

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I love your 2 year plan and wish more people trying to do a full IM would take the same approach instead of trying to do it in 1 year with no other races. Year 1 is going to be a lot of experimentation for you, especially on the run.

And because of this, I would really push the run/walk/hike distance in year 1 to really see what you’re capable of. I don’t think it’s necessarily the race that might get you but the training for it. Sure we run 42km on race day, but the months leading up to it we’re doing 50-70km a week. I would be curious to see if you can get up to that kind of volume.

You said you are working on running form, yoga, mobility, etc. That’s great and you might just need to experiment and see what works and how you can get the distance in. Even try different shoes. (stability, cushioned, zero-drop, barefoot???). Try high cadence around 180 steps/min and try low cadence.

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Only thing I’ll add (as someone who has a love/hate relationship with running). Initially I’d NOT push the run DISTANCE, I’d keep it short, and push frequency. It’s amazing what the body will adapt to with consistent repetition that doesn’t break you. Once you really build the run frequency (lets say no less than 3 times a week, even if short), then you can start building the distance - at that point you may be surprised what you can do.
Ironman is just another distance. There are longer (and shorter). Don’t get overawed by it and good luck.

2 years is plenty of time - I had a similar goal of doing an Ironman (from nothing - no cycling, swimming or running experience) - I was also 48 years old (I’m now 52), 120KG and have 5 kids to think about…). That was 5 years ago and have now done 6 full distance (including IM Wales last year) and am doing IM Wales again in a month…

Have simply followed the Trainerroad Full Distance plans. Your plan looks good - I’ve done Full Distance Plans each year. Not sure how old you are or how much time, but as a beginner my advice would be not to worry too much about doing the mid volume plans - use the low volume plans and then add any extra rides if you can (friday is a good day for that).


Muttley I’m 43, 2 kids, working shifts, so plenty of time to train when kiddos are in school.

And really inspiring to hear your achievements :+1: