I was recently asked how to build a faster Ironman® run—when to run, how much, at what intensity, should the athlete be running at Ironman® pace to become a better Ironman® runner, etc.
Endurance Nation’s Requirements for a Faster Ironman® Run
- A Faster Run – a “good” Ironman® run is typically done at your Zone 1, long run pace. Or your E-pace, if you’re using training paces per Jack Daniels’ VDot system, as we do. If we can make you a faster 5k, 10k, or half marathon runner, we also make your E-pace faster, and therefore build a potentially faster Ironman® run, assuming we also build the components below.
- Durability – this one is difficult to define, but you can consider it’s components to be endurance, fatigue resistance, etc. Durability is the ability to continue running when it feels like your legs have been hit by a bat, to resist Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)…which isn’t that delayed in an Ironman® because you can feel it starting at about mile 12 of your run! Durability is your body’s resistance to this effect and it’s ability to keep running, longer, through what can be some very unpleasant feelings.
- Proper Execution – proper Ironman® run training builds the running fitness vehicle you’ll drive 26.2 miles on race day, after having swam 2.4 miles, and ridden 112 miles. But you create the opportunity to drive that vehicle to it’s potential by properly executing your way around the course until about mile 16 or 18 of the run. That point is where you finally begin to apply your run vehicle to the course, but again, that application is enabled by the smart racing you’ve done up until that point.
So, now that we’ve defined what we consider to be the components of a faster Ironman® run, let’s describe how we build this fitness by managing your run variables across the season.
The variables we manage are:
- Frequency – how many times per week you run.
- Intensity – how “hard” you run within each workout, prescribed either as a percentage of lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) or training paces prescribed by VDot.
- Volume – how long you run, measured by time.
The sum of these variables creates training stress. We progressively dial this stress up or down and, over time, your body adapts and becomes more fit, which we define here as becoming a faster, more durable runner.
How We Manipulate the Training Variables Across a Season
Let’s next discuss how we manage these running variables across an Ironman® season, as we move an athlete in and out of our suite of over 45 training plans. Below is a Triathlon Season RoadMap I created for this blog post and is very typical of our athletes’ seasons. Be sure to view the accompanying screencast here.
OutSeason® Training Plan Block
The running focus for our OutSeason® training plan is to make the athlete faster by focusing them on becoming a faster 10k runner. We do this via structured interval training. At the same time, we begin to lay the foundation for increased running durability by having the athlete run frequently, 4 to 5 times per week. Finally, the athlete combines increased running speed and durability, and gets a head start on their half and full Ironman® training, by placing a half marathon goal race at the end of their OutSeason. And so their weekly OutSeason® run training looks like this:
- 1 x Tempo / Interval pace session.
- 1 x long run, with Tempo and Half Marathon pace intervals, building towards a volume that’s required for a successful half marathon.
- A total of 4-5 runs per week, to begin to build the durability required for success in Madison on September 7th.
Half Ironman® Training Block
Our athlete races his half marathon and does a one week “swim camp,” to reset his legs and jump start his swim, before transitioning over to the half Ironman® training plan. Half Ironman® training plan run notes:
- Tempo-pace intervals are scheduled, to continue making the athlete a faster runner.
- 4-5 runs per week are, to continue building the durability required at the Ironman® distance through high frequency running.
- Long run volume is dialed up to a max of about two hours and includes half marathon pace efforts. These are very challenging runs and, more importantly, the athlete is hitting long run volumes, a full four months out from Wisconsin, that are only about 20-30 minutes shorter than his peak Ironman® long runs.
Ironman® Training Block
And so on Monday, June 23rd, our athlete enters the Race Preparation phase of his Ironman® run training. He is:
- Significantly Faster – the athlete trained like a 10k / half marathon runner for 14 weeks. He then kept this get-faster ball rolling for another 9 weeks has he trained for a half Ironman.
- More Durable – the above was created while accruing months and months of 4-5 runs per week, with long run volumes just a tick or two below Ironman® levels, months in advance.
- Much Smarter – about 12 weeks out from his half Ironman® we place our athlete into a system that teaches our race execution processes, which included two race rehearsals and the half Ironman® itself. That education continues in the Ironman® training phase with a similar Ironman® race execution learning track.
Ironman® training plan notes:
- Tempo intervals continue but with the purpose of retaining vs building speed gains.
- Frequency is maintained, to continue building durability and to increase weekly running volume more safely.
- Long run volume increases and intensity is manipulated to make these runs more Ironman-specific.
- Concurrent to his Ironman® run training, the athlete is learning, and rehearsing, proven Ironman® race execution processes that have created over 1000 Ironman® finishers per year since 2010.
“How to train for the Ironman® run” is a function of where you are in the season. And we encourage our athletes to place events in route to their Ironman® that help them maintain their focus on what they should be building now. The net is that the Endurance Nation Ironman® athlete builds the components for a faster Ironman® run progressively and intelligently across their season, in a manner that conserves their mental energy for when it’s needed most – closer to their race!
Does it work?
Founded in 2007 with 80 athletes, Endurance Nation is currently over 800 athletes strong. We’ve had over 1000 Ironman® finishers per year, since 2010, and were crowned Ironman® TriClub Division I World Champions in 2013.
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