THE T:ZERO BLOG
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I was able to enjoy some time off training at the end of the year and have started the year easing into it again with some light volume and have gradually built each week. I wanted to have been running more by now but have had to ease off the running over the last 4 weeks due to a niggle in my knee. Thanks to a friend who reminded me of the saying “If we listen to our body when it whispers, we won’t have to listen when it screams.” Although, it’s frustrating being limited by the duration, intensity and amount of running training, I know I have plenty of time up my sleeve to get fit and sharpen up my run before being able to race this year. Once I am confident that my body is good to go again we will focus more on steadily building my run volume over the first half of the year.
Apart from the niggle that’s been puttingthe brakes on my run training, I’ve enjoyed riding my bike with mates. I’ve even had a couple of goes at trying to stay on my partner’s (Damien Collins) wheel on some long rides through the Sunshine Coast hinterland. I still have lots of work to do to be able to keep up with him but I have been enjoying the challenge and it’s great to see him riding so strong early on in the year. I’ve also loved being back at the Nambour swim squad a couple of times a week.
This month’s blog I thought I would write about tips on how to qualify for Kona as an age group athlete. The qualifying process takes lots of hard work and heart so I have come up with a few tips that should be able to give any age group athlete an advantage on their quest for Kona.
1. Talk to your close circle of people
It isn’t going to be an easy feat so you will need as much help as you can get. Before setting out a plan on what race to qualify at etc. you will need to talk to your loved ones and propose to them why you want to go on this journey. If you can get their approval and support it will make the next 12-24 month (or sometimes years) journey much easier. Come up with a plan together and work out where you want to try and qualify. You will be a team from that point forward. Ironman training is demanding when you’re in the thick of it, especially, while working full-time. It’s nice to have a couple of people who are looking out for you and can pick up the slack around the home when you need to catch up on “ironman related activities that are not training” such as; naps, bike maintenance, stretching, eating or going to body maintenance appointments. Let your friends know the reason that can’t make a special event and 9 times out of 10 they will understand. Your loved ones will be affected by your decision to go on this journey so make sure you take the time to listen to any concerns that the may have.
2. Hire a coach that will work around your lifestyle
Good coaches have experience and knowledge in specifically building your training up safely to get you ready for your chosen event. Training can be difficult enough so I don’t see the point in wasting further mental energy on planning your sessions. I am motivated by being accountable to someone and having feedback on certain sessions. It’s even better if you can hire a coach who will plan your training around your lifestyle. There’s no point in paying for a coach if you can only fit in a few of their training sessions around your busy schedule. Success in Ironman is based on consistency and this is what you want to aim for with your coach. You will need to map out your approach to qualifying with your coach and come up with some process-orientated goals. I believe you will be 100% more prepared physically and mentally on race day knowing that a professional in the field has planned the work for you.
3. Pick a race that suits you
If you’re thinking of qualifying for Kona you should know your strengths and weaknesses within the 3 disciplines by now. You want to reduce as many “unknowns” on race-day and select a course that is suited to your strengths. Look at what time of year you want to race and research each Ironman course around that time and select the one that BEST suits you. I find other athlete race reports/blogs to be VERY helpful here as well as the course description on the Ironman website in regards to race conditions. Know your strengths e.g. are you like me and have NO swim background as a child? Possibly, you need a salt-water and wetsuit swim rather than a lake swim so everyone spends less time in the water which will decrease the gap between you and the faster swimmers. Do you suit flat or hilly bike courses? Would you rather race in the heat? You don’t want to be adding any extra stress on race day by throwing in conditions that you know are playing your weaker cards.
4. Race at a regional champs
Age group racing has become so competitive these days and most Ironman races offer 40 qualifying slots which guarantees only one Kona slot per age group. The age groups with the highest percentage of competitors will be allocated the leftover slots and may end up with 2-4 in the densest age groups. At regional champs, there are usually 75 allocated Kona slots so therefore you almost double your chance of qualifying for a slot and double the chance that it might roll down to you. Yes, usually your competition increases at a regional championship but you have to remember that Ironman is a long day and anything is possible if you keep believing and focusing on your race.
5. Ask yourself if you really want to do this
Ironman training is hard. There are lots of fun and rewarding moments along the way but there’s also a lot of times that you will question why you’re doing it. You need to know YOUR why so that you stay disciplined and consistent in getting the work done. Develop a no-excuse policy because no one will do the work for you.
6. Recovery is key
Yes the work needs to be done but keep in mind you still need to be realistic in terms of your recovery and listening to your body. We’ve all stayed up late to finish off a session or set our alarms to some un-holy hour to get the session in before a big day of work. Sometimes we have no option but if our bodies aren’t recovering properly we won’t be getting the benefits from training and will increase our chance of burn-out or injury.
7. Surround yourself with positive people
There are going to be people in your life who are inhibited by fear that will judge you and tell you all the reasons why this is a stupid idea and why you can’t do it. They will be the first ones to say, “I told you so” when you come across your first deviation from the original plan due to injury or any other obstacles. While Ironman is mostly about being consistent in training, you will get so much more out of yourself if you’re in a positive frame of mind. You won’t have much spare time anyway so make sure you spend it with the people who make you feel refreshed after spending time with, make you laugh and celebrate the small things along the journey.
Good luck on your quest to Kona and/or happy training :)
Thanks for reading and I hope you find my tips helpful,
An amazing collection of training and racing advice from the T:Zero Multisport coaches- with the occasional guest blogger! Read this blog to help you live your potential!