Can I still make it in the amateur 70.3/ironman world

Hey guys, I’m new here, and very new to cycling as well. I recently bought my first bike and a wahoo kickr and started training on Zwift (no road experience as of yet). I guess what i’m wondering is, is there likely still a chance at 29 years old (nearly 30), that I can still reach near to my potential as a cycling/triathlon athlete?

I’m a reasonably gifted running/aerobic athlete off the couch, but I’ve never really done any consistent training throughout my life. I ran to a high level in primary school/high school on 0 training, and as an adult can still run pretty well. After a month of training on zwift my ftp is approx 275 (72kg), and I feel like i’m getting good beginner gains and good transfer of my baseline fitness into cycling. At the moment I lack endurance (i’ve never run over 12-13k or ridden over 75k in my life), but am doing a lot of low HR work on zwift in zone 2 trying to build a decent aerobic base. I’ve wasted a lot of my 20’s partying and doing the opposite of healthy activities, and want to have a good crack at realising some form of my athletic potential before It’s too late. Is it possible for me to still make it to a high level as an age grouper? How long does it generally take to go from off the couch gym/occasional run guy to 70.3/ironman ready? 1-2 years? I know these questions are vague and difficult to answer but I guess i’m just looking to hear from people in similar situations that have started late in life in this game and done well. Thank you!

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You could probably complete one within the required cutoff next week (if you can swim a bit).
Being competitive is another this altogether.

Can you swim?
What is your run background? Times etc.
You sound like you are already becoming a decent Indoors biker which you can transfer outdoors quite easily.

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You can absolutely become a solid triathlete, no questions there. Sounds like you generally know how to run and are making good gains on the bike. Learn to swim and be consistent and sky is the limit. FWIW I went from my first sprint tri to 70.3 qualifier in 4 years, with little endurance background. I was recently on the successful athletes podcast talking about the transition from MTB DH racing to long distance triathlon.

What is your ambition? Finishing an event? Easily done! AG top 20? Might take some time, but achievable. WC qualifier? Unless you’re near pro level it might require carefully picking your race, but it is surely not off the table!

I’d recommend to honestly assess your starting point and think deeply about your short, mid and long term goals. Pay attention to your weaknesses, as these might offer the biggest return on training time and build your strength for confidence and the fun of it. If you’ve never swum properly, take lessons. And most importantly join the forum Ironman Training Thread and ask as many questions as you like, there are many fast and experienced triathletes around here.


Google Lionel Sanders, dude basically dropped out of university with an alcohol and drug addiction, then quit partying in his 20s and within a couple of years was a top pro triathlete!

If you’re a good enough swimmer to survive the swim (and wetsuit helps in this enormously) then with a running background and a ~275W FTP you’ve already got the fitness to not just complete a 70.3 but likely do so in a respectable time. If you can run 12-13k then you can run-walk 21km even after a bike. You’ll have some blisters, some aching muscles and maybe some cramps but you’d get through it. IM takes a bit more, it’s not usually aerobic fitness that’s the limiter so much as your body’s resilience. If you can ride 75km then you probably have the aerobic fitness and endurance in your legs to keep turning the pedals for 180km, but could well find that your back, neck, shoulders, knees, etc might have other ideas!

With some swim training and some long rides/runs you can be ready for an Ironman pretty much whenever they start having them again. After that it’s just a question of how competitive you want to get! Seems like you have the background and genetics to get towards the pointy end of the field fairly quickly if you put the work in. Would recommend though that you get yourself onto a TR plan and start training by power rather than “low HR work” sooner rather than later.


IF you can swim, or can pickup swimming quickly… 1 to 2 years of CONSISTENT training is more than enough for a good finish. Maybe not enough to worlds, but a strong finish non the less. They key will consistency… as long as you have that…you can do anything!


I’m a new beginner triathlete myself, and doing some of the same early steps you are taking now.

Check out the thread I created and read some of the advice there.

From what I hear, the best option is to start in the shorter distances and build from there. I’m training for an olympic in March, just to give a point of reference.

