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Category: Getting Faster

Coach Coady 10 hours Per Week Ironman Training Experiment-…

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I’m halfway through  my 10 hours per week Ironman Training experiment!     The goal is to qualify for Kona on a minimalist training  plan.   I’ll stick to 10 hours per week of training until 6 weeks out from the taper.  Once I hit that point I’ll see where I’m at how much “extra” I want to add in order to be ready to go the distance.      So far, I’m loving the plan and it’s  working (surprisingly) well, especially the bike training.   The only area of concern is my run durability / endurance (and injuries).   If you are a busy athlete I hope you’ll get some useful information in this update to try in your own training plan.

First off, I’m LOVING this training.

Before I get into the numbers and get all goal oriented (as we triathletes tend to do), let me say how much I’m enjoying the training.

  • The thing I love most about this plan is only training once per day (especially since it is February!).   It makes life so much simpler.
  • The once per day training and the reduced hours has made me much more productive.  I have much more energy for work, family and friends.
  • I also really enjoy the workouts.  While some people love to go out and ride 100 miles at an endurance effort I’ve always preferred just to crank it for 2-3 hours at more of a race-like effort.  And I love running fast off the bike, so the threshold brick run and the IM effort brick runs are a fun challenge.   It might not be for everyone (we have a few TriForcers who love to go out and ride long every weekend), but it suits me.

That’s not to say that I don’t love “big training” sometimes.   One of my favorite memories as a triathlete is when I did two 27 hour weeks in a row (of HARD) training with Brett Sutton and his pros back in 2016.  I just like to keep training like that as an occasional “treat.”  🙂

 

The Hours

I’ve been averaging 8 hours / week over the last 90 days with most weeks between 8-10 hours and a biggest week of 10.5 hours.

 

 

There are 6 key areas I’m focusing on to be ready to qualify for Kona.

OK, here are the numbers we love so much.    I’m guessing I need to go sub 9:30 which means swim around 1 hour, bike around 5 hours, run around 3:20.    If my “IM effort” swim is around 1:25 / 100 yards, “IM effort” bike is around 210 watts, and “IM effort run” is around 7:30 then I should be there.   By “IM effort” I mean power / pace at the perceived exertion and heart rate where I usually race Ironman.    I still have to be fit enough / have the endurance / overall strength to do it, which is the hard part.    In addition to my swim, bike and run I’m focusing on my weight, fixing my chronic injury issues, and also making sure my bike is set up well and reliable (last year I dropped my chain about 10x because of a wonky 1x setup).

I qualified for Kona last year on “regular” training– can I do it again on a minimal plan?

If I check these 6 boxes (and feel reasonably good on race day) I have an excellent chance of qualifying:

 

 

Here are my top updates / lessons half way through the plan (10 weeks left):

1.   The Week Setup Works Surprisingly Well for Me.      

My body is responding very well to the extra recovery in the program vs. a “regular” plan.   Because of the 2 bricks in the plan, I have 3 “no legs” (swim only) days in the plan.  The challenging brick days are pretty “race like” and fatiguing– having the swim days immediately afterwards is letting my body absorb the training.   As a result I’m improving pretty steadily as opposed to when I try to “add extra” — which results in more frequent fatigue.   My speed and power have been better with this setup vs. the last couple of years on a more traditional plan with higher volume.   The only question is whether this setup will result in the overall strength, endurance and durability to “go the distance.”    At this point I’d say the swim obviously will (it’s more or less regular swim training), the bike is already pretty darn close to ready to go the distance strong,  BUT the run has a way to go (see #3)

An example week from a few weeks ago.  The swim-only days (Tues, Thurs, Sat) have been allowing me to recover well from the hard bricks.    

2. The Focused Indoor “Long” Rides Work

Limiting myself to a SOLID 3 hour indoor ride with a ton of time pegging it at around IM effort has been very effective.   I used to do these sort of rides very frequently “back in the day” when my cycling was at lifetime bests.   In theory these sorts of rides should be avoided as they can be considered extended “gray zone” efforts, but I’m doing them anyway and they flat out work.  I’m much stronger than this time last year when I was doing longer outdoor endurance rides.    I did my first 3 hour focused IM effort outdoor ride on the IMSR course a week ago and my NP at IM effort was 217 watts and I felt strong at the end and felt like I “should feel” at hour 3 of an IM bike.  I’m so pleased with how these rides are going and how I’m performing that suspect I could do a great IM ride without ever going beyond 3 hours, but to be safe I’ll bump up the long rides in the last 6 weeks pre taper.

