IRONMAN France Preparation – Part 1 – Training

By pretty much all standards, I would consider my Ironman race in France very successful.  Not only did I exceed my time goals, I also finished well meaning that I was not completely wrecked.

There are several key components that made my race in France successful.  Of course, the long hours of training were pivotal but training the right way was much more important.  Selecting a coach to build a unique training plan for me as well as complementing my program with the appropriate recovery help led to an injury-free season which certainly was by far the most important part of ogress.

Additionally, selecting (and training with) the right gear was paramount and I spent tons of time thinking about that.  Finally, as I tend to be subject to potential GI issues, having the right nutrition plan and testing various strategies is a part of the plan often largely understated.

During our last training camp prior to the big race, we rode up several legendary climbs including the Croix de Fer.

During our last training camp prior to the big race, we rode up several legendary climbs including the Croix de Fer.

Training

Before I get to the core of the training program, there are two things that I did that certainly had a major impact on my successful training program.  The first and foremost was to have a regular relationship with an Osteopath.  As discussed in a prior post here, I regularly visited my Osteopath once a month.  In most cases, I had minor issues that he fixed.  In others, he found issues I didn’t know I had and fixed them before they became problems.  Looking back, it is crystal clear to me that having a strong osteopath or chiropractor as an endurance athlete is paramount to our longevity and our success.  Additionally, taking the time to find one that suits and understands your needs is certainly worth it.  Jeff has become a friend of mine and is as committed to my success as I am.

The second thing to do was to hire a coach.  It was my second season with a coach and it has certainly paid off.  David Bardi is both a triathlete and a coach having competed at the highest levels of the sport.  He was vice-champion of France in the Junior category and has also proved himself in Roth with a sub 9 hour performance.  As a coach he has built successful teams and has taken athletes to the World Championships of 70.3 and Hawaii as well as other athletes to the Olympics (London 2012).  He is my age and pushed me just the right way.  With my work, I also travel a lot and it was important to have someone that adapted my training program to my travels and David did just that.  I trusted him and that was certainly a very important part of my success.

The steady progression over 8 months allowed for the right training load while limiting injury and illness.  Most peaks were related to training camps.

The steady progression over 8 months allowed for the right training load while limiting injury and illness. Most peaks were related to training camps.

I won’t get into all the specific details of my training plan since they are very unique to individual athletes but just like most athletes, they are based on macro and micro cycles.  At the highest levels, we built swim fitness in the fall, run fitness in the winter and bike fitness in the spring.  Throughout the season, we sprinkled some training camps with key focus areas.  In December, a training camp with massive swimming and core work.  In February, some significant swimming and running.  Then in March we started biking and a week-long training camp focused on all three discipline with lots of biking including a reconnaissance of the Ironman France bike course.  Finally, we finished the training with a training camp early June in the Alps with some of France’s most famous climbs like the Alpes D’Huez.

Most of the season, we focused on 4 week cycles with 3 weeks progressively more intensive and one week of recovery with lighter load.  As the season grew closer, we became much more race specific and I had two key prep races both at Mallorca and at Deauville.

Two big training camp built up massive swimming volume in the off-season and I was able to carry that fitness through the rest of the season

Two big training camp built up massive swimming volume in the off-season and I was able to carry that fitness through the rest of the season

Each cycle we had a big block training weekend which usually entailed a brutal ride on Saturday (100+ miles) followed by a short brick.  The next day usually ended up with a killer run set such as 10x1500m or 15x1000m, something like that.  Usually at the end of the 3 week build, these sessions were very hard but build significant confidence for the race.

I found that training within a group as part of a club was very beneficial to my progression and helped with both motivation but also experience.  I learned a lot from my teammates about what to expect during the France Ironman and other local races.

In roughly 8 Months of training, I swam over 205km (130 miles), ran 1085km (680 miles) and biked almost 4000km (2500 miles).

Over the six months prior to the race, I averaged almost 50% of my time on the bike, 30% on the run and 20 on the swim.  This gave me the right level of fitness and confidence prior to the race.

Over the six months prior to the race, I averaged almost 50% of my time on the bike, 30% on the run and 20 on the swim. This gave me the right level of fitness and confidence prior to the race.

Over the last six months of training (essentially from the first of January 2013), I logged about 12 hours of training on average.  Counting some sickness and challenges due to travel, most of my peak weeks hovered around 15 hours of training with a push at 25 during our week-long training camp.  Overall, I felt very well prepared with the right mix of swim, bike and run fitness.  Additionally, having ridden the bike course was very important to my success during the race where I knew exactly when to take it easy and when to push the pace.

Some of my favorite sessions were the long bike rides we did with the group as well as the big block weekends including the 10x1500m set.  Of all the sessions, it’s those ones that built the biggest level of confidence for the race.

Of course, the two weeks prior to the race were primarily taper weeks where run and bike quantity was reduced and swimming increased to maintain fitness.  Although I felt mildly lethargic the week prior to the race, that’s a normal part of taper week and I’ve had this feeling before.  When it came to the race itself, I was well prepared and felt great on game day and during the entire event.