8 weeks, 111 sessions, 126 hours, 100k swimming, 1500k cycling, 250k running.
Not bad numbers for a return to training. The last 8 weeks has flown by, and all of a sudden I have finished my first 8 week block of training for Roth. I really can’t complain with the consistency I have put in, and have to average over 15 hours a week, week in week out, when I came from a base of around 7 I am pleased with. Whilst I have a fair bit of fatigue built up from all the training I have put in, I am on a completely different level compared to 8 weeks ago in all 3 sports.
The first 4 weeks were good, and the jump of doubling my weekly sessions seemed to work (possibly with some help from Neovite). Swimming was probably the toughest for me as I quickly ramped up my swimming from 5 sessions a week. Consider that this time last year I was on about 2 and it was a shock to me. On the bike and I think I had 3 days off it over the 8 week period (incidentally, those were my 3 rest days too) thanks to all my commuting being done on a bike, and I began to feel strong again on the bike and also get used to riding a TT bike. Running took a bit of a hit when I was struck with a foot niggle at the start of the plan. I had to cut back slightly but I kept it in check and it had a minimal impact overall as I still managed to hit every sessions, though duration was down a fair bit, as evidenced by it being the smallest block of training.
The next 4 weeks began to show my hard work paying off. My run times are massively down on what I was achieving last year and I have knocked a good 10% off my times across the board. A couple of races (10k 38 minutes, 5k 18 minutes) helped show me that despite my little jaunt into the ultra world last year, I do have some speed in my legs and now it is just a case of merging the two to hit a good Ironman run.
My cycling has cemented a good base, and I am close to the shape that I had at the peak of last year already. Club rides always provide a good opportunity to get hammered and, like my running, my speed has increased compared to last year. Although I have yet to get a lot of long rides in, my middle-distance rides are becoming comfortable as I manage to hold good speed and survive on very little food.
Swimming seems to be the only sport where there is no tangiable improvement, as my performances seem to vary wild. I have no doubt that my fitness is a lot better than last year. Lots of squad swims means I am used to hanging on to the back of a lane for dear life and a 4k swim doesn’t feel like too much. However due to the fact that I am consistently swimming hard, and the fact that we are doing lots of speed work at the moment, I have a lot of fatigue and my performances vary from very good to mediocre depending on how tired I am. Yet a few days out of the pool and I feel less fatigued but seem to completely lose my feel for the water. I am hoping that as I continue to get used to the long sessions and as we move more into endurance work I will begin to see some consistent quality swimming. It can be a bit disheartening trying to hold the feet of ITU and elite swimmers sometimes!
Walking the line between pushing myself as hard as I can and avoiding overtraining is always a fun one. Having always been self-coached, I have learnt what works for me, and have learnt when I am pushing too far (though I don’t always listen to this!). The 3 weeks build – 1 week rest seem to work well for me, as I am lucky enough to be able to put in big hours but spend plenty of time recovering.
I will blog about my next block of training soon, and how I plan to approach it. I have got lots of good things to take away from this block and a few lessons too. With 100 days to go til Roth (!!!) I will focus of becoming more race specific and building up some endurance with longer running and cycling. I just hope I can put together as good an 8 weeks block as the last!
Getting Some Consistency
In this hugely ugly layout of my training plan above you can see what I have done in the last couple of weeks and what I have planned between now and the end of March. I am working off 4 week blocks: 3 weeks build, 1 week rest and so far it seems to be working well.
The main aim of returning to regular training is complete, though this will follow in a more detailed post. With all the sessions that I want to do, it has been a challenge trying to fit everythig in. Swimming is pretty well defined with the Club sessions, and I can almost push as hard as I want in the pool without it affecting the other two sports (that is until 1k kick sets start getting thrown in!). The 3 big club rides are always there, and whilst they provide good training and plenty of opportunity for me to push myself, it does mean that everything else has to fit around them. This means trying to juggle interval sessions, in both the run and on the bike, and tired legs has proved a nice challenge. Thankfully I seem to be recovering well, and more importantly, being able to hit the important sessions proeprly, so I will continue as is.
