It's been a long time coming.
I'm officially cooked, I'm happy with the work done and sure there may be bits I'd like to have done a bit different or a bit more, but I've been consistent and felt fitness improve steadily to what now feels like my peak for this season.
I'm now at the research and review, prepare race plans and draft power numbers and run pace.
Training has indicated each of these, but until out there on the day who knows if they are sustainable for the full distance.
Here are a few training sessions that have been key and helped me prepare for my first ironman.
These have made up the core of my training in the Build Phases and helped increase my fitness all round.
10 x 400m - circa 30-40secs rest off each repeat and try maintain pace throughout.
Initially these were 6:40 or so and off 7mins. Brought these down to in 6:20ish and off 6:50 before I got bored of the set and moved on to 200's (see below) or diff sets.
This helped build my aerobic fitness, and is one I used almost weekly during winter but got a bit bored of it then come race season!
30/35/40 x 100m - around 10 seconds rest.
This is a classic and one I still enjoy. Current favourite is to go 5 strong, 5 steady so for me has been 5 @ 1:30-1:32/100, rest and off 1:45 then. Back off to 5 at 1:35 and repeat.
20 x 200m - in 3:00-3:15, off 3:30.
This replaced my 400's and added a bit more variety. I found the 20 to be a nice easy one to get to - just 4 sets of 5 which is very easy to think of as opposed to thinking a long set.
Again once happy with times, try to bring 5 down and vary pace a bit.
I didn't do much longer rep stuff - recently did a 3 x 1km which was fine - only 1:36/1:38 pace but was fatigued at end of heavy week.
I did do a few 3.8k and 1.9k TT's, to get the form and distance done in one. Almost found these sets nicer and I preferred to keep going at steady pace than stop.
For a bit of speed, I used the following:
3 x 50m Hard off :60, into 3 x 300m as first rep 95% effort, 2nd rep 90% effort and 3rd rep 85% effort.
So this is a Race pace practice one. Out hard and hold to steady. Only used this properly in recent months and found my 50m Hard to be shocking at first, then picked up after a few weeks.
I also had swims where I went in and simply was either too tired or wanted a simple version and just did some technique work for 2k or short sets for 2-2.5km and out. I didn't do 4k sets religiously by any means, and quite often cut sets short at 3k if I felt form suffering or was tight for time.
I did try to focus on swim stroke and my weaknesses within these sets to try and improve both technique and fitness.
Swimming is funny for me, for a long time it was hit and miss days, lately it's been quite good and perhaps signs of both technique and fitness improving, or just more consistency in training.
Outside of the above, it's been sighting drills, technique drills, toys would be utilised in some of the above sets and lately a lot of pull buoy to practise keeping hips/legs up and simulate wetsuit position. This has also helped strengthen arms and front stroke as my kick is negligible.
Has it weakened my kick? Yes, however it has also helped to make it more hydro which was a weakness of my legs so my kicking speed will have to wait until off season!
If I'm feeling good I will usually add in a couple of hard reps - be it fast 100's or even a fast 400m. I just set a PB 400m in a 50m pool of 5:42. I was around this time last year but in a 25m pool so feel I've improved or at least matched my peak fitness last season. I initially felt a 50m to be around 2-3 secs slower per 100m for me, but maybe less as I got used to it who knows.
I generally do 1 or 2 hard turbo's a week, combine this with an easy long aerobic and perhaps another session of either easy with a couple hills or similar.
My main and favourites have been:
Turbo - 2 x 20min @ 90% FTP with 5min recovery in between. Standard warm up and cool down here.
For me, this started around the 245-250 watts in early season. Graduated up to 275 and recently 280 watts so signs of progress. I don't think my FTP is quite 310 watts but no time to re-test to affirm/deny.
Turbo - 5 x 5mins @ 115-120% FTP. 5mins rest each rep. Hard. Bloody Hard. not a frequent one but when nailed really feels good. For a long time I could barely cope with 110%. This is VO2 Max work and not easy for me, especially when prioritising my Zone 3 power for Ironman.
Turbo - Pieces at planned Ironman Wattage with short recoveries, some all out sprint pieces or 30sec all out's to build strength. Some sets others may deem mind numbing like 1 hour at 200watts, 2 hours at 200 watts, 3 hours at 200 watts etc.
Long Aerobic - often done on the turbo to save time/whilst watching ITU races or when weather was just brutal. I didn't spend much of the winter outdoors to be honest. A couple reasons being late season peak planned meant I didn't want to get to heavy into it. Cold wet cycles are not fun in any sense of the word and also because I prefer to ride my TT bike than the roady.
I race on the TT bike, I'm very confortable in Aero on the TT bike and this is a lot of the reason why.
I didn't really look at power for long easy stuff. More deemed to be as recovery sessions or just into endurance levels so RPE was fine.
Hill Reps - 4-5 x 8-12min reps at Threshold/FTP levels.
Around Wicklow is a nice section called Calary hill which goes up Kilmacanogue towards Roundwood.
I would do these at around 290-310 watts recently or less when not as fit. A nice way of banking 40-50mins of threshold work and building leg strength from the lower cadence efforts.
Focussed Medium/Longer Bikes at Race Pace/Just under
A few long bikes in last build block/two where I'd go for 3 hours at planned Race Wattage, or slightly more for parts. Others where I'd go for 5 hours at less than race pace or close to it and do brick runs off it.
