I Have A Cunning Plan, Sir.

I started this year, and indeed my current training regime, with no clear goals. Do an Ironman, and go sub three on a marathon. While I’ve been stuck at home and bored I’ve been reading up some aspects of that. Advice on how to go sub 10 hour on the triathlon. What goals you need to set for each discipline.

The swim needs to be an hour. That will be my biggest challenge. I’m consistently about 1 hour 40. The thing is though, following this bike training plan has made me realise what I’ve been doing wrong. If you put the same effort in, time after time, you train your body to do that effort. You get fitter, and it becomes a bit easier, so you can go a little bit faster, but on race day you just grind it out exactly the same. Same effort in, same results out.

Since I’ve been doing this bike training plan on Trainer Road I’m being driven forward. I started by building a base of fitness and putting in some harder efforts in the first 6 week cycle. Then at the start of the second 6 week week cycle I got my fitness tested again (FTP), got a better score, so they made the workouts harder. And now they are paying me the compliment of assuming I’ve built enough stamina and fitness for them to really start to beast me. Last Saturday was a 1½ hour ride, with 6 blocks of 10 minutes, 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes more at 98% of FTP (very hard), 2 minutes 102% of FTP, then down again.

It doesn’t sound too bad, but the whole point of FTP is that is the point beyond which your legs can’t clear the lactic acid. So you accumulate burn even at 102%, then have to hang in there, legs on fire, as you slowly reduce power and clear the burn. The first few sets I was clearing the burn by the last minute of drop down. Then you have a minute to get your breath and do it again. By the last block of 2 x 10 minute I didn’t think I could hold on until the minute rest. I lost my pace, I was standing up and sitting down, heart rate a few beats off maximum, gasping for air. I somehow managed to force myself to keep going until the rest, then I had minute until I had to do it again. I am quite amazed I made it. Half of the battle is mental, knowing how desperately close to quitting you are at the end of one block and knowing you’re going to be in a worse state for the next one.

The point I am eventually making, is: I did 1½ hours of training, and over an hour of it (with the warm up) was close to or over my new PB FTP. The FTP is test is 20 minutes long (which near kills me as you’re going flat out). After 10 weeks on Trainer Road I just did an hour of FTP! (There, or there abouts.)

This is the training I need to apply to the other disciplines. Follow a plan. Designed by people who actually know what they are talking about. Accept the pain. Be consistent. I will get better.

Assuming the doctor says I’m fine to swim (when they finally open the pools again) I need to apply all of this to swimming. Maybe 4 times a week if I can manage it. I’ll look for a plan, but I want slow days to acquire technique and stamina, and sprint days where I just do 100 meter sprints, rest and repeat.

I want to do exactly the same thing for my running. That’s the easiest discipline for me, but I’ve still not been making the sort of gains I should have. Applying the 80/20 philosophy (80% long, easy paced runs -for stamina and base fitness without injury- / 20% flat out sprints -to build your speed and oxygen processing ability-) I am really hopeful that I’ll blast sub 3 hours for my marathon.

With this in mind I’ve moved the goalposts again. Before I do the brand name Ironman, I want another crack at the Outlaw. It’s a flat course. I won’t be doing it this year, but next year I want to go sub 10 hours.

I’m just looking. They say 1 hour 5 minutes for the swim, 5 hours 15 bike, and a 3.30 marathon. (Which leaves you a very iffy 10 minutes to transition from your wetsuit to your bike, and from your bike to the run.)

That equates to a solid 1 minute 38 seconds per 100 meters swim, (it says my pitiful 1 hour 42 pace is equivalent to 2.25 for 100m!) my bike best was 6 hours 43 which is roughly 17.2 mph. I need to be averaging 22mph. Actually I think that sounds do-able. I’m already far, far better than when I started out. I’ve already run a 3.30 marathon, but that was my best time, and that’s on it’s own. I think my best time off the bike was 4.18.

This is shaping up. If I can lick the swim in to shape, I reckon the bike will be fine by then, and if I can do the bike without blowing up, the knock-on effect will be fresher legs for the run. I’ve said it before that I think I could do this, but then I thought if I just kept training it would happen, but it doesn’t. You have to make it happen. And now I think I know how.

Exciting times!