Swimmig is in for a bit of a change however. The Wednesday morning club swim that has become a staple part of my plan, and is usually my hardest swim of the week has now been changed to a beginners club swim, and to compensate for this, an elite squad swim has been put on on Friday morning. This poses a challenge for me as I usually swim on Thursday nights, so grabbing a few hours sleep and then getting hammered by very good swimmers sounds both unappealing and detrimental. So I have decided to still go along to the Wednesday morning sessions, and use it as a time to really force myself to swim bilaterally, something that I can’t do whilst hanging on to the back of the top lane, and also as an opportunity to enforce tumble turns. I will also attend the Friday morning swim, as this will be the best swim for me to improve my swimming in the week. And instead of swimming on Thursday night, I will start the Thursday morning swims too. Three 6:30 swims in a row…fun!
In cycling and running, I will continue to build on what I have started, and concentrate on mainly speed work for the next few blocks, especially for the run. Gentle increases in duration each week should help ensure that I can absorb the training and not burn myself out. Of course I have the nice rest week where I drop the number of sessions and drop the hours way back, something I am looking forward to next week!
So a long time has passed since my last post and a lot has happened! I have spent the last few weeks deep in exams which has reduced my training significantly (and any blog updates!) but it hasn’t all been quiet.
November saw the completion of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Challenge and the accompanying knee injury that took a while to heal. Whilst I felt I was recovered in few weeks, it took a lot longer for all knee pain to disappear and for the exhaustion to finally go. It was great fun but not something I would do in the middle of the season.
December and January saw the start of the returning to a decent training schedule and fitting in what I could around work and holiday opening hours. This time last year I had just returned from Lanzarote having put in a good solid week of training but being completely knackered. This year sees me returning from good few solid weeks of revision and being completely knackered! I do however feel I am in much better shape than last year: my weight is a lot lower and I am certainly carrying around a lot less winter insulation, and my speed and fitness are better.
Goals For 2011
So the main goal for this year is going sub 10 hours at Roth. Not exactly an easy challenge but I want to push myself and certainly think it is possible, especially on that course. Having nearly broken 11 hours at Switzerland, and ‘Roth’adjusting’ the time, it means I need to improve by 30-45 mins, which after another year in the sport should certainly be achievable. Having a time goal gives me some nice times for each discipline to aim for:
- Swim – 1 hour
- Bike – 5 hour 15
- Run – 3 hour 30
- Contingency/Transitions – 15 mins
The other main race for the year (providing it isn’t sold out when I can pay for it!) is Ironman UK 3 weeks later to see how close I can get to a qualifying spot. A gap of 3 weeks is going to be tough, but I proved from the PCC that I can cope with the distance, it will just be a question of recovering as best I can to keep a decent pace up. With 3 slots available in my age group this year, it should hopefully mean I get pretty close. Sub 11 hours here shouldn’t be out of the question providing Roth goes well and I recover well.
Whilst I am seeing good signs in some areas of training currently, and having doubts in other areas, I do need to remind myself that I have a significant amount of time between now and my races, and this things should all come, especially as I am not planning on any 2 week, volcano-stranded holidays giving me an extended forced rest and losing my shape!
Approaching The Training Plan
I want to get myself into a routine again and start churning out consistent weeks. Whilst I had a fairly good place last year, I was missing some of that solid consistency that I am aiming for last year. Taking 2 weeks off training in the middle of the season wasn’t exactly ideal.
I did however manage to absorb fairly high training loads and be able to train day in, day out, things that I want to take through into this year. My basic plan will be nice and simple, 5 sessions per sport per week, 15 sessions in total. Due to weekend club sessions and commuting on the bike, I will attempt to work back into getting some training again last year, and then have a recovery week every 4 weeks where I drop the hours back massively, take a complete day off at the weekend, have a lie in etc and drop a few sessions in the week. This should allow me a decent recovery for the next block. To begin with I will keep the hours low and the frequency high to get the sessions in, get a routine back and work towards a consistent training week.
