Monday 21 April 2014

Planning training for the 2014 season

The first objective of the year is completed, yay! I'm still super-happy about my 03:59:19 at the Rotterdam marathon. There's a lot of year left though, and a lot I've signed up for (have you seen the 2014 race calendar panel over there on the right hand side?).

Need to take a rational look. What's practical. I've withdrawn from the Eton 10km swim - I still intend to do one, but i need more than 5 weeks training to prepare (particularly seeing as there's Mallorca 70.3 in the middle!). I also decided not to do today's Thames Turbo Triathlon - there's no need to race a hard sprint when I'm still only a week after the marathon. Instead I went for a ride with Mrs on our "3 Hills" route - first time for a year. Loved it.

Our "3 Hills" ride (Staple Lane, Crocknorth, and Box Hill)

I enjoyed having a training plan for the last few months, even if it was just out of a book. I like not needing to think about what needs to be done. However, I don't feel ready to get a new coach. Maybe next year, maybe never, but not right now. So, what's the plan?

The plan is: write your own plan. Here's the plan.


Brett Sutton wrote a piece on swimming for the Buccaneer Race Team. In essence, the message was: "Want to get better at swimming? Well then swim more."

So, let's just swim some more then. I bought a book called For Swimmers 365 Main Sets a while ago by Ironman swim-master Andrew Starykowicz. It's basically just what it says on the tin. I'm going to start from set one and try to do 2-3 per week. That's easy - I just schedule them in, and do them.


My main races this year are both quite hilly - Ironman 70.3 UK in Wimbleball with its (in)famous "52 hills in 56 miles" or whatever it is (I think the bark is worse than the bite to be frank), and then Ironman Wales in Tenby - where I'm determined to ride better than last time. So I need to ride up hills, and ride them regularly. I'll be racing Wimbleball on my road bike and Tenby on my tri-bike, so I need good miles on both.

I should be able to get mid-week miles just by commuting whenever I can, and then a longer ride at the weekend to/from a parkrun or round in the Surrey hills. I'd like to revisit the Ride London 100 route ahead of this year's event (I was lucky enough to get a ballot spot), the Hell of the Ashdown route, and there's scope to make our 3 Hills route into a lot more than three hills.

When the weather is bad, or the time is unhelpful, I could do well to remember that I have a turbo-trainer, I don't need to be outside to ride. This is important, it takes away the barriers to missing sessions. Additionally on a turbo trainer you can focus on cadence, power, and never getting any respite! No traffic lights in the kitchen...


Running is trickier. The marathon training had me running 4-6 times per week, and my highest weekly mileage ever. I can't sustain that on top of everything else. Running breaks you down. The long run is important - one of the Pfitzinger & Douglas training principles is the value of the mid-week long run. I should therefore work in a run home from work during the week to compliment the weekend long run - or maybe a couple of runs home per week and free myself from the need to run long at the weekend all together.

The main thing is that each session is quality. It needs a purpose. When I'm approaching the shorter races I should be running fast, and when I move towards Wales I should drop the pace a little and work on endurance. I also need to learn to love the hills! Throughout I'd like to get back to running hard and fast parkruns. It's OK running them as recovery runs, but I miss just running as fast as I can, and that's a quality session in itself. I think 3 runs per week should be about right - and, importantly, a sustainable volume.


I've really enjoyed hitting the gym regularly - I feel stronger and more resilient. This makes me better able to accommodate training without getting injured again. The guided strength and conditioning sessions seem to be working so far. Twice weekly visits to Ben and Josh at Athletic Edge will remain. Monday and Thursday mornings seem to work. Swimming in the evening after a gym visit in the morning seems to work well for me - active recovery and hopefully eases the DOMS a bit (and man those guys are the kings of DOMS).

Periodisation and specificity:

This is where it gets harder. It's impossible to peak for every race, particularly if you've signed up for a lot. You need to build and peak for your main race. Training is also normally divided into micro and macro cycles, e.g. 4x 4-week blocks making a 16-week block, with each 4th week reduced in load to allow a little more time for recovery and accommodation (absorbing the training so you actually get faster as a result).

Specificity is ensuring your training is relevant. My training for Rotterdam was all on the road and didn't contain many hills - that's because the race was a fast flat road race. Wimbleball and Tenby are both hilly on the run, so I need to learn to love the hills in training. Likewise for cycling. I'm not worrying too much about swim specificity, other than I'll need to get open water and wetsuit swimming in as often as I can - this has been a failing in the past, and I think partially responsible for my frustrating swim-start freak-outs (see both Ironman Wales in 2012 and Ironman 70.3 Zell am See/Kaprun in 2013).

