This week of training notched back a bit.  Partially because of the race this weekend (and associated travel tomorrow), and partly because of going to a concert – but according to plan.

Today I’m going to talk about benchmarks.  My last post was spurred by a conversation with Matt Amman, today’s is spurred by a side conversation of that same discusssion.  Matt and I were talking about what sort of training and/or benchmarks does it take to get to the front of the age group field at an Ironman.  I did some thinking on the subject, took a look at one of my favorite articles of all time, a write up by Gordo on what he felt was required to podium in Kona – and his vision of what year 1 of a 2 year cycle to get there (for someone capable).

So what does it take to get to the front of the age group field (or the back of the pro field) at an Ironman race?  Gordo contends that to have the potential to have a shot at the podium at Kona one needs to be able to sustain 1:20/100 LCM, 275 watts for 112 miles, and 4:10/k on the run – if you extend those out to times – you’ll find that’s probably about spot on.

To apply that same thought process to the age group race, let’s arbitraily adjust by 10%:

  • Swim: 1:28 / 100LCM
  • Bike: 250 watts
  • Run: 3:12

If you add those up – that probably equates to about a 9:15 or so @ IMWI – which if you look at the historic results that’s right up there.  10% worked out to these numbers, honest.  I didn’t take the numbers and work back to a percentage – really!!

Running wise – if we reference Martinez’s tables (equate a VDOT to a range of HIM and IM performance equivilants) – you’ll see that a Daniels VDOT of 61-65 equates to a potential 3:12 Ironman run.

Biking – popular theory suggests that to do 250 watts for an Ironman while still being able to run well, one needs to have an FTP of atleast 335.  This assumes riding at an IF of ~.75.

Swim – 22:00 1,500 LCM – no real extrapolation needed.

Remember the above “benchmarks” should considered like daniels tables – don’t expect a 2:43 marathon if you’ve done a 17 flat 5k, unless you’re “properly” trained for the marathon when you show up.

Given, that I’ve more or less proclaimed that one of my big goals in triathlon is to be the first Age Grouper at an Ironman race – that’s what I need to shoot for right now.  The swim is easily in the bag, but I’ve got some work to do on the bike and run…

At some point down the road I’ll share some thoughts on what I consider to be “properly” trained for an ironman.

Keep Going

“Keep going, keep going, keep going until a little something inside you says, ‘keep going'” –Frank Horwill 

First a brief update on training.  Running is progressing well.  I never thought 30 minutes @ 9:13 pace would be hard, but it’s getting easier each day.  Fortunately, I’m so happy to be running and making progress in that department.  In the biking department things are going spectacularly.  A week ago today, I did the Time Trialpalooza Spinervals (20′ FTP, 15′ FTP+, 10′ FTP++, 5′ FTP+++).  I averaged 267, 275, 281, and 304 for the intervals.  That combined the 2×20 @ FTP (270 each rep) 2 weeks ago, and the Crank Daddy’s JDRF relay (263), I feel pretty comfortable moving my FTP up a few notches.  For now I’m going to call it 270.  The 10 minutes @ 280 was just to damn hard to call it 275.  This past weekend, was an epic (in relative terms) 4:40 ride with the last 20′ of each hour containing 5×3′ (1′) @ FTP.  I capped it off by my first off the bike run of the year – it was brutal. 

This AM I did a 1,000 SCM time trial – I finished in 13:25.  It’s one of the fast times I’ve done for that.  The workout consists of basically a warm-up, and than go.  Tonight is a 2×20′ @ FTP bike workout, followed by a run. 

About a week ago, I had a great conversation with my buddy Matt about training; one of those conversations that really expands your thought process and at times leaves the wives wondering if those involved in the conversation were about ready to come to blows. 

The conversation was seeded by a thread on slowtwitch; Matt posted a question targeted at those at the front end of the Age Group race at the Ironman distance – and tactics for achieving an optimum result.  The topics discussed in the slowtwitch thread deserves a post all to itself; what’s important is the conversation it spurred about training methodology.  I don’t plan to rehash Matt’s and my conversation, but it centered around the training philosophy’s espoused by Jack Daniels, Lydiard, Noakes, and the countless derivatives Coggan, Friel, Strauss and the countless others that are out there. 

