Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…..Albert Einstein
Biking has always been my weak link in triathlon, whether it’s the sprint distance or the Ironman distance. I somehow just thought that if I kept at it, I would get better. You know…if you just keep putting in miles, you’ll eventually get better. THIS IS A SIMPLY NOT TRUE!
As you can see below, over 4 different Ironman races, my bike splits are all within ~15minutes of each other. When I look back over the hundreds, if not thousands of hours I have spent on the bike, I see a 15 minute variation as solely attributable to the different race conditions. So, really no improvement here at all.
At the end of Mont-Tremblant last year, I had to reflect on the past training to determine what the problem was. It’s really not that complicated. If I train day in and day out at 18 miles per hour, and even throw in a 6 hour ride on the weekends, I am never going to race at 20mph. I would say that the bulk of my training(like 95%) has been in HR Zone 2(135-145bpm).
There’s so much discussion out there about how to race an Ironman course. In short, you try to flatten out every hill by choosing easier gears, so you don’t expend too much energy, and just focus on steady heart rate. But, this does not mean you should train the way you race. If I never let my heart rate get above 145 in training, I’m not going to magically be able to race at a higher heart rate or produce more power.
- The Good News: This can be fixed.
- The Bad News: It’s going to hurt.
My New Approach
My only real focus this year is to increase my FTP as much as possible before Ironman CDA.
The FTP test is basically the maximum average power you can output for 30 min. For all intents, my first real FTP test was on 9/16/2012 where I held 211w for the 30 minute test. The plan is to test every 4-6 weeks. So, I use my current FTP(258w) as the basis to establish the different training zones each 4-6 weeks. You have to keep pushing the bar with the FTP tests to force yourself to improve. It’s really as simple as that.
When you continually push the bar, you never get comfortable with a workout. The FTP test is always mind numbingly painful, because it is always your max effort for 30min. If you’re not on the verge of physically and mentally snapping in the last 3 minutes, you’re really not reaching your FTP. I’ve found the same to be true with following workouts. Time spent at FTP or at low Z4 for example, is always based off of my most recent FTP test. So the net result is a challenging forced improvement plan.
Workouts I am doing to get stronger:
- Hill repeats(intervals) for 1.5-2hrs.
- If inside on the trainer, my “hill” is a low Z4 wattage with cadence around 70-75rpms.
- I do these pretty hard when outside, since the longest accessible hill that I have is 3/4 of mile in length(so I do Z5 range outside), about 3 minutes.
- Sweet Spot workout(1.5-2.0 hrs w/ cool down).
- 15 minute warm up
- 5 min at FTP wattage(currently 258w for example).
- 3 x 20 minutes at low Z4 (5-10 minute recovery between)
- Recovery spin day
- Long ride – With some harder intensities thrown in. I Usually go hard(mid/high zone 3) for the last 30-60 minutes.
- I am also trying to add 2-3 strength training sessions per week at the gym. Although lately, I must confess, this is the first thing to get scrapped when I have time constraints. When I do have time, I try to get in a quick 30 min strength workout during the day. The weights seem to really help keep me feeling strong throughout my core and my joints. If I don’t lift, all of the focus on aerobic work starts to make my joints weak…..ankles, hips, shoulders, etc…
These workouts have definitely added a new “Pain and Suffering” element to my life, in the form of intensity. In the past, I would kind of fear the long ride on the weekend, but now it’s the Sweet Spot workout that gets me. If you’re doing it right, these workouts really add that “I am about to crack” element, where you’re not 100% certain that you can hold the intensity. But then…you DO hold it. And you get stronger mentally and physically as a result.
Thanks for Reading!