Ironman Wales is one of the hardest Ironman courses on the circuit, today I’d like to share 5 Ironman Wales tips that will help you prepare yourself for the race.
Ironman Wales is only 8 weeks away, the training that will impact most on your Ironman performance happening during this time. Ironman training for the working person is all about making sure every training sessions counts and that you are progressively building your long swims, bikes and runs until 2-3weeks prior to the Ironman, before resting and allowing the body to absorb the training you’ve done.
Ironman Wales has rightfully gained a reputation for being a tough and challenging course, so unless it’s your first Ironman personal best times are unlikely. In your Ironman training make sure that you prepare for the course and as best as you possible can replicate the course as closely as possible. Here are 5 tips that I feel will really help you prepare for Ironman Wales and the unique challenges the course throws at you.
- Prepare for a choppy sea swim. The Ironman swim in Tenby is in the sea and has a habit of being choppy and having a fair size of swell on race day. Make sure you get some practice swimming in the sea during the next 10 weeks, some of which is highly recommended to do when it is choppy, so you can get used to conditions that your might face. Don’t be one of the competitors that quit before they have made it to the first buoy because you can’t handle the conditions.
- Learn how and when to sight in choppy water. Sighting in choppy water is all about the timing. If you sight at the wrong time you won’t see the buoys that you’re looking for, just a wall of water. The time to sight is when you on the crest of the swell, which will give you a clear view of what is in front of you.
- Set your bike up for a hilly course, Ironman Wales has over 2000m of climbing. None of the climbs are long, but you are continually climbing and descending, with the occasionally stretch of flat road for the 180km. Two of the climbs are steep at Wisemans Bridge which is 16% and then 12% as you leave Saundserfoot, where you can expect Tour de France style crowds to cheer you to the top. You get to do each climb twice, towards the end of each of the two laps. Make sure that you have a position on your bike that is comfortable and powerful for climbing the hills and suitable gearing to tackle the gradients. Stronger riders might get away with 53×39 front chainrings and 12-25 cassette, but a compact with a 50×36 and 11-28 is a more sensible option for most. What works on a flat to rolling course may not but optimal for Ironman Wales and the beautiful hills of Pembrokeshire, so make sure your test and adjust your position and gearing on you long rides, especially on steep climbs when the legs are tired towards the end of the ride to give you a feeling of what to expect on the day.
- Be prepared to puncture. There is nothing worse than a puncture to spoil your day, so make sure you carry spares and know how to change an inner tube or tubular. Don’t purely rely on the fast fix foam canisters, as they seem to have a 50-50 success rate. Both clincher and tubular can be fast to fix if you know what you are doing and have practiced. A few minutes lost fixing a flat isn’t much given the overall time you are out for. The rest might actually be of benefit!
- Use walk breaks on the marathon. Just like the rest of the course, Ironman Wales delivers a challenging run route, with around 350m of climbing over the 4 laps. The support and atmosphere is unique and second to none, which will give you a lift just when you need it. The out and back section of the Ironman marathon can be quieter and give you time to compose yourself or battle the demons of fatigue. Using programmed walking breaks gives you a physical and mental refresh and will help you to a faster overall finish time. During training I recommended breaking your long run in to smaller chunks such as 19mins of running, with 1min of walk, repeated as many times as necessary to get you to the end of your planned duration. During the walk break you are giving your running muscles a micro rest and walking stretches them out and provides some respite from the impact. The aim is to extend the time you can run for before the critical point of fatigue kicks in and you are forced to slow down or walk. By chunking up the run you, mentally you can focus on the 19mins until your next walk break rather than the amount of time until the end of the run, helping to keep you positive and motivated. Use the walking breaks to re-hydrate and refuel if you are carry fluids and energy with you. For the Ironman marathon it works better to use the aid stations for your walk breaks, which gives you time to take onboard fluids and refuel. Make sure to start the walk breaks from the beginning of the marathon, walking every other aid station. Every athlete I have suggested this strategy too has reluctantly tried it in training, only to get back to me telling me they completed the run faster and feeling better, because they didn’t slow down as much in the final quarter of the run. Give it a go and let me know what you think.
If you’re racing Ironman Wales then hopefully your preparation is going well, if you’ve raced Ironman Wales before then leave a comment if you have any other useful tips.
If you need any advice or have a question don’t hesitate to email me!