That said – the topic of today’s post is not to give a rehash for the method’s above, primarily because I don’t have enough expert knowledge to give them coverage that wouldn’t leave me like a fool – but to give a high level breakdown of my take aways from each and how I have thus melded it into a training approach for myself – and the one other athlete I coach; my wife, who unfortunately doesn’t get much choice in her selection of coaches!!! 

In my opinion, all of the different training methodologies are more alike than they are different.  Take Daniels and Lydiard for example.  The general impression of each is that Daniels = Base + Intensity at the same time, while Lydiard = Base, than intensity. 

The reason people get this impression is that when you read about Lydiard he talks about saving the intensity until just before the race while in Daniels book the plans provide have intervals of all sorts for 18-24 weeks of the plan. 

So how is it I can believe that these two methods are so similar and/or compatible?  If you take a gander at Daniel’s plan(s) for a Marathon, almost all running is done at E pace, T pace, or M pace.  There is very little true intervals.  That equates to a lot of running at between 80-100% of your aerobic capacity.  For those that have no idea what E/T/M pace is – T pace is essentially your 10k or 15k time depending on how fast you are.  M Pace is marathon pace  (+-93% of Tpace), and E pace is your just running pace (80% of E pace). 

To quote someone with a better understanding of Lydiard 

The conditioning phase of Lydiard training stresses exercising aerobically to increase your Steady State as high as possible given your particular situation. For best results, you should exercise between 70 and 100 of your maximum aerobic effort. This, therefore, is not Long Slow Distance. This is running at a good effort and finishing each run feeling pleasantly tired. You will certainly benefit from running slower, but it will take much longer than if you ran at a good aerobic pace. 

That really highlights that for a person focusing on a marathon – all the intensities described by Daniels really fall into Lydiard’s conditioning stage. 

Going even further, during said conditioning stage Lydiard was even known to encourage/allow his athletes to do a tempo run 

The second “workout” was a steady state run. It is reported that on Fridays, Arthur’s boys would run their 10-mile run quick to get home before the movies started. This run was a 3/4 effort run which, by looking at their times for the 10-miler, was equal to their marathon pace. Therefore, I advise the second run to be slower than a tempo run (10K-HM pace) and keep it more toward marathon effort. Again, other coaches like a tempo run better. 

Interestingly enough, marathon pace is what Daniels prescribes for 60 minute or so tempo intervals – which is probably what those folks were taking to do 10 miles.  I do think that Daniels prefers the classic 20 minute tempo run, he does acknowledge the need for and benefit for doing tempo efforts that last up to 60 minutes (albiet at an adjusted pace). 

To sum everything up, when you examine the concepts underlying Daniels and Lydiard (and most likely 95% of all other methodologies) the principles of them are the same.  My take aways: run a lot at a sustainable, repeatable pace; include tempo efforts regularly, run at a pace you have proven to be appropriate.


Another ideal I wanted to touch on briefly is periodization, particularly in regards to rest weeks.  I began my triathlon career religiously including them, but in recent years I’ve moved away from them, at least in an official sense.  My perspective is if I am incurring such a training load “debt” that I need a week to back off – perhaps I’m training too hard. 

Let’s say the maximum training load you can do in a week is a load of 10.  Training load is the variable in two equations we have to deal with, fitness and fatigue.  For sake of discussion let’s call fitness a linear equation, and fatigue a logarithmic equation.  This means that the harder you work in a given week (or set of weeks) the faster you gain fitness.  It also means that as you work harder, you generate exponentially more fatigue.  IOW – the harder you work, the shorter the period of time you can sustain it before having to cut back.

Let’s call the indefinitely sustainable training load a 7.  You can go out and do a training load of 7 each week from now until you decide to stop.  The amount of fatigue developed is equal to the amount of recovery allowed – so you are in balance. You have a steady buildup of your fitness that you can sustain forever.

