2 months ago today, I was right in the thick of it on the Ironman UK Bolton course. The biggest day of my life so far……In 9 months I will be embarking on my second Ironman – Ironman Austria.
After Bolton, I needed a month of rest where I did very little training other than light low intensity stuff during this month I also had the club relays race which was great fun and gave me a PB in the 5km run which was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Since the relays I’ve had several issues with a shoulder impingement and a repeatedly locking pelvis – these issues seems to have been resolved now, or at least on the way out so the training is back to plan!
This time around, my ironman has been planned in advance so I actually have 9 months to train properly instead of 8-9 weeks like I had for Bolton. The first block of this 9 month training plan is the so called ‘patience phase’ and boy, am I going to need patience, let me explain!
My coach uses the lowheartrate training concept. In a nutshel the theory is that you rarely train at race pace, all your training is either way below your MAHR (max aerobic HR) or way above your FT (functional threshold). So this means many hours of low heart-rate training (the patience bit) and lots of shorter sessions of absolute pain (Tabbata intervals etc). This whole concept was practiced and is taught by Ironman legend Mark Allen;
I will write a separate blog on low heart rate training and the published evidence as it really is quite compelling.
Now my coach is very well practiced in these methods and his personal ironman and triathlon results speak for themselves, however, as a scientist, I cant just believe – I need to prove a hypothesis personally to be fully convinced and that is what has changed my mindset this weekend.
Yesterday I had a 2hr low rate run to do and as my low rate levels mean I have to run very slowly to maintain them (at times actually having to walk to keep them low enough), this means I cant run with my club for these sessions – lone running gives you plenty time to think and yesterday that is exactly what I did.
I woke up in a bad frame of mind yesterday, and really didn’t want to do a slow 2hr run, but I dragged myself to the forest where my club runs are based an hour before the meet time so I could get my 2hr run in and at least join the club in the cafe afterwards. As I set out on the run It became obvious I needed to change my attitude and state of mind very quickly otherwise this was going to be a long run. I started trying to remember all the peer reviewed journals that I’ve read now on the subject of low heart rate training and how compelling all the evidence is. I also remembered that even though I had done very little speed work, I still managed a 5km PB 3 weeks after completing my ironman so something has made me faster, could it have been the long slow training sessions? My coach keeps reminding me what an achievement a sub 13hour ironman was after only a short training program leading up to it and I think human nature and my competitive attitude means I am quick to forget this achievement and focus on how much better I want to be rather than how amazing my actual achievement was.
My main goal for the coming years is to qualify for Kona – I’m in no hurry to do this, in fact I would rather it take several years as the stronger I become and the more experienced in racing ironman I get, the higher than chance of then actually do a respectable Kona time will be (by respectable I simply mean not last in any of the three disciplines – its a very strong field to compete against at Kona so I have no dreams above my ability!). Being as I have a few years to mess about with I have decided that this coming year is my experimental year!
As with everything in life when you want to reap the rewards of something you have to subscribe to it 100% – this is my plan for the program. I cant skip sessions or say ‘oh it wont hurt if i go faster today’ or ‘a quick hill session wont affect the program’ if i don’t follow the program it wont work so I will have been wasting not only my time, but more importantly my coaches time. As a person I have 100% faith and trust in my coach, but as a researcher I cant get my mind around something until I have proven it myself. The way scientific research works is, you have a hypothesis, you experiment to prove or disprove it, you then challenge those results and further test secondary hypotheses, you then draw your conclusions and publish. My next year is going to be the same – I will experiment by following the protocol 100%, I will then test the hypothesis by racing and practice races, conclusions can be drawn after Ironman Austria.
If my times haven’t improved, what have I lost? The way I see it – nothing. I will have gained an extra year of endurance training and valuable race experience, and a personal insight into a totally different way of training.
If my times do improve, then this protocol clearly works for me and I will continue onwards and upwards until I can achieve my Kona dream.
So then – tme for a long (and slow) bike session in the sunshine! Happy training all……..