I thought I would contact you via email since you are unable to answer on your blog page. I have a couple questions and am hoping you can help me with your expertise. I have to share I use to live in Tempe and Scottlsdale a few years ago! I miss the mountains, it's a beautiful place to live! I'm presently in Florida. Very flat!
I just finished my first Ironman, Oct 20th, I'm 57 years old, Personal Trainer. My goal that race was to just finish, which is what I did. Not a great time, but happy to finish and feel good and no injuries. I have another one coming up on Jan 12,2013. This one I would like to train more for speed than just finishing. It is a flat course unlike the last IM, which should be to my advantage physically since I trained for hills on the last one.
What is the best way to train for events that are so close together? I'm not a fast runner, should I concentrate on speed and shorter distance during the week and up my long runs to 3 times per month? I would appreciate any help you might give me.
Thank you, I have used so many of your training plans in the past and they rock!
First of all, you did the right thing to set your goal on just finishing your first Ironman. That’s an awesome accomplishment. You should certainly be able to go faster on your next. My only concern is if you have enough time to fully recover before doing another. But, fortunately, my suggestion on how to go faster will also reduce the burden of training for the next one. If you do what I suggest here I can almost guarantee that your next will be a faster one.
Let’s start with an overview, one that Ironman athletes don’t usually like to hear: An Ironman is a bike race with a swim warm-up and a jog to the finish line. Most don’t like to hear that because it downplays the value of swimming and, especially, of running. But it’s true. Let me explain.
It’s a bike race: About half of the race is spent on the bike. So it has the greatest impact on the overall time. Get really fit on the bike and you’ll have a good finishing time—if you hold back. This last part is critical. If you go all out on the bike—your fastest possible split—you’ll walk the marathon. But if you hold back 5% on the bike you’ll come off and be ready to run, albeit, slowly. More on that in a bit. The best way to prepare for the bike is to use a power meter. It’s almost like cheating. Once you know what your power should be for the race, you just ride to that power and you produce your best time. Again, this is not a maximal (minimal?) time, but rather optimal—it leaves you with enough legs to run, not walk.
With a swim warm-up: The swim makes up only about 10% of the race. You don’t need to swim a whole lot to get ready for it. Three swims a week will do it. And the focus _must_ be on form—not fitness. You’ll get a lot faster just by refining your technique. Let fitness takes care of itself. On race day then, what you must do is pace yourself in the swim. Get on somebody’s feet who seems to have a good pace and relax. Just keep checking to make sure the other swimmer is staying on course.
And a jog to the finish: Ok, finally, the run which you expressed concern about. There is absolutely no need to do “speed” work, as in fast intervals. It will just be a waste of your time, leave you tired most of the time, and increase your chances of injury. You’re never going to run “fast” in an Ironman. Even the pros don’t run fast. A pro man who runs a 2:50 after the bike could probably run 2:25 to 2:30 in a stand alone marathon. That’s roughly 15% slower after 112 miles on the bike. His Saturday morning run with his buddies is usually faster than that! It’s the same for you only the percentage is probably more like 20% because you will have spent more time on the bike with less training and therefore be relatively more tired. You could go out right now, with no additional training, and run the same time or even faster for 26.2 miles than you’re going to run in the Ironman. That would feel easy. It’s a jog.
A good example of all of this is Pete Jacobs who won Ironman Hawaii a couple of weeks ago. He said he only ran about three times a week in the build up and swam typically twice a week. But he put in about 18 hours a week on the bike.
So, like I said earlier, it’s a bike race with a swim warm-up and a jog to the finish. Prepare for it that way and you’ll greatly increase your chances of having a faster race. The only remaining issues then are pacing the bike optimally and getting race day fueling right. Those are also both as critical to your success and must be taken very seriously.
Let me know if there are any follow up questions. Good luck and please let me know how you did!