Monday, February 1, 2016

Gordo Byrn

Overloading for Ironman Hawaii

Qualifying for Kona requires a lot of work and, even if you have all day to train, smart overload is an effective way to get better.

Athletes can waste a lot of energy worrying about the structure of their training plan. Prove that you can do the work before you worry about the structure.

How Fast Feels

Over the last few articles, we’ve been hitting you over the head with how little you know about pacing. Our goal was to instill humility, rather than beat you down!

While you might not know Kona-specific race pace, I’m going to share how fast feels. Cultivate these feelings during the Core Block workouts.

Power-Based Race Simulations

I thought that I’d share how I build a power-based race simulation rides for ironman. It’s not particularly complex (at least to me). The “art” comes from interpreting the fatigue that the athlete will carry into the marathon and not screwing up the run with an inappropriate bike-power strategy.

Specific Preparation: Part II (Core Block)

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.

Specific Preparation: Part I

by Gordo Byrn

Before we get into the specific workouts that I use to prepare an athlete for Kona qualification, let’s review the nature of the event:

  • It’s really long
  • You swim, then bike, then run
  • Your best result comes from using your fitness in a way that optimizes your fuel supply across the distance
  • No matter how well you are prepared, it is likely that reality will be somewhat different than what you expected

Let’s look at the above in more depth and consider what is implied for you.

  • Length
    How long are you likely to be out there and how long could you be out there? Ironman St George 2012 is a great example of conditions (wind) making a far longer race than anyone expected.

    As a coach, I advise Kona qualifiers from sub-9 to 13-hour finishing times. Compare the duration and average intensity of your event with your Basic Week. Most, but not all, athletes will find themselves long on intensity and short on endurance.

  • Medium of Movement
    You’ll start your day in the water, shift to fast moving air and finish with slow moving air. Do you have a deep appreciation of pace for each of these mediums and have you prepared yourself to put your efforts where you’ll get the most speed?

    It’s a long day and you can’t afford to waste energy. Become skilled at saving energy everywhere you can.

  • Fuel Supply
    Do you know what it takes to bonk you? What are the implications of running out of energy? There can be very different implications for a 200-pound male qualifier than for a 115-pound female qualifier. The larger you are, the greater the humility (and base) you’ll need to develop for your bike ride.

  • Mental Conditioning
    Is your life in order? Have you taken steps to create harmony in preparation for your Kona quest?

Basic Base for Ironman Hawaii

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.

Your Kona Week

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.

Navigating Your Kona Quest

In this article, I’ll discuss the five most common limiters to fast age group ironman performance. I’ll identify the issue and offer you specific tips to improve your race day performance.

How to Qualify - An Introduction

by Gordo Byrn

This initial article in our How to Quality series focuses specifically on advice for the athlete who wants to qualify for Kona. Through the series, past pieces are referenced where I addressed similar issues -- so if you really want to get stuck into the topic then we make it easier for you.

The entire series is in it's own library section: How To Qualify For Kona.

Let’s get started.


When writing about top age-group athletes, writers typically focus on the work required to get good, the athletic background or genetic talent required, and favorite training sessions. We’re going to address all that (and more) in this series.

Before you can train like a Kona Qualifier, you need to learn how to train and create a life that will support that training.

What are the key components?

Understanding Time - I have two rules-of-thumb with my schedule:

  1. It takes all day to train all day.
  2. Double the duration the time you spend working out to understand the time it takes to workout.

The practical implication is the Kona Qualifier’s quest needs four hours per day everyday, and all day twice a month. My next article for this series will explain how best to allocate your time and create your Basic Week.

Can’t do it? You just gave an edge to the competition.

Nutrition - You don’t need a scale to get to Kona. You need a strong, lean body that’s well prepared.

What really matters?

  • Limit your intake of sugar.
  • Fuel yourself for performance and rapid recovery.
  • Settle at your strongest training weight.
  • Eat real food.

Can’t figure it out? That’s another edge to the competition.

Stability and Routine - It takes many years to get good and you will need to be very good to qualify for Kona. Make an honest personal inventory of :

  • Financial stability

Health Warning Signs

This year, a friend of mine found out that he had advanced cancer. Another buddy discovered blood clots throughout his body. In both situations, starting treatment earlier would have been better.

Something I learned from our team doc (Jeff Shilt, M.D.) was to rule out the really bad stuff as quickly as possible.

Work Before Work Rate

If I could pinpoint the main difference between my approach to endurance, and more classical approaches, it comes from a desire to optimize sub-maximal stamina. With the exception of my female and veteran athletes, I rarely focus on maximal performance.

Real World Weight Loss

As a former “fat guy,” here are four tips that have made my life better and helped me keep the weight off.

Lessons from Tracking My Blood

Last week, I received the result of my final blood test for the year. I’ve been tweeting the results and pulled together a table and chart. I’ll leave it to the experts to analyze.

For background on my year of testing, please see My Biological Passport and My First Off Scores.

So, what did I learn?

Nutrition for Performance

When you look at what most athletes "do," you will quickly see that their training is not about goal race performance. Rather, training is driven by other factors in their lives -- most typically habit and peer group. If performance matters then understanding the emotional component of your nutritional choices is an essential starting point.