As others have said, consistent training and having a plan make all the difference in the world.

Good luck

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Problems you have to get to the world champs is you are entering probably the next 10-15 years of the most competitive age ranges. If you had a few years @ 25-30 it would be a little easier.

Im not being flippant when I say this, but good runners are 10 a penny, good bikers are also very common - Its swim technique and time that will help and then putting it all together.

Then there is injuries and consistency of training to deal with - But, yeah its definitely possible, I have friends who qualified for Kona in their first Ironman or qualified for the 70.3 champs in S.Africa last year in their 3 or 4th 70.3.

Good swim, suitable course and bit of bad luck for other people in your age group and you stand a chance.


I think it takes years. Maybe at minimum 3 years. Top pros seem to peak about 10 years into their career. I raced when I was in my 20s and I got better each and every year over 5 years. And then I fizzled out because of lack of motivation.

My advice is to just do it. As a master’s athlete (you’ll be one soon enough), we all train because we enjoy the process.

If you want to fast track it and get as fit as you can as fast as you can, then get a good coach who can keep pointing you in the right direction. You can spend hundreds of hours learning how to self coach yourself. DIY, you can easily do training that is unproductive or doesn’t advance fitness. It’s easy to spin your wheels and not progress.

If you are a genetic freak, you’ll go from cat 5 to cat 1 in short order like Phil Gaimon. Or, you’ll get to cat 3 or cat 2 and figure out that this is really hard and the jump from cat 2 to cat 1 is monumental.


I started triathlon with no background in swim or bike or run at the same age–started training in October as a 29 year old and started my first season in the spring as a 30 year old. I went up to an Olympic distance my first year, but then went up to 70.3 in my second season. This year would have been my 9th season, but you know…2020…and I had planned to do my first Ironman next year for my 10th season, but that will probably get pushed out since I was really wanting to do Ironman Canada in Penticton as my first since seeing it live while vacationing in the Okanagan laid the initial seed of interest for triathlon before I got into triathlon, but with it getting cancelled and most people deferring to next year I imagine there still won’t be slots available. I’ve managed to make it to ITU Sprint Worlds in Chicago in 2015, ITU Long Course Worlds in Penticton in 2017 (my longest race thus far at 3K/120K/30K) and 70.3 Worlds in Nice in 2019, but it really depends on the races you go to and the competition for how easy/difficult it will be to qualify for a worlds spot, if that’s something you’re interested in, or for how competitive/high level you’ll be. I enjoy the challenge of trying to top my times from previous years more than anything really, especially as I continue to get older and I’m now knocking on the 40’s door. :joy: Winning races/AG titles/qualifying for Worlds is still nice too of course… :grinning:

I think you can absolutely be ready for a 70.3 in your first season if you’re already training now and stay focused. 70.3’s have a lot more room for error in terms of nailing nutrition and pacing where Ironman is a whole other can of worms (see the aforementioned Lionel Sanders for a good example of this) and will take more preparation if you want to do well on your first crack at it vs. just finishing (I haven’t done one partially because I don’t want to “just finish” and want to actually do well at it, but everyone is different!).

ETA: Finding a 70.3 to do even in 2021 could be a challenge at this point depending on how this crazy pandemic plays out, but if triathlon is something you’re really interested in pursuing just keep using this down period to train and keep consistent with your training until things start opening up again and you’ll be ready to crush it!


It is impossible to estimate how long it would take you to qualify for 70.3 Worlds…it is extremely individual. I have known guys that took a few years (including myself) and others who have qualified for Kona on their first crack at it.

As noted, you will be in a competitive age group, but the fact that you have a running background will help you significantly and your FTP is already very good (especially for tri’s). Your position will also be a big determinant of your bike leg.

Plenty of people go form couch to full IM for their first tri, but I don’t think that is smart. But couch to “participatory” 70.3 is easily done. Getting to competitive will take a little more focus and work, but still very achievable.

If you could give us some of your running times, that would help be able to assess you chances.


