Ironman Insanity: How to Train for the World’s Most Grueling Endurance Race In Just 14 Days.

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Let’s just start by letting the cat out of the bag, shall we?

In exactly 14 days, I will be racing Ironman Hawaii, the World Championships of Ironman on the Big Island of Kona. Yes – that one: the hot torturefest in the lava fields during which you race a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and finish with a marathon for dessert.

And I just found this fact out approximately 24 hours ago.

Ben Greenfield Ironman minimalist

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Allow me to clarify why this is kind of a shocker.

I have not trained for Ironman. Nadda. Zip. Zilch.

I have just six days ago finished, extremely battered and bruised, the Spartan World Championships.

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I had planned on spending my next several weeks drinking organic wine and stuffing my face with dark chocolate.

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So when my manager for Team Timex told me I’d been tasked with showing up to the starting line of one of the most grueling endurance events on the face of the planet, although most people spend 8-16 months training for this race, and not a meager 14 days…

…I naturally said “yes”.

After all, I’ve always been curious how the human body would handle an Ironman triathlon without any actual Ironman training. I also have a few tricks up my sleeve that make me want to experiment with how well my body will hold up in the lava fields, namely:

Two months ago, I completed Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine’s brutal Kokoro camp, which proved to me I’m capable of achieving 20 times more than I really think I am…

Twice a week, I’ve been following Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s heat acclimation sauna protocol we discussed in the podcast “How To Use Heat Exposure“…

I’ve been lifting heavy weights and training for Spartan racing, so I know that my joints are bulletproof and that I can run decently…

Timex has given me full access to their amazing arsenal of pacing tools – namely the Run Trainer and Cycle Trainer – so I can at least pace properly and keep myself from completely blowing up during Ironman…

And finally, I’ve got a big bag of tricks to get my body to recover really fast.

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However, I also have some pretty significant disadvantages, particularly in the training preparation department. After finishing Israman in January, I threw in the towel on much triathlon training and shifted to obstacle racing instead.

Longest swim of year: 1 mile. Average weekly swim mileage: 500 meters, primarily breasttroking with my kids…

Longest bike of year: 12 miles. Average weekly bike mileage: 15 miles, mostly on a mountain bike…

Longest run of year: 14.5 miles. Average weekly run mileage: 8 miles…all on soft, cushy trails…

Total number of triathlons completed this year: 2 very short sprint triathlons.

So you could very accurately say that I have trained less than probably any athlete who will be racing Kona. Way less.

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So how in the hell am I going to get ready for this monster of a race in just 2 weeks?

Good question. I’m just now scrambling to figure that out myself.

Since I have both affectionately and with great ridicule been called the “Biohacking Triathlete”, I’ll definitely hack the heck out of this thing, but before I tell you how I’m going to train and what I’m going to eat, allow me to clarify one thing…

…my plan is not to trudge slowly through Ironman Hawaii with a goal of “just finishing”. My mind simply doesn’t work that way. I show up to any event mentally prepared to push my body and brain to their absolute limits.

So with that clarification, my plans are:

1. Ride a bike 30 minutes every morning to re-accustom my body to pedaling a bicycle. Unfortunately, due to a broken bike frame, I don’t actually have a triathlon bike right now, so I’ll ride my road bike instead. During these rides, I’ll use Elevation Training Mask or Hypoxico altitude training generator to grow a few extra red blood cells. And one week before the race, I’ll do one steady 2 hour ride for a bit of “time in the saddle”.

2. Avoid much running, since it’s a high-impact activity and it’s too late now to put much work into the body, especially since I’m recovering from the brutal Spartan World Championships.  The cons of running much at this point outweigh the pros. Instead I’ll do an short, 10-15 minute intense treadmill or aqua jogging sprint session every other day. Both of these modes are lower impact compared to pounding the pavement.

3. Swim 20-30 minutes every day in very cold water (this upregulates nitric oxide production, and the cold will assist with fighting inflammation too), alternating between hard 100’s/50’s/25’s one day, and skill work the next day. Getting a “feel for the water” is very important when you want to efficiently race an open water intense 2.4 mile swim, and I’ll need to get that feel back – really, really fast.

4. 30 minute dry sauna sessions every 48 hours until I shove out to the Big Island on October 8. You can learn exactly why this heat acclimation tactic is so important in the episode “Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Heat Exposure To Enhance Performance, Burn Fat, Gain Muscle And Think Better.“.

