It’s one of the tough­est chal­lenges in triathlon. Here’s the es­sen­tial train­ing and pac­ing ad­vice you need to suc­ceed

Triathlon Plus - - Contents - Words Phil Mosley

Make sure your marathon doesn’t let you down.

If youʼre train­ing for an Iron­man or just har­bour­ing the no­tion that you might do one in the fu­ture, the ad­vice in this fea­ture is es­sen­tial read­ing. An Iron­man run is like noth­ing else youʼll ever en­counter in triathlon.

The first thing to get your head around is just how tired youʼll be be­fore you even start, hav­ing swam and cy­cled for any­thing from five to 12 hours be­fore­hand. Even if you paced the swim and bike sec­tions sen­si­bly, the best you can hope for is that youʼll feel drained of en­ergy by the time you start run­ning.

The next thing to con­sider is how slowly youʼll be go­ing – most likely slower than youʼll ever run in train­ing. Even if youʼre head­ing for a great Iron­man run split by your own stan­dards, youʼll still be trav­el­ling at a rel­a­tive snailʼs pace. Iron­man suc­cess sim­ply in­volves run­ning slowly with­out stop­ping.

Dur­ing an Iron­man run youʼll ex­pe­ri­ence a lot, both phys­i­cally and men­tally. Even on a good day, you can ex­pect your feet to hurt, your guts to feel bad and your skin to rub. Chances are that youʼll want to laugh and cry at var­i­ous points along the way.

Here, weʼll arm you with all the in­for­ma­tion you need to per­form at your best. Whether youʼve en­tered one al­ready or itʼs just a dis­tant pipe dream, you should cut out this fea­ture and keep hold of it. It could bring you great suc­cess and save you a lot of suf­fer­ing at some point in the fu­ture.

The Per­fect Iron­man Run Pace

Pac­ing is ev­ery­thing in en­durance run­ning. There is one par­tic­u­lar study that il­lus­trates this point clearly. It was con­ducted on ath­letes who com­peted in

one of the world’s most chal­leng­ing ul­tra-marathons, the Tor des Geants in Italy. This event in­volves run­ning 200 miles over moun­tains, tak­ing in more than 24,000 me­tres of el­e­va­tion change. The re­searchers com­pared these run­ners with another group who’d taken part in a shorter Alpine ul­tra-marathon, a mere 103 miles in length.

It may sound coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but their find­ings showed that run­ners in the longer race had lower lev­els of mus­cle dam­age and in­flam­ma­tion, de­spite the fact that they ran al­most twice the dis­tance as those in the shorter event. The re­searchers were led to con­clude this: “Such ex­treme ex­er­cise seems to in­duce a rel­a­tive mus­cle preser­va­tion process, due likely to a pro­tec­tive an­tic­i­pa­tory pac­ing strat­egy dur­ing the first half.”

How does this help you? Well, it im­plies that the ath­letes in the longer event paced it more care­fully from the start, com­pared to those do­ing the shorter event. And that even with dis­tances of 100 miles and 200 miles, small dif­fer­ences in ex­er­cise in­ten­sity can make a big dif­fer­ence to your mus­cle fa­tigue lev­els.

So bear­ing that in mind, hereʼs how to set your­self a re­al­is­tic Iron­man run pac­ing plan, us­ing three dif­fer­ent mea­sures...

1Your Iron­man Run Heart Rate You should start your Iron­man run at 65 to 70 per cent of your max­i­mal heart rate. For ex­am­ple, if your max heart rate is 170 beats per minute, start run­ning at 110-120 beats. Sounds easy right? Keep this up un­til half­way and then you can in­crease your pace slightly if you feel fresh enough. The chances are that you won’t.

2Your Iron­man Run Per­ceived Ex­er­tion Based on your per­ceived ex­er­tion, your Iron­man race pace should feel like a 2 or 2.5 out of 10 on the in­ten­sity scale with 10 be­ing your all-out max­i­mal ef­fort. On a good day this might be de­scribed as an “easy” pace.

3Your Iron­man Run Pace You can work out your Iron­man run pace us­ing the Jack Danielsʼ VDOT sys­tem, which en­ables you to es­ti­mate your VO2 max based on your re­cent best times for dis­tances such as 3km, 5km and 10km. Jack Daniels is a well-known run­ning coach and you can use his method to cal­cu­late your own VDOT score here: run­

Once youʼve done this, you sim­ply need to re­mem­ber that your Iron­man pace should equate to 60 to 65 per cent of your VDOT run­ning pace. Just make sure you base your pace on real re­sults from a 3km, 5km or 10km done in the last eight weeks. Do not guess at your cur­rent form, un­less you want your Iron­man run to go badly.

Iron­man Run Tips

• Use all three of the meth­ods above (heart rate, feel and per­ceived ex­er­tion) as none of them are com­pletely re­li­able in iso­la­tion. There are many vari­ables that can af­fect each one, so us­ing all three helps to guar­an­tee suc­cess. • The risk of start­ing too fast is far greater than the risk of start­ing too slow. You can al­ways in­crease your in­ten­sity at the half-way point if you feel great. Whereas if you go too hard from the start and sub­se­quently blow up, youʼll never re­cover that lost time. • Your Iron­man run pace will be de­ter­mined by how hard you went in the bike and swim sec­tions, as well as your nu­tri­tional strat­egy. If you cy­cle too fast you will strug­gle to run the en­tire marathon. If you pace the bike sec­tion in­tel­li­gently and get your nutri­tion right, the chances are you’ll run well. • The longer you an­tic­i­pate youʼll take to com­plete an Iron­man, the lower your in­ten­sity should be. For ex­am­ple, if you think youʼll take 15 or 16 hours in to­tal, you should aim for the low­est pos­si­ble end of the pace, heart rate and per­ceived ex­er­tion sug­ges­tions above.

Two Key Iron­man Run Train­ing Work­outs

Aer­o­bic En­durance Run This is a long run at an easy pace last­ing from 60 min­utes to 2 hours 30 min­utes in du­ra­tion. The idea of these work­outs is to train your body to a level where you can rou­tinely han­dle long runs and re­cover fully within 48 hours. You should do these runs three times per month with at least seven days’ gap be­tween each one. The du­ra­tion of this run should build up over a 20- or 24-week pe­riod, start­ing with a one-hour run and pro­gress­ing over a pe­riod of months un­til you can com­fort­ably man­age 2 hours 30 min­utes. Do not be tempted to run for longer than this. Two hours and 30 min­utes is a thresh­old be­yond which the train­ing ben­e­fits are of­ten out­weighed by the nega­tive ef­fects of fa­tigue and po­ten­tial in­jury. Aer­o­bic Speed Ses­sions If you want to run a faster Iron­man marathon, these are the bread-and-but­ter speed ses­sions that will help you get there. Do one of these work­outs ev­ery seven days. They in­volve fast rep­e­ti­tions with rel­a­tively short rests. Keep the vol­ume of your main set to around 5km and your pace at around your best for 3km. Start with short rep­e­ti­tions and build the length of time you run at this pace. In­clude a 15-minute warm up and a five-minute warm down. Here are some ex­am­ples of how to progress your main sets: • Ses­sion 1: 2x(10x200m) with 20secs rest be­tween reps and 4mins rest be­tween the two sets. • Ses­sion 2: 3x(5x300m) with 45secs rest be­tween reps and 4mins rest be­tween the three sets. • Ses­sion 3: 2x(6x400m) with 60secs rest be­tween reps and 3mins rest be­tween the two sets. • Ses­sion 4: 12x400m with 1minute rests.

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