Triathlete Volume Strategy III: The Big Triathlon Week

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Ed Note: This three part series will look at how age group triathletes can build in volume to reap the benefits of going longer without compromising their current training cycles. This is Part 3 of 3.

In Part One of this series, we covered the overall benefits of adding volume to your endurance training regime and how to implement this volume in such a way that would allow you, the age group triathlete, to maintain a work/life/family/training balance, aka a Big Volume Week. In Part Two of the series, we discussed why there should be both Bike and Tri specific overload components to your long-course volume goals as well as why installment #1 should be cycling specific (with a sample week). In this third and final installment we’ll cover the importance of incorporating a Big Triathlon Week in the course of your Iron-distance training along with some basic guidance.

To Recap
The reason why we consider adding big volume weeks to the standard age-group training regime of 10-12 hours is because we can earn significant endurance-related benefits in a short time without incurring the costs typically associated with a high-volume only program (scheduling, sleep/recovery deprivation, over-use injuries, etc.). The given parameter of a “week” is significant enough to put a serious physical and mental training stress load on your body in such a way that is not only manageable, but easily recovered from. IOW, if you know you have to hit a big week on May 11-18, you can prep and plan for that, making sure everything is ready to go.

Examining the Big Triathlon Week
The Big Tri Week (BTW) comes later in your season, after several months of good training as well as after your Big Bike Week. The BTW represents your final push to build endurance fitness before becoming 100% focused on your race…so what does it look like?

1. Anywhere from 5-7 Days Long — Yep, it doesn’t have to be an actual week on your calendar, especially for the newbies. We are just looking for something longer than just a weekend / holiday weekend.

2. Happens in the 10 weeks to 6 weeks to go Range — Any further out and it won’t match up well with your race specific build; too close and you’ll carry the cumulative fatigue into your race day.

3. Still Cycling-Dominant — The riding, as you’ll see below, is still waaaay up there. We simply can’t beat time spent on the bike (your tri bike this time around!) for safe, manageable fitness gains.

4. Race-Quality Terrain (or Harder) — Do yourself a favor and make your week happen in course-like conditions. If that’s not possible, go harder. The mental strength gained from serious time spent on challenging terrain will be very useful on race day.

5. You Need Peeps! — Not the marshmallow kind (although I have seen some folks train with them!), I mean other people to do this with. You don’t need someone to shadow you every day, but just someone to spend part of each day with so you don’t go INSANE would be a good thing. I have done big weeks solo in Arizona, and after about 3 days you start going a little batty.

Sample Big Triathlon Week
In my previous post, I was using my build to Ironman® USA / Lake Placid as the season example. After an early season bike push at the Tour of California Camp in late February, I target early June as my last big triathlon push…this is our Lake Placid Camp. The camp runs Tues through Sunday, for 6 total days of training which is more than enough time to get fit. Here’s what it looks like:

Day 1: 5-mile run, then 56-mile bike
Day 2: AM Swim 2.5k, then 100+ mile bike. Optional 30 minute run.
Day 3: AM Swim 2.5k, then 75-90 minute run; Optional short bike in PM
Day 4: AM Swim 4k, then 100+ mile bike, then a 30-60 minute run. The Epic Day
Day 5: Either long ride of 100 miles or Brick of 56 miles + Long Run. The Swing Day

The above schedule allows you to get about 25-30 hours of training into one week!

9k of swimming (2.5 hours)
25 to 40 miles of running (up to 4.5 hours)
300 to 350 miles on the bike (18-24 hours)

Managing Your Week – Top Two Factors
Aside from picking a killer location that has good weather and terrain, and finding folks to play along (at least for a bit), your top two priorities are Equipment and Nutrition.

On the equipment side, you’ll need to have a recently tuned bike with lots of spare tubes, CO2, chamois cream for your bum, etc. On the nutrition side, you’ll want good workout nutrition as well as hearty pre- and post-workout meal options. If you think you eat a lot now, wait until you are in day three of your Big Week!  🙂

Also don’t underestimate the value of having a beginning, middle and end to your volume session.  Big volume is really fun to read about, but far less fun to execute. Whether you admire or pity those PRO athletes who do triathlon all day, every day, you have to admit that they a lot of work…A LOT. And while it’s sexy to think about, you probably won’t find it to be that sexy by the end.

There you have it…the reasoning (why) and instructions (how to) on inserting two significant volume pops into your training cycle this year. Hopefully you have the desire and motivation to make this happen. Remember, you don’t have to do 20+ hour weeks…every week…to gain the benefit of volume in your training program. Train smart, be balanced, and get faster for race day!


Coach P

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