Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Triathlon Training - Ride More to Run Better

Bike endurance is key to improving run endurance...

G, assuming I understood you correctly, this is one the principles I walked away with from the recent Tri Camp. I'm sure this issue has been covered in the past but couldn't find anything in the archives or on your web site that specifically addresses this issue -- forgive me if I missed it.

I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit since it's not intuitive to me why having a solid bike endurance is key to improving your run endurance. Is this also a reflection of the statement that your long run should never be more than 2.5 - 3hrs? Clearly, many (or most) of us will be out there for 4+ hours on the run in an IM so I'm curious to better understand if these are related, or, just a better understanding of how bike endurance is so key.

Thanks, Chris

I posted some thoughts below in the "speedwork thread". The poster is a good example of why I think this way. Many fit athletes are: (a) not able to run the marathon; (b) run 60+ min slower than their 'clean' marathon times; or (c) run far slower than their training times. If they eat and drink appropriately then the only reason I can see for this is exhaustion caused by poor pacing or an endurance limiter.

As most of us find out on race day, there is a big difference between 112 mies with breaks/chatting and 112 miles on AeT without stopping.

As you remember from the camp -- I kind of beat this one to death with my 40 min opener! So it's tough to sum-up. However, between this post and the other below, people should be getting the idea. If someone doesn't 'get it' then simply ride five hours sitting on AeT. After about three hours, it will become very clear.

At the start of an IM bike leg, you will be the most rested of your entire season. Sitting at FTHR-5bpm (just under Olympic Distance race effort) will seem easy -- it will almost certainly lead to a very tough day. Many of us have done it.



Track Workouts/speed work...

Along this line of questions... I've always been curious as to when a workout calls for "race pace" just which race pace does it mean? Marathon pace for me is about a 6:45 mile (2:56) yet my best IM run of the four I have done has been a 8:45 pace (3:48). My goal pace for an IM run is a pace of 7:30 (best case) to 8:00. Yet I wouldn't call training at either of those paces as speedwork as they are at the lower end of most of my training runs. Also do you see any value in speedwork for IM training?

Great questions....

Where we often go wrong is we built our pacing strategy based on the single leg distance, not the ENTIRE race duration. Here are my guidelines for "race pace".

IM -- AeT
Half IM -- AeT +10 to AeT +20 depending on fitness and your race duration

The poster notes a two minute per mile difference between their three-hour run pace (marathon) and their eleven-hour (plus) run pace. This is not surprising, an Ironman and a marathon are quite different events.

The large gap (in an experienced runner) is most often sign of a bike endurance limiter and a lack of pacing on the swim/bike legs. This is why getting "tired" doing high intensity running would not be effective for an athlete like you. You need to get tired doing long, continuous steady-state bike rides.

An athlete facing a two minute gap between open- and IM-marathon paces needs to get stronger on the bike and simply maintain the run "speed" that they already have.



Training for IM - ME Bricks...

In looking at the structure of your training plan, it appears that you are shifting away from the use of Muscular Endurance bricks that contain a lot of tempo?

I still like those ME (Muscular Endurance) bricks, however, I have modified my definitions a little. I think that for IM, Zone 3 is not as accurate as AeT+10 to +20. Also, I found that my BOP*/MOP**/FOP*** athletes face a critical limiter of steady paced endurance for the entire Ironman. ME Bricks tend to build LT endurance for 3-5 hours. They work great for the Half Ironman distance but were (mentally) not preparing my athletes for the greatest challenge in IM -- early race pacing.

As an example, I was having very fit athletes hit the wall after about five hours of racing (with correct nutrition, pacing, etc...). I've also found that the longer steady efforts prove to be more effective for the majority of my crew.

With my high volume athletes, the tempo efforts required extended recovery in many cases (particularly MOP/BOP). So for these athletes, we do sport specific strength work (still in the program as the key brick workouts) and keep aerobic volume relatively high (helping recovery, increasing aerobic load, thereby assisting them with making body composition improvements).

ME bricks are great for FOP/MOP Half IM programs and are useful supplementation to an endurance-based program. The issue is that most people tend to think that if mod-hard "good" then threshold must be "better". Doesn't work that way so I am more and more cautious with the higher intensity workouts -- it's the leading cause of training screw-ups and the main cause of blowing ourselves up.

For athletes that don't have the time to do the necessary endurance work, then the ME bricks are a nice protocol (but they are NO substitute for the endurance training required for IM). As well, we need to acknowledge that mod-hard and threshold training is less effective at training the "fueling" side of IM and, for most, burns far less fat.

Probably the biggest change that I have made over the years is moving "The Steady Ride" to the core of every single one of my athlete's programs (regardless of ability). The definition of "steady" will be slightly different for each of my athletes. The program on this site is based on this philosophy. The most important day of the week is your Anchor Day, which is where you do your key endurance workout(s).

*BOP -- back of pack
**MOP -- middle of pack
***FOP -- front of pack


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