I managed to fight and scratch my way to the Ironman World Championships the last two years while still balancing a healthy family life. Riding bikes with my kids, going to soccer games, pool days, beach days and the list goes on.
I train 7 days a week and 5 of these days (Monday through Friday) training is completed before my two daughters (ages 5 and 7) wake up for the day at about 6:45 AM.
The structure of my training isn’t volume based like so many programs out there. Sure, volume has a definite role in my Ironman training, but the focus is to build sport specific strength and a little speed. Volume is added later on in the training and not nearly as long as most would think. This is not the norm in Ironman training and people look at me like I am a little crazy when I share my approach.
This method of training is extremely effective because it allows you to focus on what slows you down most. We need endurance, but this is not what typically keeps an athlete from making it to the finish line faster, especially for an athlete with a history in the sport.
Ironman is a strength-endurance sport. The more sport specific strength you build, the faster you will make it to the finish line. Sustainable durability is the goal. Structure your training to focus on your limiters and you’ll really reap the rewards of the longer endurance training when you add it later on in your training cycle.
The cool thing is that this method of training has not only helped me (never judge the universal effectiveness of an approach based on a single individual’s success), but it now helps so many of the Ironman athletes I coach. In fact, this method of coaching resulted in 77 personal bests for the 2015 season.
If you are willing to switch up the way you look at Ironman training, you can open up a whole new realm of possibilities. Oh, and you’ll get to hang out with your friends, play with your kids, drink beer (okay, not all the time), surf, ski, and enjoy life.
Here’s a look a the foundation of the Team FC Method.
Background – my butt has ben sore every week for the last 4 weeks. Legs have been pretty sore as well. The end of the week is usually when I feel the load of my training and today (Friday) I needed to give my legs a break.
I jumped on the treadmill for my run and it was done at an easy pace with 1 minute accelerations. Average cadence for the run was 97 with accelerations completed at 114 cadence, with good hip extension and very little fatigue from the workout. To do this same workout on the road, I would have stressed the muscles more than I wanted to.
Why is running on the treadmill beneficial?
If you are an ironman triathlete looking to improve your run performance off of the bike, the best way to do this is learning to run with a higher cadence. Running at a higher cadence reduces ground contact time and is less dependent on leg strength, which is significantly compromised in an Ironman. Running speed is determined by stride length x stride rate. Your stride length will be compromised in an Ironman and if you don’t have a well developed cadence pattern, then big time slowdown and fatigue is inevitable. Same applies to a half Ironman.
Running on the treadmill allows you to develop the motor patterns to improve your run cadence, while still allowing good hip extension. As you know, cadence without hip extension is equivalent to spinning in the small chain ring with no power behind the pedals.
If you struggle to run with a high cadence, it isn’t always endurance related. Often it can be the result of under developed motor patterns in that cadence range. The treadmill allows you to develop those motor patterns without a big load on the body.
Ideal cadence? My goal for all my athletes is to run at 180 -190 foot strikes per minute. The higher the cadence range, the less the athlete will slow down (assuming the training is there).
Give the treadmill a chance as you head into this Ironman season.
I am a big proponent of doing a lot of short fast work on the run. By short, I mean 30 seconds to 45 seconds. This helps to significantly improve mechanical efficiency as well as running speed and turnover. Another big plus is the ability to get in much more quality time at a fast pace without placing too much stress on the body.
However, when it comes to sustained speed, there are some important principles you need to stick to if you want to see all the hard work come out on race day. Keep in mind, I am speaking in the context of an Ironman or Half Ironman.
Here are a few thoughts:
Want to hear more about how you can improve your race results? Check this out.
Better Ironman Results in 2016 with these 3 diagnostic filed tests
How was your 2015 season? Did you get the results you desired? Perhaps you finished the 2015 season with decent results, but you’re determined to make 2016 an even better season.
Deep inside you know you’re leaving something on the table. Let’s make your 2016 more focused
* You’re overwhelmed – There is so much written about training it’s tough to know which approach will give you the results.
* You want to know what works – Which specific workouts will make the biggest impact on your performance.?
* Tired of just working out – bring focus to your workouts once you know exactly what you need to target.
MAKE 2016 BETTER
* Train with purpose
* Make the most of your limited training time
* Watch your training result in measurable improvements….and better performances
* Crush 2016 and smile at your results
HERE’S WHAT I’LL DO
* Teach you the 3 diagnostic field tests you need to start doing immediately.
