Sunday, 8 November 2009

The year ahead...

With H off doing her 'luvvie' thing this weekend in Northumberland (she's shooting stills on the latest ITV drama) this is going to be somewhat of a joint blog. Tim posted a great question on my last entry so I thought I'd try and answer it here by way of a season plan of both of us...

Lets start with H... regular readers will know that Hels has put Ironman to bed and will be focusing mostly on running. She really wants to work on building her photography business and with that comes a reduction in the time available to train. This season she averaged around 20 hours per week with plenty of 25 hour plus blocks thrown in for good measure but for the 09/10 season we're planning to half that volume to around 10-15 weekly hours. Rather than seeing a corresponding drop in performance levels she'll be looking to hit around 8-10 hours running per week and fitting in swim sessions and the odd bike when time allows. Although her multi-sport performance will likely drop she should be able to knock off a few long-standing run PBs. It's unlikely that H will do any triathlons next year but that will depend largely on how much bike she gets in over the winter, she's been super busy at work recently so may well only get out a couple of times per month. We are aiming to keep a minimal level of cycling in her programme a) as it's a great way to build leg strength and muscular endurance with minimal impact and b) we haven't ruled out the odd duathlon or maybe tri in 2010. There will however be plenty of swimming, simply because she really enjoys it and having gone from a non-swimmer to sub six minutes for 400 it would seem a shame to stop. November and December will be treated very much as training months and although there will be plenty of road and XC races they'll be trained through. Her first 'A' race is going to be the Brass Monkey half-marathon on January the 24th, probably followed by the Silverstone half in March and then the Virgin London Marathon on April the 25th. In between those there will be a load of smaller local races to keep the competitive fires burning and of course there will be regular outings to our very own Leeds parkrun. At the moment we're not looking past London for H... one of the great things about running is that with the exception of a couple of super popular races there's no need to plan your season years in advance. She may look to do an autumn marathon but with plenty to choose from we can leave that till after London.

What about me?

The question that Tim posed was 

"I'm interested to hear your plans for next year involving the Outlaw. Specifically since you'll qualify for Kona at Lanzarote will you train/peak for the outlaw and race it or use it as a training day or a long swim bike?'

Firstly, thanks for the vote of confidence mate :) Despite the title of our blog Kona is no longer the driving force for me that it once was, yes I'd really love to race there, but events of this year have reminded me that it really isn't the holy grail that it's made out to be (for age-groupers at least). Although I would be disappointed if I missed the cut again, my final season of Ironman certainly won't be judged, be me at least, on whether I get to the Hawaii or not. I wouldn't even call it a goal anymore really, my focus for Lanzarote is to get to the start line in the best shape of my life and execute the best race of my life... I'm determined to focus on the process this year rather than the outcome. The Outlaw will receive the same treatment, as will a third (and final) Ironman if it happens. I do definitely intend to give the Outlaw everything in terms of training and racing ;)

I've always wanted to race a UK based Iron distance event but having spectated at IMUK several times I certainly don't have enough faith in the organisers to deliver an event deserving the five months of blood sweat and tears that it takes to get there. To be honest I'd given up hope but then up stepped the guys at One Step Beyond with their new 'Outlaw Triathlon', I just couldn't resist the opportunity to race an event like this in what will hopefully be really great shape (I'm confident that their ability to deliver an event is somewhat better than their ability to choose a decent name for an event!). 

So, with the Outlaw well and truly on the schedule that left me with Ironman Lanzarote on May the 23rd, the Outlaw on August the 8th and possibly Hawaii on October the 9th. That obviously makes three Iron distance races in a season, yet having done 'just' two this year I found myself blown to pieces come September and having to pull out of the Vitruvian for fear of exploding! So just how do I plan to survive 2010?

Having spent a large amount of time reflecting on my performances this year two things have become clear 1) I was very fit and 2) I was very tired. I pretty much PB'd from start to finish all season... half-marathon in January (1.19), Ballbuster in March (2.55), Olympic tri in June (1.59), Pool Triangle TT in June (29 something), 50 mile TT in June (1.58) and Ironman in July (9.28)... so the fitness was clearly there. But, and this is a big BUT, for the majority of those events I felt pretty knackered and certainly someway short of 100%. On thinking a little clearer I think I can trace the majority of that tiredness back to a four week period between December 08 and January 09... H and I got married on December the 13th, which although was without a doubt the best day of my life was also pretty tiring both physically and mentally. We then hopped straight on the plane to Miami and by the time we hopped off at the other end I'd developed as bad a case of sickness and diarrhea that I've ever had. A couple of days later I'd recovered and proceeded to log a good 40+ mile week of running and a few hours of swimming in the heat and humidity of South Beach before flying back on Christmas Eve, doing a long ride on Christmas Day and then the Chevin Chase (7 mile XC race) on boxing day! In the blink of an eye we touched down in Lanzarote on January the first and kicked off 2010 with 26 miles of swimming, 500 miles of cycling and 75 miles of running in the first ten days! To be honest, looking back at that lot it's a wonder I survived to tell the tale! Still, my fitness was clearly improving and a week after landing back from Lanza I broke 80 minutes for the first time over 13.1 miles and it was game on. Unfortunately, that massive month put me in a state of fatigue that 400 hours training over the next 20 weeks was never going to let me recover from.

