Tag Archives: novice

Tips for your first Ironman

1 Mar

A little while ago, I posted a question on social media asking for some tips. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of responses. I thought it might be helpful to categorise them and share them with you…

What is the one thing you wish you had known when training for your first Ironman?



  • Get a good coach.
  • Fink is a plan NOT gospel. Move it around, play with it and get it to suit you from one day to the next.
  • I wish I’d had a coach for the first one. Fewer hours training, better sets, and less weight lost. An hour better and healthier afterwards. Fink nearly killed me!
  • Fink was just too many hours and junk miles. If you don’t want to lay out for a coach, join a club. Loads of experience and the head coach will probably write you a plan free of charge.

Brick sessions

Brick wall

Photo by Kristina Kashtanova on Unsplash

  • You can never do too much brick training.
  • Long rides followed by long runs.
  • Long rides followed by runs off the bike.
  • Bike to run sessions.
  • More bike to run.
  • I was told a training split of 50% bike, 35% run and 15% swim.
  • Jumping rope. Skipping. Whatever you call it, strengthens the feet and makes those Achilles ultra stretchy.
  • Train alone. You wouldn’t do 112 miles in a group in an Ironman, so why go on club rides when training? Running the same – do all long runs alone at your pace, not somebody else’s.


  • Mental strength!
  • Consistency.
  • Patience. Both in training and on the day.
  • Be humble.
  • Have an attitude of gratitude.
  • You are not alone. Ask for help and you will get it. Everyone is scared during the journey and on the start line.
  • Work on your weakness and work across all your training zones.
  • Plan around kids’ school holiday and don’t book a race at the end of the summer holidays.
  • Don’t faff in transition. Get in, get out.
  • Consider how much it will cost financially (and physically 😬).
  • Treat it as three separate races and prepare for each.
  • You will feel like a million bucks and then like a piece of crap many times in the race (this is normal).
  • You never get to do your first one again so enjoy the whole experience and trust in your training. Don’t put a finish time on it save that for the next one.
  • Enjoy the journey. It’s tough, but so rewarding.


A swimmer

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

  • Don’t underestimate the swim!
  • Practice open water swimming as much as possible.
  • For a crap swimmer, a top quality wetsuit makes it easier than a cheap wetsuit. I didn’t believe it until I swapped!
  • Learn to draft in the swim (i.e. on someone’s feet) as it saves heaps of time and energy.
  • Attach a second pair of goggles to your thigh. Practice losing goggles in water to then attempt swimming in both salty and lake water without goggles.
  • If your swim is lousy and it drains you, your race could be messed up. The swim is the base of the race… if you get out of the water drained, it will be a difficult day and could cost you later in the race. It doesn’t have to be super fast, but you need to feel good when you get out of the water to get through the long bike leg, which needs to be executed to enable you to run 26.2.
  • I came out of my swim and a masochistic thought of “I actually quite enjoyed that” went through my mind. That’s how it should feel. I was slower than my predicted time but I knew what was ahead and just went steady away.



Photo by Josh Nuttall on Unsplash

There was a common theme in the comments:

  • Bike, bike and more bike.
  • Ride more, ride more, then ride some more.
  • Bike, bike and more bike.
  • Do more long rides.
  • More bike.
  • Spend more time on the bike.
  • You can’t run if you can’t bike 🚴. So bike… lots.
  • More bike, more bike, more bike.
  • Oh, and bike. The run (run/walk) is just survival: you’ve done the ‘hard’ part by then.
  • I had a strong background in running, so I took the approach of minimal bike training assuming my run strength would see me through – I did not anticipate how much the bike would take out of me leaving me tired and sore before I even started the run.
  • My train of thought exactly with my first half last summer. I never made the massive time lost on the bike up with good run. So for my second half next summer – bike training it is.
  • I fell for this train of thought also. This time it’s bike, bike, bike. I’ll tick over my running as per my plan, rather than adding more runs.
  • No junk miles and ride a lot. 2-3 minutes improvement in the swim is no good if you’re 30mins off the pace on the bike.
  • Bike… bike… bike… bike… and then when you can’t take no more… bike some more!


  • If you’re doing Bolton, hills, hills and train in the wind… And more hills.
  • I wish I’d done more hills on bike.
  • Hills on the bike.
  • Someone said push the bike training on hills until you literally can’t pedal any more. It really worked for me. It doesn’t have to be massive distance for this type of training.


  • In carbon we trust.
  • Buy a carbon 🚲 and don’t under-estimate a technical bike course.
  • A professional bike fit. This is the longest discipline and where the most time can be saved, plus you get the on the run feeling less tired.
  • For cycling, putting plenty of road miles using a mountain bike gave a really good resistance workout.
  • Spend time in the saddle on your turbo trainer.
  • Make sure you service your bike close to race day.
  • Not too close though, bike shop f**ked mine up on race week. 😉
  • Learn to pace on the bike and get a power meter and learn how to use it.
  • Once I started doing 3-8 centuries in training, my run really improved.
  • Bike on the road, in the heat, in the wind, in the rain. Don’t wimp out and get on the trainer because it’s not “perfect” weather.
  • Make sure you can beat the bike cut off time. A couple of friends got DNFs on their first attempts due to this. If you can ride the course a few months before do. It’s a good confidence boost and will tell you how much work you need to do to get round in time.
  • Don’t train too fast. Plenty people leave their best efforts out on the Sunday club ride, when most of your training should be easier paced than you might think as training constantly too hard only leads to injury. Make the hard, very hard and the steady, very steady. Too much middle ground hampers progression.
  • There’s no such thing as a good bike and a poor run. The difference between a great swim and a poor one is 15 minutes, but get the pacing wrong on the bike and you risk a poor run that can cost you hours.



