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Category: Busy Athletes

Coach Coady 10 hours per week Ironman training experiment:…

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This is the third post in my series on my experiment in trying to qualify for Kona on 10ish hours per week Ironman training plan.   It’s an example of how a busy athlete might approach Ironman training on a time budget.  I wanted to use this build as a learning experience to improve myself as a coach.  Before reading this post check out the previous posts: (1) The 10 Hours per Week Plan and (2) the halfway update of my 10 hours per week training.  This article picks up where they left off.

(UPDATE: Spoiler alert: IT WORKED!!!!!  I won my age group with a time of 9:26 and qualified for Kona!)

Wrapping up Phase 1 on a Negative Note:

In my last post everything was going almost perfectly… a sure sign that some challenge was  going to pop up!   Well, my heel injury flared up and I ended up having 4 weeks of hampered / limited running.  With the injury causing major issues all the way through to 10 weeks out from Ironman Santa Rosa, I was having doubts I could have the run fitness and health to race strong.    As a result (and nonstop rainy weather didn’t help), motivation hit a low point.

A “hole” in my run training due to a heel injury was a low point in my training.

However I turned a negative into a positive and  took time to study my injury issues and I actually unlocked what I think is the root cause and how to fix it.  The injury got under control and I decided to look at the lighter weeks of training as a breather before pushing into 10 hours per week phase 2–  where we do 4-6 bigger weeks before tapering.  A bit of a break before going into Phase 2 can be a benefit– you lose a little fitness but you hopefully recharge the mind and body for a strong final push.

The first half of my build was under 10 hours per week, followed by “phase 2” with some bigger weeks, followed by taper. It all averaged out to just under 10 hours per week.

10 Hours Per Week Plan Phase 2 – What Needs to be Done?

The studious reader will recall from the 10 hours per week plan article that phase 2 is where we do more than 10 hours per  week in the final handful of weeks before the Ironman.   Heading into phase 2 we ask the question– “what needs to be done to be ready to race Ironman?”  For most people, the answer will be more volume and longer long bikes / runs to make sure they are ready to “go the distance.”

Here were my key focuses:

  1. I needed to rebuild my run fitness.  After 4 weeks of barely running, I had lost a ton of run fitness and durability.  And as I noted in my last post, while my speed was good, my durability wasn’t great even before the heel problems.   On the plus side, having figured out my injury issues, I felt I could start wearing some more “normal” shoes vs. being stuck in barefoot shoes, which should provide and instant durability boost.  (note that I was somewhat wrong– the switch back to maximal shoes or some workouts aggravated an old psoas injury).   Solution: slower miles, more miles.  If you are out of shape (and nursing an injury) you can’t push both speed and distance.  So, I kept speed much slower and just focused on doing slower miles, trusting that the ability to run fast at IM effort will be maintained.   In the final block I did 4 weeks of 30ish miles and 1 big week of 40+ miles (camp week).  This was hardly “big” but it was the best I could do given the nagging injuries and the fact that I was “cramming” the run on a compromised base of training.
  2. I needed to extend my bike fitness to 5 hours.  The bike was very strong coming out of the 10 hour program and I almost felt like I could have done a strong Ironman bike without a phase 2.  I made the interval reps longer and added 1 hour relaxed before the 3 hour harder ride.  I did a 4 hour ride most weeks in phase 3, but with 2 x rides of 5 hours or more.  During camp week I did a double longer ride (4 hours hills + 112 miles on the course).
  3. Put together some good swim weeks.  my swim training was “meh” heading into phase 3.   I put in a couple respectable 10k + weeks before the taper (including 2 Ironman distance OW swims) which gave me a boost.

What happened in Phase 2:

By the end, the increased volume from phase 2 had me pretty fatigued and my speed / power was down a bit in all 3 sports for basically the entire block as a result, but that’s to be expected.

Hard 4 hour bikes: I did 3 harder 4 hour rides indoors during the taper.  1 hour relaxed followed by intervals at Ironman effort and low rpm “climbs” at 95% of threshold.  The “phase 1” bike plan was very effective and I didn’t feel like I was far off Ironman shape.

Week -5: I did HITS Napa Valley as a training day without a taper and won my age group (and more importantly was able to sustain sub 7 during the run at what felt like just a bit harder than IM effort), so it was a confidence boost that the speed was still “in there” despite the fact that I was doing most of my running at much slower paces.

TriForce IMSR Training Camp 112 mile ride– loop 1 was relaxed– photo time. Loop 2 was time to crank it!

