This is an excerpt from Endurance Nation's eBook, "Crossing the Line: Everything You Need to Know About Racing Your First Ironman But Were Afraid To Ask," a new resource for first time Ironman competitors. The book is available for free to subscribers of the Endurance Nation Weekly Newsletter.
If you're going to mess up anything during your Ironman training cycle, odds are it will involve running. It's all too common for triathletes to do too much, too soon, or to train at a pace that's too fast, or train on a course that's too hilly. The ways you can risk injury are endless, but the results are the same—you aren't running.
To get your head straight so you can avoid these common pitfalls, remain healthy and be ready for your iron-distance event, you'll need to stop thinking like a runner and start training like a triathlete. But to do this, you'll need to forget everything you think you already know about training for the run for an Ironman.
You Are Not Training For A Marathon
While the Ironman has a marathon at the end, you simply can't approach your training with the understanding that you're running a marathon—you're no longer "just" a runner. You're a triathlete training to do an Ironman.
It's important to remember that by the time you start the marathon, you'll have already swum 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles. The vast majority of athletes at this point are running, not racing.
When you're training for a marathon, you have the luxury of running long runs at goal pace. You have plenty of recovery between training sessions, and you probably won't workout more than once a day. As a runner, you don't have to worry about your nutrition as much either, as you should have time to recover and fuel up between each session. The duration of most of your workouts will rarely exceed an hour.
But make any of those common "marathon training" decisions and your Ironman training could really be in jeopardy. After all, your long runs will be affected by the long bike workouts you're doing. You'll be doing two-a-day workouts several times a week, and the cumulative training stress will start to pile up. Work and other commitments will start to bleed into other areas of your life, typically zapping a few hours of critical sleep. You'll be constantly hungry, and the task of finding a balance between calories burned and calories consumed will be difficult.
If you focus on the run as an independent entity, separate from your swim and bike training, you'll most likely not make it to the starting line ready to race.