3. What’s Not Working– Run Durability.    

My run speed is great (threshold is around 6 flat, “IM pace” around 7:15), but my durability (toughness in the legs to go the distance) is weak.   This is magnified by the fact that my run injuries have forced me into barefoot shoes (a long story).   But leaving the shoes aside, the 2 biggest things that build durability are (1) miles and (2) frequency, both of which are light in the plan.    So, those will be 2 key things to address in “phase 3” — the last 6 weeks pre taper when I allow myself to add extra / go beyond 10 hours.    But hopefully the injury rehab will come along quickly and I’ll be able to switch to more “regular” shoes which should be an instant increase in durability.

What’s Next?

We have 2 more weeks left until “phase 3” (6 weeks before 2 week taper).    I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing for the next 2 weeks, with a big focus on fixing my run injuries.

Once I hit phase 3, I don’t think I want to change too much other than the run training.  Since the run speed is already there I’ll need to bump up the volume and frequency with some extra relatively slow running just to get the body toughened up.

Conclusion

The 10 hours per week Ironman training is working well so far and I’m having fun!    If I can shore up my run endurance and durability in the final phase of training,  I should be in a good position to qualify for Kona.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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A Sub 10 Ironman in 10 Hours Per Week…

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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 we now focus so much more in providing time efficient Ironman triathlon training for busy triathletes who want to perform at a high level.

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 a FOCUSED Ironman training plan, 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 of how you might approach it. 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) shorter / harder bike intervals

+ optional ez run off the bike
TUESDAY (2h) lMish effort long run
WEDNESDAY(1h) swim - solid IMish distance swim
THURSDAY 90 min solid focused TTing ride / longer intervals
+ :25 fast t run
FRIDAY(optional swim)
SATURDAY (3h) SOLID FOCUSED Ironmanish effort (power creep OK 2nd half) (indoor sets or outdoor focused ride)
+ (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.

✔️Fast Transition Run.   A solid tempo (threshold) run off the bike is an outstanding option for building speed in a time efficient way.

✔️2 x Ironman Distance Swims. If you are going to drive to the pool, etc., make it worth your time. Once our volume is maxed in the bike and run, 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!  Just keep them relaxed so your legs feel good for your key runs.

✔️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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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.

The New Dad Experiment- 1 Hour Per Day Triathlon…

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Could I get fast squeezing an hour of triathlon training in per day as a new dad?

In honor of Father’s Day, I’m writing up my training strategy and race report for Escape From Alcatraz, which took place 10 weeks after the birth of my first child! At the outset, it was unclear how much time and energy I would have for training during this period, so my coach Kevin Coady and I appropriately termed this The New Dad Experiment.

But first, a disclaimer: this post is not meant to be a brag about how little training I did in the lead up to Escape From Alcatraz.   I want to show people that you can continue to push yourself and enjoy the sport even when life and training aren’t perfect.   Here at TriForce we believe that triathlon is the best lifetime sport and it can be dialed up (Ironman) or down (sprint distance or even single sport focus) depending on what’s happening in your life.   It’s not always about Ironman finishes, PRs or qualifications.  Sometimes the biggest win is doing your best under the circumstances.

And second, a thank you: I’m extremely grateful to have helpful family, a loving wife, a healthy baby, and ample parental leave. Without all of those things, this would have been extremely difficult if not impossible.

1.  Get Set Up (pain cave and communication)

To best prepare for having a baby, you need to first admit how unprepared you are. No, seriously, you have no idea how hard this is going to be. I’d like to think I’ve done some difficult things in my life, but none of them are even remotely as difficult as raising a child. And I’m only 3 months in…

That being said, I did the best I could to prepare. My training for the last 5 years has been very consistent, so I knew I could get away with slightly lower volume given my aerobic base. I had very frank discussions with my wife about reserving an hour a day for training. Although it might feel somewhat selfish, remember that swimming, biking, and running are my way of staying sane. The mental break that training afforded me during these first 10 weeks certainly helped me recharge and be happier and more patient. Be willing (in fact, be insistent) to pay back your training time by giving your partner an equivalent break for themselves. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other!

Logistically, an hour a day of training needs to be an hour a day, not 15 minutes of setup, 30 minutes of exercise, and 15 minutes of teardown. If you have the space and the money to do so, carving out a Pain Cave in your garage or one of the rooms of your house is invaluable to making good use of your training time.

In the foreground and on the left, you can see I invested in a used Vasa SwimErg (more on this below) and a treadmill. On the right, my tri bike stayed permanently attached to my CompuTrainer sitting in front of a cheap PC for watching Netflix and using Zwift and TrainerRoad. And, most importantly, plenty of Coca Cola on the shelves and posters of Arnold for motivation.