Back in July saw me do 3 hours at 225 watts, 5 hours at 205 watts, then 210 watts then 215 more recently. I did not do any full on 180k TT's at planned watts, nor did I go over 5.5 hours on a training ride. I don't intend to be racing for longer than 5.5 hours but you never know either. The fitness is there that I don't feel I need to do more, nor do I for the run in a similar guise.
Note - I do a lot of turbo sessions. Maybe 90% of my biking in most weeks, and probably still 50% of my biking in later stage build weeks (where I'm out on TT bike for focussed efforts or long rides).
95%, heck maybe more of my biking is on my TT bike.
I do not envisage coming out of the Aero position for the ironman except occasionally going up hill to give the hip flexors a break and neck a little. I can sustain TT position as long as needed.
This has been a work in progress. I've not applied set weekly sessions per say, and have gone through a good few lessons this year in both volume, intensity, pace, effort, technique etc.
So whilst it was quite fluctuating, it has shown progress especially in final build phase.
Long Hilly Run - Normally up Ticknock mountain, varies from 90mins-140mins and pace is irrelevant. A lot of elevation, responding to body and legs as fast feet are needed here on some terrain to avoid tripping etc and just an enjoyable run.
I've often felt I progressed most after doing these runs.
Easy/Medium Run - generally a 10km loop with elevation/wind. Pace varied from 4:30/km to 5:20/km.
Easy/Recovery Run - lately have incorporated even easier running. 4:50/km-6:00/km as legs feel. Working on form, maintaining technique.
Mile Reps - one of the classics, a B2R favourite and defo one I should have incorporated into my plans earlier, but did in last couple build blocks. Probably most likely session for me to improve.
Call it a tempo session, similar result, I did not do enough of these early season. Very valuable session.
Pace started at 6 miles @ 4:20/km. Sometimes I'd bail early as I messed up my intensity and application of sessions to weekly plan a lot. Not having an easy day before this session will spell failure for me often. Once up and going, 10 miles @ 4:00 pace was the norm. Upped for a longer harder set at times, and then started to incorporate these as my brick runs in last build set.
Varied slightly at times to do 1 mile at 3:50, 1 mile at 4:00-4:05/km pace.
My route is quite wind affected also so sometimes the clock was better and sometimes worse but effort was there.
As stated, learnt a lot from these. Only got it right in last couple build blocks and made some schoolboy mistakes of trying after hard days, or big volume weeks, or just bad days.
The tempo or mile rep session is a hard one for me, but defo a key one.
Track - only did a few track sessions, but one of my best was 12 x 800m at 70.3 Race pace, 200m jog in between. Again needs to be scheduled when recovered. Again made mistakes with this!
Hills - I didn't do many hill reps per say, but ran a lot of hills/elevation.
Trail Reps/Efforts - have a short trail loop nearby just over 2km, and often did intervals or minor efforts on it. Sometimes used for above sets just nice to be off the road.
Testing - not enough done. Largely as explained below due to my inconsistencies or various issues, I did not do a structured plan of tests every 1-2 months. I knew when I was improving, I knew when I wasn't and a test wasn't going to make a difference. I made mistakes and learned from them.
I am someone who loves testing sessions, and want to schedule more in the future.
A few bricks of various intensities and culminated in the Metric Ironman.
Swam a bit more than planned, biked a bit more at 132km and ran a little less but a long day and key one for learning lessons. Main one for me was hydration on the bike, and also to try dial back pace off bike as for some reason legs felt ready to run faster than I thought they could.
May be different after 180km at Race Pace however, and if lasting a full marathon I have no doubt it won't be pretty.
Volume. Another Key Lesson.
When I left B2R, I wanted to try running more volume as I felt this would yield better progress for me being of the non runner variety, and it being a weakness I felt volume was a key area to explore.
I went from 45-50km a week up to 70 and 80km in Nov and Dec. I did no speed work and then ran a 5k PB at Christmas and 4mile PB.
That affirmed my thoughts, but is somewhat where I continued and made more mistakes.
I tried to add more intensity without proper scheduling, or without dropping volume enough, and failed a number of ways through both volume and intensity suffering. And Bike.
When I sustained progress in Nov/Dec, I was doing little biking - barely 6 hours a week.
When I upped biking, my running suffered in both vol and intensity.
This is where the balance of knowing when to add intensity, or how to balance bike and run volume becomes key. This is where I tried to add quality to runs and failed.
It became a little demotivating for me at stages. And was the first time I had experienced such.
I persevered however, and was now into early season and in no fitness or form whatsoever as consistency, usually my strength had suffered.
Strava showed me I was way behind especially in run. Niall Somers out there knocking it out of the park with his 25k at 3:50/km pace, and 3:00/km reps of 2k's. Or long runs at 4:20/km pace left me adding intensity when not ready, and basically not training as I needed.
Sure, I needed to do these Tempo and faster sessions, but I wasn't ready, I wasn't planning accordingly and was in no mans land.
Fast forward a few more lessons, and a trip to Thailand for 2 weeks hols with some chance encounter and run coaching and advice and I was back to what perspective had shown proved in the past. Polarised model of more balance for my needs, and better consistency all round.
My last 6 weeks I've banked some great sessions, had an appaling race at Kenmare but shown increased fitness in all 3 disciplines. Consistency, motivation and fitness at season peaks.
I did a couple of big run weeks with low intensity, then dropped volume, added intensity and this worked. Similarly for bike, but I was able to maintain a bit more intensity on the bike so this shows my running is a delicate balance. One that Eanna had clued into much earlier than I had.
So it's been a very interesting year as I head into my first Ironman at Mallorca.