Week -4 was TriForce training camp week where I maxed out my volume training with TriForcer Yohann “the Flying Frenchman” Coppel + a big training day (112_ mile bike + fast t run) with TriForcers on the course.   This is where  hit my peak week of 18.5 hours.

I tweaked my psoas at the end of camp because I thought I could return to maximal shoes, but they hurt my psoas just like the old days.

Phase 3- Taper: 

Week -3: early in the week it was obvious my legs were beat from camp week.  I don’t believe in “grinding it out” on beat legs (and with a bad psoas), especially this close to race week, so I decided to do a 3 week taper instead of the planned 2 week taper.  This week was taper phase 1– unloading fatigue.

week -2: taper phase 2- maintenance.  This week I returned to “normal” training with regular workouts, but a bit more spacing.   I was still carrying a decent amount of fatigue even after the few days of unloading.  The injury was still bad and the psoas was “flaring up” a few miles into most runs.

Race week: with the fatigue + injury I was carrying I decided to make race week very light.  I had a few days of deep, deep sleep and feeling like my body was in deep healing mode (aka feeling like 💩) but I did a “wake up” swim + little bike on Thursday and the body snapped out of it and felt good (other than the hip).

Race day… find out what happened here!  (pretend you didn’t read the spoiler) 🙂

I hope this series of articles gives you some useful ideas for training on a limited time budget.    If you are a busy triathlete who is tired of trying to put it all together yourself and using trial and error, we hope you’ll consider joining TriForce.   We’ll remove the uncertainty and give you confidence you are on the right track to win in triathlon (and life)!



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tempo brick run for Ironman training

The Tempo Brick Run– the Busy Triathlete’s Best Friend!

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This article is part of our recent series on training for busy athletes.   It describes one of my favorite workouts I’m using to try to qualify for Kona Ironman World Championships on a plan of mostly 10ish hours power week.

Are you tired and falling behind struggling to fit in all your workouts on a busy schedule?  One of the biggest challenges we face in coaching busy triathletes (especially coaching Ironman triathletes) is figuring out how to set up a training plan that will get the athlete ready for their race (often Ironman) but that leaves then time to succeed at work and to enjoy their family (while also letting them sleep and maintain a strong foundation for adaptation).

Here at TriForce we sometimes find that training less (but smarter) will transform a busy athlete from tired and overwhelmed  to confident, on top of things and in the flow with life (and make them faster in the process!)  But even triathletes on a minimal training plan want to hit 3 bikes, 3 runs and 2-3 swims per week if they want to be fast.   This article talks about a time effective way to knock out 2 of those weekly workouts–  the tempo brick run– a 20 minute workout with a big training impact.  (and it’s sort of fun too!)

tempo brick run for Ironman training
The tempo brick run will have you ready to fly on race day even if a weird injury forces you to race in mandals.

 

THE TEMPO (THRESHOLD) BRICK RUN

According to Jack Daniels “Ideally, a tempo run is nothing more than a steady 20 minute run at T (threshold) pace.  Subjectively the intensity of effort… is comfortably hard.”

It couldn’t be simpler– after one of your harder bike rides put on your run shoes and go out and run about 20 minutes right around your threshold effort (about what you can sustain for an hour in a race).  That’s an effort that might take about a mile to catch up to you and feel pretty hard, but it shouldn’t feel too much harder at minute 20 vs. minute 10.   When you finish you should feel you could run another couple miles at that effort.   It’s hard, but if you are filling up with lactate and struggling to hold your pace, then you are going too hard.

 

BENEFITS OF THE TEMPO BRICK RUN:

  • Already warmed up: you are already warmed up and ready to go after your hard bike ride!   No need for 15-20 min of warming up to get ready to run.  Still gradually ramp up to your threshold pace over the first few minutes, but you won’t need a big warmup.
  • No “getting started” mental cost.  If you are like me, getting started with training is a mental hurdle.  This is one less run workout / week to think about.  When you are done riding throw on your shoes and go!   If you haven’t been doing this regularly you might have to “rally” yourself to do it, but after a couple weeks you’ll “just do it.”  Which leads us to the next benefit.
  • You’ll have the mental edge on race day.   If you are jumping off a hard bike and running at threshold effort almost every week, race day will be automatic and second nature.   The “fear factor” of running hard off a hard bike won’t be there.
  • The physical edge on race day.   Your body is going to be used to and adapted to the demands of running off the bike FAST.
  • Improved Lactate Threshold Pace.  Of course.. the specific benefit of this workout is that you improve your lactate threshold pace– you raise the speed of what’s sustainable and that should improve your performances at all distances from 5k to Ironman.




