Two Types of Big Weeks
There are two types of Big Weeks, and they are implemented according to a schedule. The first Big Week is single sport specific – cycling only please. The second week has a more multisport focus, with your hitting bigger volumes across all three sports (and for total hours as well).
Big Bike Week — 10 to 14 Weeks Pre-Race
Most triathletes can really benefit from a week focused on cycling only. Most of us just don’t spend the amount of time on the bike that is required to get good at it. And if you overdo it on the bike, you can coast, shift gears, stop to eat, call a cab, etc. Worst case is your butt hurts. Overdo it on the run or the swim and you are in serious trouble…overuse injuries are so common in our sport and pushing your run and swim limits are an easy way to cross the line and get injured.
A sample week Big Bike Week would have the average IM athlete doubling their bike hours, going from 4-7 hours of cycling in a week to 8-14 hours — of just cycling!. This could be done as 2 x 1h rides and 2 x 1.5h rides during the week, and 2×4h rides on the weekend. During this week, I suggest only one session each of swim and run…both being very light / technique oriented. Do your best to avoid the urge to keep your training up in every aspect…your singular focus will pay off!
During this Big Bike Week, your intensity absolutely must drop. The hardest rides will be the 2x1hour efforts. As the rides get longer, the focus needs to be on:
* Spending time in the aerobars
* Putting your nutrition plan to the test
* Identifying your “weak points” on the bike (fit, core strength, etc).
* Negative splitting the effort…waaaaay easy out, strong on the way back.
* Effort in these rides takes the form of standing big gear intervals / big gear work in general.
Typical Big Bike Week Workouts
* 1 hour efforts — 20′ warm up, 20′ as 4 x 3′ (2′) @ z4/L4/95%FTP, 20′ cool down.
* 1.5 hour efforts — 30′ warm up, 20′ steady @ z3/L3/85%FTP, 10′ easy, 2 x 4′ (6′) @ z4/L4/95%FTP.
* 4 hour efforts — 2 hour warm up (yes, 2hrs!), break to stretch/refuel, then 6 x 15′ (5′) as alternating 3′ big gear standing / 3′ aero @ endurance pace OR 3′ standing big gear / 3′ seated big gear / 3′ easy / 3′ seated big gear / 3′ standing big gear OR 5′ standing big gear / 5′ easy / 5′ standing big gear, etc. You get the idea.
Big Tri Week — 6 to 8 Weeks Pre-Race
Done closer to your actual event, a Big Tri Week is just what it sounds like: a whole lotta swim, bike, and run. Scheduling here is much trickier as you are attempting to keep things up with all three sports. I advise that the biggest gains should be made on the bike, with swim and run gains made through increased frequency. In other words, riding five hours in one is okay, but I’d suggest swimming 4-5 times for 45 mins each instead of 2 x 90min swim sessions. Believe me, you’ll still be tired!
As with the Big Bike Week, intensity must also drop. Your goal here is to successfully complete all of the sessions. All of them. Too much intensity early in the week and you’ll sabotage your mission.
A 20+ hour Big Tri Week could look like this:
Mon: Swim 1h, Bike 1.5h
Tue: Run 1h, Bike 2.5h
Wed: Swim 1h, Run 1.5h
Thu: Bike 2h, Run .75h
Fri: Swim 1.5h
Sat: Bike 5h, Run .5h.
Sun: Bike 3h, Run 1h
Preparing for A Big Week
* Get your equipment ready. Nothing puts a major kink in training plans than a bike that isn’t ready or, in my case, shoes that were already over done. Thankfully I was able to pull a few strings here at a local shop (or two) to get my equipment ready in sub-6 hours. Do yourself a favor and spend the week prior getting your stuff together.
* Have good food on hand. You will want to eat well before, during, and after your work outs. It’s easy to shop ahead and do a smaller triage food run later, than it is to get a big day in and realize that your fridge is bare. Or worse yet, that it isn’t bare but that all the food in there makes absolutely nothing you want to eat. That’s like torture.
* Have a set recovery protocol in place. Most folks are happy to just add the hours up and get to work. But nothing will bring your “work” to a close faster than not being able to execute. That 3 hour ride you had planned for tomorrow…after today’s long run…will be pretty hard to do if you are tired, stiff, and under-fed. Before you can truly begin your Big Week, you need to (A) factor in the recovery time for each workout and each day, and (B) have a routine ready for each workout. My favorite routine is a good 15 mins with my feet up as I lie on the floor. Recovery drink / shake in hand. Then a really good shower.
Nothing big, but a few key steps that can make your Big Week that much more manageable. Good luck!