Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ironman Training

One of the great athletes and coaches in triathlon is Chuckie V. If you haven't read his blog (chuckiev.blogspot.com), I recommend you look it over. Nearly even thing he writes (about triathlon) is gold. Personally, I follow a lot of his recommendations. Recently, he's written a wonderful piece about Ironman training with a template that, I believe, is better than anything else I've come across.

Chuckie V recommends:

Monday: Run (1:00) + Swim (1:00)
Tuesday: Ride (1:00)
Wednesday: Time-consuming Run (2:00) + Swim (:45)
Thursday: Ride (1:00)
Friday: Run (1:00) + Swim (1:15)
Saturday: Time-consuming Ride (4:00)
Sunday: Time-consuming Ride (4:00) + Run (1:00)

And again, the three primary challenges within this are the midweek long run, and the weekend rides. (The real challenge, however, is in repeating such a week ad infinitum.) The long run is (or should be) self-explanatory: get out and run for a long time. If you run it too hard (or you go too long), you'll know a couple days thereafter. Be in tune with this and be aware in advance of next week's long one. The bike rides are ideally set-up in a manner where the challenge comes on Saturday (i.e., a harder steady-state effort), with Sunday's ride simply done as a "Caveman day" or a "feeling based" ride, followed by a transition run (we are, after all, triathletes). If you feel (and are indeed performing) like crap on Saturday the two rides can easily be swapped…in hopes you won't feel poor again on Sunday.

Now, as to where the rest of the challenge should lay, that's up to the individual and the coach, assuming the individual has a coach. If not, this is what I advise…

But first a disclaimer! It's imperative in training that you don't become mired in protocol or in a specific code of conduct. Protocol simply cannot prepare you like an adaptive response to reality can. (Reality = events that unfold; life.) This adaptive-ness is essentially the "art of training" and is every bit as important (if not more so) than the "science of training". And though verified to generate desirable outcomes on a wide range of athletes, the following is merely a suggestion based on principles and fundamentals and can only work if you make it work. And alas, making it "work" is NOT entirely up to you but rather your body and its fickle, ever-irregular responses. Amend where needed, when needed, as needed.


Since the weekend is big enough Monday really ought to be recovery focused, a day free from the rigors of leg abuse. The hitch, however, is that we must continue to get the weekly load in, and starting the week with just a swim (regardless of what came the day prior) is a sure-fire way in which to fall short by the end of the week, and so Monday also includes an easy jog in the afternoon, preferably as late in the day as is feasible. And depending on how challenging the transition run was the day before, Monday's bout ideally ought to remain relaxed and slow, preferably on dirt or some other soft surface (rubber, pillows, babies butts, etc). As far as the swim goes, it's a good day for some "upper-body isolation" or "sport-specific strength work". Strap your feet together, throw on the paddles and a small pull-buoy and do a simple but challenging main set, like 10 x 250s @ 90% effort. With about two hour's training time in all, that leaves Monday a done deal.

As far as Tuesday is concerned, this is where the midweek bike challenge ideally fits in, at least on paper. (Keep in mind that everything is easy on paper, even an Ironman and even the Pacific Crest Trail, though you'll need that much more paper for the latter! And since everything is easy on paper, I plan to do my next long hike entirely atop the stuff.) In all truth, your body (and your drive) must always have the final say, but planning a hard strength-related ride here allows you to make the most of the restricted amount of time you have (or, more precisely, don't have). Warm-up approximately 10 or so minutes, then do 40-minutes at 95%-98% of FTP/UHOP in interval form (e.g., 5 x 8-minutes on 2-minute's rest), all the meanwhile seated in the aero-bars (not literally though, that'd be weird and hard to balance the bike) at slow, smooth cadences, roughly 65-70RPM. Cool-down for a minute or two and be done with it. Tuesday…check.

With regards to Wednesday, you'll need to find a way to squeeze the midweek long run here, particularly if your idea of a long run is two hours or so. If a long run to you is to the refrigerator and back, be sure to place the refrigerator in a town about 6-10 miles away. I advise waking up earlier than normal and setting out at 5am, before the rest of the lazy-ass world has even thought about waking; that way you'll feel pretty damn good about yourself (which is always an important consideration) when 7am rolls around, and the world still slumbers. The long run should be paced so that you could theoretically repeat it in 48-hours or so, without a hitch. If your recovery is compromised you went to hard. Later in the day (ideally at noon) a recovery swim is in order, to hasten recovery from the run (in a perfect world, you'd never finish the day with an abusive bout of exercise). This ought to be little more than a moderately challenging "flop" or gravity-removed movement. I usually have those I guide do more strength work with some light kicking (e.g., 20 x 75s pull {all gear} at 80-90% effort on a 5-second rest interval + 10 x 50s kick, alternating with kick-board and no kick-board. Include some backstroke and breaststroke to stretch things out.) Wednesday: done.

Thursday: If you're already a reasonably fit cyclist (relative to those you compete against), this ideally ought to be swapped for another swim or another run. If not, stick with the ride and go entirely by feel, ala the Caveman. Cavemen did not ride bikes (or their bikes had square wheels anyway) but it's important here that you do, or at least do something, whether easy or not (don't be afraid of easy; in training, it ALL adds up, even the easy stuff). I don't believe in taking a complete day off each week when time is of the essence, as it's doubtful your competition does. (Check this: One day off each week = two months off each year. Good luck goal-tending with that approach.)

As for Friday, this is where the hardest swim of the week comes, though your other swims should be tough too (recall that swimming is "easier" on the body, in terms of recovery). You needn't anything extravagant, just something challenging. My personal favorite was a 5,000-meter time-trial, but I'm known to suffer from a series of mental maladies, so I advocate something a little more stimulating, psychologically speaking. (The physical stimulus of a 5K TT is profound.) In general this means a workout that relates to your goal race: if it's an Ironman for example, then 20 x 200s on a paltry 10-second's rest will do the trick, so long as they're all paced faster than your intended race pace. (Remember: unlike this workout, an Ironman Day swim = extended warm-up; whereas here now you must present yourself with a challenge in order to set yourself up for fitness growth; development follows demand.) Today's run, however, is like most triathlon-related running and is simply about remaining consistent and strong; routine in running is perfectly fine (though sameness is not). Fast running is okay only if recovery isn't compromised and if injury/illness is averted. The 48-72 hours following a given run will tell you if you ran too hard; look back to look ahead.
-- Chuckie V

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