The amount of training that is required to go sub-10 hour at an Ironman race without getting injured is intense and demanding on the body. It's something only experienced triathletes should undertake. An average of 18-hour training weeks focused on running, but also including swimming and biking, are to be expected. In addition, you must have several hours a week to devote to recovery. Even if the training is done, there's no guarantee that race day will provide a sub-10 hour Ironman.
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Swim three days a week with a local master's swim club. The workouts should each last 60 to 90 minutes and include drills and technique work. Get feedback on your stroke from a qualified coach who uses an underwater camera. Ironman Matt Fitzgerald, author of Minimalist Ironman Training, reminds us that to have a fast swim, we must have good technique and not necessarily excellent fitness. Add a fourth swim day eight weeks prior to your taper phase. The fourth swim should be 45 to 60 minutes long with no rest, in open water.
Bike five days a week. The rides should be broken down into one tempo ride, lasting from 90 minutes to two hours, including both warm up and cool down; one three-hour easy ride; two 90-minute rides, spent in a low heart rate zone; and a long ride with increasing time spent at 60 to 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate (zone 2). Begin at one hour of zone 2 and gradually increase until you're riding up to two and half hours there. The total time of this long ride should increase slowly, going from three to five hours over the course of several months until you begin to taper down shortly before the race.
Do two brick workouts per week. One should be a 60-minute easy run after one of the 90-minute easy bike rides. The second will occur on the long bike day. Immediately following your long ride, add a run, beginning at 75 minutes. Gradually add time by five-minute increments to a total of two hours. This workout is the key to a sub-10 hour Ironman.
Add three to four more runs, on top of the two brick runs, to your weekly schedule. Coach Troy Jacobson, author of How to Run a Sub-3 Hour or PR Ironman Marathon, recommends to add frequency instead of volume. These runs should be shorter, one being a tempo run within a 60-minute run and the other with hills added and lasting 60 minutes. The remaining one to two runs should be easy recovery runs lasting 45-60 minutes. As your race approaches, substitute the hilly run with an interval run at six weeks prior to when you start tapering down.
Incorporate one to two rest days per week. One day a week should be devoted to full rest. A second day per week should be short and light active recovery. These days are good opportunities to get massages and do yoga.
Begin a taper phase three weeks prior to your race date. Reduce the volume of your training sessions in a step-down fashion each week, while maintaining the intensity of your prior workouts. Dave Scott, Ironman and author of Countdown to an Ironman: A 21-day Tapering Plan, reminds us how important the taper phase is, in order to be feeling fresh and springy race day, instead of sluggish and flat.
Tips and warnings
- Because the swim constitutes only 10 per cent of the total Ironman distance, not much time should be devoted to swim training.
- A good understanding of periodisation and how to increase distance and repeats is essential to execute this Ironman training.
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