* Show you how each test can identify gaps in your fitness. It’s not always what you think it is.
* Help you interpret the results of these tests so you can structure your training in a more purposeful, results driven approach.
Join me on Jnauary 14th at Endurance House . We’ll begin at 6:30 for a 35 minute presentation covering diagnostic field testing.
Question and answer session will follow the presentation.
If you are coming, please be sure to print out this PDF out to keep track of results as well as for notes. Diagnostic Field Testing – Team FC Method
In an Ironman and half Ironman, a great run result is a pace close to your stand alone half marathon or marathon time (7 – 9%). Nobody expects to run faster than this. Unfortunately, the drop off that some athletes experience falls in the 20% range and beyond. What’s your slowdown?
Clearly, this slowdown is not merely a function of your running ability. Even the most elite runners will be compromised if they hammer their legs on the bike before lacing up their shoes.
So what’s the solution? You could take the bike nice and easy to retain some of your running potential. While this will help, your total result at the finish line will be less than desirable.
The best way to help your running is to make your legs bullet proof on the bike so they are able to take a beating. Simply riding more miles won’t help.
We do this by focusing on bike specific strength work. There are a variety of ways to do this, but here is a great strength workout. Remember, Ironman is a strength-endurance sport. It’s not just about endurance.
In 2015 Team FC athletes posted a total of 77 personal bests and most of these improvements were in the form of a better bike/run combination. Here’s a look at a staple bike strength workout.
20′ easy warm up at a variety of cadences. Mix in some harder efforts too to prime the legs.
15 min. at 60 rpm Z3/Z4 w/ 5 min. easy spin to recover
15 min. at 50 rpm @ Z3/Z4 w/ 5 min. easy spin to recover
10 min. at 45 rpm @ Z3/Z4 w/ 5 min. easy spin to recover
5-10 minute easy cool down
Outside or on trainer. I prefer the trainer.
Intensity should be Z3/Z4. You should feel this in your legs well before your lungs. Key is to make sure you are not breathing heavy (like in an all out tt effort) during these efforts – get right to the point before breathing becomes very labored. The challenge of this ride builds as intensity wears away at you. Keep breathing under control and this will make sure the workout targets your leg strength. If you are not feeling it in your legs, then add more resistance.
I am excited to share some of the training principles that we use to help our triathletes race faster and stronger at the half Ironman and Ironman distances. This Everything Ironman course is available in May, 2015. Registration opens April 21st. If you you don’t have an Ironman coach or triathlon coach to help you through your training, then this is a good start. If you are a triathlon coach looking to improve your results with you athletes, this course will offer a new way of looking at how you build up an athletes training.
Why Online? In the past we have hosted various workshops in the North and South Orange County areas. Those unable to attend have frequently asked for a recorded version….so we listened.
This course will be ideal for those who have a late season Ironman such as Ironman Arizona, Ironman Florida, Ironman Cozumel, Ironman Lake Tahoe and Ironman Maryland.
At Team FC we always strive to provide the best triathlon coaching possible. As our athletes make big gains and set new personal bests, it only seemed appropriate to add another level of specialization to our programs. We are exited to announce the addition of Tracy White as our new swim specialist.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —Mark Twain
We all get caught up in doing what we’re “supposed to do”, but I believe you can carve a little part out of each day to Explore, Dream & Discover a little part of you; eventually that will add up to a pretty cool life.
Tracy came to triathlon with a strong background in competitive swimming. She achieved an Olympic Trials qualifying time at the age of 16, and continued to a collegiate swimming career that included two NCAA Div II All-American honors. During those same years she began teaching swim lessons, coaching youth, high school and Master’s swimmers.
Her coaching career has spanned over 30 years and incorporates the latest swim coaching techniques and a solid foundation of swim stroke fundamentals. Tracy brings a passion to her coaching, leveraging her swimming experience and over 50 triathlon swim starts including six Half Ironman finishes and two full Ironman finishes. Her athletes range from those competing in their first Sprint Distance Triathlon to Kona qualifiers. She implements a love for the sport of swimming into her coaching style and is committed to constantly growing her knowledge of coaching with enthusiasm, discipline and compassion.