I have this workout on my training plan every single week as I prepare for Ironman Santa Rosa (I’m on a 10 hours per week Ironman training plan) and I love it!   I love blasting out the door and running at threshold pace after my hard Wednesday trainer ride.   The effort is hard enough to be a satisfying test, but not so hard I have to “face my demons.”  (I’ll save that for race day).

Whether you are a new parent short on time or just looking for a time efficient change to your program, the tempo transition run is a powerful option.   Give it a try in your training plan leave a comment below to tell us how it went.

PS, the mission of this blog is to empower busy athletes to crush their races.  We do our best to give you clear, actionable advice, but if you’re busy and tired of trying to put it all together yourself,  consider joining the Force!     We’ll put you on a program that gives you clarity and confidence and sets you up to win in triathlon (and life!)   

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Some Hard Truths For Busy Athletes

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Sorry, but athletes on a minimal schedule need to train even while on vacation if they want to make progress.  (Also sorry that the header on the page is a big picture of my ass… not sure how to stop WordPress from doing that sometimes).

I often get contacted by busy athletes who read my Sub 10 Ironman in 10 Hours Per Week article.   They’re excited about the prospect of performing well without putting in mega hours.

And it is very possible to get quite strong & fit without putting in huge hours.  For example, the following schedule, done 51 weeks out of the year (1 week off after your “A Race”), dialed back a bit early in the year, dialed up a bit as you get within 2 months of your A race, will have you quite fit:

Monday: challenging 1 hour indoor ride (threshold usually) + short transition run

Tuesday: long run

Wednesday: challenging 90 min – 2 hour indoor ride + short t run

Thursday: threshold swim

Friday: makeup day or weakness day or day off

Saturday: long outdoor ride or 2-3 hours indoors + t run

Sunday: challenging endurance swim

BUT I find that many athletes have some unrealistic expectations, that I need to address:

1. When you do minimal training you don’t get to have an “off season.”  Yes, you can dial things back or remove some of the structure from your training after the racing season is done.  But as soon as you are feeling decently recovered from your “A race” you need to start training consistently again in all 3 sports.  In other words, if you approach me 4 (or even 6) months out from your race and say you’re ready to start training on the sub 10 hours per week Ironman plan after an off season I’m going to have to reset your expectations.

2 You need to keep training on vacation.  No, you don’t have to follow your plan, but if you go away for 2 weeks and do zero biking, e.g., you will lose a massive amount of fitness and it will take you awhile to get it back.  One solution is to train big the week or two before vacation so that you can recover for the first week of vacation, but this is often not realistic for busy athletes.  

The easiest solution- stay at a hotel with a gym that has a bike and a treadmill.  Even if it’s a horrible bike (they usually are), you can do 2 or 3 hard 30 minute interval sessions on the bike and maintain alot of your fitness.  If you stay at a hotel with a little pool you can tether yourself to the side with some stretch cords and do a challenging workout for 20 minutes.   Yes, it looks silly.  Hit the horrible hotel gym bike, treadmill or pool for about a total of 45 min to an hour per day (or at least 30 min, or even 15 minutes if that’s all you can do) and you’ll keep more of your hard earned fitness.  Often with a family this might mean rolling right out of bed, having a few bights of cliff bar and heading down to the gym while everyone is taking their time getting started for the day. 

3. Your training schedule is not the “ideal” amount- it’s closer to the minimum amount of training (i.e. you can’t miss many sessions).  2 swims is a MINIMUM swim schedule to get you fit.  1 long run and 3 transition runs is a MINIMUM run schedule to get you fit.  You simply can’t skip workouts very often and expect to get much fitter.  You ESPECIALLY can’t skip your long run, long bike or long swim.  On a regular training plan, if you do 75-80% of what’s on there, then you’re doing OK. On a minimal training plan, doing 75% means you’re just treading water.

To sum it up- on a minimal training plan, GAPS IN YOUR TRAINING ARE A DISASTER.  Unless you are sick you can’t stop training.  You need to shoot to hit your workout schedule whenever it’s possible.  When life gets crazy you don’t have to always train perfectly, but you do have to stay consistent even when all hell breaks loose.   Get creative– run at lunch, get a bike desk, park 20 miles from home on your way back from work & bike home from there then bike back to your car first thing in the AM.

If you’re training for health and racing for fun, I fully support your decision and you don’t need to follow any of these rules.  But if you want to make performance gains then unfortunately there isn’t much room for compromise when it comes to training consistently.

If maintaining this level of consistency seems impossible, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure.  It just means that you need to be realistic about how much improvement you can really expect from your training.   Sometimes when life doesn’t allow for consistent training, the best answer is to focus more on health and fun instead of your race performance.

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