How we made it to hawaii 2016
I first sat down with a client at the end of last year and we talked about how I could help this person with their training and how or what we can do to accomplish her goals.
I could see this person was very motivated and driven, that works hard to achieve their goals. We set some pretty simple goals (in my thoughts) and the larger dream goal being Hawaii for the future.
The clients Ironman time from last year showed the person had some talent or that the training was working reasonably well. You don’t do just over 11hrs in Ironman without the least bit of talent or hard work in my opinion.
As a coach, I looked at how we could drop the most time in her Ironman. You could see the client could produce a good run (3hrs44mins), and that running was her strongest discipline, with swimming being the 2nd followed by the Cycling. But at the time i started coaching her, she was injured from running, which actually made things pretty simple for me, we would focus on her weakest discipline, cycling and allow the injury to heal over time without stressing it.
Because she is quite a natural runner, I knew that there was no stress to leave that for 2-3 months and that we would pick up the fitness pretty quickly when she was able to run again. Of course, in the end, there was a bit of stress as it took longer than expected to heal. But nothing I once thought would affect her Ironman goal of Ironman Sweden (Ironman Kalmar).
So we focused on the cycling for a period of 4 months, we introduced training with a power meter, mainly to help myself track her training better, making sure we are working at the effort necessary and allowing adequate recovery. Power is great for this, HR is a response to an effort, while power is a direct measurement. When you add those two together, it’s the perfect combination.
It helps both myself as a coach and also the athlete to see the improvements we are making and while helping the client we coach see or track the improvements herself.
The key producing a good Ironman Triathlon is to be strong on the bike. To be able to get off the bike fresh and be able to run.. there is no point in being a good runner unless you can use that strength in Ironman.
So we focused entirely on building her threshold power. The highest power she can hold for 1hr without fatiguing… we did this by focusing on specific efforts over 20mins and race pace sessions around 3-4hrs in Duration to replicate the intensity we were going to ride during the Ironman.
When I first started coaching this client, I thought it could be slightly difficult because, she wasn’t used to the very easy recovery days and also spending time more on the trainer (Swedish winter), following a new structure and also believing in what she was doing.
After the first two months, I could see she started to trust me 100% and my input and as a coach that is the biggest hurdle to overcome, for people to put 100% of their trust in you, that you as a coach will get them to where they want to be.
From what I had seen in her past training calendar, she wasn’t scared to do the hard work or put in the time needed. It just was a little unstructured. There was no recovery weeks, only days off here and there or when she was sick or injured. So she wasn’t getting the benefit of the work she put in, and there was no structure to the year or the sessions.
So we planned her training around a 4-week block with every 3 weeks a recovery week would be introduced. We dropped both the intensity and the duration during this week to allow for the adaption from the training, allow the motivation to rise and also to test. we test very often, so we know we are making the right improvements and if we don’t, we go back to the drawing board and change the training around.
Because she has a busy life schedule, with work and family we needed to keep the weekday efforts shorter and the longer efforts on the weekend. So we planned two back to back hard sessions over the weekend with a recovery day on Monday, and a complete rest day on Friday. Friday is great for a rest day, it’s the end of the working week and also allows some recovery before the harder longer efforts of the weekend.
As we managed to increase the training load we were able to do, the recovery became faster and she could handle the workouts better and recover faster from them. The Key was to constantly apply more intensity or duration of the weekly training as her recovery got better and the body could handle more.
We threw in a few races here and there both for motivation, to test the training and give her something fun to look forward to doing. Which turned into a very positive outcome, because she had great results from these races and showed the training we had done was working for her.
The running we finally got back and my goal as a coach was to get her back to the same level as last year before the injury, nothing more. I knew we didn’t have time to work on the running or to get her faster going into Ironman Sweden. But if we could hold the same running fitness and drop 30mins from the bike time, she was in with a chance for a good result in the Ironman and maybe make it to Hawaii.
In Ironman Sweden, she followed the plan as close as she could. I knew the run was going to be tough and she would have dig deep after 25km, but I knew from her cycling that she would go into the run with a buffer of around 30mins up from last year. It was just a matter of her believing in herself and not holding back. We had enough aerobic development to get her through the run slightly slower than the last year
Let’s have a look at the difference between 2015 and 2016
You can see the big improvement was on the bike, we dropped a massive 41mins off her bike time. Which in comparison was a 29.3km/hr average from 2015 versus the 33.0km/hr average of 2016. Which we increased her power from 185watts over 20mins, to 231watts in around 6 months.
With the lack of running it was quite obvious we weren’t going to be close to the 3:44 she ran in 2015, but the 4:02 was enough to get her through to 2nd place in her age group in Ironman Sweden.
Her normalized power for the bike was 162w and she worked at an IF of 0.75. which was a bit too high to produce a strong run and worked at around a 311 TSS score. But that was the plan to use the bike fitness and hold on. The cadence was slightly on the low side (87rpm) but better than what we had seen previously. But still, a big area to work on.
Looking Rick Ashburn graph of IF factor/TSS values in Ironman you can see we were slightly on the high side for her current level of running fitness. But we couldn’t and didn’t have the level to produce a strong run. She had a decoupling of 4.61% and an average of 153bpm and produced 2.45w/kg over the 5hrs27mins.
The run she worked at an IF of 0.84 with a decoupling rate of 7.6% for which you could see the speed was constantly dropping and she was in survival mode. Producing an average of 5:47/km with a normalized speed of 5:36/km.
To sum up, the result at Ironman Sweden, I think it is possible in the right conditions to do close to 10hrs. We have room for an improvement of around 25mins on the run with another year running behind her, both building her aerobic base which was lacking slightly at the Ironman, and possibly 10mins off the bike time. With some time spent increasing the cadence under fatigue, increasing her threshold power, so we can produce an IF of around 0.68 rather than the higher 0.75 we had at Ironman Sweden this year on the bike, allowing some room to produce a good run.