With a target time of 1 hour, I know I need to be able to hold 1:34/100m pace. Though with a draft and a wetsuit this will be a few seconds lower.
I have put a lot of work into my swimming over the last couple of months, ramping up the number of sessions I do a week and mileage and making the most of having a swim squad to train with. I have moved up lanes and now train in either the top or second lane, swimming with some very good swimmers, which is great for pushing me. Taking 12 minutes off my swim is a big ask, but I know I didn’t swim hard enough last year and had a rough swim and with a year of squad training I am hoping to make breaking the hour a reality. Currently I am swimming at a threshold pace in the high 1:30s so with 5/6 months of work, I should easily be able to take this down to the low 1:30s.
The plan is to swim 4 times a week with the swim squad, with will provide me with enough mixed sessions and lots of speed work as I desperately try to hang on the back of better swimmers. I will also have 1 session a week concentrating specifically on endurance work, which will be a 4k session of 4x1k, 2x2k or 4k straight to ensure that I can hold the pace and mixing it up with paddles, bands and pool buoys to help technique, power and balance.
The bike is the leg where I have the most work to do. Aiming for a 5 hour 15 bike split means I need to be able to average over 34kph, which is a significant jump on last year. Whilst the course at Roth will certainly help bump my speed up, I will need to do a lot of work on my endurance and FTP for this to be achievable. Club rides, especially the University Cycling Club session will help with this, as they usually end up with us attacking each other over and over and really helped my speed pick up towards the end of last year after only a couple of months. Returning to these should help pick the bike up and as the days get longer, so will the rides and so hopefully will my endurance. Lots of TT races, another club sessions will all help add to this, as well as specific interval sets. The plan is to have 3 big bikes a week, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and interval set and then an easy recovery ride a week.
On top of the training I also have a new bike! Damaging my decent road bike forced my hand and I brought a TT bike, complete with a power meter! It will take a while to get used to, and I still need to do some work on my position but it is already feeling fast! Hopefully the benefits of having a power meter will enable specific training and racing. The main problems with the bike are that I am unable to yet find a saddle I am comfortable on for the aero position, and the crank length is longer than I am used to. Currently this means pedalling feels a lot harder, and I am unable to spin the legs. This should get easier as I get used to it, I just need an adaptation stage. Worst case, I have a spare crank that I can switch in, which is my usual length, but it has a GXP bottom bracket instead of the ISIS the Ergomo uses, so I would be without a power meter. Hopefully I can get used to the crank!
First impressions of the bike are great though! I finally took it out on the road at the weekend and got 4 hilly hours in. It is nice to be back on a decent bike after so long on my heavy commuter and even with the aero levers, it is nice to be able to stop when going down hill! Once I get used to the crank and holding the aero position, I should be flying!
A sub 3:30 marathon would put me in the top 12% at the London marathon… putting it together at the end of an IM is another story! Effectively I need to hold 12kph, or 5 min/km pace. So this is what I am focusing my training on. Now having a Garmin, I know with greater detail what pace I am running at, how my heart rate is coping with that, where I lag on long runs, the effect of taking food on etc. I need to work towards making 5:00/km pace my easy pace, so that I know I can hold this at the end of the race. Certainly all my current runs are looking good, and my threshold pace is in the 4:20s. So all my non-easy runs need to be under 5:00 min pace and I need to work towards my long run hitting below this in the long term.
The plan is in the week to have a long run, a threshold run, and interval run, a brick run and then either another brick, a hill run or a recovery run, depending on the week and how I am feeling.
Fitting it all together
I am still working out how to balance all the sessions, so will put another post up when I have worked out how everything will fit together. Once a routine comes together, consistent training will follow, and consistency is the key to success.
