On one of my email lists today, someone posted this quote from the description of the Ironman Championship in Hawaii:
"The average Ironman triathlete spends 18 to 24 hours each week training for this event. A typical week includes seven miles of swimming, 225 miles of biking and 48 miles of running. Many competitors also cross-train with weight training, stretching and yoga, among other activities."
Those kind of numbers are enough to make ordinary mortals tremble in fear. At least me, they do.
But are they real? I wondered. In fact, I was a bit skeptical.
Maybe they're true for people competing for the world championship at Kona. But a 2005 study of real-world athletes, 39 "Male, English-speaking non-elite, ironman-distance triathletes", suggests those numbers are quite a bit higher than the average Ironman triathlete.
From the charts in this study, I did a few calculations of average weekly training loads, and derived the following:
Weekly training load for average triathlete six months prior to Ironman event:
Total weekly hours: 11.6
Weekly swim time: 3.0 hours
Weekly swim distance: 4131 m
Weekly bike time: 5.5 hours
Weekly bike distance: 86 miles
Weekly run time: 2.7 hours
Weekly run distance: 20 miles
Weekly PEAK training load for average triathlete two months prior to Ironman event:
Total weekly hours: 13.7
Weekly swim time: 3.3 hours
Weekly swim distance: 4590 m
Weekly bike time: 7.1 hours
Weekly bike distance: 143 miles
Weekly run time: 3.9 hours
Weekly run distance: 27 miles
Whew. That makes me feel a lot better. The training levels of those six months out from their event are not a great deal higher than mine right now. Those are much manageable times and distances than many people talk about. Don't believe all the bragging and hype you hear out there about Ironman training times. I know there are people who do more than that, lots more, particularly the elite athletes. And certainly most coaches recommend more.
But it's NOT the average approach.