U.S. Masters Swimming- Level 2 Coach
American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) – Foundations of Coaching
Red Cross – Lifeguarding/First Aid/CPR/AEUSMS – Level 2 Coach
Two Time Ironman Finisher
Most people are well aware of the benefits of riding a trainer in the off season. The key for the best results is to make sure your rides are targeted. Check out this audio for 3 tips.
If you are guilty of just riding or only doing high intensity bike rides, then you’ll definitely want to give this workout a try. The purpose of this workout is to develop on this bike strength. The intensity is not so much a cardio pump, but you should feel it more in your leg muscles. This is perfect for the beginning of you r season and as you build into the first race, you can modify this strength session to work its way closer to a race specific focus by increasing the cadence a bit. Give this workout a try and let me know how your legs feel….the next day.
W/U 10-20 easy spin @ 85 – 95rpm @ Z-2 effort with some efforts in Z3 and Z4. The purpose of the warm up is to prime your body for what’s ahead.
5 x 5 min @ 50-60RPM @ low Z-3
with 3-5min recovery spin between sets at a high cadence – 90 RPM +.
W/D with left over time @ 90RPM+ in Z-2
Remember, you should feel it in the leg muscles more than anything else.
Do you have a power meter, but aren’t sure how to use it in racing and training? Considering a power meter for 2014 and want to know how to maximize it’s effectiveness?
Join us for our complimentary webinar on November 27th for a look at everything you need to know about training with power. Registration opens on November 11th. If you are unable to attend at the designated time, you’ll receive a link with the content the
2014 Planning Workshop
We’ll teach you how to optimize your training by looking at the following topics:
This workshop will be in a very small group format so that all participants can get the most out of the workshop. For the best results, we have a number of field tests that we’d like you to complete. This will enable us to accurately identify what you should focus on in your training.
This complimentary workshop does not require that you sign up for any sort of coaching. The information presented in these workshops is only available at the workshop. We will not provide the content for those unable to attend. We are offering three workshops throughout the Orange County area.
Is your long run designed to improve your weakness? The timing of intervals can impact the nature of your workout. Find out how structuring your long run can impact the training effect it has on you as an athlete.
We know many successful age group athletes train using a low volume approach, but how do you know it’s right for you? Will it work? Some athletes do very well with scaled back volume while others need more volume to have success on race day. What works for one training buddy might not work for you. Listen to this to find out if you;re a good candidate for a low volume Ironman training program.
Women athletes, you need to check this out. Dealing with the high hormonal phase of your menstrual cycle when it coincides with an important race. There are some definite performance limitations, but with the right strategy you can effectively optimize performance.
While there are general principles to follow, nutrition has to work for your individual needs as an athlete. For me personally, the Osmo active hydration works very well. Dr. Stacy Sims, founder of Osmo, is a big believer in using liquids to hydrate and real food/solids for calories. However, this idea of “solid” nutrition may not work for every athlete out there. Here’s a look at at an Ironman athlete who modified the Dr. Stacy Sims’ recommendations and experienced great success.
NEW IRONMAN PR – 10:21:47 – This course was so much more difficult than Ironman Arizona where Keith posted a 10:27:57.
CRUSHED THE MARATHON – 3:36. This marathon time was only 45 second slower than his all time best stand alone marathon at Surf City.
The Fitness Coaching training philosophy has always been quality over quantity, but this build up to IMMT for Keith took the low volume approach to the extreme limits. In fact Keith logged 8.5 -9.5 hours of training per week in the five month build up to IMMT. He had one 12 hour week.
Keith’s training sessions were very targeted and calculated to make up for the lack of volume. Keith was a believer when I told him that the lower volume could get him across the finish line with some solid speed. In the words of Keith after the Ironman, “pushing into painful threshold workouts builds character and a lot more speed. I’m a believer!”
Good work Keith!!!!
Pacing in an Ironman is the golden ticket to a solid run. Here are a few thoughts regarding pacing taken from my recent Ironman at Mont Tremblant.
Here are 3 training mistakes that will sabotage your triathlon season and limit your improvement:
1) Most of your rides are long and slow.
