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Getting Faster

A Sub 10 Ironman in 10 Hours Per Week…

I first published my original "sub 10 Ironman in 10 hours per week" article back in 2010.   The article described the type of training I did to go 9:21 at IM Switzerland when I was working during the day and going to school at night.  This is an updated and improved version of the plan for 2019.  With many TriForcers having kids and with their lives becoming increasingly busy I thought I'd revisit this approach to training.  As a learning experience and as a break from the physical and mental grind of "traditional" Ironman training I'll be following this plan to see if I can qualify for Kona at Ironman Santa Rosa, May 2019

Despite what your perpetually shaved neighbor with the M Dot tattoo tells you, you don’t need to train 20 hours per week to crush your next Ironman.  Don't get me wrong, there’s no question that volume “works” when it’s done right, and if you are chasing those last percentage points in performance, it’s probably necessary. But your neighbor’s big volume approach comes with some serious drawbacks as well.

 

Drawbacks of High Volume Training

💩 Higher risk of injury and deep fatigue.

💩Less time for sleep and other key aspects of your Foundation for Adaptation

💩Probably less time spent at focused Ironman effort. The higher your volume, the more important it is to keep your long workouts at a “relaxed” <70% effort as opposed to the focused 70-78% steady Ironman effort. That leaves some athletes not ready for the demands of an Ironman-- cranking nonstop, relentlessly in the aerobars at 70-75%
💩 Increased risk of mental burnout.

💩And, of course, high likelihood of neglecting work, family, etc.

The Alternative

Instead of grinding out the “big miles,” a busy athlete might consider FOCUSED training, stripped down to the essentials,  that gets results and leaves you time for other things in life. I’m not saying this is necessarily the best way to train, but it can get you VERY fit on a limited time budget.    The following “core week” is an example. If you build up to this level then repeat a week like this for 6 weeks, then leave room to bump things up for the last 4-6 weeks before your 2 week taper, you’ll be fit. Incidentally, this is very similar to how I trained to go 9:21 at Ironman Switzerland when I was working during the day and going to school at night. And make no mistake about it, I’m not selling you a shortcut.  It's tough!

The Core Week

Planning Your Build: 3 Phases

MONDAY  (1h) hard bike intervals (e.g. 3 x 10 or 10 x 3)

+ optional ez run off the bike
TUESDAY (2h) lMish effort long run
WEDNESDAY(1h) swim - solid IMish distance swim
THURSDAY 90 min solid TTing ride (e.g. build ride or long ‘sweet spot” reps)
+ :25 fast t run (build run or tempo run)
FRIDAY(optional swim)
SATURDAY (3h) SOLID FOCUSED Ironman effort (power creep OK 2nd half) (or indoors 91s set)
+ (1h) run at SOLID FOCUSED IM effort off the bike
SUNDAY   (1h) hard IM distance swim

= 10 hours, 55 minutes - yes, we cheat a little and truncate when saying “10 hours” 🙂  (and it presumes your swim moving time is about 1 hour IM pace average like mine)

Phase 1: Build Up to the Core week

Don't just jump into the plan.  Start from where you are at and build gradually up to the "core week."  In general, the further we are from the race, the more we emphasize shorter, harder reps vs. longer reps and workouts.    Swim-wise, your biggest goal here is to be strong enough to do 2 x IM distnce swims / week.  You'll probably have to swim 3x / week at first to get there.

Phase 2 - The Core Week

This is the meat of the program (see table to the right).   A week like this repeated 4-6 times  will get you FIT.

Phase 3 - the last 4-6 weeks before taper

In the last few weeks before you taper it's time to add extra if you can.   See guidelines for this in "the rules" below.

The Rules

✔️Consistency is Key. If you skip workouts or have “bad weeks” on this plan it starts to add up very quickly and you won’t be fit to race. Slackers and workout skippers need not apply.

✔️Maximum "focus factor". Once you are feeling fit your long rides should be very race-like (or even more focused)-- do everything short of peeing your pants to keep cranking and keep the intensity up. STAY IN THE AEROBARS! These are not social rides! If you don’t have a good place to crank it outside, then you have to ride indoors. (I warned you… it’s not supposed to be easy).

✔️3 hour focused IM effort ride + 1 hour run off the bike: each of these is a little mini race rehearsal. Take advantage of it! Practice your pacing, nutrition and hydration just like race day. This is a major advantage of this type of plan. You have no excuse not to have things DIALED IN on race day. .

