Beginner Long Course Thoughts

Time to pen a few of my thoughts and experiences about coaching athletes to their first long course race. It’s important to remember that the numbers are very much a guide – individuals vary of course, but mainly about where they are starting from.

70.3 training volume goal at the end of the build = 10.5 hours 

Swim 2 hours (2 x 1 hour)

Bike 5.5 hours (1 x 3 hour, 2 x 1.5 hours)

Run 3 hours (1 x 1.5 hour, 2 x 45min)

Ironman training volume goal at the end of the build = 15 hours 

Swim 2.5 hours (2 x 1 hour and a 30min open water swim)

Bike 8 hours (1 x 5 hour, 2 x 1.5 hours)

Run 4.5 hours (1 x 2.5 hour, 2 x 1 hour)

Again – please remember that this is the goal at the end – not what you have to do for the full 12 weeks prep.

Number 1 priority is aerobic volume. Not intensity. Getting the consistent miles in is key. Consistency is everything. Especially run. If you miss a run then discuss swapping a ride or swim out to get it in.

For long course, the weekend long sessions are about specific preparation. The weekday sessions are about getting you fit enough to tackle those long ones.

If looking to do your first long course then aim to “race” half the distance at least 6-8 weeks prior. This would mean race a Standard distance for a first time 70.3. Race a 70.3 for a first time Ironman if you haven’t done one already.

Successful long course racing is about hydration and pacing. Start practicing race nutrition very early and getting time at race pace / power in the long sessions to see where your heart rate sits.

Your starting point for nutrition is approximately 1g of carbs / 1kg of body weight / 1 hour

Starting point for hydration (water and / or electrolytes) is 500-750ml per hour. Do some weigh-in / weigh-out sessions on the long ones to see what your sweat rate is.

If you are experiencing stomach discomfort then reduce carbs and slow down until feeling better. It won’t take long to come out of the bad patch if you identify it early.

If feeling negative / down then sometimes it can be not enough food. Try getting a bit more food in.

Your mental game in a long course race is important also. The best races come from an athlete that has patience and resilience on the day.

Broadly, long course racing is all aerobic. 70.3 is T3 and Ironman is T2. Where you sit in that spectrum is a discussion between coach and athlete.

Strength endurance is absolutely a priority. Make sure you are challenging yourself over different terrains to develop the strength.

On your first one, walk the aid stations. It resets you and gives you a chance to get the hydration in properly.


I hope this post opens a conversation from those doing their first long race. Ask as many questions as you can. Not only from me – also from experienced long course athletes who can give you their experiences.


Finally – you can do it if you put in the work. That’s the most satisfying bit. Being very fit at the end of a preparation and then hitting the course with confidence.