Is it possible to train for an Ironman in 1 year? Let’s find out.

NOW AVAILABLE:
The full 1 year Ironman training plan that I followed! As well as the routine I used every day to prevent running injuries!

I’ve made a lot of silly decisions at various different parts of my life. This one though, might just take the cake.

I’ve decided committed to completing a full Ironman that is scheduled for less than 1 year from now.

The question I keep asking is, “Is it possible to train for an Ironman in 1 year?”, well… I have no idea, but we’re going to find out.

My Fitness Background

Now, in all fairness, I’m not committing to such a challenge without already being in reasonable physical shape. I’ve been a devout CrossFitter for the last 5 years, working out 5-6 days a week pretty consistently over that span. Prior to finding CrossFit, I was a collegiate Lacrosse player, and had been involved in the sport for the majority of my life (starting around age 11).

I can back squat 350lbs, and run a 8k in under 40 minutes, so… there’s a base of fitness in there. The real question is, how quickly all of that will translate to extreme endurance training.

In my CrossFit experience, I’ve learned that one of my biggest strengths isn’t actually strength at all, it’s my “engine” (ability to keep pace over long, painful workouts). A 20+ minute workout in CrossFit is considered basically an eternity, but it’s also where my body thrives. When it’s not too heavy, or too fast, but you need to just keep moving and not slow down. Now, I just need to work on doing 45+ consecutive 20minute workouts if I’m going to complete an Ironman.

My Endurance Background

This is where things get a little more comical.

Up until a few weeks ago, I had never run more than 5 miles, I had never biked for distance, and the last time I swam laps in a pool, I was ~10 years old.

To me, none of that matters. To me, I have 323 days between right now, and the start of Ironman MD, plenty of time to train right?

The Reactions To My Commitment

“That’s awesome! You’ll do great!”

“You’re crazy, completely insane.”

“Little ambitious don’t you think?”

It’s been a mixed bag. Some people look at it with admiration and positivity, others have already started chiseling my tombstone.

My favorite reaction came from the guy at Road Runner sports in Columbia, MD that helped me purchase my first set of running shoes in probably 10 years. Our conversation went something like this:

RR Employee: So what are you training for?

Me: I decided to do Ironman Maryland

RR Employee: Oh that’s great! We can definitely fit you for some marathon shoes. How long have you been training?

Me: Haven’t started yet

RR Employee: Oh, well you’ve got plenty of time. What’s your swim time look like?

Me: Haven’t gotten in a pool since the 90s

RR Employee: Oh.. well I’m sure you’ve done some century (100 mile) bike rides?

Me: Actually, I don’t own a bike yet

RR Employee: [basically said nothing the rest of the time]

It’s interactions like this that make this goal all the more appealing to me. When others say or assume you can’t, the desire to prove that you can becomes that much stronger.

Train For An Ironman In 1 Year: The Plan

Now I knew this wasn’t going to be as simple as a few weekend runs, some time in the pool and a casual bike ride. In fact, I had no idea where to even begin.

Luckily, without even knowing it, I already had a few friends who had completed various Ironmen in the last few years (Including Ironman Canada, and Lake Placid). I also have a friend who was a former USA Jr. Cyclist and cross country runner.. so I’m not sure if anyone has ever stumbled into a better support group for such an endeavor.

With the help of these individuals, I was able to hack together a training program that would take roughly 11 months (which is perfect, since that’s all I have!).

The Formal Program: 30 Week Ironman Training Program

The formal “Ironman Training Program” I plan to follow, comes from a book called “Be Iron Fit” (the intermediate track, for reference), and lasts 30 weeks. During each of those weeks, I will swim twice, run 4 times, bike 3 times, and I’ve managed to work in 3 days of CrossFit/strength training as well. Those weeks look like this:

30 Week Training
Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun
CrossFit X X X
Swim X X
Bike
X
X X
Run X X X
Rest X

On paper, the program doesn’t seem to bad. Most workouts during the week are less than 2 hours total (easily fit into a work day) and the weekends are reserved for longer workouts.

