Triathlon Magazine Canada - - TRANSITION TRAINING - BY KERRY HALE

De­spite the phys­i­cal and time de­mands of long-dis­tance rac­ing, with the proper tim­ing and mind­set, rac­ing two full-dis­tance races in a sea­son can ac­tu­ally be a good plan. The first race typ­i­cally pro­vides a solid learn­ing curve and great train­ing stim­u­lus in terms of train­ing, ta­per­ing, hy­dra­tion/nutri­tion pref­er­ences and men­tal prepa­ra­tion. With lessons learned, the suc­cesses and fail­ures of the first race can pro­pel ath­letes to a su­pe­rior per­for­mance in the sec­ond event.

There are, how­ever, some fun­da­men­tal re­quire­ments. Tim­ing is key. The gen­er­ally ac­cepted no­tion among coaches and ex­pe­ri­enced triath­letes is that the two events should be at least three months apart. Jeff Sy­monds, one of Canada’s top long course rac­ers and a mul­ti­ple Iron­man win­ner, says, “My coach, Jasper Blake, is a strong be­liever that if you are plan­ning to do two Iron­mans, you are bet­ter hav­ing a short time (three to four weeks), or a long time (around 12 weeks) be­tween them. The rea­son­ing is that if you have only three to four weeks you can chill and re­cover in be­tween and still take ad­van­tage of the fitness from your pre­vi­ous Iron­man. With a longer time be­tween, you can take the proper time to re­cover and then build back up. With a medium turn­around, how­ever, it is dif­fi­cult to prop­erly re­cover and then build your fitness back up in time.”

In ad­di­tion to the tim­ing re­quire­ment, ath­letes need to com­mit to tak­ing close care of them­selves in terms of re­cov­ery and over­all health. Such mea­sures can in­clude mas­sage ther­apy, yoga for joint mo­bil­ity, and reg­u­larly sched­uled rest weeks. “Phys­i­cally re­spect that re­cov­ery win­dow,” warns Sy­monds. “I like to

not have a set train­ing sched­ule for the two weeks after an Iron­man. I just do what­ever feels good and seems like fun. I also sched­ule a cou­ple of ap­point­ments with my physio in the two weeks post Iron­man. It is no se­cret that Iron­man races beat you up, and I want to make sure that I am com­ing out of the re­cov­ery time as healthy as pos­si­ble. A great physio can also give you feed­back on how your body is re­cov­er­ing that is not in­flu­enced by how fired up you may be to do the next one.”

As part of the re­cov­ery win­dow, Sy­monds rec­om­mends in­clud­ing some fun into the train­ing. He re­calls a time after his first Iron­man in Los Ca­bos, Mex­ico sev­eral years ago:

“The race went re­ally well and I had the op­tion of stay­ing in Los Ca­bos for a few ex­tra days and sit­ting on the beach eat­ing tacos and drink­ing Corona’s. How­ever, I was so fired up think­ing about my next race that I de­cided to keep the Spar­tan life­style rolling. After about a week and a half I found my will power wear­ing thin, and it took at least a cou­ple weeks to come back. Beach time, tacos and Corona’s don’t seem like an in­te­gral part of train­ing, but trust me, some­times they are.”

An­other fac­tor in­flu­enc­ing suc­cess is en­sur­ing the fo­cus is on one Iron­man at a time. “Ev­ery Iron­man re­quires your un­di­vided at­ten­tion,” says Sy­monds. “Even if you re­ally want to qual­ify for Kona, it can be tough to ex­e­cute your qual­i­fier if you are al­ready think­ing about the next race. Of course, I think about Kona qual­i­fy­ing when I plan my sea­son, but dur­ing my qual­i­fier race day I am not look­ing a sin­gle minute past that fin­ish line.”

To en­sure you learn from the first ex­pe­ri­ence, make de­tailed notes dur­ing your post-race rest days about what went right and what went wrong. Con­sider both race day and train­ing blocks, as well as nutri­tion and hy­dra­tion strate­gies. This in­for­ma­tion is vi­tal for suc­cess in the sec­ond event. “When I raced Iron­man Canada and Chal­lenge Pen­tic­ton four weeks apart in 2014,” says Sy­monds, “I re­mem­ber think­ing it was awe­some be­cause I al­ready had my nutri­tion plan writ­ten out and knew ex­actly where to put Vaseline in my shoes.”

In terms of ac­tual train­ing, im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the first race al­low three to four days of no train­ing and lim­ited ac­tiv­ity. For the next 10–14 days, only per­form re­cov­ery-ori­ented work­outs with noth­ing over en­durance pace. From that point, grad­u­ally build back into lac­tate thresh­old work over sev­eral weeks to re­turn to pre-Iron­man lev­els of vol­ume and in­ten­sity.

If the first Iron­man was a strug­gle from an en­durance/en­ergy per­spec­tive, vol­ume should be­come the main fo­cus by adding ad­di­tional two-to-four-day, high-vol­ume train­ing blocks. If en­durance/en­ergy lev­els were solid, but speed was an is­sue, then in­stead fo­cus on slightly higher in­ten­sity with more lac­tate thresh­old in­ter­val work and some two- to-four-day blocks of lac­tate thresh­old work.

Above all else – even over­rid­ing the struc­ture of your train­ing sched­ule be­tween the two races – is the need for flex­i­bil­ity. There is no way to pre­dict the im­pact of your first Iron­man in terms of bod­ily fa­tigue, re­cov­ery time, self-mo­ti­va­tion and phys­i­ol­ogy. Lis­ten­ing to your body and pro­vid­ing any nec­es­sary sup­ports will ben­e­fit you greatly as you head into the next long course event.

Co­mox Val­ley’s Kerry Hale is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Triathlon Mag­a­zine Canada.

LEFT Jeff Sy­monds at Iron­man Canada 2014

Marathon Pho­tos

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