April's Expert Q&A: Ironman

Happy Monday!

Ironman veteran and coach Mark Kleanthous will be online between 1pm and 2pm today to answer your questions about the ultimate triathlon distance: Ironman. Whether you're wondering if you have what it takes to complete this challenge, or you're already training for a long-distance triathlon this summer, Mark's here to help you reach the finish line with a flourish.

Mark is the veteran of more than 30 Ironmans and 400 triathlons. He has completed a triple Ironman and qualified twice for the World Championships in Hawaii. He has also somehow found the time to write a book - The Complete Book of Triathlon Training - which was published in February.

In addition to this encyclopaedic guide to our wonderful sport, he also helps other triathletes to acheive their goals through his website ironmate.co.uk.

We're opening the discussion now so Mark will be able to get stuck in straight away at 1pm (rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once). So get posting! 




  • what do you think is the main difference in training for an ironman to training for a double ironman.....

  • Hi Mark,

    Just a few general questions about the Ironman distance. How many shorter triathlons would you recommend completing before going long? How many months of training do you need for the event and what are the minimum number of sessions per week?

     Do you think anyone could do an Ironman or is best saved for stronger triathletes?

     Dominique RW

  • just a note...i know we have said this in the past..........telling us on a monday mid morning is a bit late....most people are busy in work....

    if this went up the day before so that people knew about it then i think there would be more questions and it would be more useful.......
  • Hi for a 'normal' person what would you say would me the minimum time between Ironman races? I appreciate this is hard to answer as everyone has different fitness levels etc, but any guidelines?
  • I was on Mark's www.ironmate.co.uk site earlier today looking at the 24-week plan. He recommends a 4-week taper before events, but seemed to suggest that you just remove a couple of the "speed" sessions each week in order to taper down. Would you mind clarifying a little bit your thinking for a taper, please?

  • You have done so many Ironman races - do you have a favourite and why?  Where is your next Ironman and have you done any of the UK ones such as Bolton?
  • What are your thoughts about going on a triathlon specifc training camp for my IronMan triathlon ?

    My wife also wants to come but only competes at sprint or olympic distance events which are the best ones for use to consider?

    Also will i be able to keep up and will i also learn anything during the camp.

    I plan on taking  more than 14 hours, thanks a lot

  • I have a question on bike pacing please.

    I am a novice training for first IM distance this year. I have heard that it is important to ease off on the bike intensity to save for the run, Do you have any advice on this and any specific metrics that may help. For example, if I currently do my long bike at an average HR of 130 and speed of 15.5 mph should I alter this on race day

    (PS. I don't have a power meter and would give one a good home if you have any going to wasteimage)

  • Afternoon Mark,

    I'm trying to find the find my optimum level of fuelling when racing.  I overate on my first IM on the bike, racing too hard meant my stomach just filled and then GI issues on the run.  The next two I underfuelled (cut back on solids, used more gels).  Do you have any guidelines you work to, or is it a case of practicing during IM-effort bike training to work out what you can tolerate?

  • Afternoon Mark,

    How long would you expect it to take you to replace an inner tube/mend a puncture?  And do you practice to get the time down?



  • The Double Ironman triathlon is twice as long but can take you double the time plus 2 hours.

    You do not train twice as much as the the Ironman but your intervals or sessions need to be longer.

    So instead of 2 weekend cycles you just complete one longer sessions.

    I know several athletes who have had a great double with only 5 sessions a week.

    It is wise to train & compete for the Ironman to learn how your body copes with keeping going for extended periods of time and eating and drinking.

    I learnt far more from competing in one Double than I did in 2 single Ironman competitions.

    I would suggest 3 to 6 middle distance and 3 IronMan competitions before attempting the Double.

  • Hi Muffin

    During training for the Ironman and during the event you should always feel I can do the distance and another 60 minutes.

    That way you will be pacing it right.

    You need to keep 5-10 beats lower than your training pace.

    Even when you exit the swim. As you get into the bike you will just go quicker for the same effort.

    On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 sitting in a chair relaxing and 10 as hard as you can for 60 seconds) aim for 6 to 7 out of 10 on the bike

    Any further questions please ask me?

    IronMate Mark

  • Hi DustBoy

    I have cycled more than 160,000 miles so had a few flat tyres on hot and freezing cold days.

    It is also important to mentally rehearse so if it happens during a competition you can go into auto pilot.

    If it is a slow puncture I slow down and start eating something solid so I can digest it while fixing the flat.

    My best time to remove a back wheel replace tubular and use a Co2 cartridge & replace rear wheel is 2 minutes and 6 seconds.

    Warm tyres are easier to remove an so are tyres tat have been stretched on the rim several times

    Any questions please ask me?

    IronMate Mark

  • Hi Macca72

    8 weeks is the minimum between two IronMan distance events.

    It will take you at least 2 weeks to get back to normality then 3 weeks to build back your endurance used up during the first Ironman then a much needed 3 week taper.

    The secret is not to neglect the volume but cut out mid week high intensity training.

