One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned for Ironman is that your training should teach you how to race, not just make you fitter. To this end a lot of our training sessions are designed to not just improve fitness but also to teach you an aspect of Ironman racing. Be it pacing, nutrition, how to deal with fatigue, self control or some other part of racing.
The problem with either “racing” or just completing Ironman is that most of us only get to do it once a year and some don’t even get to do it that often. So how do you learn how to race a distance that is probably twice as long as you go in training and that maybe you only get to do a couple of times in your life?
In our own training and in our coaching we focus on the main areas that people struggle with in racing and try to design sessions to mimic what you will encounter on race day. Of course there are parts of Ironman that you will only experience on race day and will find impossible to replicate in training without frying yourself.
So what are the most important lessons to learn for Ironman racing?
You eventually reach a point, or at least I do, when you’ve had enough of the training and you feel ready to race. Maybe ready isn’t quite the right word, maybe I just feel like I’m at the limits of what I can do to get ready for this one.
I sometimes think I almost love the training and lifestyle more than the race itself but at the end of the day the race dangling out there in the distance is what motivates and drives me to keep on pushing when I might back off if I didn’t have the pressure of an event hanging out there. Read More
Aisling is giving me sessions a couple of days at a time depending on how I’m coping with the load. How I’m handling it is changing by the day and on Monday I’m not coping so well. I feel like I’m hanging by a thread.
I was down for a three hour run. It was a “just get it done” run. No structure, no intervals, efforts or pace targets. It was a “just get three hours on your feet” sort of day.
I lasted 2:50 and just couldn’t bring myself to add in a last 10 minute loop once I arrived back home. I was empty, both physically and mentally. I tried not to look at the rest of this weeks training stretching out ahead of me because I was so tired I might just cry at the thought of another 6 or 7 hour training day.
It’s funny how when the training builds to this level that the sheer difficulty of it can knock all of the enjoyment out of it. The exhaustion makes what would be the simplest of sessions on any other day seem insurmountable.
Maybe torturous is a better word.
I was so happy that tomorrow was a day off. Ais hadn’t given me the weeks work yet and I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want to know. Read More
Monday was hanging out there in front of me with a combination of excitement and trepidation. Excitement because for the last few weeks my fitness has been on an upward trajectory and Ais had me down to do a very big day which I always love the challenge of.
Trepidation because the last couple of weeks have been hard and I was tired and it could end up being a 7-8 hour slog instead of an enjoyable long day of training.
It was to be a 4000m swim, 5+ hours on the bike and to run off it. Back in 2013 that became a fairly regular way to spend a Monday and I always think that those long days had probably the biggest impact on fitness of any session, of course first I needed to be fit enough to cope with 6, 7 and 8 hour training day or it would have the opposite effect and leave me flattened.
I’ve done a couple of them this year but at a much easier pace than Monday was to be at.
One of the funny things about these training days is just how long they take. My normal long days consist of a bike and run and I’d often have 6+ hours done by 1:30 on Sunday and then go into work for a few hours. Because I was including a swim it meant that I wouldn’t get onto the bike until after 10am. So I leave the house at about 6:50 am and usually dont finish at about 5pm.
The whole day is gone, just like that. There’s usually only time for a shower before dinner when I’m done, then we walk the dogs, have a coffee and then it’s time for bed. I’d forgotten that and I somehow am always surprised that it’s tea time when I’m done. Anyway lets get on with it… Read More
I was 3300 meters into the planned 4k swim when I saw Patrick gliding effortlessly through the water towards me. “Shite” I thought, and not for the usual reasons. I wasn’t worried that he’d be kicking lumps out of me. Patrick was on an easy week after swimming the channel last week. I was also almost out of time and needed to go to work so there would at least be a limit to my Patrick imposed suffering.
Rather I was thinking “shite” because Patrick is very old school and looks at us triathletes with all of our swim toys with derision. I knew if he saw me all banded, pull-buoyed and paddled up then I was in for some stick. So I was hoping to finish the last 400m of the 5 x 400 set with my paddles, pull buoy and band before he arrived. Unfortunately I’d timed it rather badly because there he was.
And now I was caught playing with my toys.
And with less than 50m to go too. Shite.
If he had arrived 2 minutes later I’d have had my guilty pleasure and he would have been none the wiser.
Damn, here he comes.
Walking into the pool this morning Ais left me in no doubt that the next four weeks are going to be tough. She’s happy with where my run is but still feels that the swim and bike are the weak(er) links. Having one weak link isn’t necessarily a disaster but two would be a problem.
I’ve been given my orders.
1. No more missed swims. Minimum of three times a week in the water.
2. After that every spare minute for the next four weeks is to be spent on the bike. Which today as we are having something of a three day Indian summer in Dublin sounds like all of my birthdays have come at once. If the weathers nasty for a five hour ride though I might not be as excited.
