Are you considering going from a 70.3 to an iron-distance (140.6) race and are not sure you can do it or what to expect? First, yes, of course you can make the transition from a 70.3 to an iron-distance race. You already know what it takes to go long, and your body already has some experience with what is needed.
However, there are few differences. Let's consider some of those, and what you can expect.
The first difference is the time commitment that you will need to make to adequately prepare for the longer distance and increased duration of the race. The typical training plan for an athlete starting with a reasonable level of base fitness is 20 weeks for a 70.3 and 24 weeks for a 140.6. This is not only the additional time for training and recovery, but also time demands that will compete with your other responsibilities like work, family, friends and hobbies. In addition to the overall length of the time commitment, your weekly training hours can be 10-30% higher during peak weeks. These additional hours of training will also require more recovery.
A second difference is the impact on your nutrition and hydration needs for training and race fueling. Proper fueling is important for both the 70.3 and 140.6 distances. That being said, fueling for a race with a significant increase in duration is even more critical. Practicing fueling and hydration during training for a 140.6 is essential for the highest probability of success on race day. Training and race fueling can have a big impact on your success. The good news is that with a slightly longer training plan there is plenty of time to rest, practice and dial in your training and race day fueling. Healthy daily nutrition and a well-planned fuel strategy will also positively impact recovery.
The third is the equipment difference. The number of gels or water/electrolytes bottles you will need training for a 56-mile versus 112-mile bike could be 2x or more. How will you carry them? You should have your fuel and hydration easily accessible. You can add a bento box to the top tube to hold your gels or use electrical tape to affix them to the top tube. To carry additional bottles of hydration you can add a behind the seat cage and/or a cage between the aero bars. Or you may opt to use what is being served on course. If so, make sure you research what drinks, gels and/or foods will be offered at the bike aid stations.
Additionally, a professional bike fit from a triathlon specific bike fitter can ensure a more comfortable and aerodynamic bike segment. These adjustments can, in turn, have a positive impact on effort and speed, potentially setting you up for a better bike and subsequently a better run.
Lastly, the mental aspect of moving from 70.3 to Ironman increases in importance. Progressing from 70.3 to IRONMAN is a great adventure and challenge, but it can also be a daunting task. The length of the race and the volume of training can be overwhelming and riddled with challenges. It is important to develop and practice good mental habits throughout the training period.
Training for and racing an IRONMAN is hard work, physically demanding and potentially uncomfortable. Here are a few tips that can improve your mental game while making the transition from a 70.3 to an IRONMAN
When it is safe to do so, practice in all weather conditions. Embrace it, enjoy it and understand that building your mental strength plays as important a role in this race as building your physical strength.
Stay focused on what you are doing and why and not how you are feeling.
Show up for every training session prepared to be present and focused on its purpose, and you will be able to do the same on race day.
As with any big project or epic task, breaking it down into smaller pieces is beneficial. Developing both short and long-term goals in training is crucial. For example, you can do this within the context of the training year by working towards an increase in FTP or by training to run a 10K and then a half marathon before getting to a full marathon. You can also set goals within the context of a long or hard work out by breaking it down into shorter segments and tackling one at a time. Remembering to show up to each workout as the athlete you want to be on race day will reinforce the feeling and help you reach your goals.
Embrace your anxiety, fears and doubt. A change in your mindset is a powerful training tool. Partnering with your coach to set goals, discuss concerns and track your progress will set you up for success at any distance.