IRONMAN Training Tips and Mistakes to Avoid
It all started with a debate between friends in Hawaii about whether swimmers, runners or cyclists were the fittest athletes. Unable to be settled among a blend of elite athletes….it was a seed planted that would later blossom into a world-renowned challenge that defines not what type of athlete is the fittest, but what kind of person you become when you challenge your limits.
John Collins, a Naval Officer stationed in Hawaii, and his wife Judy, both triathlon competitors, in response to the debate co-founded the ultimate answer…..THE IRONMAN.
On February 18, 1978, fifteen competitors came to the shores of Waikiki to take on the first-ever IRONMAN challenge.
“Swim 2.4 Miles. Bike 112 miles. Run 26.2. Brag for the rest of your life.” – John Collins, IRONMAN co-founder
Nearly 40 years later, IRONMAN persists as one of the most challenging and life-changing competitions you’ve ever experienced.
The greatest thing about the IRONMAN is that competitors come from all walks of life, ages and social backgrounds. Some are life-long athletes and others sometimes faced a near-death experience that made them want to feel truly alive.
Enter: Dave Armbruster.
A Cincinnati native and traffic reporter for radio station 700 WLW, Dave Armbruster, known to his listeners as “Yiddy,” defied gravity and the grips of the grim reaper when his helicopter crashed in 2000.“Thankfully nobody was hurt, but I guess the thought of death got me off my butt,” Dave told MaxQ Nutrition.
Dave struggled with balancing a work week that far exceeded 40 hours with family time and staying active. Often unable to make it to softball games, he started running. “I decided to start running because I could do it by myself night or day,” Dave said.
After participating in a few marathons he said he thought he could ‘maybe’ do an IRONMAN. That thought would be the seed of his story entailing brutal hours of training, balancing work, family and dedication all with a woman’s bike and a $39 dollar pair of running shoes.
Thinking about training for the IRONMAN? Dave’s story just might give you the training tips, mistakes and inspiration you need to start your own story. Read on, friend, read on.
Dave was, admittedly, not a great swimmer in High School, and simply ‘knew how to ride a bike’. But the thought of competing in an IRONMAN became more than a passing one for Dave. He knew it required a lifestyle change, and with his 40+ hour work week and family, he needed a plan.
Thus, the first chapter in Dave’s IRONMAN story starts with just that: a plan.
Dave’s IRONMAN Training Agenda
“I had a written plan and I followed it religiously.”
Dave trained 5 days a week, usually 6.
Dave woke up and ran 6-7 miles daily at 3:45AM before going to work.
He mixed in a couple short runs of 3-4 miles with a couple medium runs of 6-10 miles.
He completed long runs of 15 miles or more on Saturdays around 5AM.
“For me, Long rides were probably my main focus because I had never done one before. I had run marathons before so I knew what to expect. I also knew I could walk if I had any pain or fatigue. You can’t really do that on a bike,” Dave told MaxQ Nutrition.
Dave biked 3 days per week with one being a long ride of 60 miles after gradually increasing from 30.
He completed two centuries before the race (100 mile rides).
Dave swam 2 times per week at 2.4 miles.
He said, “I usually only could swim twice a week and for me it was just a matter of knowing I could swim 2.4 miles.”
His training agenda started in the wee hours of the morning and finagled itself around life. “My entire goal was to do this with as little disruption to my family life as possible. It was really hard but it paid off,” Dave said.
IRONMAN Training Tips from Dave
“In a middle of a race, It’s not hard to pick out the people who didn’t train enough.”-Dave.
Incorporate ‘Bricks’ into Your IRONMAN Training
Bricks are when you combine two disciplines of the triathlon into an exercise. It helps the body adapt to the aerobic, anaerobic and physical demands of the race.
Dave said he did bricks of biking and running so he could learn how to ride then immediately run. “I found it to be really hard,” Dave said.
Complete a ‘Mini-IRONMAN’
Dave said he signed up for the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. When that weekend came he made it a ‘three-day event’ to see what kind of shape he was in.
“On Friday, I rode 112 miles (at an easy pace), On Saturday I swam 2.4 miles in a pool, and then ran the marathon on Sunday. I found it to be a great confidence booster,” he told MaxQ Nutrition.
Dave ran steps at University of Cincinnati’s Football Stadium on a semi-regular basis to improve endurance and expedite results. He told us, “Steps will get you in shape in a hurry.”
Practice Swimming in Open Water
Dave recommends swimming in open water a few times to get accustomed to its uncharted nature.
