Second, for the bike, I needed to up the stakes. I increased my focus on biking because most of the Ironman race is on the bike and the stronger I get on the bike, the fresher my legs will be for the marathon that follows. I see the bike segment as the path leading me to the run. There is nothing like the feeling of throwing on the fresh socks and running shoes. I needed to increase my overall volume and intensity-specific workouts for the bike. After realizing that most of the top cyclists and triathletes were using indoor trainers with great results, I ran out to the shop and picked one up. It has been the greatest toy I have added to my training since doing incline sprints on the treadmill. I have been hammering away on this thing and loving it. You can do intense interval training and get three times the workout in less time than out on the road. With the trainer, there are no stoplights, pedestrians or traffic to slow you down and you have no down hill and almost zero momentum to help out your speed, it’s just you and the power you generate. So, I crank up my trance music and jam for just under 90 minutes to keep the intensity high.
With the trainer I can focus on my technique, proper cadence (80-90rpms), and speed. I cannot wait to see how quickly this enhances my lactate threshold, speed, power, and overall race performance. For now I use my computer and perform 2-5 mile intervals with around a half-mile recovery. I aim to increase the speed on all intervals and keep a pace that I can sustain for all the work sets. I also added a tempo workout of 20-30 miles at a faster than race pace. My goals are to keep my cadence higher than before, and use better mechanics so I am using my bodyweight on each down stroke and not just leg power. As in running, I focus on being light and smooth with a quick cadence. I now include technical drills and high spin session to my indoor bike trainer workouts to speed up my cadence and enhance my technique. If an athlete averages 85 RPMs and covers the 112 miles of the bike segment in five and a half hours, he or she will have executed 28,050 pedal revolutions. I figure that it’s worth it to make sure I get the most out of each and every 28,050 cycles.
My plan now includes 2-3 bike trainer workouts during the week and a long ride on sloping hills on the weekend. At least one of the bike workouts will be followed by a run each week. This is known as a “Brick” workout in the multi-sport world. I will do a short ride with high intensity intervals or fast tempo ride followed by a fast run, or a long ride and run at race pace. I do the “brick” workouts to teach my legs how to run well coming off the bike. The legs get a unique feeling running right after jamming on the bike. In the beginning it felt like I had someone else’s legs and couldn’t quite figure out the firing pattern for the muscles. But now, it gets easier and easier to get in my rhythm right away. Depending on my progress and recovery, I may add a medium distance ride on the weekend as well. It has been shown that there is a direct correlation between the volume of bike riding and the improved performance on the overall Ironman. The variable seemed to be the most profound, so why not give it a shot.
For added adventure, I am adding some century (organized 100 mile plus) bike rides every 2-4 weeks to practice race pace, and refueling while on the bike. Just recently, I rode a century (pictured) from Griffith Park through Long Beach and back through the LA Bike path. For all LA based cyclists, it is an amazing path and I highly recommend it. Soon, I will add runs of 3-6 miles after the 100-mile bike rides to gear up for the big one in Kentucky. I will include at least one big ride covering over 112 miles.
I see the 2.4-mile swim as a segment that acts as a warm up for the bike and I am aiming to get to the finish as efficiently as possible to save the juice for the bike and run. For the swim portion, it became apparent that I needed to improve technique first and foremost. The fastest swimmers have been shown to have the longest stroke (most distance covered per stroke) and not necessarily the highest fitness for swimming (VO2Max etc) or the most propulsion. So, I needed to reduce my drag, which will increase my stroke length. To reduce the drag I got with Ingrid Miller, a triathlete and swimming coach and author of “Ironman’s Fearless Swimming, Open Water Skills for Triathletes.” She pointed out some issues I needed to clear up. She is a total immersion swimmer and helped me get the most out of each stroke. Now when I swim, I have a “stroke-thought” before every stroke. My technique has gone from “Just stroke as fast as I can and grab air along the way” to “kick-penetrate and glide, kick-penetrate and glide.” I was splashing and thrashing through the water and now it’s just a series of glides. It changed my mentality from “more effort” to “more grace.”
I went through a period of several weeks only focusing on skills and drills. Now I have added continuous swims of up to an hour at a pace that I can maintain my best form. I will slowly build my long swims up to two hours and perform intervals and tempo swims on other days. Basically, an ideal week would include a short interval workout (500m-1000m repeats), a “tempo” workout of 1500-2000 meters, and a long swim. My primary focus is “technique.” Technique will come before emphasis on speed or duration. There is never a good reason to practice poor technique in anything, especially swimming. My goal is to lengthen my stroke, and be able to cover a lap in fewer strokes and keep that stroke distance for up to two hours. If I keep my stroke rate the same and increase my distance on each stroke then I will go faster. To sharpen my skills, I’ll be visiting my coach for some tune up sessions and perform open-water swimming. Swimming in nature is a great way to practice navigation and dealing with currents, fish, and other people. Most likely, I will practice in the Ohio River where the race will take place.
So far so very good, the training has been challenging, exciting, and very rewarding. Stay tuned for the next blog discussing the mental tools I have learned which has made a profound difference in my training, competing, and overall perspective.