I believe that any athlete who signs up for an Ironman should physically prepare the body to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. As to the "best" approach to getting to race day, well there are many schools of thoughts to this so I thought I'd briefly share my approach.
Karel has been coaching me for the past few years with my training. I have yet to be burnt out or not arrive to a race hungry to race. I feel I have progressed a lot in the past few years with speed and endurance and most importantly, I always have fun.
I realize that my body has it's limiters with my hip issues relating to my spine and a lifetime of back-issues but I also recognize how to train smart. It doesn't always work out as I'd like since I am a competitor and love to push my body to higher limits but in the past few years, with every down moment that I have experienced with my body, I have only become a stronger and smarter athlete. Thus, my injuries have not been setbacks but rather enhancers.
My approach to training myself and my athletes is simple. Keep things balance. Be patient, keep your mind focused on the journey and never lose sight of your goals. I understand sport nutrition so I feel my training is only enhanced in that aspect but no amount of nutrition will help me train consistently well if my training is not balanced and specific.
I use a lot of tools when I train such as HR, garmin, power meter (910XT Garmin and Garmin 500 bike computer) but as we all know, it is only on race day that your trusted gadget will fail you...never in training!
The whole focus of training is to make progress and to not let your end goal keep you from enjoying the journey. I have taught myself (as an age group athlete who has been fortunate enough to have a body that has gotten me to Kona twice and finishing 5 Ironman's) how to recognize great workouts and how to adjust any workout to ensure it will become a great workout. In other words - completing my assigned workouts means that I understand that what is ahead of me is within my limits. Although many variables such as stress, sleep and nutrition can affect my performance (controllables), I know that each workout on my plan has a purpose. A purpose that the workout is allowing me to make progress. Many athletes are so stuck on the end result that they lose sight of the journey, worry about things out of their control and also push too hard (or not enough) and often question if they are making performance gains. I suppose little progress gains are often hard to "see" but then again, who says that you have to use times/speed as the marker of improving fitness?
My approach to Ironman training is that of quality. There are no Ironman days as I don't want to be training all day in the sun on the weekend and I want to save my best performance for race day. I don't need to prove to myself or on social media that I can swim, bike and run this many hours or miles each week but instead, prove to myself that I have made progress with the workout to set me up for a stronger and faster tomorrow.
Many of my Ironman and half Ironman bike workouts (over the past 3 years) have been relatively "short". Most of my Ironman rides are around 3:5 - 5 hours and most of my half Ironman rides are around 2.5 - 3 hours. The key is the learning how to pace yourself on the bike to get "faster" as an Ironman athlete but also to become more efficient and to run steady off the bike. Thus - I do A LOT of brick runs with each run having a purpose.
With 7 weeks left until Ironman Lake Placid, I really loved today's brick workout given to me by my hubby, coach, bike mechanic and training buddy.
3.5 hour ride + 30 min run - 4 hour KEY Ironman workout
15 minute warm-up
5 x 2 min leg openers (100+ cadence rpm) w/ 2 min EZ
Main set: (I was drafting behind Karel so as he stuck to his zones, my zones were a tad higher than they needed to be but still doable - drafting behind Karel makes me stronger and it has really helped my cycling. I enjoy going "fast" behind Karel as I can't do his speeds alone but I understand that drafting properly keeps me in my proper zones as Karel is extremely consistent so I enjoy the bonus of covering more miles behind him as I prepare myself for my own race day effort. All zones are power based zones determined by a 2 x 20 min max sustainable power effort w/ 2 min EZ in between)
10 min Z4 low w/ 2 min EZ
15 min upper Z3 w/ 2 min EZ
10 min Z4 low w/ 2 min EZ
20 min mid - upper Z3 w/ 2 min EZ
5 min recovery
35 min group ride (this effort was low to mid Z4)
5 min EZ
5 x 2 min (high cadence) w/ 2 min EZ
5 min cool down, transition to run.
Total: 73 miles, 3 hours and 31 minutes
(If training with power and/or HR on the bike and you have your zones set-up in proper endurance zones, you should be racing your endurance race in upper Z2 - Mid Z3, typically low Z3 for most athletes. If you want to get faster, you have to train smarter so that by race day, your low Z3 is "faster" than where you were when you started your endurance specific training. As for running in an Ironman - don't get caught up in paces. Used perceived exertion as much as possible while monitoring the HR and walk to help keep good form and to be steady with pacing).
4 x 1 miles w/ 10 sec walk in between
(I often walk with my IM training in most workouts as it helps me reduce gradual fatigue, it helps me better tolerate nutrition, it helps me control my HR the best I can and it helps me keep good form to reduce risk for injury. I may walk anywhere from 10-60 seconds depending on the workout and although 10 sec is brief and often I wish I could walk longer, it serves the purpose of helping me have a quality workout as I help simulate aid station walks for IM race day).
Mile 1: 7:51
Mile 2: 7:48
Mile 3: 7:51
Mile 4: 7:47
(around 10-13 second walk in between)
Total 4 miles, 32:28, average pace 8:07 min/mile (with ~40-60 seconds of walking)
Should you still do a Key "LONG" workout like a 100 mile ride + 2 mile run or even a 112 mile ride + 10-15 minute run? Yes. Those will be coming for Karel and I in a few weeks. BUT, if you can't do 3.5-4 hours of quality riding + a steady "short" run off the bike, what makes you think that your body is "Trained" to ride 100 miles, weekend after weekend? Those short IM intensity focused bricks will pay off when it is time for the long workouts. Remember - save your best performance for race day. Don't waste your time with junk miles just getting the miles in..make those miles count. And if you can prove to yourself that you can do it in training, trust yourself that you can do it on race day. Don't be a super hero in training and not be able to execute on race day.
After stretching and cooling off with Karel and enjoying a little watermelon and recovery drink (before Karel headed to work today), I had to stop by the Trek Beach store for Karel and when I finally arrived home, it was time to officially refuel!
Do you enjoy thanking your body for a great workout with delicious food prepared from home?
Today's creation:An Omelet with tomatoes, arugula and goat cheese with oregano and rosemary. Rye bread with fruit jam and plain Greek Fage yogurt with fresh cherries and a drizzle of honey.
If you are wrapped up in the idea that Ironman (or endurance) training has to involve a lot and a lot of miles, how about thinking about other areas in your life that can make a positive impact on your training and racing. Certainly, we all know that even with the best preparation, there can be a variable or two on race day that can count you out from putting all that hard training to the test. Certainly - your mind and nutrition are two important components of training and racing that can help take your fitness to the next level..likely more so than in any long workout for without the right mental focus, pacing strategy and nutrition plan, there's really no point in putting your body through all that long and hard training if you are not equipped properly to handle that training stress (mentally and physically).
As you know, I work with my friend, Licensed Psychologist Gloria (Psy. D) on my mental training as she is an experienced mental coach and sport psychologist.
Here is a great video to show you the importance of mental training for fitness/performance. Even if you aren't racing or training, I recommend watching this video as it has a few helpful slides on how your mind can either enhance or limit you in terms of reaching your personal goals in life.