Somewhere along the way we as triathletes were programmed to believe that longer is better. All of a sudden a 3 hour ride wasn’t quite good enough because your training buddies were doing 6 or 7 hour rides. The problem with the longer rides is that it often comes at a cost. Naturally, you have to slow down to complete this distance, resulting in conditioning your body to ride at a nice and easy pace which is not good for improving race speed. For most athletes training for an ironman, a 3.5 hour ride with some scheduled intensity can be far more beneficial than a long 5 – 6 hour ride. Don’t get me wrong. Those long rides have their place, but their purpose is more for pacing and race execution.
You might want to rethink the social rides if you are getting into the race specific period of your training. I love training with others as long as we have an understanding that when the “work” portion on the ride begins, we are all on our own. If your ride consists of many stops and regroups, you are missing out on the race specific training that your body needs. As your race gets closer, the need to ride at race pace becomes more important. Most “social” rides are not conducive to this unless you connect with a group that will push your limits. Social rides are more appropriately placed early in the season when race specific intensities are not as important. Just be sure to mix in some surges and hard efforts on these rides.
2) You refuse to get on the indoor trainer
The trainer is a great way to maximize your training time, especially early in the season when the weather is not the best. You’ll save lots of time in ride prep when you ride indoors. Not only time savings, but you can also schedule very focused intervals and intensity that may not be practical on the open road. The trainer is also nice for those who don’t have a power meter and want to ride at very specific and repeatable intensities. Check out trainerroad.com for a great way to monitor your intensity. Another solid option is the Sufferfest video collection.
3) You lack basic functional strength and mechanical efficiency.
This becomes most evident on the run. Our bodies struggle to go faster because we lack some basic mechanical efficiency. In order to run a fast half marathon or marathon, you need to be able to run a significantly faster 5 k or 1600 meters. The mistake I see so many make is trying to get faster by logging more volume, especially in the off season. The biggest bang for your buck is to target your ability to run fast with proper form. Now keep in mind, this does not mean that you go out and hammer all of your short runs. In fact, this can cause injury if your speed work is not targeted. Speed should be carefully sprinkled into your training; a little goes a very long way. You’ll train your body to become more mechanically efficient and this will carry over to your longer distance runs. It’s also a great idea to video record yourself running at faster speeds as this may reveal some basic gaps in running mechanics resulting from a weakness in the kinetic chain. Address this before anything else.
Another area you need to address is your functional strength. Are your gluteals weak? Tight hamstrings? Lack of mobility? Poor core strength? All of these will reduce your efficiency as a triathlete and, when you’re less efficient, you’ll slow down. Every year I head into Sports Conditioning and Rehab (SCAR) to get a functional assessment so I continually address the gaps in my fitness. The folks at SCAR put me through a series of tests and then identify my weaknesses. The cool thing is that I can compare my improvement from year to year. They set me up with targeted exercises to bridge the gaps. This is well worth the time, energy and money.
As the off season approaches, consider changing up your routine to target the gaps in your fitness. More biking, running and swimming will not make you faster. Sure you’ll be able to complete the distance, but if your goal is to complete the distance at a faster pace, then you need to structure your training to help you make these speed gains.
If you have a power meter and are aware of your functional threshold power (FTP), then you also know what cadence you typically ride at to produce that power. Athletes can reach their FTP through a lower cadence (80-85) and some hit their FTP at a higher cadence(96-99). This cadence is your “go to” comfort cadence. When you try to elevate your FTP, it would be wise to focus on the easiest gains.
For example, if I normally spin at 98 RPM to reach my FTP, then my bike training can really benefit from some lower cadence riding. A high cadence rider usually has a well develop neuromuscular firing pattern and a strong cardio system to help them achieve their power, but what is missing with some of these high cadence athletes is the ability to apply large amounts of force to the pedals. I would call this a “gap” in their ability. Focusing on bridging this gap is the quickest way to realize power gains.
An grinder or low cadence rider has the force, but is perhaps lacking in the neuromuscular department. I would have this athlete focus on some fast cadence drills to help improve their overall power. Once their ability to apply large amounts of force to the pedals meets the newly developed neuromuscular firing patters, then we have a nice combination.
Applying drills such as low cadence/big gear work and spinning drills needs to have a purpose and a goal. Assigning tons of spin drills to an athlete who is already a great spinner, is not the wisest use of training time. Look at your “gaps” and figure out what drills will help you to bridge these gaps.
A few weeks ago I posted a write up about Why Long Rides Don’t Make you Faster and I had a number of follow up questions about this so I thought I’d take a minute to clarify a few points about high intensity intervals within your bike training.
