Ironman 2014 - Training plans, off season and thoughts about 2013

If you’ve ever done any serious training, you’ll know there needs to be an off-season.  To put it bluntly, off-seasons suck.  We all recognize that we can’t be in peak performance all the time and the mental strain of training and working is too hard to do all the time, so we rest.  But sitting around ‘resting’ is hard to take when you have goals: it feels like wasting time.  And that’s why it’s so important to plan.  If you know when you need to start training, it’s easier to take the time now to rest.  To plan, though, you need to look back at what went well, and what didn’t.  So here we go.

Thoughts about 2013

I spent the bulk of this year training with Carmichael Systems The Time-Crunched Triathlete.  It is an outstanding program for fitness and personal growth.  I PB’d my half ironman by 21 minutes despite probably 40% less total volume of training.  The key there is volume.  I cut down the total  number of weekly hours to close to 11 at peak.  That was a way lower volume of training.  What went up was the frequency and the intensity.  In addition, there was a much stronger focus on periodization than I’ve ever used before.

So less volume, better performance: all good! Right? Wrong.  While the performance gains were incredible, the burden on the family was much tougher.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why given that I was training less, but my feeling is that the higher frequency, more days per week alotted to training, burned the family out faster.  And to be honest, me too.  It is hard to find a way to fit in 1-2 hours of training 6 days a week and not go crazy.

Lessons learned?  Well, I think that the strong focus on intervals and the detailed thresholds that came from the testing program were well worth the price of admission.  I think the number of total days a week needs to be dialed back, so I need to find bigger blocks less often.

Training plans

So what’s the plan for 2014?  Well the training goal is under 12 hours in Ironman Canada (Whistler).  Frankly, its a crazy goal.  The hills on that course are worse than Penticton so trying to pull off a > 10% improvement overall is … ambitious… at best.  But that’s the goal. The big scary end game that gets me off the couch on the road to readiness.  My race schedule will look something like:

  • An Olympic in April or May
  • Chinook 119.1k June 14, 2014
  • Ironman Canada Whistler - July 27, 2014So I’m going to take a blended approach between Carmichael’s 8-hour a week plan and Friel’s “Your best performance” plan, and add training with power.  Say what?  Well, first and foremost, I recognized that I lost a good hour on Ironman 2011 because I burnt myself out on the bike.  Adding 1.5 hours to my typical slow marathon time is a direct result of pushing too hard on the bike (particularly in the early hours).  So this go around, I’m going to add a power meter to the toolkit.  That way, I can measure my threshold power output and stay below it, keeping my legs fresh for the run.  This is particularly important given the big hills to come up out of Pemberton.

When I talk about the two training systems, since they’re very similiar, I much prefer Carmichael’s testing techniques, but Friel has the long-course training plans.  In addition, while Friel’s plans are comprehensive, they don’t offer the specificity (and variety) that Carmichael does.  So I’m going to largely follow’s Friels schedule, test using the Carmichael method, and mix and match the workouts to keep my mind fresh.

Off Season

So with that plan in mind, I don’t really need to start build training until January.  That helps with the sluggish feeling that’s been crawling up the back of my neck lately.  So my “rest” for the rest of this year is a couple of trainer sessions (so I can catch up on my House of Cards and Top Gear), at least one swim a week to keep the feeling and running the dog.  That may not sound like rest, but given it’s really only 3-4 hours a week…its basically nothing but maintenance.  Once the power meter goes on (December ?!?), I’ll spend a bit more focus getting use to the new front ring and short arm (I’m going from 172.5 to 170mm)…and of course, power!

Until then, I spend time with the family.  I forget sometimes how all consuming the training to Ironman can be.  So I need to take advantage of the off season to build up my reservoir of hugs and kisses.  Here we go again!


Jon Holt

A coach, an entrepreneur, and a no-bull advisor in growing small businesses through the use of practical strategy, light-weight governance and sitting back and thinking about running your business, regardless of what you do.

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