Monday, February 1, 2016

Basic Base for Ironman Hawaii

by Gordo Byrn

Following on from my last installment that covered Your Basic Week, I wanted to get into detail with practical examples of the specific work that is required to get you to Kona.

Before we get stuck into the detail, how are you doing with creating a life structure of a Kona Qualifier?

I ask because your best competition have finished their seasons, completed their rejuvenation blocks and are dropping back into a proven routine.

To be successful you need to create the space to follow a path that others find too difficult.

In my piece on age, gender and body type, I wrote about relative intensity in a training program. I'm not going to repeat myself here other than to remind you that most of your pals:

  • Have a limited understanding of pacing
  • Overestimate their capacities to handle load
  • Underestimate the true load of their lives (training and all other stressors)

What I’m going to do is share three phases of training with you: Base Preparation, Overload and Specific Preparation. This week we will handle Base Preparation.

I am also going to split the presentation between an athlete who responds to volume (Strong Stan) and an athlete who responds to intensity (Fast Fran). Keep in mind that the right answer for all of us is a mix of approaches. On average, a focus that’s 80:20 in favor of what we call “base” is a good starting point.

The workouts I use are a mixture of what you can find in our library as well as from the Endurance Corner USAT Library on Training Peaks (free, look for it in the Library section of the site). We’ve also put together a summary of my favorites for you.

Tips that apply to both plans
The base plans assume that you’re close to qualifying and are past the training-to-train stage of your athletic development.This is an advanced program that builds on what you will find in my book, Going Long, that I wrote with Joe Friel.

The base plans assume that you are coping with a real winter. They are designed so that bike volume can be completed completely indoors, if necessary. When you get a weather window, I recommend that you forget about the specific plan and get outside for steady bike volume, which is a critical part of ironman success.

If you want to be in the top 0.1% of your sport then you need to be willing to do what 99.9% of your competitors are unwilling to do. Besides learning how to pace, that means you need to do proper swim training across the winter. These programs are relatively swim heavy. Every winter, you want to dramatically improve your swimming.

Overall, even Stan’s volume-focused program is pretty peppy. Honestly, it is more peppy than I could handle (see Fast at Forty and Coaching Your Competition). Remember that you can get great results from training easier and you will under-perform if you lack consistency.

Put simply:.

  • Be willing to trade intensity for consistency.
  • Volume and load go up from here.
  • The program will get extremely challenging.
  • Leave yourself a place to go, both later in the year and on race day.

You can find the six-week plans at TrainingPeaks.

Strong Stan’s Basic Week

Monday - Swim: Monsy 100s (40x100) with IM / Bike: Intensive Endurance
Tuesday - Long Run (Hills Then Flat)
Wednesday - Swim: Double 54321
Thursday - Bike: Change Up LTs with Mod-Hard Run
Friday - Swim: Broken 5000 Endurance and Threshold / Gym Strength (lower body focus)
Saturday - Swim: 5x400 / Bike: Two Hour Moderate / Run: Steady
Sunday - Personal Day

Stan’s week is light on bike volume so once a month I would:

  • Turn Tuesday into a brick
  • Extend Thursday’s ride by at least 45 minutes by using 2x20 min Steady
  • Add an endurance-focused Brick (bike/run) to Sunday

As well, as a bigger guy, we will want to extend Sam’s run endurance by increasing run frequency, rather than intensity or duration. We could do that by having a run focused week each month:

  • Monday swap the bike for an easy run
  • Wednesday swap the swim for a bike
  • Friday swap the swim for an easy run

So Stan’s month ends up looking like:

  • Basic Week
  • Bike Week
  • Basic Week
  • Run Week

To create a six week block, you insert:

  • A light week that ends with a C-priority race (not more than 75 minutes long -- likely running in the winter)
  • A benchmarking week

Repeat that three times and Stan’s going to be ready for either Overload or some Specific Preparation for early season races.

Fast Fran’s Basic Week

Much of Fran’s week will be the same as Stan’s but the relative intensity will be higher and one of the lower body rest days will be removed as she doesn’t need as much recovery.

Monday - Swim: Monsy 100s (24x100) with IM / Bike: Intensive Endurance / Gym Strength (whole body)
Tuesday - Long Run (Tempo Inserts)
Wednesday - Swim: Fast 25s / Bike: Power Singles
Thursday - Bike: FT Surges with Mod-Hard Run
Friday - Swim: Broken 5000 Endurance & Threshold / Gym Strength (whole body)
Saturday - Swim: 5x400 / Bike: Big Gear and Threshold / Run: Steady
Sunday - Personal Day

Fran runs relatively well so the main tweaks to her weekly cycle will be:

  • Alternating her Tuesday Tempo run with a Threshold-focused run session (G-Style Molina 800s)
  • Alternating her Wednesday Power Single ride with a Big Gear ride
  • Inserting cycling TTs, rather than C-Priority run races
  • Inserting an additional brick workout every other Sunday that focused on the primary area she wants to improve (let’s assume that’s climbing on the bike)

So Fran’s four-week cycle will look like:

  • Basic Week
  • Threshold Run and Extra Bike Week
  • Basic Week
  • Threshold Run and Extra Bike Week

Following the four-week cycle, I would recommend a light five days that are followed by nine days that include a demanding bike TT and various benchmark sets (all sports).

This structure works particularly well for an athlete without access to race venues in their Base period.

I wouldn’t repeat the six-week cycle more than twice before shifting to a race block, or consolidating with six-weeks similar to Strong Stan. With Fast Fran’s approach, pay careful attention to plateaus, which can be caused from lack of recovery and/or setting the intensity targets too high.

Note: The embedded links throughout this article are essential for giving yourself the background to understand your training mix. Dedicated readers should click through to gain additional perspective.
Gordo is the founder of Endurance Corner. You can find his personal blog here.

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