5. Electrostimulation sessions every other day with a MarcPro+ on my quads, hammies, calves and shoulders, which is going to suck the post-Spartan race inflammation out of my body. I’ll also do deep tissue work with a full body foam roller sessions on the days I’m not electrocuting myself.

6. A few easy 15-20 minute resistance training sessions to maintain muscle memory and strength. To avoid muscle tearing and breakdown, I’ll primarily use the MostFit Suspension Trainer, and do slow, controlled full-body sessions.

7. A jacked-up nutrition supplement arsenal, namely: Thorne AM/PM Multivitamin Complex to increase my nutrient levels, 4 EPA/DHA fish oil capsules every day to help joints recover from Spartan, 1 daily shot of X2Performance to load with ATP, 4 daily Colostrum capsules to get my gut ready for the heat, 1 daily packet of TianChi to lower cortisol levels, a bunch of extra greens to increase alkalinity, 1 X2Performance for last 7 days leading up to race, and of course, 1 big cup of bone broth every day. For the race itself, I’ll plan to pack my water bottles and fat-based energy gels so I can follow the exact nutrition protocol I outline here.

8. Drag all my fancy triathlon gear out of it’s dark corner in the garage, specifically a BlueSeventy PZ3TX skinsuit, BlueSeventy Element Goggles, a Giro Air Attack Helmet, Rocket7 Cycling Shoes, Timex Cycle TrainerTimex Run Trainer.

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So when you put it all together, my 14 day Ironman training protocol is going to look like this:

Mon, Sep 29: 30 minute easy bike spin, short treadmill run off bike, short suspension trainer session after run. Swim hard. Sauna. Electrostim.

Tue, Sep 30: 30 minute easy bike spin, short suspension trainer session off bike. Swim skills. Foam roller.

Wed, Oct 1: 30 minute easy bike spin. Swim hard, short aqua jog after swim. Sauna. Electrostim.

Thu, Oct 2: 30 minute easy bike spin, short suspension trainer session off bike. Swim skills. Foam roller.

Fri, Oct 3: 30 minute easy bike spin, short treadmill run off bike. Swim hard. Sauna. Electrostim.

Sat, Oct 4: 2 hour bike ride. Foam roller.

Sun, Oct 5: 30 minute easy bike spin, short treadmill run off bike. Swim skills. Sauna. Electrostim.

Mon, Oct 6: 30 minute easy bike spin, short suspension trainer session off bike. Swim hard, short aqua jog after swim. Foam roller.

Tue, Oct 7: 30 minute easy bike spin. Sauna. Swim skills. Electrostim.

Wed, Oct 8: Fly to Kona. Day off. Electrostim on plane.

Thu, Oct 9: Speak at Ironman Medical Conference. Easy swim in ocean. Foam roller.

Fri, Oct 10: Quick swim, bike, run practice. Massage.

Sat, Oct 11: Race.

And of course, back to my original plan of red wine and dark chocolate on Sunday.

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So there you have it.

I am going to prepare for the world’s most grueling endurance race in just 14 days. And sure, I’m known as a minimalist training guy, but this is taking things to a whole new level, and I have no clue if my body can actually pull this one off. It’s going to take every trick I know.

What do you think?

What would YOU do if you had 14 days to prepare for an Ironman?

Do you think this is absolutely insane?

Leave your questions, comments and feedback below, and stay tuned to the BenGreenfieldFitness Facebook page for updates, announcements and some very cool contests in the next few days leading up to Ironman Insanity.

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47 thoughts on “Ironman Insanity: How to Train for the World’s Most Grueling Endurance Race In Just 14 Days.

  1. tony garcia says:

    Athlinks shows you did the Ironman kona in 2013. Fake news?

  2. Corbin says:

    It would be great to see/hear a follow up on how this went?

