Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ironman Race Specific Training

If you're doing an Ironman race, once you get about 12 weeks out from the event, it is time to start focusing on race-specific training for the event. This means your training should reflect the intensity and demands of the race. Doing longer, steady state rides, aerobic threshold work, and longer intervals in the pool are all examples.

But there is also the course which must considered. Take Ironman St. George for example. Here is a map and elevation profile of the course:

You can see there is a long climb, lasting about 26 miles in length. This means over an hour of climbing steadily. The watts an athlete produces at this incline will likely be higher than if they rode on a flat course, such as Ironman Florida. However, the climb is preceded by a rolling section and build-up for the first 26 miles.

You can also see a descent of about 12 miles in length, after each climb. It is likely that an athlete will not be able to produce very high watts on this descent, but will be in a high cadence mode, due to the higher speeds.

Given this, my athletes will begin race-specific training for Ironman St. George in mid-February, and doing a workout which reflects these specific demands. This entails a ride which will likely look like this:

- Warm-up 30 mins easy
- Goal wattage range of high zone 2 to zone 3 watts for 60-90 minutes, (simulates the rolling lead-up)
- Directly into Zone 3 watts only for another 75-90 minutes, (simulates the climb on first loop)
- 20 minute recovery spin, zone 2 watts, high cadence (simulates the descent)
- Another zone 3 watts session for 75-90 minutes, (simulates the climb on the second loop)
- Another longer recovery spin, zone 2 watts, high cadence (simulates descent into T2)

If the athlete has a climb very similar to the course near their home, then they can do this workout on that course, and prepare even better. But if the athlete is in an area of mostly flat terrain, these wattage prescriptions will help.

These workouts are taxing, and the athletes will not complete this workout more than once per week.

All my athletes will have a recovery period of a minimum of 20 minutes of zone 2 watts, before doing a transition run, because the descent will help them recover their legs for the run.

If you're looking for an opportunity to get some race-specific training in, especially on the course at St. George, you should check out the camp I'm running in March:

At this camp, I will also be gaining knowledge of the course as a coach, and figuring out ways to better tweak this workout to meet the specific demands of race day.

Best of luck!

Coach Vance


Ryan Denner said...

Jim, As you will learn in your camp, despite the elevation profile, there isn't 26 miles of climbing per loop. I was actually surprised last May at how flat the course was overall compared to the profile picture. It's the same thing with IMLP - when you look at the profile, it looks way more daunting than it really is.

enjoy the course, its beautiful out there!

Jim Vance said...

Thanks Ryan. I agree, the profile is not necessarily telling. I have heard that the loop can be quite windy though, which might make it a tougher incline, if in your face, and of course athlete ability will determine a lot in terms of challenge. As I said, I will definitely be tailoring the workout after seeing the course in March.