First, let me start by saying that if you have any sort of injury or unusual tightness in your legs or glutes, then I would save the higher intensity intervals until you are 100%. Secondly, I’m also assuming you have been through a proper bike fit. A poor bike fit + high intensity intervals = a good chance of injury.
Beginner Triathletes– If you are new to riding, then just about every ride you do will contribute to improving your fitness and speed. Your tendons, ligaments and muscles have not quite adjusted to the cycling specific motion and when placed under load, you have the potential to overdo it. When first starting out, keep hard intervals to a minimum, if at all.
If you are beyond the beginner stage, keep on reading.
Who can benefit? If you have been riding consistently for more than a year, these higher intensity intervals will definitely boost your performance. Start by adding short amounts of Threshold intervals. If you are new to intervals, I would keep this to about 40- 50 minutes for the entire week and never more than 30 minutes in a single session. Break up the interval in to small manageable chunks of time. Five to twelve minutes work well for most newbies. Allow anywhere from 2 minutes up to 5 minutes of recovery. Complete these early in your rides when you are fresh, both mentally and physically. Once they are done, continue on with your ride. Over time your body will adjust and your cruising pace will put your riding buddies in a world of hurt.
Who can REALLY benefit? If you have been riding for 3 or more years , and the thought of a 90 mile ride doesn’t leave you paralyzed with fear, your Ironman and half ironman bike times have been relatively stagnant for the last few years, and you are not a stranger to hard work, then these higher intensity intervals will rock your world. The first thing you need to do is shift your focus and accept that the training load of a ride is equal to both volume and intensity (Training Load = Volume + Intensity). Altering either of these variables can define how much work you are doing. Most people default to volume to define the meaning of a tough ride. The problem with placing too much emphasis on volume is that you are often caught in between a really hard effort and a moderate effort. Sending too much time in this dead zone for a long ride means extended recovery on top of the fact that your hard effort wasn’t really hard enough to bring about the changes you are looking for.
If you are training for an Ironman, I would suggest making your key ride for the week a 3-3.5 hour ride. Keep in mind, these are not just “go out and ride” kind of workouts. Every 4th or 5th weekend, you can mix in a longer distance ride at or just below your Ironman race pace. As you get close to your event, these focused rides will start to extend into the 4 hour range. After 4 hours most athletes start to lose steam. You can also really reap big gains by adding a second, less intense, ride the next day. Keep this to under 2 hours. For first time Ironman athletes, I would add more long rides. This is more for the psychological/mental benefit more than anything else. Most new Ironman athletes would flip if I only had them complete one or two really long rides in prep for their Ironman.
The purpose of this post is to expose you to the idea that your training doesn’t have to be all about volume. A little purposeful intensity goes a long way. This approach to training shapes our coaching philosophy as well as our how we write up our programs. We take your unique training background and combine it with a specific plan of attack to bring about the most gains for YOU.
Using the TSS and IF scores provided by Training Peaks can be valuable in your training. In order to calculate your TSS score, Training Peaks needs to know your Threshold pace for running and your threshold power for biking. TSS then takes into account the time you spent below, above and at this threshold intensity. The Intensity Factor (IF) rating is a percentage of your actual power or pace in relation to your threshold power or pace. All of these scores are dependent upon the accuracy of your threshold pace and power logged into Training Peaks.
Using heart rate TSS (hrTSS ) is not as reliable unless you are riding at a very steady effort. Intervals with spikes in heart rate and intensity will not translate well to an accurate hrTSS or IF.
The best way to use TSS and IF is when you compare workouts; specifically, your harder sessions. For example, let’s say I am coaching an athlete who’s TSS score is dropping on consecutive weekends. Assuming they are doing the same volume or more from week to week, then they are not recovering from their workouts and I will immediately cut their intensity and volume. Using IF is a great way to compare the intensity of workouts assuming they are the same volume.
Using Hr TSS to monitor training is another metric to analyze performance, but I would not depend on it entirely. TSS generated by the use of a power meter is very precise and reliable. rTSS is a close second to power TSS, assuming you have the correct Threshold pace identified. rTSS allows you to accurately compare scores from multiple runs.