“It is extremely hard to swim straight when you can’t see lane lines,” Dave told MaxQ Nutrition, “Normal people don’t have the money or time to go to triathlon swim clinics at the site of the race and that’s okay. Just find a lake and get used to swimming in it. No matter how hard you try, I don’t think you can simulate the mass start of the swim. Getting kicked in the face or not being able to catch a breath is really scary. If you can afford to race in a small triathlon before the ironman do it just so you can get used to the swimming part.”
Have Two Finish Times in Mind
Dave recommends setting two time goals to avoid ruining your experience.
“The first time is what you think you can do if everything goes right.
The other is a time that you’ll be satisfied with.
There is no sense in training for hundreds of hours only to be pissed off at the finish line because you didn’t hit your time– enjoy the experience.”
Dry Your Feet Completely
Dave says a competitor should not rush after swimming, and take time to completely dry his/her feet.
If they don’t completely dry, you run the risk of getting blisters. “Blisters will ruin your race,” Dave said.
To Recap Dave’s Tips:
- Incorporate Bricks Into Your Training.
- Complete a ‘Mini-IRONMAN’
- Run Steps
- Practice Swimming in Open Water
- Have Two Finish Times in Mind
- Dry Your Feet Completely
IRONMAN Diet Tips
Dave doesn’t recommend a specific diet during training but does recommend eating tips that will come in handy during competition:
- Don’t eat anything during the race you haven’t trained with.
- Protein bars or goo might really help but they will upset your stomach if you’re not used to them I know this from experience.
- Practice eating while you are running and biking. It sounds easy but it’s really not. 70 miles into a race things just don’t taste good and don’t go down very easy.
- Don’t forget to eat and drink. You need the calories and you really need the hydration. I would make myself eat and drink every half hour or so on the bike and drink every mile on the run.
Dave said he preferred fig newtons, peanut butter and even ate baby food because he could consume it easily and it still provided the calories he needed for energy.
He also recommends Pedialyte over Gatorade for hydration.
So we know what worked for Dave, but what did he learn through experience to avoid that may help you? We asked that, too.
IRONMAN Training Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t Count Miles, Count Time
“I learned long ago that counting miles when you first start training is a huge mistake. Until you have a good base under you, just worry about time. I realize everybody will pretty much know how far they ran or rode but if you use time, you give yourself an excuse to stop.
The hardest part of riding a 112 miles is sitting on a bike that long. I think adding extra time each week is just much easier than trying to add extra miles because most people think they can add a lot more than they really should. It’s taken me a long to realize this but I think over training is real…you’re asking for trouble if you train hard when you’re fatigued or dealing with injuries,” Dave told MaxQ Nutrition.
Don’t Always Train Alone if You Can Help It
“Train with other people at least part of the time. I never did,” Dave reflected.
Because of the hours he kept, he couldn’t train with others and didn’t want anyone to wait on him. “I think you can get a lot more done if you have a training partner because they push you.”
The mind can be your worst enemy when training for anything—just getting up to get in the gym, having a partner can help silence the beast in your mind so you can complete your training goals.
Training Will Suck, Suck it Up
Dave says you have to train but you don’t have to like it. “I hated pretty much every single minute of it,” he recalled, “all that talk about the endorphins kicking in, the so called ‘runners high’ is a bunch of crap. Training hard hurts, but I did it because I loved crossing the finish line. No feeling compares to it.”
Can ANYONE Compete in an Ironman?
Considering the assorted ages and athletes that compete in IRONMAN, we asked Dave his thoughts on the type of people who should consider competing in an IRONMAN.
"Can anyone compete?"
“YES YES YES!” Dave said emphatically, “I think an IRONMAN is something that anyone at any age can start training for. I don’t even think you have to do a half (IRONMAN aka 70.3) before you do a whole. I never did. I kind of figured this was a one-time deal, which it wasn’t, so go for the full IRONMAN.”
“The training can really be brutal but I certainly think it is worth it. You have to be disciplined, there’s no getting around that. When you first start training for one of these it can really be intimidating. Most of the training books make the participants out to be robots who live this fantasy IRONMAN life–but mostly that’s not true,” he said. “Trust me as long as you train hard– you can finish an IRONMAN even if you have a non-IRONMAN diet,” Dave said, “I drank a lot of beer during training, I had a crappy bike and I wore ‘inferior’ running shoes.”
Dave said he even borrowed a woman’s bike for his first two marathons and wore a $39 pair of running shoes from J.C. Penney in his first IRONMAN competition.
“Even though people pointed and laughed at me, I made it and I was happy with my overall time,” Dave said.
From a near-death experience to finishing the IRONMAN on a woman’s bike in $39 shoes, Dave is an exceptional and extraordinary example of those who can do anything they set their minds to do.
We are honored to name him a MaxQ Untouchable.
So, to answer your question fit friend– can anyone do it? You should be answering it yourself….go ahead and say it…… “Why not?”
What's your finish line?
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