Triathlon Periodization Training Works For Me

Triathlon Periodization Training Works For Me

Triathlon periodization traning for Ironman Chattanooga was going to be an experiment on n=1. The reason I phrase it that way is that I was not in a control group, nor were there other examples of triathletes doing the type of training I set out for myself back in June. I did not have a clue as to what would unfold but I did know one thing. I knew that I was burnt out on triathlon. Having trained for and completed 3 Ironman distance races over the course of 12 months I could not take another 6 to 8 month training cycle. It was too much, and while I wanted to be the best I could be on race day I was not going to drive my body and mind into the ground over that long of a period of time. Approximately two years ago my buddies Jeff and Kevin trained 'together' from Texas and Michigan in an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Jeff and I then took that training plan and adjusted it for the Lake Martin 100 Ultra Trail run. Knowing that I did not want to subject myself, or my family, through months of training I adapted that training plans concepts to triathlon with the goal of being ready, fresh and mentally prepared for Ironman Chattanooga. What took place over the 13 weeks of training and 2 weeks of taper has led me to believe that this type of triathlon periodization training is the way to go for me. In addition to not wanting to run myself into the ground over a long period of time I wanted to also focus on the sport I was training for. In my past training cycles I approached it as a triathlete but this time would be different. The triathlon periodization training was to allow me to be a swimmer during a week, a cyclist during a week and a runner during a week. Just as important as those weeks were it was going to be imperative that I become a couch potato in the all important recovery week. [caption id="attachment_9700" align="alignright" width="300"]ironmant periodization training - swim - bike - run Lots of Miles On The Bike[/caption] Triathlon Periodization Training Overview The triathlon periodization training lays out as follows: Week 1: Large bike focus with weekends being the two days that push your mind, body and soul with a long ride on Saturday and a Triple Brick on Sunday. Week 2: Large swim focus with as many open water swims as I could get in but when in the pool focusing on form one or two days and then speed the other days. Week 3: Large run focus with a 20+ mile run on Saturday followed by a mid-teens run on Sunday that also has a recovery swim and bike in it. Week 4: Recovery week. All workouts are to be Z1-Z2 and allow the body to repair. Triathlon Periodization – Cycling Since Ironman Texas 2013 ended I knew that I was going to have to figure out a way to get faster on the bike without compromising my running ability. The idea was to ride as much as I could in one week using the trainer during the week and then getting outside for long rides with the group and then triple bricks the following day on my own. Learning to stay within myself on those long rides was key to being able to push it during the triple brick and having the ability to run on what would not be just tired legs, but exhausted legs. In case you are wondering, a triple brick consists of three brick cycles of bike and run. For me, the triple brick consisted of a 20 mile ride followed by a 4 mile run. I usually did this after having swum a mile in the open water with our group. That open water swim was a great way to get the body warmed up and ready to tackle the triple. I can say that doing a triple after a Saturday ride of 60 or 80 miles is not horrible. Doing it the day after a 120 mile ride is downright torture but I learned so much about staying within myself and running with soreness and tiredness in my legs. What I discovered after the 4th triple brick of this triathlon periodization training was that I could not only run a particular pace for the first portion of the brick but also on the last portion and everything in between. My legs were getting stronger from all the cycling as well as developing an aerobic capacity to go longer. My peak weeks of cycling were in the 250+ mile range while the off weeks were around 100 miles. These peak weeks of cycling were also the weeks where I trained the most in terms of hours with training totaling approximately 20 hours during those weeks. The beauty of this setup is that you have only one 20 hour week once a month and not for an entire month like overload weeks tend to be during traditional Ironman training cycles. Triathlon Periodization – Running While reviewing my goals for Ironman Chattanooga I knew that I was going to have to put in run work to achieve them. I set out to run a sub-4 hour Ironman marathon. Having come close the three times before I knew that this could be accomplished especially with the run base I had acquired during Lake Martin 100 training. My ability to run for a long period of time at a constant pace and heart rate was already established, but what I needed to work on was doing that type of run after having been on a bike for 6 hours and expended energy without replenishing nutrition during a one hour plus swim. What I learned during the Lake Martin training was that nutrition timing was more important than I had realized prior to embarking on that journey. I knew that I