If you're already fit, have a year to devote to training, have 30 or more hours per week to train, and have a life that's flexible enough to accommodate your training, then maybe -- just maybe -- you have the tools to attempt the holy grail of endurance races, the Ironman (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run).
With that said, not all Ironman finishers are elite athletes. In 2008, after being diagnosed with cervical cancer and completing an unsuccessful course of chemo, Kim Pace decided that, instead of dying, she'd sign up for an Ironman. On Aug. 8, 2010, Kim finished the 2010 Ironman Canada. It was the first triathlon of any distance that she'd ever completed [source: MacKinnon]. For many athletes, the Ironman is a symbol of hope, of triumph over adversity, of persisting through unimaginable trials. No matter how inspiring you find the challenge, however, an Ironman should not be taken lightly.
Take a long, hard look at your motivation for attempting an Ironman, and if you really feel you are committed, map out a 12-month training schedule that includes the following run training:
- Six training days per week, with two to three days devoted to run or brick (bike-run) workouts
- One time per week runs of at least 1 hour (or 6 miles), alternating easy runs with more difficult workouts (see below)
- Long runs one time per week starting at 90 minutes (or 9 miles) and escalating to a maximum distance of 20 to 26.2 miles
- Ladder workouts: Set a heart rate monitor to beep every 5 minutes. Warm up with an easy, 15-minute jog, and then begin running at 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. Every 5 minutes, increase your speed until your heart rate escalates 5 beats per minute. Continue increasing until you reach the top of your tempo zone (80 percent of max heart rate), then decrease 5 beats per minute every 5 minutes until you're back down to 60 percent.
- Intensive interval training: At race pace, run these intervals -- three 400-yard laps, two 800-yard laps, one 1-mile lap, and two 400-yard laps with 1 minute of rest in between each interval.
Triathlon is a truly exhilarating sport. In addition to the triathlons discussed in this article, there are also indoor and relay options as well as mini-sprints, off-road triathlons and even Ultraman triathlons (320 total miles). Find lots more information after the jump.