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My First Ironman Big Day

Joe Friel's Big Day is a tough but valuable training day - here's how it went for me and Felix.

I was introduced to Joe Friel’s “Big Day” concept by Santi Brage of Got To Tri on a training camp in March. The big day we did on the training camp was geared more towards middle distance training, but it got me thinking and I decided to incorporate one into my training plan for the Outlaw triathlon this summer, and persuaded my training buddy Felix to join me.

Jim and Felix, bright and earlyish, ready to go

The general idea of a Big Day is to simulate a lot of the physiological, kit and logistics challenges of a long distance event without taking on the full bill of training stress. It’s still a lot of training stress though. The general outline is: -

  1. Wake up and breakfast as you would on race day at 0mygodit’searly30
  2. Swim for 1h at race pace, race kit.
  3. Chill for 90mins.
  4. Ride for 5h. Race pace, race kit.
  5. Chill for 90 mins.
  6. Run for 2h. Race pace, race kit.
  7. Shower / ice bath.
  8. Inhale a pizza.

We went to Jesus Green Lido for the swim, simply because Milton Lake wasn’t open on the Sunday morning when we needed to do our Big Day.

Genevieve in full TT regalia

We based the ride around a 45km loop that’s on decent roads and easy to navigate, going in opposite directions so we had someone to wave at from time to time. After 2 loops we dropped back home for a bottle change because we couldn’t figure an easy way to put a feed station on the course. We did something similar on the run; a 10km figure 8 with a feed station (a poly bag hidden in some nettles) at the crossover point so we had access to gel and water every 5km.

Still smiling after the ride

I learned a few really valuable lessons from doing the Big Day specific to where I’m at right now, but here are a few tips for anyone else wanting to try it.

  1. It’s hard - plan around it properly. The Big Day is about as hard as it looks on paper. I did this in the middle of a two-week training block, and I only gave myself one rest day the day before, and one after. The second week of the block felt like hard work as I wasn’t clearing the fatigue between sessions. YMMV, but if I do this again, it will definitely be at the end of a block with a lighter schedule of active recovery to look forward to.
  2. Extract the positives. At the end of the day, all I could think about was how my swim pace had collapsed during the second half of the swim and thinking of ways to amp up my swim training. Santi had some good advice: List 3 positive things you learned. And lo, with that in mind, I realised that there were a lot more than 3, which reframed the whole experience for me.
  3. Better with company. It was great to have Felix’s company, even if they were somewhat fleeting on the ride and run, and to share notes between sections of the day.
  4. Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ‘99: Wear sunscreen.

Happy it's done!

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Last updated on May 23, 2022 21:53 +0100
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