✔️2 x Ironman Distance Swims. If you are going to drive to the pool, etc., make it worth your time. We’ll do 2 SOLID IM distance swims per week. Within those swims we’ll touch on threshold work, sprints, etc, (so, not just grinding out IM distance)-- and they will be hard! Obviously you need to build up to this over time (and you probably want to start the season with 3 swims per week with the main goal of getting to the point where you can crush an IM distance swim-- then you’ve earned the privilege of swimming 2 x / week). And, even more obviously, if you are only swimming 2x per week, you can’t miss swims! Doing the Friday optional swim will definitely bring some additional re

✔️Once you can crush the long ride... when Ironman effort for 3 hours leaves you feeling very STRONG at the end and eager to do more, you know you are getting fit. In that case you can allow some natural “power creep” in the 2nd half of the ride. Don’t TRY to push the power above IM effort, but if it just happens naturally (and it still feels around IM effort) that’s OK, assuming you are bouncing back and feeling strong for your Monday intervals. (if not, stick to IM effort). Just remember NOT to allow power creep on race day-- a minimal plans means we need disciplined execution on race day!

✔️Optional runs. The run is stripped down to essentials: a long run, a solid IM 1 hour off the bike (taking the place of a second medium run during the week) and a harder run (done off the bike).  But there's no question that additional run frequency is helpful, so if they don't stress your schedule, go for it!

✔️Layout of the Week.  The layout above is excellent because it maximizes spacing between your challenging workouts.   If you want to play with the layout (e.g. do both your long ride and run on the weekend), you'll probably want to make other adjustments to the plan.  If in doubt, ask a coach.

✔️Last 4-6 weeks before taper. This is the period that most impacts your race results so we want to add to the core week if at all possible. Add 1 hour relaxed (65%) before the IM effort reps, or build to 2.5 hours relaxed, 2.5 IM effort. Start doing your “optional” swim and run every week (keep the run relaxed and on a soft surface if possible).  So, we might get up to a "massive" 13ish hours per week.    This is also a good time to attend a training camp (TriForce typically has a training camp 4ish weeks out from Ironman Santa Rosa).

✔️Taper. Taper doesn't mean shutting down your training-- it's reducing things in a smart way so you keep as much fitness as possible while having fresh legs on race day.  The less fatigued you are heading into the taper, the more "normal" your training should be.    The taper is a great time to keep up a good focus on your swimming as well.

This is not necessarily the most “fun” training plan (except as far as it is fun to get results and have spare time and energy to do other things in life), but it gets results. Do I guarantee that you’ll break 10 hours by following this plan? No. But I do guarantee that you’ll get SERIOUSLY FIT training this way… if you follow the rules of the plan!

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Getting Faster

6 Keys to Building Your Foundation for Adaptation (and…

The human body is amazing. If you keep gradually adding more and more stress, the body will adapt and get stronger and stronger. BUT ONLY IF YOUR BODY IS IN AN ADAPTIVE STATE. If you are not in an adaptive state, you might be able to train, but you won't ABSORB the training well and you won’t get faster.

You are likely NOT in an adaptive state if you are: * burning the candle at both ends * sleep deprived * on an irregular sleep schedule * dehydrated * stressed out * having a negative attitude * under fueled (not enough calories) * undernourished (not enough nutrients)

Good hydration is a key to turning your training into adaptations... and victory

Doing the six things below will lay a strong foundation for adaptation. As a bonus, all of the following with enhance EVERY area of your life (work, relationships, zest for life, energy levels). Treat them with almost with the same dedication as swim, bike, and run and you go a long way toward maximizing your adaptation and your life.

1. START BY BLOCKING OUT YOUR SLEEP. Most people need 7 to 9 hours depending on the person. A genetically lucky few need less. You probably know "your number."   I personally need 8. Put it into your calendar and if at all possible stick to a regular schedule. For me it's 11-7. If possible, use power naps if you are tired in the afternoon.  There is plenty written on sleep hygiene. In my opinion, sleep is more important than nutrition. Sleep is almost as important as swim, bike, run.If you struggle sleeping, get on it!

2. FUEL. Be sure to fuel during all longer workouts and to eat after ALL workouts. Those are times when the body is primed to take in what you eat and turn it into fuel instead of turning it into body fat. If you are avoiding processed foods and want to "fuel healthy" I recommend using dates (which are higher in glucose than most fruits.) Eat a meal ASAP after training. Plan ahead and have food ready.  You don't need

3. HYDRATE. I'm guilty of neglecting this. Drink 1 bottle per hour during workouts (more in heat). Drink a glass or two first thing in the AM and have a glass with every meal. There’s no need to go crazy with hydration (the body can only hold so much), but just don’t neglect it. I notice a correlation between being dehydrated and feeling like my muscles are "rough" like dried out rubber instead of supple and soft.