It should be a good year
Well it has begun. 25 weeks of structured, calculated and dedicated training. I put the plan together a while ago, but have been a busy man! As well as being back to work, I am in the process of setting up my own Web Design company to pay a few bills and finance my training lifestyle, and I also had my last weekend with a social life (well out all weekend) before training really ramped up, with 2 friends birthdays and an excursion to the lake district. At least that’s my excuse for taking so long to put this up…
Anyway, the next block of training covers the first 5 weeks up until the 7th March. The last 4 days of that week I am off to Russia to see my girlfriend, so will have a bit of rest from training to recover from the block. For the block, I do yoga on thursday, and will also do 2 weights sessions a week to help with injury prevention and general body conditioning. There are 3 swims a week, 2 interval swims and 1 technical swim, though they will all have technical work in them. I will do 2 long bikes a week, at the weekend each with a short run (for now) afterwards to get used to running off the bike, and there is also a dedicated brick session in the week. I will do my long run mid week, as this allows me to have 2 days where I can spend a lot of time on the bike, which I finds really helps to improve my cycling fitness and to keep me fresher for the run, whilst still having the run to improve my run economy and form. I also have an extra run and extra bike to fill the week in, and to proivde some steady state work, or higher paced work when the time comes.
This is the plan for the next 5 weeks:
As well as putting together the detailed plan for the next 5 weeks, I have also done some rough outlining for the year. As you can see in my Schedule, it is quite a busy year! And more races are still being added, with the most recent the Ribby Hall Triathlon, which was announced yesterday. This is run by the same people who did the old St Annes Triathlon, and Fleetwood Triathlon, which I did last year. Being a similar race, with similar competitors I am hoping to win M20-24 again. It should be a good test of the form anyway.
Putting all the races down that I plan to do, allows me to know which I want my A race to be (IM Switzerland obviously) and to plan the year around it. It allows me to know what period I am in for each week of the training plan, what races I have coming up, what weights periodisation block I am in, and so helps me to plan the training plan. So far I have done up to Switzerland, anything after that will be planned once I have done Switzerland, I am going to have lots of time on my hands after that! This is what it looks like:
I am now in week 2 of the plan, and despite Sunday not happening thanks to going to bed at 6 on Saturday, well Sunday morning, it is nice to be back into things. With the Fred Whitton Challenge in a few months, we have started to scout out the course, doing the first 33 miles of the course on Saturday. It isn’t too bad, though it will be tough. We did the highest climb on the course, Kirkstone Pass, which was fine as it isn’t too steep, but had a 22% long climb on the way back that I ended up walking up half. It is an odd sensation putting everything you have into the pedals, only to have the back wheel lift up off the ground becuase all your weight is so far forward! Was an excellent ride, and the weather was amazing. If it had been 20 degress more, I wouldn’t miss Lanza so much! The course has been broken down into 4 chunks that we can incorporate into looops, so will do these over the next couple of months, as well as the entire course over 2 days at the end of april.
The first week has gone well, and I am really feeling the effects of camp. Although I may only be marginally quicker, if at all, my fitness has been given a great kickstart and I am in a much better place than where I was this time last year. I feel a lot better on the bike, running and especially in the pool. It was also very pleasing to see that when I was doing sets of 100m in the pool, my times have gone from 1:46ish pre-camp, to 1:36 post-camp! Very happy!
Week 1 totals:
Nothing compared to camp, but still massively over this time last year. Still, only 24 weeks to go…
Well I am now all packed up with much running around delivery depots in Prestons and suitcase weighing. Just about managed to fit everything in, and only missing a couple of unimportant things from the post!
Seriously annoyingly I have managed to thread my crank, by regreasing the bottom bracket and then forgetting to put the lip seal on! This meant I had extra room to tighten and managed to loosen the crank attachment thing SRAM use, and now there is a lot of play in the crank from where the lip seal should be and I can’t get the damn thing off to put the seal back on! I hope there is a Mechanic in La Santa who can fix it. Just my bloody luck, not happy.
Anyway, mentioned in the last post, I am expecting some big changes from this camp. This camp is effectively the start of my training for IM Switzerland, and afterwards I will have a couple of days rest, then 1 recovery week then the build begins with a 24 week plan, with one long rest weekend, and one rest week for when I visit Russia and training will be at a minimum. One of the aims of this camp is to put together that plan during my rest time.
There is an internet booth at the nearby hotel I am told, so hopefully I will be able to do some blogging every day with updates of how it is all going. For now though, adiós!