Run Technique - Part II

The second part of Gordo's run technique tips

Run Technique - Part I

Gordo's tips for running technique

Dealing with Bike Envy

I’ve often felt that life would be better if I had a better bike.

In May, I had a chance to ride a bike that was far better than anything I’d used before. The bike was a De Rosa Protos with Campy Super Record electronic shifting. The bike was everything I’d imagined, not surprising for an MSRP of close to $16,000.

The first two rides on the bike were heaven, with my mind scheming to justify how I could purchase such a fine machine.

Training Nutrition Hierarchy

I had a painful reminder of the need to train race nutrition last month when I was on vacation in Italy. The first two days I was riding long and intense, and was using my typical fueling strategy of four to six PowerGels at a time, chased with sports drink. At dinner on the first day, a headache kicked in that lasted close to two days. I realized that my body wasn’t used to coping with the level of sugar that I was throwing at it.

Running Rehab - Adding Load Wisely

Let’s recap my first article on Real World Rehab:

  1. Start by completing 50 runs of two miles -- took me three months
  2. Shorter of five miles and an hour -- every other day for another three months

The above will progress you to 7x45 minutes per 14 days. This works out to about 2:40 per week and will give you with a base of about 160 minutes per week that you’ll want to repeat for at least six weeks before adding my tips below.

Long-Term Health and Exercise

I’ve been coaching athletes and tracking my health markers since 2000. It’s fashionable to think we are unique but I suspect you can group athletes into three categories:

  1. Slow responders
  2. Gradual responders
  3. Rapid responders

30-Minute Workouts

These are my current “go to” workouts when time is tight (or motivation is low!).

I always feel better after one of these.

Managing Mental Fitness

From the start of my racing career, I was able to perform above my training and beat athletes who appeared fitter than me. The mental side of life has been an area where I’ve done well over the years.

Rib Rehab

Rib injuries pop-up fairly frequently in our team.

I crashed hard in October 2011. Despite having to cope with some dark days, I got a lot right with my recovery from that injury.

Athletic Option Value

Last summer, in an effort to improve my cycling, I stopped running. This proved to be a serious screw up that required months of rehab.

I’m a past champion of Ultraman Hawaii and the concept of doing less, doing the minimum, getting by... none of these are appealing to me. I’m all about more and I lose interest when winning isn’t an option.

However, the concept of only needing 12 weeks to ramp myself up (and kick booty) is highly appealing to me. How can we put ourselves in a position so we always have the ability to scale up for a race?

Learning from the Best

There are three main reasons that I attend training camps:

  1. Learn from successful people who think differently from me.
  2. Exercise all week in a socially acceptable manner.
  3. Surround myself with fellow crazies and rekindle my passion for sport.

This week’s article is about the first point above and covers lessons from our most recent camp in Tucson.

Our next camp is June in Boulder -- we cater to all ability levels and distances, including road cyclists and mountain bikers. The camp is priced excluding accommodation so you can scale up or down depending on your budget. Contact us with any questions.

I’ll be there and I hope you can join me.

High Performance Cycling - Specific Intensity: Progressive Threshold Training

As an elite, I struggled with my ability to really crank on the flats. Some things I realized about myself:

I had a mental block that I needed to overcome -- a fear of blowing up. So I always rode with a psychological governor. It wasn’t until the end of my elite career that I overcame this limiter by completely exploding myself in an effort to win Ironman Canada!

Aggressive aero positions aren’t optimal for me -- to generate big power, I need my elbows quite close to my hips and a relatively open thigh:torso angle.

High Performance Cycling - Specific Intensity: Big Gear Training

Early in my triathlon career, I decided that I need to do some “fast training.” So I warmed up, found a safe stretch of road and did 8x1 mile MAX on 1 mile easy spinning recoveries. My 8x1 “all out” session kicked off a block of high-intensity training that ruined months of smart training.

High Performance Cycling - Specific Stamina

The platform on which your race rests is built with long blocks of sustained endurance work.

These workouts are best done on flat terrain, with very even pacing with very few stops.

Seek to build your endurance so that you can complete steady cycling volume equal to your total race duration (swim, bike and run).

Change Your Life

At our Tucson Camp, I shared thoughts on drug use in sport.

A key selling point on staying clean is my experience that “getting fast” won’t change your life. If you compromise your ethics in the hope of benefiting from cheating then you’re going to be disappointed.

While getting fast didn’t change my life, the transformation from fat to fit to fast completely changed my life.

Via complete devotion towards my goals, I went far beyond what I thought feasible, then discovered that the goals didn’t provide meaning.

What gives?

My First OFF Scores

In 2008, our team doc contacted the Agency for Cycling Ethics in Los Angeles and spoke with Paul Scott. We were curious what it would cost to “prove” we were clean. We were quoted $10,000-12,000 per athlete. This figure was totally out of reach for us. It likewise proved financially not viable for the company, as it folded later that year. Much of this cost is the result of the weekly labs required by its protocol to reduce the chance of someone skirting around a positive test