4. REDUCE STRESS AND MAKE FRIENDS WITH STRESS. Stress pumps your body full of cortisol and adrenaline which is a great way to get things going in the short term.  But when your body stays in a stressed state is hurts your ability to adapt and compromises your immune system. If you run your engine in the red for too long, it will blow up. The best athletes I've coached are typically very even keel. They take life as it comes and they don't get very up or down. No drama. There are a couple exceptions, but those people seem to enjoy challenges (and draand attach positive feelings to what we might call "stress". So.. it's not stressful for them. I can honestly say that I have observed a clear and massive correlation between someone's reaction to stress and their triathlon performance AND work performance. People who "shut down" their training (and other areas of life) to deal with something stressful (big project due at work! gunning for promotion! boss is being a dick!) seem to have much worse outcomes IN LIFE than people who are much less dramatic about it. Techniques for reducing stress include meditation, deep breathing, etc. AND EXERCISE! Cutting out training when you are stressed is a terrible idea! Remember, you might think of stress as being a mental thing but the results of stress are PHYSICAL.

5. KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Have a belief that YOU CAN DO IT. That there IS A SOLUTION. That life is FUN. That things happen for a reason. That you will make the best of every bad situation. THE MIND IS POWERFUL.

6. EAT HEALTHY. This is one where I am definitely guilty. IN THE SHORT TERM my body thrives on eating a ton of calories and junk food. I had my best races in recent years after eating McDonalds the night before. But, in the long term I end up fat and tired from that kind of eating. Even in the short term, I would have great workouts on that diet but my energy levels and moods for rest of the day are garbage. Leaving aside fad diets, we know that fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, healthy oils and moderate amounts of healthy proteins are good for us.  Eat a diet with a ton of that stuff and much less of the stuff we know is not good for us (sugar, breads, packaged snack foods, fried foods).

If you are busy or overwhelmed it's tempting to neglect your sleep, nutrition, etc, and just focus on getting your training done.   Don't fall into the trap!    Here at TriForce, we'd rather slightly under-schedule your training (maybe putting an athlete on a 10 hours per week plan or a 1 hour per day plan), but give you more time for sleep and to take care of the rest of your foundation.   Without a strong foundation for adaptation you might be able to train... but you will struggle to get faster.

Getting Faster

Strap up! Why you need to race with heart…

With the availability of power on the bike and GPS on the run, the good old heart rate monitor can seem obsolete. And it’s true, the most important pacing tools are (in order):

1. perceived exertion
2. power (bike) and pace (run)
3. heart rate (HR)

But, just because heart rate ranks #3 doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable!

USING HEART RATE DURING A RACE

1. During the race (especially on the bike), a higher than normal / expected heart rate is a warning sign that you might be working too hard.

If perceived exertion feels right and you are riding at your planned power, then you might choose to ignore the high heart rate for now, but you should be on “high alert” for issues (and do some soul searching about whether your are fooling yourself that the current effort is sustainable). When this happens to me, I make a concerted effort to use downhills and high speed sections to bring my heart rate down.

If perceived exertion is too high and heart rate is too high, then it’s time to back off, even if you are at your planned power. Settle down for now and maybe the body will reset and come around later. Or, maybe you’ll just have to ride at a lower power– often times a “bad bike” can be followed by an outstanding run.

2. High HR can also indicate dehydration.

If HR is creeping up later in the race, it’s possible you are getting dehydrated. Do a systems check and see if you should start drinking more aggressively.

ANALYZING YOUR HEART RATE AFTER THE RACE

1. If your heart rate was high for a long period of time to start the bike, it can mean your swim fitness is weak.

THAT’S HALF THE REASON WE TRAIN HARD ON THE SWIM. We don’t just want a good swim split– we want to be fit enough to race a hard 2.4 (or 1.2) mile swim and not feel tired at all afterwards! Many people can swim a fast split on limited training, but if your heart rate is spiked for an hour afterwards, you’ll pay the price.

2. Your heart rate should go up AT LEAST 5 beats (if not 10) from bike to run.

If you can’t do it, it means you likely biked too hard (or under fueled). For planning future pacing, if you know that you’ve had your best ironman run at 155 beats per minute, for example, you might want to keep your bike heart rate at 145 for most of the ride. If you are riding at 155, you know you are biking too hard from a HR perspective.

3. While your power and pace numbers will change a bit from race to race as you improve, your “Ironman heart rate” or “Half Ironman heart rate” will be much more stable from year to year.

I know that my best Ironman runs are 155 bpm (or a little higher if I’m really able to push). I’ve been able to run well pretty reliably off a a 147 bpm bike or below (with most races being 146-147). These numbers have been relatively stable over a decade. I’ve run well once off of a 151 bpm bike (my best ever Ironman marathon of 3:01), but I was ridiculously fit for that race. The less fit you are overall, the lower your bike HR should be if you want to have a chance to push it on the run.

I know… it’s difficult to find a decent heart rate strap and optical HR is junk for most people. But for the reasons above it’s worth putting in the effort to get it dialed.    So… strap up and measure that heart rate!

