Planning for the 2023 Ironman World Championship

25 July 2023

Today’s Plans’ Ben Hill prepares to take on the Pro field

Brief overview of my triathlon journey so far:

  • In 2007 at 17 I started cycling competitively
  • 2015 – 2020 raced at the UCI continental level 
  • May 2022 – For a bit of fun I raced a triathlon and I won my age group at Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie
  • September 2022 – Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast – I was last in the pro field
  • May 2023 – My first Ironman, racing in the pro field at Ironman Australia – 5th

This qualified me for a spot in the pro field at the Ironman World Championships in Nice, France. This was an opportunity I never thought I would have and one I might not get again. It is a big commitment but after talking with my support team (mainly my wife) we decided to go for it.

Once the decision was made and I had recovered I had 17 weeks to prepare. I analysed the course and the field and assessed my strengths and weaknesses. Being a relatively weak swimmer and the surprisingly large advantage the riders get being in a group it made me think there is a very real possibility I could be last out of the water and fighting all day just to catch anyone.

Coming from a cycling background I have found I am very injury prone when running. I have not developed the strength in my ligaments and tendons to tolerate much load or especially intensity with my run training. This means my hands are tied regarding run training and I plan to run at a low intensity and hope to increase the volume slowly.

This leaves me with really only the ride and swim to work on. I saw two options: work really hard on the swim and hope to get in a decent group on the bike or double down on the bike and hope the hilly course is enough for me to ride my way up a few places. 

I decided to get in the pool. I joined a swim squad and started swimming 5 days a week! A big increase from the 2-3 swims per week I was doing.

Meanwhile to make things more complicated, just the day before Ironman Australia I got invited to compete at the inaugural Olympic ESports Week in Singapore. This was an amazing opportunity and although it was a bit of a conflict with the goals of Ironman world champs it was one I could not pass up.

  • The swim was simple 17 weeks aiming to swim 5 days a week, including 3 hard sessions of whatever intervals the squad was doing. This would not change with the exception of travel to Singapore and in the final 2 week taper. 
  • The run was also not complicated, with the basic goal of getting over my injury that I’d carried into Ironman Australia and then increasing my volume. Once I was comfortable running 60-70km a week I would think about including some sort of intensity. I do not have a goal for the run leg in Nice more than being at the start line injury free. 
  • The ride is split into two phases. With the Olympic ESports events being a 15 min and a 5 min race of repeated sprints, phase 1 was a focus on my short power. I would do one long ride per week and the rest of the bike workouts would be short sprint workouts. After this, phase 2 would be back to Ironman focus where I would have 11 weeks to build the engine up again mainly with zone 2 endurance riding and some threshold work.

So now we sit 8 weeks out from World Champs. Life is busy and I would rarely complete a week at 100% of what I set out to do but all things considered training has gone pretty well. Three weeks ago I won both my races in the Olympics ESports Week and my team finished 2nd. I’ve dived back into a heavy volume program on the bike and starting to feel like I’ve got my endurance back. My swim time in the pool is getting better and better and I really feel like extra swimming is making a big difference. And running, I’m injury free and think I’m ready to start a little intensity.

I’ll do an update leading into the race on how the next phase of training has gone and include some expectations on how I think my race will go.