Three years ago after back surgery I spent two months flat on my back unable to swim, bike, run or even walk very far. It taught me that even a hard, wet or cold day on the bike is better than that experience.
Even aside from being physically able to train I always feel very lucky at just how supportive Aisling is of my Ironman stuff. I talk to lots of people who have to quit the sport because it causes too much friction at home, or because they work or commute insane hours, or they’ve just had a baby and training suddenly drops from being one of the most important parts of their day to being something that they are lucky to do twice a week.
The next time I complain about how hard it is to train in Ireland feel free to give me a metaphorical (or an actual one if you live locally) kick in the arse.
For anyone who’s feeling sorry for themselves that they got wet or cold on their last bike ride.
Suck it up.
You should instead feel a little bit epic that you were one of the hard ones who suffered through it.
I’m sure that this will garner me all sorts of rants from those who don’t agree but fuck it. I’ve said it.
Anyway let’s get on with how the week went. Read More
The risk with pushing our limits is that we may push too far and instead of making breakthrough gains we just break down. After my first thirty hour training week in a long time. Actually it was 27 hours training in only four days, I came home ready for a day off and hoping for a few easier days after that.
I had the hoped for day off and then Ais had me do a 16k run on Tuesday which went reasonably well given how tired and sore my legs were. The problem started on Tuesday night when I woke around 3am with the beginnings of a cold/flu. I believe it was the combination of returning home in a very depleted state after the weekends training and as a result being particularly susceptible to infection.
An infection which was already running rampant through the house, Cillian and Ais were both already sick.
Ok so running rampant is probably a bit strong and sick is also probably a slight exaggeration. They had a cold which I then caught.
But it was a nasty cold.
Ok not so nasty, but it certainly wasn’t pleasant. And it did screw with my training plans during the middle of the week.
Anyway let’s move on and see just how it all went. Read More
As we hit the last ramp I came off John’s wheel like I’d been shot out of a cannon.
I was out of the saddle.
Dropping major watt bombs all over the road.
Feeling like a legend in my own underpants.
I was sure I had it this time.
He wasn’t going to come around me with this attack.
Then out of the corner of my eye I could see him come by me and instead of inching up alongside he shot past and immediately opened a bike length.
It seems John had the bigger watt bombs and he was busily dropping them all over the joint.
I pushed harder and stabilised the gap. I still had the legs to hammer all the way to the top but not quite enough to close him down.
I held him at just over a bike length all the way to the top but for the second time in two years John took the final and all important climb to the top of Howth head. The one that everyone remembers.
Next year I’m just gonna push him off the damn bike into the bushes at the foot of the climb.
That little showdown was on Sunday. I’d had four days and almost 700km on the bike since Thursday. I’d also gotten a couple of swims and a run done. It made up the biggest training block I’ve done in a long time and I was pretty happy with how I was handling it.
Happy with all except the fact that John had managed to scalp me at the top of every climb bar one and if I’m honest that was only because I had a bit of a head start on him.
I did however take the only flat sprint of the week, but that is little consolation for someone who considers themselves a climber first and a sprinter not at all.
I am consoling myself with the thought that it was a really solid block of training and despite the fact that Friday was a 3k swim, 162k bike and a 6k run I felt none the worse for wear on Saturday or Sunday which had a combined 330k of riding.
Anyway that’s enough about that. Read on for all the details Read More
As I was getting out of the pool with 4000m done in last weeks only swim session Patrick made the point that for me to be comfortably swimming 3800m I really need to be doing more than 4000m in my long swim (he also pointed out on Saturday that if I ever want to improve in the water I need to swim more than once a week)
I have all sorts of excuses for why I only got to swim once last week. All of which sound genuine but at the end of the day they’re still only excuses. I still have this idea that I’m not a proper triathlete, more a bike/runner who swims a bit before the real race starts.
If I’m honest I still think that I can race competitively off two strong legs. The bike and run. That’s despite the fact that this approach proved to be a flawed not just once but twice last year.
But I have a plan. In the back of my mind I can hear Mike Tyson say “Everyone has a plan. Until they get hit”
But still I have a plan.
I think. Read More
When we (I rarely think of this as my Ironman. I think of myself and Ais very much as a team) first set out to qualify for Kona back in 2011 we took on the guidance of a coach.
The first eight days under his guidance I did 28 hours of training which culminated in a sprint triathlon. I placed third overall and won my age group (it was a small race) I’d never done either of those things before and I felt like I’d just been let in on “the big secret”
If you want to get fast you just have to do a shit-ton of training. In the beginning it’s not as important what type of training you do so much as just doing a lot. When you go from an average of 6 hours a week to a 28 hour week just the massive overload will cause all of the adaptations you could hope for.
Either that or it’ll break you. Read More