    Let your body recover and avoid running on tired or sore legs to prevent injuries

    IronMate Mark

    33 X ironman Finisher

  • Hi Slowerthanilook

     The longer the build up the longer the taper to allow your body to absorb all the training.

    if you reduce volume training you risk losing the your endurance that you have spent months building up.

    The Ironman is an event where we can train faster than we can race (for the IronMan)

    If you continue with speed work you risk going too hard on the IronMan day which will cause you to slow down.

    Do not neglect race pace (IronMan) efforts

    Any further questions please just ask me?

    IronMate Mark

  • I'm wanting to sett a goal of completing my first triathlon bearing in mind my furthest run to date is 10km and I'm not bad at cycling and not very good at the crawl how long should I give myself to train up for doing my first ironman and how many shorter events should I do in the build up and how often?
  • Thanks Mark. That's really helpful.
    So for those 4 weeks I carry on doing the key sessions and the endurance-focussed stuff, but drop the Zone 4 spikes?
  • Hi Diane

    Thansk for your question.

    They are all great experiences for many different reasons

    Some I have been super fit and had a disappointing race (3 punctures) & others not as fit and felt strong to the finsih line.

    Some have been very cold (not a fan) and have enjoyed finishing as I struggled through to the finish line.

    I love the New Zealand Ironman it had a great atmosphere before and afterwards. Many races are ghost towns 2 days later. Great swim demanding but beautiful country side an great crowds.

    My ambition is to do all the IronMan M-Dot races around the world. I have done Sherborne and plan to do Bolton in the near future. My next ironman is the inaugural one in Sweden

    Each and every Ironman has a small place in my heart.

    See you at the Races

    IronMate Mark

  • Hi Slowerthanilook

    Exactly be more Ironman Specific. Volume with intensity has a high risk of illness or injury. Being consistent in the final 4 weeks is much more important than fitting in a last minute race.

    Being injury free and healthy is also great for the mind during the final 4 weeks. If your Ironman is hilly or flat and you train on different terrain do not despair just train at a pace you feel you can maintain for the Ironman.

    It will be fine on IronMan day with an adequate taper.

    IronMate Mark

  • Nice one. Thanks for that!
  • Hi David

    I would wait until you can comfortably swim the full distance and can run at least a half marathon in training.

    Training and competing in the shorter distances is part of building up your knowledge of how your body mind & digestion can cope with training and eventually the IronMan distance.

    At least 3 seasons ideally 4.

    Season 1 sprint triathlons pool and possible open water .

    Season 2 Sprints Olympic and Middle distance - The jump from Olympic to middle is not as great once you become accomplished compared to not having done a sprint and moving up to the Olympic distance.

    Season 3 a middle distance at least 6 weeks before the IronMan.

    It can be done in less time but you simply will not have the experience to do yourself justice at your first attempt.

    I would compete in at least 5 sprints 3 Olympic and 1 or 2 middle distance before attempting your IronMan.

    Do not forget you can train 30>40% of the distance swim to bike or bike to run in training in your IronMan build up.

    For example a brick session of 1200m swim 35 mile Bike or 35 mile bike and 7.5 miles.

    Word of warning ironman can be addictive

    IronMate Mark

  • Huge thanks to Mark for answering all those queries.

    If you still have any questions, the answers are sure to be in his new book: The Complete Book of Triathlon Training (Meyer & Meyer Sport, £19.95).

    Next month’s live webchat will be at 1pm on Tuesday 8 May (the Monday’s a bank holiday) with Maxifuel nutritionist Lynn Clay.
  • Hi David 

    Only too pleased to help.

    See you at the Races!

    IronMate Mark

  • That was really useful. Thanks Mark and thanks for arranging, Alison.

  • Thanks. Maybe set a thread up ad a reminder 48 hours before the next one.
  • Hi Paul

    I suggest you ask the Triathlon Training camp that can accommodate you & your wife.

    If the Triathlon Training Camp send you a questionnaire to find out- Your Training Requirements - Ability and Aspirations then they are likely to be interested in you welfare and make sure you have a great experience in the hope that you go away tell your friends and go back and stay again.

    Ask to see the training schedule. It should accommodate all different abilities for swim bike run. Some have beginners weeks or improvers weeks or open water swim weeks.

    Many triathletes are not good at all 3 but want to improve in all three and often have a weaker discipline.

    Do not forget 3 people on a training camp may all be aiming for the same IronMan time but one will be a strong swimmer and weaker cyclist another a weak swimmer and a strong runner.

    I hold training training camps at Tri Topia http://www.tri-topia.com/ 2 of these training weeks can cater for all of your requirements for you and your wife.

    Some Triathlon specific camps can also allow you to just stay and train and join in with the sessions.

    IronMate Mark

    33 X IronMan Finisher

  • Hi Mark & Alison

    Thanks for arranging and answering my question

    Great stuff really helpful and to the point.


  • Hi Mark

    Hope I am not too late what are your top 5 ironman bike tips? i have competed in tris for 6 years incl 4 70.3

    Vicky C

  • Coach Barlos should be around somewhere ? He would be able to help you Kk ?
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