Monday, February 1, 2016

Specific Preparation: Part II (Core Block)

by Gordo Byrn

The main difference between training to qualify and training to compete is the workload of the key days and the spacing of the key workouts.

Mid-pack athletes might train themselves to ultimately complete the ironman distance across four to six days.

Aspiring Kona-qualifiers should build their programs so that they can complete the ironman distance across 30 hours and have the bulk of their training time done at or over specific race pace and power.

The most common mistake athletes make in this period is seeking to lift top-end pace and power. While nearly everyone will see top-end performance improve as the race approaches, the goal of the specific prep phase is to get the body ready for the specific demands (power, pace, duration) of the event.

While ironman is long, it need not be complicated. Here’s the template for the Core Race Simulation.

Day One

  • Swim - 4x400, 4x300, 4x200, 4x100 - each on 10s rest - seek to get quicker within each group of 4 and across the entire workout.
  • Bike - 90 minutes and insert 2x30 minutes at ironman power, the middle 10 minutes of each interval have cadence of 60 rpm at 70.3 power.
  • Run - 30 minutes, easy, off the bike.

Day Two

  • Swim - Insert 8x400 at the end of a 4500 meter swim, with the main set descend 1-4 then seek to have 5-8 a little quicker than each of 1-4, odd swims have 10s rest, even swims have 5s rest.
  • Bike - 100 miles, eat and drink at race levels, carry all your calories with you at the start of the ride, stop not more than twice to reload fluids, split the ride into thirds and target 93%/100%/107% of race average power (not normalized).
  • Run - a huge recovery drink then run 10km off the bike, run 2km easy to settle your tummy, then 8km at the bottom of your Steady heart rate zone, check pace as a reality check on bike effort.

Day Three

  • Run - 18-20 miles insert 3x5 miles at 8-12s per mile faster than goal pace, HR must never exceed 10 bpm below your average heart rate for a 70.3 race where you ran “well.” Well is defined as within 7% of your non-triathlon half marathon time.

Day Four

  • Easy swim, light strength and easy spin.

The four days above are what it’s all about and your entire season should target your capacity to do each session well (first), then combine sessions (second), then combine the days (third).

A common and understandable mistake is the desire to do the sessions faster and faster and faster. The athlete wanting to prove that he or she has what it takes to qualify. This isn’t required and will result in spending fitness well before race day. Do the sessions as outlined, recover, go back to your normal program and repeat.

An experienced athlete might place the Core Block 3/6/9 weeks out from the race. If you are new to this sort of training then best to place 4/7/11 weeks out from the race to give yourself more time to recover.

The output of the Core Block is higher than the race itself and will flush out your limiters for race day, particularly if you have an energy, nutrition, hydration, pacing or sweat rate limiter.

Learn from each block and remember that your best training performance sets a ceiling under which you will operate on race day.


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

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