Racing by TSS and IF
This is completely an individual factor so to throw out targets for a race would be a generalization. Personally, I do well when I race at a TSS score of a 285 and an IF of .75 for my Ironman. For my half Ironman, my magic number is a TSS of 185 and IF of .83. This allows me to run to my potential. It’s important to note than in a race situation, I have the ability to go harder, but when I do it starts to cut into my run time.
Using HrTSS for racing is not nearly as predictable.
For much more information about TSS and IF, check out –http://support.trainingpeaks.com/athlete-edition/training-stress-scores.aspx#hrTSS
Aero Helmet, aero wheels. skin suit, or power meter? Which of these is most beneficial for Ironman racing? Before we look at which upgrade will shave seconds and minutes off of your time, let’s take a look at the goal of your Ironman bike ride. Your goal is not to simply ride as hard as you can. Your goal is to ride as fast as you can without ruining your run which means you’ll have to ride below what you’re capable of doing on the bike. If you start the run with overcooked legs, then all the time you gained on the bike will quickly disappear.
So, which upgrade is best for you? Aero helmets, aero wheels and a aero skin suit will allow you to be more aerodynamic, resulting in a faster bike split. A power meter has no aero advantage and will not make you faster from an aero advantage. However, there are plenty of good reasons to make this purchase as your first upgrade (I am assuming you already have TT bike). Here are the reasons why:
1) A power meter will allow you to evenly pace your efforts. An even paced effort is definitely worth time savings for the last 30 miles of the bike. Look at the bike splits of most Ironman athletes. Notice how much some people slow down half way through the bike.
2) Immediate feedback on the hills. A power meter will let you know exactly how hard you are pushing up the hills. Minimizing the surges on the bike is a huge part of your run success. Too many surges = a slow run or even a walk.
3) Target wattage. Assuming you have trained with your power meter, you (or your coach) should know exactly what wattage to ride at during the race. Using wattage and estimated time out on the course, you can predict the impact the ride will have on your run.
A power meter will not give you any aero advantages and make you faster on the bike on race day. However, I can assure you that the benefit of having a power meter to monitor your efforts on race day will result in an overall faster time for your Ironman. After a power meter, here are the upgrades I would make: Aero helmet, aero wheels, and finally a skin suit (the triathlon specific type).
This past weekend I completed the full Aquabike up at Vineman as a prep race for Ironman Mont Tremblant. As many of you know, the full Vineman Ironman going on at the same time. While racing, I made observations that I want to pass along to all of you. These observations will be in the form of mistakes of Ironman racing. These are in no particular order, but the general idea is that the fewer of these mistakes you make the better your run will be. Ironman racing is all about getting to the marathon with a fighting chance of making it through at a decent pace. Sabotaging your run is very easy to do and it you don’t check your pride and ego at the door while on the bike, you are sure to pay the price.
Forceful Kick – At about 20 minutes into the swim I was passed by a guy kicking like he was doing the 50 meter freestyle. I thought, “he must only be kicking so hard to pass me”. I jumped behind the turbulence and followed him. He was easy to follow because I could feel the churning water for about 2-4 feet behind him. I followed for about 10 minutes before taking a slightly different line. In Ironman racing, there is no need to kick forcefully. I prefer a two beat kick that is very relaxed and controlled. I will occasionally kick a little harder to help get me past a congested group of swimmers and then it’s back to my normal pace. Here’s a good example of a two beat kick. Watch the whole thing, but take a look at the kick at 1:00.
Head up Sighting – There is no need to pull your entire head out of the water while trying to sight (well, assuming there are not huge swells). Doing so causes your lower body to drop in the water and your forward progress is interrupted. Keep these to a minimum.
Gearing is Crucial – I past a guy at about mile 60 who was riding a disc and an 11/23 rear cassette. Riding this gear range for a moderately hilly course is sure to fry your legs for the run.
Hammering the Hills or False Flats– This is where most people past me on the first lap of the course as they charge up the hill as soon as it kicks up. It takes discipline to hold back at the bottom when you’re fresh. I use my power meter to help guide my effort and I always have to tell myself to dial it back. The goal is to ride a steady effort all the way to the top. If you reach the top of the climb barely hanging on or in a lot of discomfort, there is a good chance you started too hard. A power meter will give you instant feedback about how hard you are pushing. Heart rate isn’t nearly as reliable unless it’s a long climb.