10 means you spent a week and did nothing but eat, sleep, and train – totally unsustainable for most people.  In fact, the risk of doing severe damage to yourself is pretty high.  The fatigue generated by a week like this is approaching infinity.  It’s a near certainty that you’ll need to take a reset week immediately following a week like this.

Let’s move back to 9; 9 is a bit more managable – you can train, sleep, eat, work and maybe have some free time; but you can really only sustain it for 2 or 3 weeks and then you need to back down for a week or so, and then hit it again. 

 Next up is 8.  8 allows you to train, sleep, eat, work, and have some free time – and assuming you eat enough and sleep enough you can sustain this for a few months.  Think of this as 9 but holding back just a bit.

Finally, we’ll define a rest week as a week at a  training load of 4.

Now what?

Well let’s look at a 4 week training period using some of the combinations of training loads based on the definitions above.   Six weeks might be a better view, but since most traditional periodization models look at 4 week cycles, and it also happens to be the typical distances between the races I do, 4 it is.

3 weeks @ 9 + 1 rest week = Fitness gain of 31

4 weeks @ 8 = Fitness gain of 32

4 weeks @ 7 = Fitness gain of 28

3 weeks progressive (7,8,9) + rest week = 28

3 weeks progressive (8,9,10) + rest week = 31

3 weeks hybrid progressive (9, 9, 10) + rest week = 32

3 weeks hybrid progressive #2 (8,8,10) + rest week = 30

I could go on for a while with various combinations, but since we defined a load of 8 as being sustainable for several months, for the time scales most people concern themselves with in endurance sports, it proves to provide the highest sustainable training load (for our contrived model).  Sure the 9,9,10 cycle is it’s equal, but by definition a 10 could break you.

This model is a big reason I felt the need to shift away from rest weeks – back off a little each week and shift towards a sustainable load.  Sprinkle in rest weeks as freshening for important races.  Top it off with a taper, and a nice break at the end of the season and you’ll have just that little bit extra over your competition who is following a different contrived model of 3 weeks on 1 week off.  Another reason I shifted away from rest weeks was my purchase of a power meter and starting to track my workouts in WKO+.  When you start watching a PMC graph, the “price” for days off and/or rest weeks starts to be really obvious.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe there is a important role to be played by rest weeks in a training cycle, but I think that role is more of a freshener role for semi-important events, than a regular part of your training cycle.

The Answer to Life The Universe and Everything

While google and other search engines will tell you the answer is 42, I’m not sure.

I think the true answer depends on your perspective, but 42 is as good of an answer as any I guess.  So why the introspective start to the blog?  Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog and what I want to put into it and get out of it.

Perusing the slowtwitch forums and looking at all the signatures of the folks posting – it seems everyone has a blog.  When I first setup my blog a couple of years go – blogging was still a bit of a novelty and a way in which you can differentiate yourself.  I even remember the days when I first registered, having a “vanity” domain website was a huge differentiator – heck even having a website was.

Nowadays, everyone is on facebook and twitter and their blog talking about everything, sharing every detail of their day.  “Hey I just was at the grocery store and….”  “I just took a huge dump and it felt awesome.”  Just the other day, I was watching the news while walking on the treadmill; they were discussing a recent survey about online activity and it’s relation to various daily activities.  It was shocking the percentage of people who said they checked facebook and/or twitter within 5 minutes of having sex – there were even people who reported being on facebook or twitter while having sex.  Good God.

It made me think about the value that I am adding to society with my blog(s).  Do I add value posting a recap of my last few weeks of training and my upcoming plans for traing or am I simply adding the the ever increasing amount of noise that is out there?

Technology is awesome – it allows us to do some very powerful things, but it’s so easy to abuse, become addicted to it, or use it inappropriately. 

Going forward I’m going to really make an attempt to only post when I have something important to say and not just rack up a post count by describing my week and upcoming training to the blog.  That’s what my training log is for.

As a final note – if you are not a regular reader of gordo’s blog – I highly recommend this entry.  It’s very worth while, and I am constantly amazed at the timing of gordo’s blogging and how it relates to internal feelings and thoughts around when it’s posted.