Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ironman Training - What it's all about!

Before embarking on a journey to a new Ironman, Analise and I had some heart to heart discussions about how the training and preparation was going to impact our lives.  We promised that it wouldn't take over our lives and that we'd still prioritize TJ, each other and our jobs.  It's easy for training to become such a high priority and source of stress that other things get sacrificed. 

A common perception of Ironman training is that it has to be high volume and all consuming.  I have friends who start doing long runs and long rides 6-8 months out, thinking that distance and volume are the key to finishing the 140.6 miles.  To an extent, they're right.  You need to have the endurance to finish the distance and doing some longer workouts are key to building that endurance.  However, the high volume approach that seems to be so popular is very rarely the most efficient and effective approach.  Well, unless your focus is on just finishing and not your finish time...

At E3 Training solutions, our approach is to build a program built around the individual.  It's an evidence based approach that utilizes proved training methods.  In the early stages you focus on general fitness; building your critical swim speed, critical power and run speed.  As you approach your race, you transition into more race specific fitness, which for an Ironman is your moderate intensity, longer duration workouts. 

I'm 22 weeks out from IM Cozumel.  For the next 8-12 weeks, my focus will continue to be increasing my general fitness.  That means a combination of VO2 max sets (to raise the ceiling) and threshold sets to hit that sweet spot of maximum adaptation.  Until 3 months out from the Ironman, my volume will actually be pretty low; 10-12 hours per week for the most part.  There will not be any century rides or 2+ hour runs in the training plan.  With my limited available training time, I'll be focused on getting faster.

In September, 3 months out from the Ironman, the transition will begin.  The "superload" weeks will start being worked in and the volume will increase.  Still, it won't be insane volume. Long runs will be 90-120 min.  There might be a few 100+ mile rides mixed in, but very few.  The focus will be on pushing out that speed that has been developed to the longer durations.  All sessions will have an element of intensity, targeting race pace.  And since the goal is to go fast on race day, I won't be taking it easy on those rides.  Runs will be at steady pace, finishing with 30-40 minutes at tempo race.  The rides will be even more intense. 

Bottom line is that it's all about training load and targeting the adaptations that will be required for race day.  A high volume approach can work if it really is HIGH volume with plenty of intensity mixed in.  That means 20-30hr weeks with a lot of rest and recovery mixed in.  If you're a busy person like me who has a life to live on top of this hobby, that's just not possible. 

Instead, I focus on efficiency.  Maximizing training load through targeted workouts.  Knowing exactly where my fitness stands and basing the workouts on that information.  Generic workouts can't do that.  They focus on ensuring the athlete has the endurance to finish the Ironman.  I'm focused on racing the Ironman.  Yeah, that might only mean a 5-10 AG finish or something similar, but it also means maximizing my finish time based on the training time I have available. 

We'll see what my coach has in store for me and I'll post it here.  For now, I know the focus will be something like this:

Swim:  Continue to do Masters Swim.  This will address my biggest weakness and ensure consistency.

Bike:  The key session here will be 6x4 min @ 105%CP workouts during the week.  The weekend rides will be steady at 80-90% for 2-3 hours. 

Run:  We'll focus on increasing my Critical Velocity (CV).  Main sessions will be 12x2 min at T pace.  Long runs will be 60-90 min with an element of intensity at the end. 

Other:  Shoulder PT, core strength and stabilizing muscles will all be targeted throughout each week. 

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