Getting Faster

Sub 10 Ironman in 10 Hours Per Week

Despite what your perpetually shaved neighbor with the M Dot tattoo tells you, you do not need to train 20 hours per week to kick butt in your next IM. In fact, your neighbor who trains 20 hours per week probably has some secrets he does not want to tell you:

  1. He doesn’t train 20 hours per week, he just thinks he does or says he does. Yes, he has trained 20 hours in a week once or twice, but that does not mean that he trains20 hours per week.
  2. He spends hours doing thousands of easy, sloppy yards in the pool that are probably not going to help him very much on race day.
  3. He spends most of his rides going too hard or too easy to target the #1 key for IM bike fitness: the ability to crank steady watts in the aerobars nonstop for hours. He has no idea of how long he can crank steady watts and no clue how he will feel on race day when he tries to do so for 5 hours!
  4. He does lots of easy running, spending hours to get very little benefit.

You can be better prepared than your neighbor for your next IM by following this focused 10 hour per week training plan.   I’m not saying that this 10 hour training plan is the only way to train or the best way, but it can be quite effective.  Incidentally, this is very similar to how I trained to go 9:21 at Ironman Switzerland when I was working during the day and going to school at night. And make no mistake about it, I’m not selling you a shortcut. If you follow this plan and all the rules, it is physically and mentally challenging. You’ll wish you were out with your neighbor lallygagging for hours and hours every week.

Here’s the plan:

M: long run (90)
T:   bike intervals (60) + transition run (30)
W: swim (45)
R: bike maintenance (60) + transition run (30)
F:  swim (45)
S:  long bike (3 hours) + Transition Run (30)
S:  swim (30)

 

= 2 hours swim, 3 hours running, 5 hours biking

Instructions for executing the program:

  1. No Easy Training. You will do virtually ZERO easy training– only as long as it takes to warm up.
  2. Maximum Focus Factor. Do everything short of peeing your pants to make sure that you keep moving and are staying at your steady heart rate / power or above.  Do most your riding indoors on the trainer.
  3. Focused Swimming. Jump in the pool, warm up as quickly as possible (5 minutes or so), then just start in with your main set.  No cool down.  There are plenty of challenging main sets you can do in 25-40 minutes.  Err on the side of longer intervals on short rest instead of sprints on long rest.
  4. Long Bike. Your default ride will be to go steady on the flats and do tempo on the hills.  Gradually increase your focus factor during your early base.  When 3 hours riding outdoors with maximum focus factor becomes too easy you’ll have to move indoors for most of your long rides.  I told you I wasn’t selling you a short cut.   (You could, of course, keep extending your ride beyond 3 hours, but then we’d be over 10 hours and that would be cheating.)
  5. Bike Intervals. In the early base focus mostly on extreme high and low cadence in your steady zone with a smattering of tempo and threshold.  In the middle base focus on tempo intervals with a smattering of threshold.  In the late base focus on threshold while maintaining tempo.  During the specific prep focus on tempo work while maintaining your threshold power.   (To maintain you only need to do some short reps.)
  6. Maintenance Ride. Almost all steady intensity, nonstop for an hour in the aerobars.  As the season goes on mix 3-4 * 3 to 5 minute tempo reps and a handful of 1 minute threshold reps.  No easy recovery after your reps- immediately resume your steady riding.
  7. Long Run.  Only run easy for a few minutes to warm up.  Then run entirely in your steady zone.  Early in your base you can start with easy running if 90 minutes of continuous steady is too strenuous.  Late in the season you can add a few reps of 3-4 minutes of tempo during the run and perhaps a tempo finish.
  8. Transition Runs. All in your upper steady zone.  Can add a tempo finish late season.
  9. Consistency is Key. If you skip a few workouts on this plan it adds up very quickly.
  10. Camps. When you have time or vacation or even just a long weekend, consider doing a big block of training if that is an option for you.  Create a DIY camp, or consider attending a professionally run camp by a company such as Endurance Corner.  Also, I’ve been talking to a colleague about hosting some camps here in California (stay tuned).
  11. Race Rehearsals. 3-4 months out you’ll need to do big race rehearsal workouts every 2nd or 3rd weekend.  This will add a couple of hours per week to your training, so you can brag to you neighbor about how you had a huge 12 hour week.

This is not the most “fun” training plan (except as far as it is fun to get results and have spare time to do other things in life.)   Do I guarantee that you’ll break 1o hours by following this plan?  No.  But I do guarantee that you’ll probably do better than you would just grinding it out with the goals of training X number of hours or swimming X number of yards.   I also guarantee that 10 hours per week is plenty of training for you to have the race of your dreams at your next Ironman (if you follow the rules of the plan!)