One of the many ways in which I’m lucky is having grown up as a swimmer (thanks, Mom!). I wouldn’t really say I have a perfect “feel for the water,” (which I’m not even sure many Olympians do), but I do have a solid foundation of technique. That means that, for me, getting ready for the swim leg of a triathlon comes down to building strength, for which the Vasa SwimErg was designed. Again, I wouldn’t recommend relying solely on a dryland machine for your “swimming,” but if getting to the pool is going to take away 30 minutes from your 1 hour per day, the Vasa may be a good alternative. Ideally, however, the Vasa would be a supplement, not an alternative.

The treadmill is another huge time-saver. Put on your shoes, grab a water bottle from the fridge, and you’re off (or, at least, spinning on your hamster wheel). The area where I live is very hilly, which makes for great running when I can get outdoors, but isn’t ideal for transition runs or Pain Train workouts (more on these later).

2. The Plan – 1 hour per day triathlon training

Make no mistake, “The Plan” for new dads, despite being only an hour a day, is not easy! It’s pretty much all high-intensity, all the time! A typical week looks like this:

M: 10×3 min threshold bike, 90s rest

Tu: 60 min run, relaxed to moderate

W: Vasa

Th: Pain Train: 3x(10 min hard bike, 1 mile hard run)

F: Vasa or hard 50s swim

Sa: Zwift race

Su: 60 min run including 12 min fast finish

Vasa workouts were usually time-based intervals, something like 3×10 min at low resistance, 5×5 min at medium resistance, or 30x30s at high resistance. If I had extra time on other days, I would do a Vasa before or after a run or bike in case I needed a day off for whatever reason.

The Pain Train is a brutally effective workout for shorter races like Alcatraz and Olympic distances because it simulates near-threshold running after near-threshold biking. With a treadmill right next to your bike, there’s no excuse for an extra-long transition!

Zwift races became my goto Saturday workout once I discovered how tough they are. They almost always begin with a near-all-out effort for 3-4 minutes and you can be sure that you’ll be near or above threshold for the rest of the hour. Take a look at the stats from one such race:

 

Note the Intensity Factor (IF) of 1.01, the TSS of 102, and the Normalized Power (NP) of 243, or about 3.8 W/kg for me. This workout was a pretty good indicator that my FTP had increased. But I can assure you it was a lot more fun than doing a 1-hour TT by myself!

Knowing that Escape From Alcatraz is extremely hilly on both the bike and the run, Monday and Tuesday were strength-building workouts on the bike and run, respectively. At least half of the threshold bike intervals on Monday were done at low cadence and the Tuesday runs were often on hilly trails if I could sneak outside.

One overarching theme here is specificity: lots of time spent at race intensity. This would prove invaluable on a tough course like Alcatraz.

3. The Race – Escape From Alcatraz

Escape From Alcatraz has been on my bucket list ever since I moved to San Francisco. It’s one of the original triathlons, dating back to 1981, on an iconic, technical, challenging course. I’m happy to say it did not disappoint!

One of the reasons Alcatraz was perfect for The New Dad Experiment is that its distances (1.5-mile swim, 18-mile bike, 8.3-mile run) make it incomparable to a typical Olympic distance race. That means no comparing to pre-Dad best times!

The Swim

We lucked out on the day of the race with some of the calmest water conditions ever seen around Alcatraz. This was in stark contrast to last year when the swim was canceled because of rough waters. Even so, the rocking and rolling boat ride out to Alcatraz (an unforgettable experience), portended some huge swells!

Although I took a bad line, I swam smart, not hard, knowing my fitness would be lacking from doing almost nothing but the Vasa. The swim times were insanely fast given the strong current, as my 30-minute 1.5-mile split was relatively slow on the day!

The Bike

The bike course was hilly, technical, and short. I leveraged my weight advantage and my strength from Monday low-cadence intervals and Saturday high-variability Zwift races to punch my way up the steep climbs. Whenever I could, I tried to appreciate what a privilege it was to be bombing around corners next to The Golden Gate Bridge!

The Run

As with the swim, the goal of the run was to race smart, not hard. My run volume simply wasn’t high enough for me to be confident that I could push from the start. I settled into a comfortably hard pace for the first 2 miles and saved myself for the stairs and the Sand Ladder.

I’m glad I did! By the last mile, I could tell my legs were spent. I didn’t blow up, but I was right on the edge, meaning I paced pretty well.