The biggest lesson I've learnt from all that and something that I am determined to focus on this coming season is to not put myself in that hole in the first place. Full-on Ironman training is not something that allows much space for recovery and come January I'll be giving it absolutely everything for 20 weeks, at the moment I'm feeling really good and will be prioritising sleep, food and rest over training to make sure I stay that way!

So that's the first cause of my fatigued dealt with, what about the second. What really pushed me over the edge was two Ironman events in seven weeks with no time allowed for proper recovery... the week after Lanza I trained for five hours, but the week after that it was 25! By the time I crossed the finish line I'd been going hard for seven months since the aforementioned hole digging process! Now, if you're going to perform to your highest ever level, you have to be prepared to follow that up by being the tiredest you've ever been, and that's fine... unless you've just booked a slot to the world Ironman champs and have to do it all again in a couple of months! To be honest, I think had I made it to the Big Island this year I may well have ended up doing serious long-term damage to myself. Unlike the Vitruvian I wouldn't have pulled out and looking back I actually breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn't given the opportunity to nuke myslef!

I've just outlined a schedule though to three great Iron distance races in the space of a few months so how will I a) be able to perform well in all of them and b) survive to see 2011? (Which I think is the main point of Tim's question... sorry if I'm going on a bit)

Well, despite pre-season concerns over doing two Ironman events in seven weeks I actually felt that racing in Lanzarote was beneficial to my performance in Switzerland. I basically didn't really take any rest between each race, therefore not allowing my body to slip into recovery mode as with only a few weeks to play with there probably wouldn't have been time to wake it up again. The problem, as I've just stated, is that having done that successfully (in terms of race performance) there was nowhere left to go and my season was effectively over... this year I may well have (if I'm lucky) one final Iron destination. Fortunately however there are eleven weeks between Lanzarote and the Outlaw and those extra 28 days should allow time to recover properly from the first race yet still have time to build things up for the second. So the gap should look something like...

Weeks 1-3 - active recovery and a gradually building volume of something like 5, 10 and 15 weekly hours.

Weeks 4-6 - a return to my standard 20 hour basic week and hard work across all three disciplines.

Weeks 7-9 - some 'race pace and above' focus and a couple of big sessions plus the odd race.

Weeks 10-11 - taper time!

In terms of Outlaw performance I'd probably rather they were closer together, but in terms of carrying on the season that extra four weeks should make all the difference.

It will then (if selected) be nine weeks from the Outlaw to Hawaii, of the three events Kona is probably my lowest priority in terms of performance, just being there will be pretty special. I will of course be approaching it as I have every Ironman I've done though and aiming to go out in style ;) I'll probably leave it until after the Outlaw to decide the best schedule for those nine weeks depending on how I'm feeling. At half-way between seven weeks and eleven weeks it could go either way i.e. keep the tempo rolling or back off for a couple of weeks and build again. Although I don't really mind how I feel directly after Kona as it will be 'pipe and slippers time', I've got no interest in sticking myself in a hole that could take years to get out of.

Anyway, hopefully that's answered the question? 

In brief... all three will be very much 'A' races and approached 100%, by not digging a big early season hole I should avoid ever reaching a state of deep fatigue and by allowing a few weeks of PROPER recovery I should be able to peak for events two and three.

How hard can it be? ;)



Rogier, Natalie & Rhys said...

Go for it - good luck I know you can and will do it. Rogier

Russ said...

Three Ironmans in one year? Easy!! ;-)

Interesting points on digging a big hole so early in the season and suffering for it. Whilst I have on a number of occasions ramped up the volume of training quickly I rarely boost the intensity much at first. It's funny as post-Kona I've had a longer rest period than planned and then hit the training with hard sessions and a race. This has definitely not worked so well for me, leaving me feeling far more fatigued and uncertain of fitness.

Next year the plan is to only do three Ironmans myself (hopefully including Kona). The aim is to have longer build periods so I can properly get into more race specific training between events.

Look forward to seeing how you go in the next year and catching up with you in Kona.


Stuart said...

Great post this week - best for a while. Glad to see your planning on taking a bit of your own advice i.e. not becoming over-trained by being under-recovered. Its going to be exciting watching you race in Lanza this time. Train smart ;-)

Debra said...

At long last the big man does a UK race, looking forward to cheering you on already :)

Tom Newman said...

Looks like a great plan pal. Look forward to following your journey to Kona via a fired up training camp and some pain in Lanza - bring it on!!!

runtilyoudrop said...

Hi tom

Reckon you gotta focus on getting the recovery right. You dont seem to get injured like me which helps me back of the workload when I am nearing my limit.

Save the pbs for the 4th weekend of May.

Tim said...

Interesting read Tom, You seem to be able to remove some of the ego problems that most of us have when examining our own performance and be objective about what worked or not; I reckons this'll stand you in great stead for 2010 and I look forward to following your progress.

Many of us could probably do with taking a leaf out of your book and examining our performance and plans a little more honestly.


Tom said...


Thanks so much for all your great comments as always. I'm really sorry that I haven't replied sooner but things have been really crazy busy what with the academic year in full flow, my training edging above 15 hours a week and a couple of really exciting projects on the go (anyone seen this month's Triathlon Plus?) and on top of that my obsession with getting eight hours sleep per night... which is the hardest of all challenges and not one I've been great with to be honest.

In a couple of weeks the pressure should subside significantly and i'll have chance to do a few more exciting things.

See you soon,