How To Succeed At Ironman Triathlon
Alice Hector is a professional triathlete who has a host of impressive wins under her belt. She gives us some real advice on the things that matter when training for an Ironman 70.3 triathlon.
1. How many strength sessions do you do per week and how do you balance gym sessions with outdoor training?
I do some strength work when I'm not racing a lot, so typically in the winter. It's less about heavy weights and more about moving well in several directions, activating the right muscles and keeping stable through the movement. I prioritise mobility in the gym and trigger point work, so I'm usually the one in the corner, lying on a hard ball or bending, whilst everyone else sweats it out!
2. What do you think about on those long bike rides and runs?
Long bike rides are not my favourite thing due to the boredom factor - but if I have somewhere to go - (occasionally I have cycled to a friends house 80 miles away), it gives me a mission and I stay more motivated! I also listen to music when on the country roads, but make sure I'm fully aware through towns, and I avoid cities.
Long runs I find far more enjoyable as I usually find a flow or rhythm that I can't get on the bike. Time just disappears when I'm in this zone. Again, music helps!
3. Most people's least favourite discipline is the swim - is this the case for you?
That'll be the bike for me. As long as I am able, I will always swim. I enjoy it, especially the open water. The only downside to swimming is finding lane space in public swim sessions or getting up at 5.30 am for the club swim. As recovery is so important, we're doing fewer 5.30 starts this winter, which I'm not too sad about.
4. How do you fuel yourself for a big event like a 70.3?
Currently this is an art form in practice! I once under-fuelled and completely blew up, giving away a comfortable second place, finishing fourth and needing two drips afterwards. After that, I overdid the fuelling a few times, resulting in stomach problems on the run.
So our strategy now, which is working better, is a big lunch the day before, then a light dinner and light breakfast. Then 70g of carbs per hour on the bike (no solids, gels only) and then I'll carry a couple of gels on the run to drip feed on, and water/coke at aid stations.
5. Do you use any sports supplements while racing? (i.e. sodium in your water)
For hot weather racing my coach Mark Pearce has told me about sodium loading and it's something we'll do next year. Otherwise, I just use an electrolyte drink or tab, but I am a salty sweater, so this is something I definitely want to focus more on. I have a black race suit and it's white by the end of the race, so if I'm winning I try to douse myself in water at the last aid station so I don't look too crusty come the finish. Pleasant sport, this!
6. Do you have any top tips to stay comfortable on the bike, especially for women?
Assos bike shorts. A revelation and I've taken to racing in them too for longer races. I'm not sponsored, but am more than happy to share my discovery!
7. How do you mentally overcome a tough course?
I enjoy hilly, lapped courses because then it becomes like interval training and you can break it down easily into segments (2 more hills, 2 more efforts etc). Windy can be 'interesting' on the bike with deep section front wheels, but again, when things get twitchy it's something to focus on, so alleviates the boredom factor.
And as I tell myself, tough conditions are just the same for everyone else.
8. Have you ever had any setbacks that have made you want to quit racing?
I enjoy triathlon when I can do it, and when I can train ok, quitting's never in my head. I have a great physio so don't tend to get injured and have a sound nutrition plan so don't get ill that often. Without those to stop me, what has happened is I get burnt out! And with that, you lose all your powers, you are constantly tired and irritable, and it's really hard to see a bright triathlon future. At this point, you don't need to quit, but you do need to take a 'time out'. I am sure this year, with far more of a structure in place, we will avoid being sidelined due to my habit of under-recovering and leaping back into full training too soon after races or setbacks.
9. What's been your favourite Ironman event to date?
Ironman 70.3 Ruegen 2016 - because I won it! And it was a straightforward race. There's a bit of travel to get there but then everything's in one place, the whole town gets out to support the run, and the bike is on beautiful smooth roads. I saw just one rider with a puncture on the two-lap course and he would have been very unlucky.
10. What advice would you give someone training for a 70.3 for the first time?
Get a few weeks of consistent training behind you, building the load gradually, until you can do each of the disciplines' distances separately at an easy pace, so you know you can do it.
You don't have to be super fit, you just have to be motivated and you need to fuel the race. So practice taking on energy whilst training. Some energy drinks and food will agree with you more than others: its purely personal preference for this one.
If you're after more than just the finish line, and have a time you'd like to go for, hire a coach - structured training and knowing when to go hard or back off is vital.