Photo by Clique Images on Unsplash

  • More runs.
  • It’s all about the run. There’s no point in going 30 minutes quicker on the bike than you genuinely anticipated if it adversely affects your run.
  • For running, completing a marathon plenty of time before adds great confidence, so you can concentrate on the cycling!
  • Don’t go too hard during the early stages of the marathon.


Healthy food

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

  • Nutrition is the 4th part of the triathlon
  • Cut out sugar and use fat for fuel 😎
  • Special super awesome powders from Switzerland may not arrive in time for race day. Plan an alternative fuel strategy.
  • Don’t blame your bike when climbing hills is tough. Lose the body weight instead!
  • You can’t out-train a sh*t diet.
  • 80/20
  • Nutrition is a discipline that’s needs to be prepared and planned meticulously.
  • I bonked HARD in IMUK last year – 70 miles in and lost all energy. Only realised then I hadn’t eaten anything in the last 90 minutes. Flapjack was my saviour; my partner prefers malt loaf; for some people it’s gels all the way. Work out what works for you!
  • Nutrition is key on the bike and run.
  • Get nutrition nailed.
  • Get the nutrition right on the bike so you eat enough not to bonk, but not too much that you are too poorly to do justice to the run! 🏃‍♀🏃💩🚽😂

What do you wish you had known?

I did it, I did it, I did it!!!

27 Jun

I completed an aquathlon at Lakeside tonight!

The results from the aquathlon

The results from the aquathlon

My preparations started last night, when I tried to gather together all of my possessions. I didn’t think I’d need much stuff, but my list was longer than I anticipated when I started writing it. This morning, I decided to replace the laces in my favourite trainers (Brooks Pure Flow Cadence) with elastic laces. This would seem to be an easy swap to make, but the laces were really long, so I had to do a little handiwork with scissors and sellotape.

The traffic this evening was horrendous and I was worried that I was going to arrive too late to take part, but luckily, the event was running a bit late. As soon as I arrived, I was inked up (number 36)… I hope it’s not as permanent as their usual markers…

I had enough time to change into my wetsuit and put my stuff in the transition area. I tried on both of my trisuits last night and decided to go with the blue sugoi one (rather than the red pearl izumi one) as I’ve run in it before. I’d hoped to be able to French plait my hair, but didn’t have enough time, so it was tied up the same as usual. I was issued with a blue physio2fit swimming hat. What do triathletes do with all of their hats? (If you’ve got lots to spare, you could donate one here: http://ellathemermaid.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/swim-hat-bunting/ )

Then my cheerleader turned up – thank you, Irene for being such a great supporter.

At about 6:30pm, we got into the water. The slope was very slippery and I was nervous that I might fall over, so I went in very slowly. It was warmer than I expected, so that was a good start. I floated on my back for a bit and then rolled over and floated on my front. It helps to relax me, but I didn’t want to stay like that for too long in case anyone thought I as drowning! I swam over to the start area, and took care to position myself at the back of the pack, as I knew that I would be one of the slowest swimmers.

The swim started out OK (although I think I tried to swim over someone else), but I think I needed more of a warm up and that I should have gone slower. It definitely did not feel as easy and relaxed as it had on Tuesday morning, which was a shame. I rounded the first buoy, but my goggles had really fogged up, so I had to tread water for a bit to rinse them off, then I swam past the exit and headed along the front straight. I will admit that I did a few strokes of breaststroke (but not many), just whenever I needed to catch my breath. I could see Irene on the edge of the water cheering, so I gave her a quick thumbs up and then swam on. At about that stage, some of the fastest swimmers started lapping me, but I was feeling confident as I knew I wasn’t the last swimmer in my wave and plenty of the people from the other group were still some way off lapping me. I was happy to have finished the whole of the first lap, but the extra bit back to where we had to leave the water felt like it was taking forever. I managed to maintain my stroke, but was glad that it was nearly time to get out of the water.

When I got to a shallow area, I started to unzip my wetsuit to flood the front. I quickly moved out of the water and started stripping. I got my arms out of the suit and started to remove the legs when the combination of wet grass and jelly legs got me and I fell over. I swiftly removed the rest of my wetsuit and then put on my shoes. I had made a decision not to wear socks, so I rubbed my feet a bit and then slipped my shoes on. I took off my hat and goggles, grabbed my glasses and put on a cap. I guess for a speedier transition I should have abandoned the cap, but I’ve never run in my glasses before and as it was raining quite hard by that stage, I wanted some protection in the hope that I would be able to see.

It was great to be running on the old parkrun route as it’s where my love for running developed. It was also interesting to see the changes that have taken place… and good to have a distraction from the fact that my breathing was horrendous for the first part of the run. It wasn’t long before some of the sprint distance men began to overtake me, and then one of the faster ladies also ran past. I came out of the bowl and realised that there was another woman ahead who looked like she was not running as fast as the others. I got onto the final 300m, I realised that if I pushed harder I could overtake. I put in my best effort and managed to hunt down the other lady (who is also a Ladyhiller).

I felt so pleased when I had finished. If someone had told me four months ago that I would complete a 400m open water swim as part of an aquathlon, I would have found it difficult to believe. I can’t remember my official time – I think it was about 27 minutes. Stu finished in about 18 minutes and was the first novice finisher. I think I was the first novice female, but there weren’t many of us in the category, so that’s not particularly special. What is special is that I’ve now done a duathlon and an aquathlon… what next? Swicle or just a full triathlon? The answer is a triathlon. Stu and I have both entered HOWSC triathlon on 29th September. I think I’ve put down for novice, but after tonight’s success, I need to decide whether I can improve my swimming to be able to do 750m by then… any thoughts?