First off, I am going to be doing a podcast with Bobby McGee (the coach, not the song) next Monday. Bobby has helped many of the world's best runners to... ...run their best. If you have any quetions that you would like to have answered feel free to email me (through the "Contact" link above) and I will do my best to incorporate your questions into our discussion. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Many people ask me how I approach training for my key races. First off, all my key races are Long Course (3.8K swim, 180K bike, 42.2K run) races and I have only tackled a couple (at most) each year. My point in saying that is that I don't simply train to do a series of racing, but rather, I train specifically for one event, and one event only.
The first IM I did this season was Ironman Canada and the second is Ironman Arizona taking place in a little over 8 weeks in Tempe, AZ. The two races are the same distance, but the demands of the courses themselves are what force change in my training.
Canada has these specific demands to keep in mind:
Standing/water start for the swim. One loop course.
A bike course consisting of 40 miles flat, climb a pass, a series of rollers and flat terrain, another climb and a finish with a 15K descent before 4 miles of flat into town.
A run course with flat 1/3, a hilly 1/3, and a flat 1/3 (all relative of course).
The temperature is usually temperate (but can be hot), the air is dry, and wind can play a real factor in shaping the day.
Ironman Arizona has these challenges:
A one loop swim with a water (treading) start. Harsh sun glare in the opening half.
A flat bike course with direction changes and the potential for lots of wind (at any rate there will be some wind).
A run course very similar to the bike course as far as a description is concerned
While training for IMC I focused my long rides on having the ability to do some climbing at a slightly higher intensity than what I was putting out in the flats. I did this knowing that the descents on the course would allow me to back way off and recover. For a course like AZ I need to be able to stay on top of big gear riding in the aero positition at a constant intensity. Ironman Canada had much more diversification, both in terms of the intensity I planned to ride, as well as riding the bike in the aero position, sitting up, and standing. IMAZ is all about aero riding with a solid, constant output of power.
The run training won't differ too greatly with the exception that my long runs won't incorporate as many hills in the middle of the session. Instead, I will be working at improving my steady state stamina in the flats.
When I finish a race I sit back and try to think about what parts of the race I found overly challenging or under-prepared (even the races that go very well). In the case of IMC I found that I faded a bit in the final 1000 meters of the swim and got boxed into a position that I did not care for. This likely cost me 30-60 seconds when the group split in the home stretch.
Secondly, I felt that I just didn't feel quite right for the first 60-90 minutes of the ride. I kept telling myself that I would come right (and I did), but I felt I lost another 60-120 seconds in here from not being able to crank early on.
Therefore I am doing sessions in the water that train for the demands of the last K of the 3800 meter swim as well as doing sessions that help me transfer from the swim to bike more smoothly.
Finally, I like to look back on the key training weeks that I had for my last race and try to assess when I was the most tired and whether it was "worth it." What I mean by that is: could I have placed the stress causing the fatigue in a better place. I don't necessarily look for ways to train 'more', but I do look for ways to train 'better.' Can I raise the quality of the week by taking a different recovery approach? A different weekly schedule? etc.
After four moderate weeks of training I am starting to feel more like Summer jd and my training is starting to get a bit more serious. The weather is Boulder is great and I'm looking forward to trying to achieve something new in 8+ weeks time.