Most who pass me on the hills are usually caught at the top or shortly after the hill. It’s important to note that I am not pushing any harder to pass them, but since they spent so much energy to get up to the top, their body needs a break and has to slow down. Here’s a short overview of how to ride a hill.
Surges on the Bike – The goal of a bike race is to finish the race with nothing left to give. The goal of an Ironman is to finish the bike with plenty of reserves for the run. Pushing 10% more than you should will mean the difference between a productive run and a death march.
The goal of your Ironman bike split is to ride as evenly paced as possible. The fewer surges in effort the better off you will be. Of course, there are times when you need to surge a little, but you need to look at these surges as taking seconds away from your per mile pace for the marathon. Choose you surges wisely.
Assuming you have some experience racing, the biggest obstacle to a faster bike split is your ability to ride at a higher intensity and NOT your ability to ride for a longer distance. It’s a mistake to assume that if you want to ride fast for your next Ironman, then you should practice riding the distance. As you increase your distance it’s necessary to also dial down your intensity and this backing off of intensity compromises your speed. The more volume you log, the more your body needs to back off to make this happen and the end result is that your body becomes accustomed to riding at a lower intensity. Sure this will allow you to complete the race, but you are robbing yourself of speed.
You also have the problem of recovery and adaptation. Logging mega rides every weekend places a big load on your body and the time it takes to recover and adapt can often take more than a few days. If this time is spent trying to get in other training such as swimming and running, then your body heads into a survival mode and the subsequent training is often low quality. If you notice your power is dropping week after week, then it’s time to ditch the long rides.
How short? There are two things you need to consider when creating a workout – volume and intensity. Together, these determine the training stress of a ride. If you are using a power meter (you should have one if you are beyond your second year of racing), then Garmin or Training Peaks will have a Training Stress Score (TSS) for each ride. On your long rides, make it your goal to ride close to the TSS you plan to race at. For example, my Ironman bike TSS is usually in the 215 -240 range. I can create this score by riding hard intervals for about 3 hours and 30 minutes. If I were to ride at my ironman pace for 3:30, then my score would be much lower. By adjusting my intensity, I can achieve the same TSS as a 5:30 ride would give me. My wife and kids love these shorter rides!!
How often should you ride long? Long rides do have their place. While most of my rides are under 3:30, I will extend my distance close to 100 miles every so often just to test out my race day wattage. The purpose of these long rides is much different than my shorter, higher intensity rides. My goal is to rehearse my nutrition, hydration and pacing. I often finish these long rides with a short run to see how my legs hold up. Each athlete is different. Some of my athletes need to go through this more often because they need the psychological affirmation that they can ride the distance. Others can get by with 2 of these rides in their build up to Ironman.
Before you start logging mega miles to get you ready for your next Ironman, consider the purpose of each ride. What is your goal? Each athlete brings a different background to the sport so there is not a one size fits all approach. How much intensity, how often, and how much long distance will vary significantly from athlete to athlete. When you get the balance right between volume and intensity, expect to be blown away at your next race.
Our top stand out performance was at Oceanside where our team took 2nd place in the Ironman team competition. As of right now, we are in 5th place out 180 teams. Here’s a look at the benefits of placing in the top 5 by the end of the season:
I have been riding my road bike for about 2.5 months and I just recently raced it in my last half ironman. I noticed that my normal power ranges which I can hold on my TT bike were really tough to hit on my road bike -not only in training, but also in this last race.
I finally got a TT bike and I was anxious to see how my power measured up. Since May 21st, my weekday repeats have been along the same exact route that I repeat for each interval. I have three days worth of repeats (6 repeats total) of intervals on my road bike. The last interval set (2 total) on June 7th was completed on my TT bike. Oh, the power meter I use is a hub based Power Tap so I was using the same power meter for all these efforts. Here is what the results showed.
Observations – I had a lot less body movement while maintaining this power. The steeper seat angle allows me to open up my hip angle and stay low with much more ease.
Position Changes – On my road bike I ride at a 75 degree seat angle. Sitting in this angle and maintaining an aero position closes off the hip angle (torso and femur), resulting in a less than ideal position for maintaining continuous power. On my TT postion, the geometry of my frame allows my to ride closer to an 81 degree seat angle, resulting in a much more open hip angle and an even lower front profile. I have tight hips and hip flexors so the opening up of the angle really allows me to produce power more efficiently.