Your Ironman cycle needs to be fast, but you need to leave yourself enough energy to run fast too. Here are tips to get it right...
1. Turn Your Bike Into A Buffet On Wheels
During the bike section of an Ironman you will burn between 3000 and 5000 calories, which makes regular snacking vital in order to maintain energy levels. The easier it is to grab a snack, the more likely you are to do it. In the middle of a long tough ride you won’t feel like digging gels or bars out of a deep back pocket, so keep them on your bike where you can access them easily. Bento boxes are a good idea (Velcro snack boxes that attach to your top tube) or you could try filling a bike bottle with energy gels.
2. Test Your Drag Coefficient
On a flat road, aerodynamic drag is by far the greatest barrier to a cyclist's speed, accounting for 70 to 90 percent of the resistance felt when pedaling. Your bike and more importantly your body position both make a big difference to this. But how do you know if you’re aerodynamic or not? There are several ways - here's an article I co-wrote with Chris Boardman for BikeRadar.com. Or you can try BestBikeSplit.com who have developed the ability to predict your drag coefficient from the measurements of your bike and other details such as your weight, type of bike, height and power output. You’ll need a cycle power meter, but it’s still a viable alternative to forking out £1000 on a wind-tunnel session.
3.Improve Your Functional Threshold Power
Functional Threshold Power (or FTP) refers to the highest average power in watts that you can ride for an hour. It’s a classic measure of cycling fitness and it’s particularly relevant to endurance events such as triathlons. You can test yours out by riding a 20-minute time trial as fast as you can, using a power meter. After you’ve done the test multiply your average power for the 20-minute test by 95% - this gives a good estimate of your current FTP. This is something we aim to do every 12 week with our triathlon coaching clients. The beauty of FTP is that it’s very trainable. A good sample workout would be 3x15mins at 90% of your FTP, with 60secs recoveries. Ironman athletes should aim to ride at 67-79% of FTP during their race - the higher percentages are reserved for elite athletes, whereas back-markers should aim nearer 67% of FTP.
4. Set Realistic Race Day Targets
Before doing an Ironman, it’s important to set realistic data-driven goals. This will help you stay mentally strong because you are less likely to feel like you’re failing. Testing your 1500 swim pace will give you a good idea of your swim potential –aim for 85-90% of your 1500m pace for an Ironman swim - or slightly faster if you’re wearing a wetsuit. On the bike aim for 67 to 79 percent of your Functional Threshold Power –or for a more accurate forecast try using BestBikeSplit.com. On the run, providing you’ve ridden sensibly, you should aim to run 5-10% slower than your typical long-run training pace. We have had fantastic results using this method on our triathlon coaching clients.
5. Measure Your Fuel Intake
Measuring your carbohydrate intake will improve your chances of success in an Ironman according to Dr Kevin Currell, Performance Nutritionist at the English Institute of Sport. He advises: “60 to 90 grams of simple carbohydrates per hour to improve your performance. This has been proved time and time again in scientific research.” Estimate how long you’ll take for the Ironman and then look at the labels of your gels/bars etc to work out how many you’ll need. Aim to consume 20-30grams every 20-minutes and take a couple of spares just in case We've had great results from our triathlon coaching clients with these tips, hopefully they'll work for you too.