2022 will hopefully be the year I slay the dragon that is long course triathlon. I made an attempt in Hamburg 2018 but it was a hollow victory (hollow slaying?) when Ironman cancelled the swim and replaced it with a 6k warm up run. The dragon was already hurt and limping. Ever since I have to endure the mocking of friends, that technically I have yet to finish a full distance event. Time to get it over with.
I’ll write about my preparation once again. Maybe it’ll entertain. I will learn a lot along the way, maybe some of it has relevance outside my own head. Maybe writing will help me with accountability and the mental struggle of balancing family time, a career and full distance training.
Today marks the beginning of a new year. Year 6 in my triathlon life. Year 40 of my life life. Year 2 in my new job life. Year 3 in a global pandemic life. Why not take it as the arbitrary starting point of documenting the journey that lies ahead. It’ll be exciting. Terrifying. And since it includes a lot of long distance work also a fair share of boredom, annoyance and doubt. I’ll try to keep it fun, to keep learning and to not take it too seriously.
What’s my launchpad you ask? Is this a blog of a couch to Ironman dude? Or am I an experienced Kona qualifier? What can we expect from this lad and why should I read his blog? The answer is I don’t know really. Expect reasonable performance on comparably little weekly volume. Expect a focus on workout quality and effectiveness. Expect a focus on having fun along the way.
My swimming is currently near an all-time high. After two lockdowns I learned to appreciate the first discipline of a tri and put in the work. Workouts are usually limited by the time I can find in my day, not anymore by my swim fitness. With enough time in my day my workouts approach 4k, when I try really hard I can swim a few 100s in 1:32, 10×100 in under 1:40 each on 2 min and 20×100 in barely over 1:40 each on 2 min (all LCM).
I find riding outdoors boring unless the conditions are perfect. 30 years of racing gravity MTB do that to you I guess. I’d love to ride more MTB, but alas I don’t have enough time to spend a minute on a bike that’s not maximum effective training time. And so I spent the vast majority of my bike training on the turbo in my basement. It is so effective that I’ve carried a ramp tested FTP of 4 w/kg through the off-season. Good pace to start.
Running takes the most out of me and it is the only discipline where I really need a proper off-season. Currently I am slowly rebuilding volume and haven’t touched on speed work apart from hill repeats. My long run is currently around 90 minutes, if I had to guess my 5k form maybe around 19:30? But that’s just a guess, I haven’t run a kilometer in under 4 min for 3 months.
A pre-season training plan is already in place. To break up the otherwise massive preparation phase and give myself some intermediate goals and performance markers I’ve included a few events along the way.
- 2022-02-26 100×100 Swim Challenge
- 2022-05-21 Mountainbike Marathon (119km / 3333 m elevation)
- 2022-06-12 Wasserstadt Triathlon (Local Half Distance)
- 2022-07-03 Challenge Roth (Relay Swimmer)
- 2022-08-21 Ironman Copenhagen
Preparation Focus Areas
It is not about finishing. I want to race that thing as hard as I can. Copenhagen is a super fast course and so lends itself to achieve brag-worthy finishing times, no matter how objectively useless that might be. I am under no impression that an AG podium or WC qualification slot is within reach. It isn’t and I will not be able to put in the work to change that. But an AG top 10 finish seems attainable. So does a sub 10 finish. And if things go well I should be able to get closer to 9 than 10. If every single thing on every single day in every single training session goes to plan and on race day every single details works out there is even a perfect 100%-scenario where I’ll go 8:59. It is extremely unlikely, but not entirely impossible.
I’ve learned a few things over past seasons that will guide this preparation and these will lay out the general principles for my training.
The swim is much more important than most people give it credit for. Yes, you can finish an Ironman on 1-2 swims per week but your race can be so much better with a strong swim. Among the downsides of a weak swim are
- You’ll lose time and spend more time not consuming calories
- You’ll be less fresh for the rest of the day and spend more time in annoying packs on the bike
- You’ll carry more negative stress into the race and be more anxious at the start
Bringing a strong swim to the start line gets me excited to race, I’ll swim with people who can sight, I’ll have clean first bike lap and be fresher for the rest of the day. Also, if you think about race performance in terms of marginal training costs – i.e. how much more work you have to do to gain the next minute – swimming is by far the cheapest for most athletes. And so I’ll be swimming 3-4 times per week, looking to average 8-10k and frequently have a 4k+ session. After months of dedicated tech work my stroke is finally at a stage that I can begin to do meaningful interval work. I haven’t figured out the design of my swim workouts yet though.
On the bike the biggest revelation was the importance of carrying bike fitness into a triathlon scenario and being able to access my fitness on my tri bike in my aero position. In years past I’ve followed mostly the approach of „more FTP is more better“. But that often led to big power in training and relative underperformance when I wasn’t able to put that power down on race day. Since then I’ve fiddled with my position and spent more time in my aero, sacrificing some FTP progression along the way. As result though I can now do intervals up to threshold in aero and can hold tempo session in race position, something I wasn’t able to do before. For CPH I’ll stick with this approach.
Running is the biggest question mark, I have so little experience on the marathon. I guess that the general principle of frequency over distance will help. I’ll keep one speed session per week. Other than that I’ll just hand myself over to my coach and see what he’ll do.
Maybe the biggest new thing will be nutrition in training, something I’ve criminally underrated in the past. Several factors play into this. For one, it appears that race day calorie absorption can be trained, just like the other disciplines. And then there is the performance in training itself. Properly carbed up my training sessions can have higher quality, I bonk out less and improve compliance with my plan and recovery is improved. I know that many follow the opposite logic and try to become more fat adapted, but since I don’t plan on racing fasted I’ll rather improve my calorie uptake.
So here’s to the new year, a new season, new challenges and learnings along the way. I am pumped to get going again.