Alex’s journey to a sub 10 hour Ironman is typical of many working athletes, he has a young family, with another on the way, a busy job as Head of UK Planning for a Multinational Sports Super Store, which has him travelling across the UK and in the London head office a couple of days most weeks, whilst living in Yorkshire. All of this makes his time precious, so what he does in training has to count and make a difference.
With 4 Ironmans under his belt, typically he competes 2-3 times a year, usually with 1 or 2 warm up events, followed by his main goal. The limited racing benefits him by keeping the flow of training consistent and allows time to spend with the family. Whilst Alex has an active background, he is still young in endurance sport terms, having spent his youth skateboarding, rock climbing, kite boarding, hiking, drinking beer etc etc… Alex prefers the long races as he feels he has a diesel engine and the short events are too fast and hurt too much!!! Alex hasn’t had any major injuries, only a couple of niggles from time to time with his shoulder and tibialis anterior which we manage and working on for a long term fix.
So with all the above in mind a simple plan was required, that didn’t require too many hours, that was flexible enough to fit around work and family. As with most of the athletes I work with we put together a basic week structure, knowing that it would need to be adjusted according to the week ahead commitments with the main ingredients being:-
- 2 swims – one focused on improving basic speed and lactate threshold, the second focused on endurance and strength.
- 3 bikes – one focused on improving top end power and lactate threshold (1hr turbo), one aerobic with strength work (1hr turbo) and a weekend longer ride outdoors.
- 4+ runs – One focused on improving lactate threshold, a longer endurance run (1hr+) and 2 or more easy runs, with strides in at least one of them.
- Conditioning, stretching and foam rolling built in to most sessions.
Progress was measured using GPS and bike power meter data from every session, looking for improvements in pace or power at particular training intensities. A polarized approach to training was used, with 85%of the training at an easy effort to improve aerobic threshold and 15% at a hard effort to improve lactate threshold (1hr pace / Power). A just in time principle was used, so that just enough training was done to achieve the goal, meaning that Alex only did two rides over 5 hours, one of 5hr 10 6 weeks out another of 5hr 40 3 weeks out, all other long rides where in the 3-4 hour range. Running was similar, with a progressive build up to 29km (2hr 27) 4 weeks out, with a 26km run (2hr 20) 3 weeks out. Most swim where in the 2-2.5km range only increasing the distance up to 4km a couple of time in the final 4 weeks.
The Majority of Alex’s training weeks were in the 10-12 hour range, with a couple of 14.5 hours weeks and a 20 hour week whilst on a training holiday in Lanzarote. Quite a few weeks had less hours due to work or family commitments, including a big fat zero the week of moving house. The hard work and specific preparation was completed with 2 weeks to go, which consisted of 5 easier days (Mon-Fri), with a 2hr bike and 1hr run over the weekend prior to the race, followed by a pre race week that has worked well in the past, with a couple of short sessions in each discipline that consisted of a warm up and a handful of strides / pick ups building to a fast pace.
The result was an ecstatic Alex with 9hr 55min 32s. The challenge now is to help him get even faster, sub 9:30?