      1. Derek says:

        I took a swimming technique course once. I could swim 2 laps of the pool. The coach told us stories about how “he didn’t know how to swim” and how he “suddenly” became better using the technique he was teaching us. But the truth was, he HAD been swimming – for 30 years before he “learned to swim”. Only “he” felt like he wasn’t any good, so he said “he didn’t know how to swim.”. It pissed me off because going from 2 laps to where my coach was at is hard. And I didn’t appreciate him lying to me saying he was “just where I was.” He hadn’t been “where I was” for over 30 years. Guys like you frustrate me. You DID NOT train for Ironman in 14 days. You’re lying. But for some reason guys like you don’t think you’re lying. You just seem to make up these stories and somehow believe them. You train for Ironman ALL THE TIME the time because this stuff is part of your life. You are the same Ben Greenfield who did Ironman Hawaii in 2011, in 9 hours and 36 minutes, and published about it? And the same Ben Greenfield who did 2 Ironmans in 6 weeks in 2013? And over 126 races at around 8 races a year? And you’re telling us all that “you didn’t train?” This is what you DO. And you travel around the world doing it! But you tell us that you “did your Ironman with 14 days of training.” Why are career athletes and Ironmen like yourself always looking to make up stories of “amazing feats” (like doing an Ironman without training) that you’ve done? I once heard an interview with Mike Reno of Loverboy, when his band was touring with Journey. The interviewer asked him “You’re amazing. How do you keep your voice so strong?” He said he never practices or trains because he tours so much. His vocal chords were always loose and ready. He was always training because he was always touring. But Mike Reno would never “take a few months off” and then lie and say he went on tour with Journey without training his voice. I am an avid athlete. I run 25 km a week, I bike maybe 100km a week. And I don’t swim. So tell me how I can train for Ironman Hawaii in 14 days. Come on – train me! Oh I forgot – don’t you need to qualify for that one…? Maybe I will need to pick another race…

  3. Annie Kaiser says:

    Hi Ben,,

    I’m Annie – and I will be attempting my first IRONMAN two weeks from now in the Woodlands. I have had almost no tri-specific training.

    Over a month ago, I stopped heavy lifting as part of a 4-5x week Crossfit regimen. I’ve been in the pool 3x, and ran a half marathon a couple weeks ago. My goal is sustained, moderate work throughout the day.

    A couple of months ago, I did 1K pushups in one sitting as part of a Mark Devine/Ramit Sethi “20x Your Potential” course. I believe these feats of endurancee can be conquered with the right athleticism but also mental grit.

    Looking forward to it.

  4. Brock and I will be sitting down to chat about all of that tomorrow, after the race. Watch for a podcast coming out soon!

  5. chaserpb says:

    Hi,
    didn´t you say one year ago that Kona 2013 was your last Ironman?

    What about your thyroid?

    P.S. Don´t get me wrong. I am fan of you

  6. David Bittner says:

    At this point it’s all Biohacking and tenacity! Ornariness won’t hurt either! Lol

  7. Ryan F says:

    Ben, you’ll be fine. A few years ago I had a similar opportunity to race a 50K in 2 weeks without knowing. At the time I was training for a distance medley relay to run the 1200- well I ran the 1200 in 3:30 then the next weekend ran the 50K in 5:20. The next year I gave the same 50K a shot with ‘proper’ long slow distance training. And ran basically the same time, 2 min faster. The difference was the first time I ran ‘scared’ and really paced myself, watched HR and walked the very steep climbs(HAT 50K- trails). Doing a similar feat for IM Florida this year- average 5-8 hours of training a week due to several factors but have done all high intensity sprints.. May not crush the race but at least I was able to spend time with my young family. Stay smart and you’ll do much better than you expect.

  8. robevend says:

    Good luck Ben!
    I wait for the result! :-)

  9. Joe says:

    Love your work Ben. I’ve had 2 similar experiences, with last minute “call-ups” to Ironman events. In 2012 I was given the opportunity to “race” IM Melbourne 48 hours before race start. I had been doing a lot of cycling but no running or swimming for 12 months prior. This year I was given a 4 week lead up to do IM Cairns – read my blog post here… http://acaciahealth.com.au/joes-blog/

  10. Nate Davis says:

    Hi Ben,

    amidst your fancy recovery regime I noticed you mention regular foam roller sessions. Are you familiar with Jay DiCharry’s work? My wife heard his clinic at a USATF event, and he stressed the importance for recovery not only of the foam roller, but of rolling with a lacrosse ball for bigger muscle groups or where more pressure is required (hamstrings, glutes, and arches, for example).

