The Black Arts of Training

I’ve just completed a plan for my Ironman Western Australia taper. So I think a post on the difficulties involved in planning and executing training is pretty appropriate. Sorry for those who read for non-training stuff, I’m only back a day from Port and I didn’t stop off to get a picture of the giant Lobster or Macadamia Castle (for those with a love of both medieval architecture and nuts).

I’ve said before one of the toughest aspects of training is fully trusting the plan will work. That’s either going to be trusting your coach or your own ability to put together a plan. I’ve already put my plans up online for my basic week and recovery week. They seem to be working for me, based on races so far a cycle or two has seen some progress. The consistent high volume approach does seem to be slowly working, though I’m well aware I have a way to go yet.

Putting together the plan definitely fell into the black arts though. I’m pretty well read up in terms of training systems, I’ve a fair amount of experience of training and I’ve listened to a lot of different people. Actually distilling that knowledge down into a program though is a nightmare. There are tons of questions, how much intensity? How close together should sessions go? Do I have the time in the day for that? Is there enough recovery? Etc. To be honest the only way to answer any of them was to write down a program and see what happens. I had some intuition of what I could do which guided me a little, but until I did a week or two I had no idea what it would be like.

All things being equal execution should be the relatively easy part, but things are rarely equal. On the second cycle of training weeks a number of things have disturbed the plan a little. Simple matters in my home life through to obvious issues like 6 or 7 hour journeys to race venues. I end up making sub-plans and then not quite following them either! Swimming suffered the most last week, a pitiful 11km! Now I’ve entered my last big week of training and with travel on Monday and trying to arrange a new place to stay it became a rest day. Not really part of the big week principle, but having raced the day before I hope the result will be better training for the rest of the week. I still have 6 days to get 40 hours of training in anyway, no problem!

The taper was my inspiration for today’s post though, because of all the training plans to me it’s the hardest to construct. A good taper is a fine balance of recovery and maintenance. Your body repairs and compensates for the training you’ve done. You do lose a little bit of fitness, but more than compensate with fresh muscles ready to race. But the hard part is stepping down the training to control this process, you don’t just stop. The questions of is this too much? Or is this to intense? Suddenly become more relevant. Worst is the little voice in the back of your mind telling you you need to keep those hours up to be fit!

I ignore the voices in my head though and put together a plan that sees me doing less volume each week in the run up to Busselton. Rest days every week and lighter training as time goes on. I’m pretty happy with them and find myself looking at them thinking is this too much not I need a bit more in there. I have boldly claimed that getting the taper right is going to be the difference between hitting my goal or getting another 9:4x! Apart from the fact you don’t know what race day will bring to be saying that, I stand by that sentence. The goal for Busso, if I haven’t declared it here before is 9:20.

I will qualify that a little. Last year I went 9:42 there and didn’t feel I was in perfect shape for the race. It was my second Ironman and the second one that year. I never recovered well from the first and I trained sporadically in Oz. That time was good for the condition I was in. This year I did 9:44 in Switzerland on a tougher course (no hills in Busso) overall and in tougher conditions. Again I wasn’t in the condition I needed to, this time because of the overly intense training in the last month or two and a poor taper. Busso is a fast course, if I’m going 9:44 on a tougher course when fatigued, well then, get the taper right and I can go faster.

That’s the theory, I’ve done the work and constructed a plan of sorts. I’m attempting to execute all my plans as well as I can, though admit I’ve let life derail things a little the last week. At least in a taper should things go off track and I end up doing less it’s possibly a good thing. All being well I’ll be blogging early in December celebrating a new PB at Ironman!