Monday, February 1, 2016

Your Kona Week

by Gordo Byrn

Following on from my first piece on about setting up your life structure to qualify for Kona, AC wrote a great piece on the physiological and training load requirements to position yourself to qualify.

In this article, I’m going to step back from the technical detail and dig a little deeper into my statement that you’re looking at four hours per day, most days, of time commitment.

If you haven’t qualified for Kona then you may have run the numbers on that statement and inferred that I’m talking about a 28-hour training week. That is not the case.

What I’m talking about is taking on a goal that’s going to be similar to working a second job; one that makes you quite tired, both physically and with respect to the mental energy that you have for the rest of your life.

So, before starting your Quest for Kona (!), it’s worth understanding the time and energy commitment that it’s going to take. Even with this commitment, and a little luck, you’ll need to stick with it for at least three years to give the training time to sink into your body.

The Classic Ironman week looks like this:

  • Monday - Strength swim / Gym strength
  • Tuesday - Endurance brick (bike/run combo session)
  • Wednesday - Fast swim / Tempo or track run
  • Thursday - Strength brick
  • Friday - Longest swim / Gym strength
  • Saturday - Longest endurance day (bike focus)
  • Sunday - Longest run

While I don’t think that the week above is optimal for you, it has worked and I respect what works!

A brief word on strength, if you come to the conclusion that you don’t need strength then replace the strength sessions with an extra easy run or specific rehab/strengthening that addresses your greatest personal injury risk.

I used a week structure similar to the above when I was a (recently divorced) working athlete and had outstanding results with it. That said, my ultimate potential was 8:29 for IM, so I would probably have had good results on any plan that got me out the door. Remember that many fast athletes succeed despite our plans...

Anyhow, if you’re single, intend to stay that way, have no kids and access to support for your life... then the Classic Ironman week structure can work. Personally, I don’t think you’re going to be able to repeat that week 40 times per annum for the next three years. You’ll burn out or your life will fall apart.

What I’ve found works better is something along these lines:

  • Monday - Strength swim / Gym strength
  • Tuesday - Longest run
  • Wednesday - Swim, based on fatigue
  • Thursday - Strength brick
  • Friday - Longest swim / Gym strength
  • Saturday - Longest endurance day (swim, bike and run)
  • Sunday - Personal day: training is optional, main focus is non-tri life

If you are working, the personal day goes a long way towards keeping your life in order and your mojo consistently high. As AC noted in his article last week, there is a real cost to falling apart once a quarter!

Remember that triathlon training is the best training that you can do for triathlon. Staying in one place and rolling this week for 13 weeks will do amazing things for your fitness.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention hours of training or workout structure. Those will come later. The first thing you need to do is set your life up; then set your week up. Get that rolling and you can build in the workout structure, and load, based on how you tolerate the training. Most people breakdown far before training protocol is limiting their performance.

For the experienced, time-flexible athlete, I’ll share another week structure that worked very well for me (when I was under-employed and didn’t have kids). I couldn’t pull it off now but you might be able to use it for an overload week (see my tips on Big Week Training).

  • Monday - Strength swim / Gym strength / Easy run
  • Tuesday - Fast swim, bike, run (my longest day of the week)
  • Wednesday - Long run (hills then flats) / Massage or yoga
  • Thursday - Longest swim / Gym strength / Easy run or spin
  • Friday - Strength or TT swim / Steady run / Flat TT-strength bike / Massage or yoga
  • Saturday - Swim/Bike/Run day: strength oriented (open water and hills)
  • Sunday - Optional training day (no running but possible easy swim or 90-180 minute hill bike) / Massage

Those are the actual days where I did the training -- my training life is usually based on my masters swimming options. Looking closely, you can see it’s quite a bit like the Classic Week.

The way I did this week was I played Saturday/Sunday based on how tired I was. If I was whipped then I would do an easy swim/bike/run day then follow it up with my lightest day of the week. Having the option for back-to-back easy days, within my week structure, removed the mental pressure to back-it-up every single day (for 1,000 days).

The challenge for this sort of week, with a working athlete, is you don’t have the option for a two-hour nap (!) when you feel tired. You are at work and the back-to-back high load days break you down.

My final tip for this installment is create access to a climate and athletes that make your week as mentally easy as possible. It’s no accident that great athletes live in clusters and follow the weather.

Be Great

Recommended Reading

  • Daniels’ Running Formula (I most value the book for tips and philosophy, not technical detail, which is great too).
  • Joe Friel’s Blog - Time-proven, well-researched advice.
  • Article (circa 2000) about the week I used to for my first Kona qualification.
  • Article (circa 2002) which reflects a changing philosophy when I noticed my team wasn’t coping with the Classic Week.

Gordo is the founder of Endurance Corner. You can find his personal blog here.

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