Completing an IRONMAN or 70.3 race for the first time is a tremendous achievement. The only catch? For most athletes, the bucket list quickly gets an addition once you get across the line: Now do it again, but faster.
The good news is that there are multiple levers you can adjust to speed up your time. And most of them simply mean adding more structure to your training.
We asked top coaches how IRONMAN first-timers should approach getting faster. Below, their top tips:
1. Geek Out on Your Technique
While this is probably most important for the swim, it certainly won't hurt to become more proficient in all three sports. When getting started, many people simply head to a pool to swim laps, jump on their bikes for a ride and start off with some easy runs. There's a reason the pros look so strong and smooth as they power through the course—they've mastered their technique in all three disciplines. Whether you sign up for lessons or a clinic, or simply do your own research through videos and books, becoming a more efficient swimmer, biker and runner will help you go faster in your next race.
2. Start Interval Training
If you want to go faster in a race, you need to go even faster in training. Think about it: If you want to average 10 minute miles for a half marathon at the end of your 70.3 race, you're not going to achieve that goal if you can only run a 9:30 mile. (In other words, your goal pace is too close to the fastest you can go, so you're not going to maintain that pace for over 13 miles). The same holds true on the bike and in the water. Intervals are shorter, fast efforts with a specific recovery or rest. Swim programs typically include a lot of interval training, but it should also be an integral part of your bike and run training.
3. Find a Training Group or Club
Once again, this is often of most benefit in the pool—but can also be a huge help for cycling and running. Group workouts will not only make you faster by building in intervals and harder efforts, but they will also keep you motivated by the social atmosphere and built-in accountability. Training with others can also help you learn to pace and likely push yourself a little harder in training sessions. In addition to the coaches, you'll also find some experienced mentors who can help you along the way.