July 25, 2017
Whether you are a triathlon newbie or a seasoned triathlete, you might be asking yourself the question, when is it the right time to go longer?
Going long doesn’t have to mean entering an Ironman. It could be making the jump from Sprint to Sprint Plus or Olympic distance. Or from a Olympic to Half Iron distance. An Olympic distance race is double that of a Sprint but if the thought of going twice as long is a step too far why not challenge yourself over the Sprint Plus which sits nicely in between the two.
As the events get longer the swim section is usually held in the open water and not in a pool as with some Sprint races, so this is something that you will need to be comfortable with. Swim in the open water with others as much as possible if this is your biggest worry. Start to incorporate bike and run repetitions in to your training plan. These can be as basic as hill repetitions or tempo/predicted race pace efforts. The other change in your training would likely to be a longer bike ride and run usually done at the weekend and brick sessions. Nutrition will also play an important part as you will be racing for longer than 2 hours so practice eating and drinking on your longer ride and run. These distances are doable with limited training time due to a hectic job or busy family life but still require several hours of training per week. I would recommend a minimum of 2 sessions on each discipline per week in order to be able to complete either distance with confidence.
The jump to Half Ironman and then to Ironman requires much more time and preparation. Some people have completed an Ironman on their first year of triathlon but I would suggest a minimum of 2-3 years of triathlon experience if you would like to be competitive over the long distance. If you feel that you’ve reached your potential at the shorter distance, you enjoy endurance training, you have at least 8 hours per week available for the Half Ironman and more than 10 for the full Ironman and your mind and body is willing, this could be the time to take the plunge.
Long distance triathlon is a huge long term commitment. There is no point in entering a long race if the date fills you with fear. Get a coach who can guide you through the training so that you are fully prepared and excited to race as the big day approaches. Other factors that become more important the longer you go are bike fit, saddle comfort, sleep, recovery and nutrition. Think about the sort of athlete you are. Do you enjoy the heat, are you a great hill climber? Are you willing to put in the hours of training needed over the winter time if your race is in the earlier months the following year? These are all factors that need to be considered.
Whatever you decide, take the move up seriously, talk it through with your nearest and dearest and start the preparations!
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