Question: I just finished Ironman Hawaii and I’m signed up for Ironman Arizona in a few weeks. They’re six weeks apart. I had a decent race in Hawaii but I’ve gone faster. I’d like to have a good race in Arizona. Is it possible? – F.C.
Answer: That’s a tough one. Several years ago I used to say that an athlete should only do one Ironman in a year. But then I coached so many triathletes who insisted on doing two in a year that I changed my mind. They proved to me that it could be done by healthy, well-experienced athletes without breaking down physically or mentally. It seemed reasonable, however, to separate the races by at least 12 weeks to allow for recovery and the rebuilding of fitness.
Then along came a few more athletes I coached who wanted to do Ironman Canada and Ironman Hawaii which are usually separated by about six weeks. With a few individual exceptions, they did quite well with two closely spaced races. Then there are triathletes like Joe Bonness and Petr Vabrousek who have made careers out of several closley spaced Ironman races year in and year out. So now I believe almost anything is possible if the athlete is experienced, fitness is high coming into the first race and he/she is not prone to injury or illness.
Getting back to the gist of FC’s question, successfully training for personally competitive, back-to-back Ironman races depends on several issues:
* How fit you were coming into the first race. The higher your fitness was relative to your all-time fitness, the better the second race is likely to be. (Just a quick reminder that WKO+ software may be used to quantify fitness, or “CTL” as the software calls it.)
* How experienced you are at the Ironman distance. Having done several Ironman races means you know what it takes for you to have a good race the second time. This usually means long workouts, hill training and tempo sessions.
* How hard you pushed yourself in the first race. If you did it just to finish and didn’t try to find the limits of your fitness then you should bounce back fairly quickly. But if you gave it all you had then having a second race of near the same quality is unlikely.
*How quickly you recover. No matter how hard you pushed yourself in the first race, if you typically recover slowly then set your goals relatively low for the second. You may well need four of the six weeks between IM Hawaii and IMAZ to shed the fatigue before you are able to return to something approaching your normal Ironman training routine. That would likely preclude having a fast second race.
* How motivated you are to train hard again. If you are mentally wasted after the first race and just aren’t stimulated to get back into training again then you are better off just forgetting it.
* How high your goal is for the second race. The higher your goal, the more likely you are to be disappointed. Before setting a goal you should review the previous bullet points.
Again, for most athletes it’s not generally a good idea to do two Ironman races spaced so closely. But you may do fine with it depending on the variables listed here.