Completing my First Ironman - PART 2: LOW CARB - LOW HEART RATE TRAINING


Steve Swanwick – Team Triumph Member Spotlight

In Part II of Steve’s journey, he will describe how his diet and training got him to the finish line of his first triathlon and then the Ironman.

In 2017, I set out to do my first triathlons after using the Phil Maffetone training principles of low carb, high fat, low heart rate for a little over a year. I completed the Meech Lake Triathlon and then the National Capital Olympic Distance Triathlon. I wrapped up the season with the Canadian Half Iron Distance. 


I trained, raced and fueled fat adapted for all of these races and it worked really well for me. I felt a remarkable transformation: much calmer and focused. I never had the energy highs and lows associated with carbs, and seldom if ever felt hungry. I did a lot of training runs and rides fasted (still do) and felt fantastic. I could almost say I did the Canadian fasted albeit inadvertently. 


I was in ketosis for that half iron race and only had a fat-laden, bulletproof coffee pre-race. I’d made some of Phil’s bars and nut butter for the bike and in what I’ll call a “learning experience“: I wrapped that food so well that I almost crashed twice trying to open them! I gave up after half a bar and that was my nutrition for the race. What I found interesting was that I wasn’t hungry at the end of the race or immediately after. I certainly don’t recommend this strategy but I thought that it somewhat validated this approach to endurance.


Next on the list, of course, was the full Ironman and this is what ultimately led me to Julia and Team Triumph. I realized that this distance was a different animal altogether and the smart play was to get guidance. However, it was a bit tricky because I was looking for a coach who could put together a training plan that would adhere to the Maffetone principles. 


After laying this all out, Coach Julia was up for the challenge and we began working on the plan together. She built a program that reflected her knowledge of Maffetone, what was required to finish an Ironman and my desire to train as close to Maffetone-based principles as possible. I won’t bore you with all the details but it was exactly what I was looking for!


What I’ve particularly appreciated and valued about working with Julia is that when we meet every few months any new tweaks, ideas or adjustments to our training plan exactly reflects our discussions and observations from the previous block.


There’s no question I was ready for Tremblant after following the plan. I want to emphasize that up to this point in my endurance experience the whole idea was to stay aerobic as long as possible, survive, establish a baseline to build on for the future, and that’s exactly what we did. In fact, up to the 30K mark of the run I was almost a bit concerned at how good I felt. Nice problem to have! The last 10k brought me down to earth but I finished strong with no major drama. 


The race strategy we’d drawn up was perfect and I finished within 4 minutes of our best case scenario. In fact if not for an incredible adventure at T2 I would have beat it. Looking at the data afterward I stayed aerobic through the whole race until the very late stages of the run and didn’t burn ANY “matches”. I strongly recommend this method of training!


And now we move on to Ironman Lake Placid next year. We’re going to figure out a program to build speed and go faster while continuing to build an aerobic base and manage stress. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be able to report on another successful year with Team Triumph and we’ll have learned a lot more about this low carb endurance journey!


Steve Swanwick

In Part I, Steve explained how he got into triathlon and how he used a low carb, low stress and mainly aerobic training plan to train for a triathlon.

To read Part 1, go to 

Request Information Now!