had to take in calories but timing it was important so during the runs I had scheduled of 20+ miles during those run heavy weeks I focused more on the calories I was taking in than pace. The priority was calories, heart rate and then pace and the reason for that was because if I was not fueling properly then my heart rate would spike and cause me to slow down thus reducing pace. While long runs were a large portion of the mileage I put in, there was also a focus on speed. I scheduled mile repeats as well as hill work (not nearly enough as it turned out) into my training cycle. The run heavy weeks were going to make or break me, much like when you hit Mile 17 of the Ironman marathon. I was going to be prepared for that moment when the mind wants to quit and I was not going to allow that. Getting up at 4:30am to get in a 10 mile run prior to work and then either running another 4-5 miles at lunch or working all day to come home and finish off those 4-5 miles will put you in the hurt zone mentally but it is very important to learn how to deal with that as it will happen during the Ironman marathon. My heaviest run weeks totaled 65-70 miles while the other weeks were in the 25 mile range. The hours spent during those run heavy weeks were approximately 15 hours. [caption id="attachment_9702" align="alignright" width="285"]ironman periodization training - swim - bike - run - triathlon That Other Is Transitions At Ironman Chattanooga[/caption] Triathlon Periodization – Swimming My goal for the triathlon periodization training during swim weeks was to learn to deal with my anxiety of the open water swim. This meant that I would be heading to the lake as often as possible. Prior to each of the Ironman races there were nerves, but Ironman Texas 2013 proved to be the worst. I had so much anxiety that I practically froze in the water when the canon went off and wound up exiting the swim with a time of 1:48. This put me behind mentally because I was now chasing a goal time instead of letting it chase me. My goal was to finish off these swim focused weeks feeling like Michael Phelps (without the alcohol and pot) and knowing that I was getting stronger. The thought process was that if I felt stronger in the water, then the confidence to swim in the open water would be there. I learned along the way that swimming is not a sport that you can muscle through but instead must be form focused to get the most out of your time, similar to golf. I scheduled weeks were I would swim 20,000 yards. There were days of 5,000 yards in which I would swim 2,500 yards in the morning and then either head to the lake for a 1+ mile swim or another 2,500 yards in the pool after work. The smell of chlorine permeated everything those weeks and I was as shriveled up as a raisin by the time Sunday rolled around but it was well worth it in the end. The Ironman Chattanooga swim is point to point and downstream which worked in my favor but all throughout the swim I would take inventory of my arms (using the railroad track technique), my head placement and where my hips were. Had I not spent so much time in the water during the swim heavy weeks and being exhausted during those weeks from being in the water so much I may not have known what proper technique was and how to adjust and fix any imperfections I was noticing. The heaviest swim weeks finished with between 18,000 and 21,000 yards. The off weeks totaled anywhere between 4,000 and 7,000 yards. The time spent in those heavy weeks was 14-15 hours. Triathlon Periodization – Recovery These weeks were probably the most important of them all. I viewed these weeks as if they were taper weeks where the body would mend, the mind would recover and time away from the sport would re-invigorate my desire to chase the miles. While the hours spent (anywhere between 10 and 13 hours total) may seem like a lot they were mostly spent early in the morning when the sun was still sleeping except for a few Saturday's where getting up early did not matter but rather sleeping in was the focus. The ability to spend time with family and friends, get away from the sport and focus on other tasks allowed for a rekindling of the Ironman finish line and training desire. It cannot be said enough but these weeks were heaven-sent. Triathlon Periodization – Conclusion As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this was an experiment of n=1. As a matter of fact, if asked, I would not recommend this type of training to anybody who is just starting out. I would still encourage them to seek out a coach who will be able to help them structure a training plan that is complimentary of their talents and goals. This type of triathlon periodization training I would suggest to those that have completed one, if not more, 140.6 races. In addition to that if you have trained for and successfully completed a 50 mile or 100 mile ultra trail run then this type of training would not be uncommon to you and could work very well for you in terms of accomplishing the goal of crossing the finish line of a 140.6 mile race. If you have any questions about my training for Ironman Chattanooga please feel free to leave the question in the comment. And if you ask me will I use this again for my next Ironman race the answer is that the training plan has already been created.

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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