    1. I love the lacrosse ball. Great tool. A favorite of Kelly Starret as well.

  11. You are going to crush it and upset the past 30 years of training dogma. As the others have said, your level of mental and physical overall prep is so far above standard I would argue that you are probably more likely to succeed. You stopped being a purpose-built peak-driven triathlete a while ago. Now I see you as somebody who is race-ready and multi-event capable at all times. Have a blast man. Great to see you in Pasadena CA too

  12. CarrieTellefson says:

    You got this Ben!! I did 2 1/2 weeks to Ironman for IMWI. After doing IM CDA in June, our family took a 3 week Europe trip (no training only walking). Came back and got back into Crossfit plus a few social weekend bike rides with no intention of any further IM racing this season. Got talked into IMWI with just over two weeks to race time. Racing strategy – don't analyze the splits, its a 140.6 event. Real race starts at at the halfway point of the run (moderate the effort on the bike to save legs for the last half of the run). Used 3Fuel (higher protein, low sugar) & Justin's almond butter and no stomach issues this time. Felt great throughout. Can't wait to track you at Kona! You will rock it!

  13. Ray Cronise says:

    Ben

    You’re definitely trained. You live a trained life, but I would suggest you add:

    Contrast therapy after every training session you do as we discussed at super human conference – 10 s warm, 20 a cold repeat 10 times and end on cold. This is superior to just cold showers/immersion as the contrast induces vasodilation/contraction for much faster recovery. It paradoxically helps with warm adaptation as well. If you want post workout cold immersion, do it following contrast therapy.

    Good luck!

    Ray

    1. Dan says:

      Ray

      For the contrast showers.

      Is there even more benifits doing it longer than 5 minutes?

      Also how does doing 40 cold/ 20 hot instead of 20/10, are the benifits equal?

      One more. Doing the contrast showers, perhaps 1-2 a day replace total longer sessions of CT or CT to shivering?

      Thanks!

      1. Ray says:

        Dan

        It’s not that exacting, so feel free to experiment. As for duration of each cycle, the transition from vasoconstrict to vasodilate and back is the secret sauce here. We aren’t “sucking calories” our per se, but cycling to get an overall adaptive response.

        After training if one does contrast followed by a quick soak at 55-65F water (typical full cold) then you old find recovery improved greatly.

        Ray

        1. Dan says:

          Thanks Ray. Makes sense. Been really being consistent with it and it gets addicting.

          Cheers and thanks for the reply.

  14. Trigirl46 says:

    You are better prepared than most and will kick ass, you already know how to hurt and take pain so have a great race! Cant wait to read about it.

  15. Ozzieville says:

    To answer your question: yes, insane. But admirable as well. A big thanks for continuing to show us what the human body and spirit are capable of.

  16. AKHighsmith says:

    Howdy Ben,

    Best of luck!

    Would you still do heat/sauna on low HRV days? Would it help or be to much stress?

    Getting ready for a race like this with such short time will you still train based off of HRV or just ignore it for now and rebound later?

    I am also curious what fatty gels you will be packing for this particular race. I love the pocket fuel but have found that it is more difficult to choke down on a higher intensity run.'

    Thanks for your time,

    1. This is my exact nutrition plan http://thornefx.com/ben-greenfield-thornefx-triat… and you should go back and listen to this interview https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2014/06/how-t… about Heat Exposure.

  17. gramck24 says:

    Perhaps there should be a bengreenfieldfitness.com 'nearest to the pin' competition on what time you'll do.

    I still think you'll go Sub 11 hours. :-)

    1. Ha ha. That's not a bad idea… although this minimal of training is pretty much unknown territory for me. I do not know what to expect either.

  18. David says:

    If you haven’t raced how do you have a slot for Hawaii? ?

    Good Luck

    1. Sponsors get a certain number of slots given to them. Team Timex had an extra and wanted me to fill it.

  19. Fred Cuzner says:

    From my phone as I’m about to nod off.

    1. Take as many 90+ minute flotation tank sessions you can to hyper drive your physical recovery.

    2. Alter your food intake from building muscle to increasing energy stores.

    3. Increase the toughness and durability of your feet.

    4. Amp up your ability to rehydrate multiple times over extended sessions

    5. Go extreme with heat acclamation.

    6. Get some sessions of ART to lengthen your now bigger muscles and check for any areas needing release.

    7. increase you planned electrolyte consumption and this time ensure you take them.

  20. sitaifun1 says:

    I would start consuming high amounts of Nutrex-Hawaii's astaxanthin for sun protection, anti-inflammation, and to promote endurance. Probably 12mg, 4x daily. See http://www.naturalnews.com/astaxanthin.html for reference articles. Incorporating lots of turmeric and ginger in the diet wouldn't hurt to reduce inflammation either.

