Things You Need To Know Before Doing The Ironman


Women's Health |

by Susie Cheetham

Inspired watching the Ironman this weekend? Well, Susie Cheetham who took third place at this year’s race, and who’s also a regular podium finisher at the Half Ironman 70.3, gives her advice for what you should know before you attempt your first big triathlon race… 

When I speak to most women about triathlon their first response is usually, “Oh, I could never do that”. Then you speak to some men and they ask if there’s a specially shortened event for women!

The truth is… I believe anyone can train to do a triathlon. Yes, you’ll have to prepare for it, but you can certainly do it.

In 2011 I was a broken runner. I had always run but after a brief international running career, my body was quite frankly falling apart. Fast forward to 2014 and I was on the start line of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship competing against the top 35 female professional long-distance triathletes in the world.

In the beginning the thought of throwing myself into the water with 3000 other adrenaline-fuelled athletes terrified me. I hated the pool, I hated swimming, and more importantly  I couldn’t swim! When my boyfriend suggested I do a triathlon I responded just like all those women… It took some convincing but in my attempt to cross-train and keep the weight off, I actually started to enjoy triathlon. The run up to my first race could be documented for the viewing delights of any comedy channel. Of course, my preparation wasn’t smooth and my race was far from what I’d imagined, but I really loved it.

In 2011 I wish my future self could have given me these tips to save me the hassle, embarrassment and stress of learning by my (many) mistakes…

HAVE A TARGET
There’s no escaping it. You will have multiple training sessions you don’t feel like doing. Your best bet to get them checked off is to have an end goal in sight.

SET GOALS AND HAVE REWARDS
Your race might be a while off and may seem very daunting. Don’t worry, everyone is just as nervous as you are, but you can make it more manageable by setting short-term goals. Aim to do a 5k running race or time trial halfway through your sprint distance training programme and reward yourself with some new kit for making it!

DON’T RUSH
Choose a race, which you have plenty of time to train for.  Anything from 12 weeks to 24 weeks, depending on the length of the triathlon. Rush it and you’ll most likely be spectating with a sore body!

EAT WHAT YOU WOULD ON THE DAY
If you’re doing any race over an hour you need to have some energy food with you. Train your longer sessions with the same brand of gels or bars. It might just save you some unforgiving cramps in the latter stages of your race.

GET YOUR KIT EARLY
To start triathlon you’re going to need some kit. The first time I got in the sea in my wetsuit I almost drowned! It took me a good few swims to get used to it. You don’t want your race to be your first time in your new kit as you knows where you are going to chaffe.

KEEP YOUR BALANCE
It is possible to have a life and train. Don’t be a slave to your training programme. Give yourself a break and don’t beat yourself up for missing a session. Even better, join a club and rope a friend in too. Have fun and enjoy it.

BE COMFORTABLE
There’s a time and a place for high-tech race gear. Sure, it’ll shave five seconds off your race time, but I’d question whether this is necessary for your first triathlon. Choose something that is comfy, even if it means changing between the bike and run.

KNOW THAT YOU CAN DO IT
I know you’ve heard this one before, but I have convinced a lot of people to take up triathlon. All of them have surprised themselves, but none of them have regretted it!

READ MORE ON: Fitness Fitness Advice Triathlons