The next logical step to satisfy your competitive hunger is to jump to an IRONMAN triathlon. Hey, you already have the run down! (But we're guessing your swim and bike skills need a little work.) Ready to make the transition (see what we did there?) from 26.2 to 140.6? Start off strong with these eight tips.
Check Your Aerobic Base1 of 9
Marathons are no joke, and the amount of time and dedication behind your training will reap dividends when ramping up for an IRONMAN. If it has been a while since your last marathon, it's probably time to head back to the track and see where you're at aerobically. If you've recently completed a marathon, you're ahead of schedule and can turn up the intensity sooner in the pool and on the bike.
The Swim (Equipment)2 of 9
Swimming, like running, is relatively simple when it comes to gear. Head to your local sporting goods store and pick up a tight-fitting swimsuit, goggles, swim cap and earplugs. Gentlemen can get by with a loose pair of board shorts if need be, but you'll be dealing with more drag and less performance. You should be able to get all these items for under $100. Remember--if you've chosen a race with cold water, you'll have to pick up a wetsuit as well.
The Swim (Training)3 of 9
If you're not comfortable in the water, the swim leg can cause some anxiety. Proper stroke mechanics and form is everything when you're in the water. Check with your local gym and see if they offer freestyle swimming lessons, or hire a triathlon coach who specializes in form analysis. Have this same coach draw up a series of workouts you can complete as you lead up to the race.
On average, an IRONMAN-in-training usually completes a one-hour session two or three times a week in the pool. Practice makes perfect when it comes to swimming, so don't forget to spend a few sessions in open water to ease your nerves before the big day.
The Bike (Equipment)4 of 9
This is where the real costs of completing an IRONMAN add up (besides travel, food and the entry, of course). While you may be able to finish with that old steel frame road bike hanging up in your rafters, triathlon bikes fill a specific niche and will help you get to T2 more efficiently and as fast as possible.
Head to your local bike shop and expect to spend around $1,500 for a decent tri-specific road bike. If you find a package deal that includes a helmet, cycling shoes and tri kit, take advantage. Remember, it's not about buying the most expensive products possible; it's about finding comfortable and performance-oriented gear in your price range.
The Bike (Training)5 of 9
A triathlon bike isn't like that beat-up BMX bike you used to ride as a kid--it's uncomfortable, squirrelly and takes some getting used to. Once you're properly fit (ask your LBS for details), spend some quality time in the aero position to open up your hips and let your back and neck adjust. After a couple weeks, this strange aerodynamic riding style (and clipping in) will be second nature and you'll see how fast these bikes truly are.
Generally speaking, Saturdays are reserved for longer rides (three to six hours) with two shorter one-hour efforts scheduled during the week. Sample training plans can be found all over the web, or have a coach draw you up a weekly bike program.
Practice Transitions6 of 9
If your IRONMAN of choice will be your first triathlon ever, it's a great idea to do a sprint or Olympic triathlon as a warm-up. This will give you the chance to practice your transition from swim to bike and from bike to run. While it sounds simple in theory, transitions can be tricky to manage—especially when your heart rate is elevated and you're feeling overwhelmed.
Take a deep breath and think logically about what gear to take off and what to leave on. No, it's not OK to leave T2 with your helmet still on (but everyone has done this once). Make your rookie mistakes at a warm-up race, not on your big day.
Find a shorter distance race to practice your transitions and work your way up to the long-course.
Put It Together7 of 9
Unlike running, triathlon (and specifically IRONMAN) requires full body fitness. As you near race day, incorporate a few swim-to-bike and bike-to-run bricks to get used to the feeling of heavy legs and a cloudy mind. This is uncomfortable for everyone, not just new triathletes, but with practice it is something you can embrace and move past.
Additionally--similar to marathon running--nutrition is considered the fourth discipline of IRONMAN training. A well-balanced diet is crucial for optimal performance and recovery. Whole grains, lean protein and lots of greens are always a safe bet.
Enjoy Yourself8 of 9
Above all, don't forget to have fun. You already understand the mental toughness required to finish a marathon, and you can apply the same mindset to triathlon. Break the day up and allow small victories to propel you through all 140.6 miles.
At the end of the day, an IRONMAN is just swimming, cycling and running. Don't put too much emphasis on the long day ahead or how many miles you have left. Smile, wave back at the spectators and enjoy the opportunity to cross the finish line and hear "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
You'll remember it for the rest of your life.