  21. ptrosh says:

    I'll be interested to see your results in Ironman. I couldn't find you listed in the Vermont Beast results but that race is about 5 hours or so, isn't it? So obviously you have base strength and endurance. I think how you finish will depend a lot more on your race plan than on the training you do in the next 2 weeks. You need to ride by heart rate, hydrate properly and not cook yourself on the bike, and hang on mentally during the run. Good luck!

  22. No doubt you will do amazing. You have 10 ironman races under your belt and you have only gotten stronger after you retired. Plus, you know the course, so your body will know what to expect. Can’t wait to see you kick ass in the race. Best of luck.

  23. MattMiller21 says:

    I'm signed for one in three weeks, but I haven't trained and planned on skipping long ago. But this article tempts me…

  24. rogeraleph says:

    Hi Ben! Crazy thing you doing… im doing similar too, just run a full marathon 4 weeks ago and im running again next week. My training include sauna sessions, cold sessions, fish oil and im 2 week now stiwching to a ketogenic diet. Talk you soon to let you know what happend.
    Saludos desde Mexico City

  25. sharon mclellan says:

    Hello ben

    I enjoy following you and live learning from you regarding health and fitness. But when I read all you do in terms of exercise, a thought always comes to my mind that I would not be surprised. If you dropped dead at age 52 from cardiomyopathy. This is not uncommon in people who way over exercise. I am sure you are away of this. I am a cardiac nurse and have seen this first hand. But a well know name is Jim Fix who dropped dead at age 52. As did his prodigy. Be careful. And i would suggest when you are done you truly do rest and drink wine and eat chocolate and enjoy your family

    1. Hmm…you should read the secret hidden chapter in my book at http://www.BeyondTrainingBook.com, in which I outline a full heart testing protocol I've undergone. You'd be shocked at the results, and also the parts of that chapter where I talk about why guys like Jim really died.

  26. Ed says:

    I meant creatine. Sorry for iPhone spellcheck.

  27. Ed says:

    Would definitely put a creative load protocol in their 5 or 6 days out from the event. I feel that always gives a little boast. I think you’ll be fine in the swim snd cycle actually. It’s the run that will be brutal on your body. What about hammering some fish oil, Capra and astaxanthin between now and Race day.

  28. Michelle Johnstone says:

    Ben

    You strike me that you are “”race ready” pretty much any time!

    You may not finish in 8-10 hours but I believe you will finish this race under 17 hours.

    Good Luck!

    I look forward to how your recovery goes…

  29. megs1768 says:

    What intensity do you set your Marc Pro for?…. Do you always do just quads, hammies, calves or do you every use the "global flush"… how long do you do it? I have one and I feel like I end up "working" my muscles instead of flushing them…. and am sore the next day…..

    1. High intensity on joints, low intensity on muscles…every other day! Easy!

  30. Kate says:

    Sounds like you’re a little “high strung”!

    Best of luck!

  31. Homer says:

    Ben, you are good to go. Kokoro/SealFit and related activities are suppose to prepare you for just about anything. Durability/enduring things seams to be a big part of Kokoro. And as you have pointed out, obstacle course racing is great cross training as well. You are going to fly past all the other over trained, tendonosis haveing, adrenal fatigued people on the course.

  32. Mark McLaughlin says:

    Love it Ben! I would ratchet down the intensity of the workouts so you are in 50 – 75% of target heart rate for most of your workouts the next two weeks. Otherwise, you may risk throwing your system into fight or flight mode and lower your immune system. Maybe get some adrenal support supplements and practice some mindfulness exercises to strengthen your attention skills. Best of luck to you!

  33. PTF says:

    Ben…not insane for you. But it will probably take you a while. I'd do walk/run in the marathon right from the beginning. Good luck!

  34. vicfz1 says:

    Hi Ben, I see in your Timex photo on this page, that you are wearing your Encoder bracelet. Are you planning to wear it for Kona? I am wondering about it's benefits for such long edurance events (yes I own and wear one, but still have never done the verification testing). Good Luck! I'll be checking in on your results.

    1. Definitely! It assists with mitigating stress and keeping you in alpha brain wave zone!

  35. gramck24 says:

    Most excellent! Can't wait to see how you get on…

    However, it's not like you're going from a complete standing start. Your level fitness and capability on no training and a battering at the Spartan World Champs is better condition than those who have trained for months!

    Good luck!

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