The triathlon year 2023 has begun. The training for your season highlight is already underway - whether for Challenge Roth, Ironman Hamburg, Frankfurt, a race near you or on the other side of the world. With our new series "Preparation middle and long distance" we accompany you on the way to your sporting highlight in 2023: in the coming weeks and months we will provide you with lots of information and tips on training, equipment and competition preparation.
To get started on the topic, we first examine the requirement profile for the long competition formats and what that means for your training.
Challenge medium/long distance
February 18, 1978: On the Hawaiian island of O'ahu, 15 athletes plunge into the Pacific waves to swim 3.86 km, bike 180 km, run 42.2 km. As the fastest athlete, Gordon Haller needs 11 hours and 47 minutes for the total of 226 kilometers (140.6 miles) and becomes the first IRONMAN in history.
Photo: Martina Stehr / triathlon.de
These mythically charged beginnings of the triathlon symbolize the core of this sport, which above all accounts for the attraction of the long distance: everyone for themselves, especially in the fight against themselves, the "finishing" as the highest goal. From the modest beginnings, a "global player" has developed in the last 40 years. The IRONMAN brand has created a worldwide network of events under its name.
In this country, however, the name "Roth" makes triathlon hearts beat faster. The former Ironman Germany is considered the heart of the "CHALLENGE series", which has established itself as the strongest competitor to the Ironman empire over the long distance. In addition, a number of other individual events in Germany offer the athletes that unmistakable long-distance feeling (e.g. OstseeMan, Schlosstriathlon Moritzburg).
Photo: Christoph Raitel / TeamChallenge
Editor's note: in this article we deliberately exclude the ITU long-distance format and focus on the so-called Ironman distance in the further description.
For most athletes, before the "long-distance adventure" there is a step over the middle distance . At 1.9 - 90 - 21.1 kilometers, the competition distances correspond to half the Ironman distance and are therefore a challenge that can be planned more easily in terms of time required (training scope and duration of the competition).
One of the best-known middle-distance series is the IRONMAN 70.3 series, where the “70.3” stands for the total distance covered of 70.3 miles (=113km).
Both formats, middle and long distance, are based on a requirement profile that differs fundamentally from the short triathlon distances.
- long-term structured preparation (usually 6 to 9 months)
- significantly higher training volumes due to the length of the route
- the best possible training infrastructure (swimming training, cycling training in winter on the roller...)
- possibly training camp stays & preparatory competitions
- Arrival/accommodation for the main competition
If you want to be successful here, you need:
- Support from his social environment due to the extensive training
- long-term goal focus and ability to motivate in the training process
- Willpower in competition (how do I deal with setbacks or lows in the race itself?)
- high level of aerobic endurance, physical & mental fatigue resistance
- Ability to absorb energy under stress
- reliable material
- freedom from injury/disease
- the necessary luck in the preparation and in the competition
After these general requirements, we now take a look at the very specific criteria that should have a direct impact on your preparation:
Photo: Christine Waitz / triathlon.de
Compared to the short triathlon distances (Olympic, sprint), the individual disciplines of cycling and running are weighted even more heavily than swimming. In the Olympic triathlon (1.5-40-10), one kilometer of swimming involves cycling almost 27 kilometers and running 6.7 kilometers. For middle and long-distance athletes, on the other hand, this relation shifts: 47 kilometers by bike and 11.1 kilometers by running are recorded here for every kilometer swimming. This means that strong cyclists or runners have a greater advantage over strong swimmers over the longer distances. However, it would be wrong to neglect the swimming training because of this calculation example: Swimming is about completing the first discipline as efficiently as possible (optimal ratio of speed to effort) and then taking the energy with you on the bike. The worse or the slower you swim, the more energy you lose in the water, which is then lacking in the subsequent disciplines. In addition, poor swimming performance often tempts you to immediately want to compensate for it on the bike, which usually takes its toll in the second half of the race.
Important considerations for swimming are therefore:
- How do I weight swimming as part of my overall performance?
- How much training effort do I have to invest in order to stabilize or improve my swimming performance or to achieve my target time in a competition?
- When is open water training possible?
- Am I dependent on the wetsuit as a "buoyancy aid" / Is a neoprene ban a possible scenario?
- What is the starting procedure (mass start / rolling start)
- Is the swimming in the lake or in the sea?
- How good are my orientation skills in open water?
The answers to these questions should then have a direct impact on your training design in the various training periods. In our series, we will once again focus on swimming and discipline-specific preparation separately.
To go biking
Photo: Stephan Schepe / triathlon.de
The bike split accounts for the largest part of the overall competition time. The time spent on the training/competition equipment in preparation is correspondingly extensive. Cycling training should already be integrated into the plan in winter (MTB/Rolle/Zwift) in order to collect basic kilometers. From spring onwards, it's time to constantly increase the volumes on the bike. A training camp is recommended between February and April. Due to duration, aerobic power capacity and “training age” is key to good cycling performance. The form on the bike builds up constantly over thousands of training kilometers over the years. Furthermore, the "pacing" (race division) and nutrition play a decisive role on the bike. The working muscles must be constantly supplied with energy during the entire duration of the load, otherwise "the man with the hammer" threatens. It is therefore important to “train” the intake of food and liquids during training so that the body learns to absorb and utilize energy sources under stress. Very practical questions then arise: how much do I have to take with me and where do I store all the bars/gels? So you can try out a lot during training and then determine the right nutrition strategy for the competition. Furthermore, very practical questions about the bike:
- How well do I get along with the bike setup/saddle over long distances?
- Is the course flat or wavy/hilly? How much aeroposition is possible?
- Can I map the training for the route profile well?
- Can I keep the aero position well in the long term?
- How many aid stations are there and what is served there?
- Can I repair a breakdown (typically a flat tyre) myself on the way (take a spare tube, tools
In addition to the pure watt values, completely different factors are also responsible for the overall performance when cycling. In our series, we will also dedicate ourselves to cycling and discipline-specific preparation separately.
Photo: Stephan Schepe / triathlon.de
The competition is decided in running. This shows how well you have divided up the race, how much stamina, willpower and motivation you still have for the final (half) marathon. The focus of the considerations is that running after a previous load of several hours represents a completely different challenge. How well are you able to realize your running potential now? Movement motor skills, running economy and of course the supply of the body with water, electrolytes and nutrients are performance-limiting factors. In terms of preparation, this means that, in addition to the pure scope of running training, additional training content also has a positive effect on running performance (e.g. technique/motor skills training, torso stabilization). Coupled training (cycling-running) is of course an essential training method in preparation for a competition, which means that the complex load structure of the competition can be mapped well in training. Here, too, there are very practical challenges for the competition:
In our series we will of course also take up running and paddock training separately and describe the preparation in more detail.
The preparation for a middle or long distance requires long-term structuring of the training process, increased volumes, self-motivation and a lot of planning work. When the competition day comes, sometimes only luck decides whether you have a good day or whether everything goes wrong. However, you can reduce the "luck factor" to a minimum through targeted preparation.
We want to accompany you in the coming weeks during the stages of your preparation. The training has started! Stay healthy and injury free!