Ironman Training – Self-Coached Sporting Suicide?

ironman-logo-iconI’ve approached my Ironman training with a degree of trepidation.

The problem I have is that I love the Zone 4 and Zone 5 stuff. The other problem is that I really don’t like the Zone 1 stuff. But, fair enough, Zone 2 can offer nice opportunities to contemplate the world. I can throw in a gadget test or perhaps explore some new route around where I live; there’s probably one somewhere! That should stave off the need for music for a few weeks.

The sensible thing, of course, is to pay for a coach or download a freebie plan from the internet or get one in a book. Do you really think you have enough knowledge to self-coach? And, if you’re not 99% sure then is it worth the risk of, probably, over 200 hours of your training-life going down a sub-optimal path?

I like to think I’m reasonably competent at self-coaching but have never given too much thought or research-time to the longer distances. Anyway, now I have.

I was a little surprised with what I came up with and maybe you’d like to argue against my direction. I will listen!

I probably do about 10-14 hours training a week in any case. I’ve done that for years. And it seems that should be quite sufficient to keep me ticking over until into April for a mid-July Ironman race. The zone 4 & 5 stuff seems to need to be thrown out of the window pretty much entirely 🙁 Apart from the odd 5 minutes here and there in the build and a bit more in the peak.

I’m sure there’s still scope to increase my aerobic- and technical-efficiencies in many places. So I will obviously work on those weaknesses rather than things I like doing or things that I am good at. Well, things that I THINK I’m good at!

Indeed 10-14 weekly hours of commitment seem more than fine FOR THE ENTIRE TRAINING PERIOD should I go for a ‘finisher’ approach. But I want to do a bit better than that.

So in May and June I need to be cracking off up to 17-20 hours a weeks but that’s cool. I should be able to apply for a pass for that and do much of it on the quiet with some early morning sessions. Now THAT I don’t normally do! But this year I will.

Even though swimming is my weakest discipline, it seems to make sense for me to NOT devote that much time to it. I’m not sure I can improve technically that much more in 4 or so months. I’m toying with LOWERING my swim training down to maybe only a couple of hours a week to work on bike/run but then just returning it to normal for build/peak. I think I’ll be the same speed as I am now and as I was a year or so ago if I do that.

Cycling is a no-brainer. Perhaps my strongest discipline; yet I still feel there is more to be had. I just need to start getting lots of miles in. I did that in 2016 and was generally surprised that I could maintain my FTP with lots more aerobic work than I normally would do. So that seems like a cunning plan this year too. But I need to do EVEN more aerobic work this year. I’ve a few technical things to work on and if I plan on using a TT bike on race day I definitely also need to do LOTS more training over one hour, in race position, than I normally do. I am curiously blessed with my TT-position, I actually find it more comfortable than my road bike’s position. No idea why! Bike fit?…nope, never had one for the TT.

Running should be OK with two caveats. I just need to move myself into marathon-shape…there’s plenty of time to do that and I know what to do. I can get better but probably not by too much. The second caveat is running off the bike. Whenever I’ve changed up or down distances in the past I’ve suffered from cramps. I am pretty sure that my most likely point of catastrophic failure is cramping within 5kms of starting to run after anything over about 80 miles. The solution, as always for me, is to train for it. That probably involves BRICKS, BRICKS and a whole darn wall. 15-30 minutes running after many long rides should do the trick. It doesn’t involve a salt-based solution for me.

I also checked out a few online plans and many seem to omit technical/skill work and strength & conditioning. That seems a bit strange. Oh well. I certainly intend to do that.

Oh yes. Diet/fuel too. I’ll need that.

My Ironman Journey Secret: I end each ‘Ironman Journey’ with a secret for some weird reason.

One thing I’ve done with my training over the last several years is to focus on tools that indicate to me what they think my readiness to train and/or recovery is. I use a few, ranging from Garmin’s ‘Recovery Advisor’ through to Firstbeat Athlete (until recently) and a few HRV-specific tools including WHOOP, QS EMFIT and BioforceHRV (same as Elite HRV or ithlete effectively). I don’t treat any one of them as being ‘right’ but, when two or more agree with each other, I take notice.

The ‘obvious’ things you soon find are that a) you need more sleep and b) alcohol is really not good for training. You will find SOON ENOUGH that the tools show you how bad those two things are.

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10 thoughts on “Ironman Training – Self-Coached Sporting Suicide?

  1. I suspect for a “better than finisher” type experience you’re looking at around a 25hr training week for the last month/6 weeks before your taper. There is no substitute mentally for spending 6-7hrs on the bike and then running hard off it for an hour before you finish that phase. Another one a lot of us did here last year (in NZ) was do a local 70.3 on a Sunday, then get up the next morning and ride 160km. Good luck!

      1. All I’d say is that upper zone stuff has very limited space in an event that will, realistically (and course dependent) take you close to or over half a day. Which race are you doing? Lanzarote?

  2. I find that as training increases into the 15 hour+ per week I have no problem sleeping with or without alcohol.
    Also learnt that having a good night on the booze is not worth losing a good solid training session next day for.
    Struggling with zone2 runs they seem so slow but know I need to curb my off like a rocket tendencies and pace myself

  3. I’m always stunned by the assumption that you need more training time for a longer distance – do we think the Olympic track athletes train less than their marathon-running brethren?
    It’s definitely possible to be a “better than finisher” Ironman athlete on 10hrs/wk. And doing a reasonable amount of hard (Z4/5) stuff. Google Sami Inkinen, or I’ll happily share what I’ve been up to (I’m self-coached and fairly haphazard with it).

      1. sy I have to name drop here, I was swimming with Olympian Stuart Hays the other week maybe I should have asked for training tips 😉 Either that or stop being too tight and get an ironman coach (won’t happen :-0 )

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