One of the problems with just starting here is, the Sunday run in week 1, is a 1 hour run.

Let me repeat that, on WEEK 1, I need to be able to run for 1 straight hour. Note earlier I mentioned I haven’t run more than 5 miles.. and that only took 35 minutes.

So, because of this, I need to train.. for the training program.

Training for Ironman Training: 3 Month Prep Program

In the 3 months I have before the 30 week program needs to begin, I need to get a base level of endurance under my belt. For those 3 months, I’ve set the following goals:

  1. Run 13.1 miles
  2. Bike at 100+RPM for >1hr
  3. Swim a mile

The thought here, is if I can accomplish the above 3 goals, I’ll feel prepared to begin the 30 weeks of training.

In order to do those 3 things, I’ve made some micro-commitments over the winter.

Running

First, I’m following a 4 day/week half marathon training program. This also lines up nicely with the 4 days I’ll be running when the 30 weeks starts. That program looks like this:

WEEK MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN
1 3 m run 4 m run 3 m run 4 m run
2 3 m run 4 m pace 3 m run 5 m run
3 3.5 m run 5 m run 3.5 m run 6 m run
4 3.5 m run 5 m pace 3.5 m run 7 m run
5 4 m run 6 m run 4 m run 8 m run
6 4 m run 6 m pace 4 m run 5-K Race
7 4.5 m run 7 m run 4.5 m run 9 m run
8 4.5 m run 7 m pace 4.5 m run 10 m run
9 5 m run 8 m run 5 m run 10-K Race
10 5 m run 8 m pace 5 m run 11 m run
11 5 m run 6 m run 4 m run 12 m run
12 4 m run 4 m pace 2 m run Half Marathon

Swimming

I know how to swim, but I don’t know how to swim well. Despite years of lessons and being on a swim team as a child, it’s been quite a while and I’m sure I haven’t retained every bit of knowledge I should have.

When I began looking into where to swim, I came across two options:

  1. Join the local YMCA, and use their pool, following workouts from the internet
  2. Join a Masters Swim Program at UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore College) and have a coach teach/guide me

The difference? $7.

I went with the masters program. I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know, and this will serve as the method by which I can learn from someone much more knowledgable than myself.

Biking

I wish I could say my approach here is as scientific as running and swimming, but the reality is, this is just going to be grunt work.

I haven’t spent much time on a road bike (none the less a TT/Triathlon bike) in my life so this is going to be an exercise of equal parts comfort on the bike, and endurance in the movement.

With the help of a local bike shop (RacePace) I was able to get my first Tri Bike (a beautiful Felt B14), and with the help of a previous Ironman friend, I was able to swipe an indoor trainer.

Since this 3 month prep period will be throughout the winter, my outdoor riding days are numbered. The goal here is simply to get comfortable, learn my gearing and cadence, and pedal my little heart out.

The Prep Training Schedule

Similar to the 30 week program, I wanted to get into a routine. I also wanted that routine to transfer nicely into the 30 week program when it comes time to begin. Because of this, I’ve created a very similar training regiment to the 30 week program for my pre-training, that weekly schedule looks like this:

Prelim training
Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun
CrossFit X X X
Swim X X
Bike Indoor Outdoor
Run X X X X
Rest X

This Won’t Be Easy

I’ve been fortunate enough in my athletic endeavors that I’ve found most things come pretty easily to me. Practice enough and I can pick up just about any sport, and given my natural aerobic abilities, most things have not been all that difficult for me.

That’s what makes this so appealing.. it’s going to be fucking hard!

Not much in life worth doing is easy, and that’s the way it should be. This endeavor is an extreme example of that.

Nobody can wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll go workout for a casual 15+ hours”, you’ve got to work for it, and work hard.

I’m looking forward to the training, the challenge, the ups, the downs, all because it will be worth it. All because at the end of this adventure, I’ll get to cross a finish line that very few even consider venturing towards. Hopefully at the end of all this, on September 29th, 2018, I will be, an Ironman.