Conclusion

I’m thrilled with the result here! 73rd out of 1574 overall (including 21 pros) is a solid showing for me on any day, let alone 10 weeks after becoming a dad. But more importantly, I had a blast during the race and, in fact, my mantra during the run was: “Remember, you’re here to have fun!”

Whatever circumstances you find yourself saddled with after becoming a parent, don’t give up hope that you can continue training and racing, even if you have to downgrade your expectations a little. Staying healthy and fit makes you a happier parent and, someday, a better role model to your kids. An hour a day is not much, but it’s better than 0 hours per day!

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Strap up! Why you need to race with heart…

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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!

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Honu Ironman 70.3: a chicken’s guide to descending from…

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I remember my first time racing on the Big Island (Ironman Kona 2010).  The most memorable part of the race was nearly crapping my pants from fear when I was descending from Hawi (one gust blew me from the middle of the road, across the rumble strip, onto the shoulder!)  Here are some tips for those of you who will be riding on the Big Island for the first time at Honu 70.3 this weekend.

kiendip

 

Sebastian Kienle showing the technique he used to crush the descent from Hawi.   

The last few times I’ve done the ride down from Hawi (where the crosswinds can be insane), the winds have been calm and manageable.   But it’s best to expect intense conditions.    Keep in mind that bike skills are not my strongest asset and that I’m a bit of a chicken in situations like this, although I prefer to think of it as having a “strong self preservation instinct”.  If any readers disagree (or agree) with anything I wrote here, please comment.

  1. Weight Distribution.   You want your butt back but you also want a good amount of upper body weight pressing down on the front wheel (nice distribution of weight).  If all your weight is back it leaves your front wheel vulnerable to being blown around.  If all your weight is up front, you’ll have less control of the bike while descending.
  2. Aerobars.  At least on my bike the safest place to be is in the aerobars.  When you sit up there isn’t enough weight over the front wheel (not to mention you are less aero and presenting a bigger target to the wind to blow you around).  And as a multi time Kona podium finisher told me, “once you’re on the horns, you’re stuck there!”  You might feel tempted to keep your hands near the brakes, but braking isn’t the solution!
  3. Pedaling hard at a high cadence is a huge help.   It seems to me like every pedal stroke reorients the bike forward.  This might really be the #1 tip.  But… if you are going so fast that you’re “spun out” (i.e. can’t pedal fast enough so that there is no “slack” in your pedal stroke), then you’re probably better off just leaning into a crosswind while coasting then maybe pedaling hard to reorient yourself if a gust hits.
  4. Relax!  Keep knees and arms relaxed.  It’s easier to absorb a disturbance if your body is relaxed.  And don’t have a death grip on the extensions!
  5. When hit by a gust, don’t necessarily fight it so dramatically (sort of tack like a sailboat)  On race day at Kona, we have the entire road (but still watch out for other racers).   At Honu, there could be cars on the road, so you’ll need to be more aware of what’s happening around you if you decide to use more of the road.  But either way, stay loose and don’t overreact to gusts.
  6. I grip my aerobars a little lower so I don’t slip off them with my sweaty palms going downhill!  Because of the humidity, there’s a good chance your hands will be soaking wet.
  7. Be aero!  The more aero you are, the less the wind hits you.  Keep your head low.
  8. Watch out for the “sheltered sections”— there are rock walls / berms that often provide shelter from the winds (but beware, sometimes they just make the wind do weird things, so don’t relax going into them).  When you are about to leave the shelter expect a big gust!  (I start pedaling hard just before leaving the shelter).
  9. winds versus gusts: winds are a little stressful (i.e. you need to lean and pull hard to left to fight winds blowing you to the right).  If you aren’t used to them, gusts can be scary and unpredictable (wind is blowing right, gust hits you hard and blows you left and it feels like your front wheel jerked 18 inches to the left then a half second later jerked 25 inches right).  RELAX and follow the guidelines above.  It’s all part of the fun and adventure of racing on the Big Island!
  10. Watch the person in front of you.  Often times you’ll see them get hit by the wind first and get a little warning. If they get blown hard, get aero, lean against the wind, relax and start pedaling!
The descent from Hawi is mostly very gradual and only it has a few short steeper parts (steeper is faster & scarier for me).  The steep parts don’t last long (and there is often a little uphill or flat section at the bottom that scrubs some of your speed).  So you only reach high speeds briefly.  

 

And a final note for chickens like me.  Virtually everyone (from 95 pound women to 85 year old men) is going to safely get down the hill.  If they can do it, then we have nothing to worry about!   Have faith and have fun!
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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!)

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