Up to Wimbleball I'll work on faster mid-distance training, and then build up the duration afterwards ready for the big fella in Tenby.

Putting it together:

What are my A-races? For A-races I want to be peaking and tapered (fresh, from a de-loaded week). I should be champing at the bit, raring to go! I've done both these races before and I certainly have much more to give.

What are my B-races? For B-races I want to treat race day absolutely as if it were an A-race, however I won't worry so much about a full taper before hand. It's more about real race experience and sorting my technique, and less about pulling about a top (for me) performance.

What are my training races? Training races are just to get experience, try out my race day strategies, and have fun. I won't taper for them and won't pay too much attention to the results. These are the "everything else" category. The only one of these that needs care is the long course weekend. This is an Ironman on the Ironman Wales course (near enough) but split across three days. This will be hard effort, and the marathon will take time to recover from even if I run it at Ironman pace (i.e. very easy).

And then there are the wild-cards... These races are on the "would like to" list. Not confirmed or entered. I'd really like to run an ultra with my Mrs at some point! These don't really feature in my thinking right now.

  • RRR, 18th October
  • Thames Turbo marathon, Richmond Park, November

...and there's so many other things!

The plan:

As it happens, the timing works out perfectly - it's almost as if I'd planned it (I hadn't).

I'm going to go for two macro cycles - one for Ironman 70.3 UK, and one for Ironman Wales. There are two four-week blocks from now until Wimbleball, then after a recovery week there are three four-week blocks leading up to Ironman Wales. The B-races come at the end of build periods, and have de-load weeks afterwards. This is ideal.

Build up to Ironman 70.3 UK, started today!

Build up to Ironman Wales, starts with a recovery week after Ironman 70.3 UK

I like the idea of doing a race simulation two to four weeks out. A popular technique is to complete the number of miles, but in kilometres. Simulate the race entirely, including fast transitions and fuelling, but don't suffer the fatigue of going full distance.

For the 70.3 that's 1200m swim, 56km bike, and 13km run - those distances are short enough to go pretty hard and really enjoy it. May 31st looks like a good time for that - the weekend before we'll be at Wimbleball Lake checking out the bike course - unfortunately you can't normally swim in it, otherwise that would have been ideal.

For the full distance it's 2.4km swim, 112km ride, and 26km run - a bit more of an undertaking, but training should mean the distances are achievable with some good effort. It's an ideal kit and nutrition test. The more you treat it like the real thing, the more it will help. I could get a really big weekend in right at the start of my final block - I'll be relatively fresh after a de-load week. Pencilled in for 17th August.

There's more work to do to plan each block. I'll do that at each at the start of each, based on the experience, progress, and real-life (damn you, real-life!). Given block one starts tomorrow I guess I'd better plan that now...

Block one, 2014 weeks 17 to 20:

Block one, week one: Need to take it easy, this is about getting the right sessions done and building good habits. Set the plan and stick to it. I need to remember I'm only one week post-marathon - I'm feeling fine now, but I will probably find hard efforts, well, hard. I'd like to get started on the 365 main sets too. Real life is difficult this week, very busy at work and my 5th wedding anniversary on Thursday.

Week one - Monday done!

Block one, week two: I'm on a training course all week this week so as long as I can stick to mornings and evenings I should be OK, however bike commuting is off the cards (remember you have a turbo trainer and a lot of The Wire to watch...). I enjoy a little training during these times, it helps clear my head and be able to focus in the classroom. The end of the week will be hard, Mrs and I are crewing for Louise at the Thames Path 100 (boy, can that girl run!).

Week two

Block one, week three: In Mallorca from Monday. Looking forward to riding the 70.3 course a few times ahead of the race. This week will be about cycling and swimming, I'm not so concerned about running. The race is on the Saturday, so Sunday will be a lovely day off in the sun.

Week three - rocking it in Mallorca, can't wait to see/ride the bike course

Block one, week four: A de-load week at the end of my first block. The aim here is to keep the number of sessions up, but the intensity down - not stopping completely but taking the opportunity to recover well.

Week four, de-loading ready for the next block

And then...

There's loads of other stuff to consider - kit, nutrition, race plan, etc. I could plan for hours. Let's see how this first block goes.


  1. You are *so* organised! I'm impressed and scared in equal measure.

    1. This is why next year I've elected to "wing it" and only enter races that I can rock up and do on the day (or with a week or two notice). All this "entering races that aren't for another 12 months because otherwise they sell out, and really you're only paying for all their marketing crap anyway" gets tiring and starts to feel very restrictive.