I’m not a triathlete (though I have raced triathlon in the past) - but I have a slightly different point of view on this. Are you sufficiently curious about what you might achieve that you’re prepared to invest a chunk of time and see how you get on? Only you can determine that. Are you motivated and excited by the training process? How will you feel if you give it everything you have and finish a couple of races mid-pack? ( I mean that last question honestly - there isn’t a right or wrong answer to it, but you have to ask yourself to understand where your motivation truly lies)


Wow that’s awesome to hear you’ve managed to achieve that. If I was to be perfectly honest about what I wanted to achieve (as far fetched as it may be), It would be to qualify for the 70.3 worlds in 2022 in New Zealand, with another dream being to qualify as an age grouper at Kona further down the track. I know those guys are crazy fast but that would be the long term goal for me beyond the obvious ones of actually finishing those distances (which would be an achievement in itself from where I currently am). When you say 70.3 qualifier, what does that mean, does that mean World champs qualifier?

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Lol Did he really? Wow that gives me a lot of hope. Like you say, I think a lot of it is resilience, but I have no doubts if I went out and tried to run 20km today even at an easy pace I would get all sorts of cramping problems after 15k or so, but I realise this is just a matter of increasing volume over time. The bike endurance I feel like is coming easier for me so far, and I think thats due to the lower impact of that exercise compared to running. I still do start to get some big cardiac drift after 1:30 or more on the bike even if i’ve been riding at an easy pace, but again I think that’s just a result of being relatively untrained at this stage. What would be a good TR plan for a newbie like me to build up some endurance/aerobic fitness?

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Thanks for pointing me towards this mate much appreciated.

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Yeah I think you’re right. I think as a 30 year old time is of the essence If I want to achieve anywhere near the ability I could have in my early 20’s over the next couple of years. I think a coach may definitely be in order once I get past the initial stage. Thank you!

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Wow sounds like you’ve done very well mate! I think you’re right about the motivation to beat your own times being key. There’s no telling whether I’ll ever be good enough to qualify for worlds, so that better not be the only thing capable of motivating me lol. The training and the person you become through training I think is the best thing for me, and I’ll always enjoy that no matter how far I get I think.


My most recent run times are a 17:45 min 5k, I’ve run a 10 in 39 as well, but like I said I’ve never raced over any further than that, and highly doubt that fitness could translate beyond 10k at all as things currently stand. I wouldn’t have a hope in hell of finishing a half marathon in a decent time right now, I highly doubt I would make the distance to be honest. I was an 800/1500/3k runner in high school, but have never done any consistent training in my life, and am yet to find out whether this ability would carry over into endurance events. I also swam a little bit through primary and high school, and can swim, but I wouldn’t think I would be far above average as an adult in terms of swimming.

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Based on these run times and swim/run background you’re going to be in great shape for good results if you just stick with consistent training and building up your base. When you say swam in school does that mean on a swim team or just like swimming lessons as to learn not to drown? :joy: If it’s the former that’s going to be a HUGE advantage going forward and will actually put you ahead of the game of a lot of triathletes who didn’t grow up swimming competitively (like me).

2022 Worlds in NZ is a good goal, but at the same time is going to be a little harder to achieve than it normally would be because the 2020 qualifiers had the opportunity to defer to that race after it was cancelled there this year. Some will have transferred to St. George in 2021 and not all the slots were likely filled yet, but there will be a reduced amount. Just something to keep in mind. :wink:


Yeah, you should be OK. The run is the most critical element, IMO, and you have some speed.

BUT, this isn’t a guarantee. You have the potential…but as a poster naive noted, you’re gonna have to decide if you want it. Qualifying isn’t something that is easy to do…but with your wattage and run ability, it is definitely within your grasp.

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Lol when I say swim, I was a good swimmer as a youngster, competed at a high level but was very young, we’re talking 10-12 years old. I’m not sure that means anything now! So is the worlds held once every year or once every 2 years? Sounds like it’s going to be tough to get in for 2022… maybe 2023 is more realistic. I better get training. Thanks for the info, much appreciated!

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