Those heading to Ironman Arizona and Ironman Florida from cooler environments should consider strategies for acclimating to heat and humidity for the race. IMAZ folks living in cool climates should be over-dressing now. See strategies in the two-part column, Acclimating to Heat and Humidity.
Q. I ran my first marathon last weekend. I’m thrilled that I finished and I had a decent time as well. I felt pretty good the day after the race, but two days later I’m exhausted. How long will it take before I’m back to normal? Should I be running now?
A. First, congratulations on your finish! For your questions, my preference is that athletes not run the first week after a marathon or an Ironman distance race. You can walk, swim or ride a bike. Give your body a chance to heal. You can pick up the running again after a week, but keep the runs short and easy. Running on soft surfaces such as dirt, grass or a treadmill might be easier on your body. Not knowing much about you, it’s tough for me to prescribe how much running you can do the second week. Your primary goal is to recover.
How long until you’re back to “normal?” I find it usually takes four weeks to recover and feel 100 percent after a marathon or an Ironman. You can find more information on recovery time in a column I wrote awhile back.
Summarizing the hours from the first three days of the bike tour, we rode 278.4 miles, climbed 17,283 ft, ride time was 19 hours and elapsed time was around 24. (Elasped time on Garmin Connect was incorrect on the first three days because of operator error.)
At the end of day 3, we saw people (I assume triathletes - and specifically Ironman athletes) putting on running shoes after riding 119+ miles. A cyclist asked me if there are significant training benefits for Ironman athletes to run after riding for three days and accumulating some 19ish hours of ride time.
My answer was, “No significant training benefits.”
The cyclist asked, “Then, why do triathletes feel compelled to run after long bike tour rides? Are they just ego maniacs looking for attention?”
Ah, an interesting question.
I think some triathletes get a warm fuzzy feeling by running after a long ride, believing that it somehow helps them be faster Ironman athletes. Know that I’ve coached endurance athletes for over 25 years and I’ve never seen any benefit from running for 10-30 minutes after a huge bike tour ride. That is never – not one time.
If you are a triathlete feeling compelled to run during a huge volume training week provided by a bike tour, then do it on your day off or after a shorter ride. I’ve coached plenty of Ironman athletes that eliminated all swimming and running during a bike tour. They focused on the bike and put all quality training time towards a strong ride. They were better triathletes for it.
Isn’t that why an Ironman athlete is doing a bike tour – to be a better triathlete?
A few years back there was a self-announced “serious” triathlete that rode one of the longest days of the tour in his speedo. He was doing this because he “needed to train the same way he was going to race.”
Ah yes, he was the talk of every aid station and the butt of many jokes about triathletes. What would have made the whole picture better was if he would have been wearing arm coolers, compression lower leg socks and a heart rate monitor strap. But, that was before the days of coolers and compression wear.
Are triathletes, specifically Ironman triathletes, just ego maniacs?
The Leadville Trail 100 (LT100) is well on its way to becoming the Ironman of mountain bike racing. There are plenty of people unhappy about the direction the race has taken, others are happy and others have no idea there are any issues.
Let me explain.
The LT100 began in 1994 as a quirky mountain bike race. The major goal of the event was similar to that of the Leadville 100 Run, beginning in 1983, and that was to bring visitors to Leadville. The economy in town was facing hard times and race directors Ken Chlouber and Merilee Maupin wanted to do something to help. They dreamed of athletes being drawn to Leadville for some of the most challenging events in the world.
Each year, their event grew in popularity. Most of the growth was due to word of mouth. Mountain bike riders that completed the event told their friends about it and recruited more mountain bike riders for the next year. Though the course is not considered technical by mountain biking standards, good bike handling skills are necessary as is good fitness. Many riders struggle to reach the four time check points.
Missing a check point means getting pulled from the race. Missing the 12-hour cut-off time means no coveted belt buckle.
Certainly the event was growing nicely on its own. The first year I entered the event there was a lottery system and not all entrants got into the event. There were 750 entrants, 600 toed the start line. After Lance Armstrong did the event in 2008, the event saw a lot more media attention.
The race not only received more media attention, but it also received more attention from sponsors. The list of sponsors interested in being associated with this event grew. The event attracted the attention of Life Time Fitness owner Bahram Akradi and Life Time Fitness became the title sponsor of the event.
Those familiar with triathlon know that Life Time Fitness was the title sponsor of the first event to pay good prize money to triathletes with the “Equalizer” event. It paid $250,000 to the first male or female across the finish line. Life Time literally changed the pay scale for professional triathletes.
The media attention for the Leadville 100 (LT100) mountain bike race expanded exponentially in 2009 with the release of the film by Citizen Pictures, Race Across the Sky and more Lance Armstrong effect. Suddenly people everywhere around the world wanted entry into this extreme challenge. In the 2010 event there were 1,553 entrants via the lottery system – more than double that of just six years ago. How many racers tried to enter, but were denied entry is uknown but rumored numbers are big.
The LT100 is now faced with what many business owners want - and that is growing pains. Your product is so successful that people are clamoring to get it.
Most people want growth but cannot foresee the problems that growth brings. Successful businesses, and make no mistake this is a business, find ways to solve the problems so the customer (sponsors and racers) remains satisfied with the product.
What are some of the issues that this growing business faces? Below are a few that I gathered after talking with several racers post-event. In no particular order:
The race is a self-seeded, mass-start event with the exception of the reserved first 100. Certain professionals riders, VIPs and race sponsors are allowed into the first 100. If you lay your bike on the street at 4:00am, you secure a spot. Imagine if you are an expert rider and you have secured your spot behind someone that has never raced a mountain bike before? Yes, it happens all the time.
The ride begins on a city street and after about 10 minutes of downhill on pavement it turns to single vehicle wide dirt. The first climb, St. Kevin’s begins some 20ish minutes into the race. This climb is rugged jeep road with a good amount of the climb on 15 to 17 percent grade and it’s loose. Riders are tire-to-tire on this section and when one rider clips out, it can send a line of people off their bikes or down. Recall there are no categories for riders and no prequalification. Roadies, can you imagine starting a road race where all categories line up mass-start, first come first serve?
On the second climb, Sugarloaf, the crowd has thinned ever so slightly, but the first technical descent is coming up. Though it is not single-track there is one good line on the descent. Riders with good climbing fitness on the road and no mountain bike skills are grabbing lots of brake and creating an ant line crawling down the hill. Experienced mountain bike riders are forced to crawl too, or take a chance passing in dicey conditions. This leads to frustration and unnecessary risk taking on most of the descents throughout the race. The worst place is Columbine Mine where two-way traffic makes descending particularly tricky.
Sponsor racers form working packs (I’m not talking only about the elite racers), similar to a road race, and help each other in any number of ways – including equipment swaps. (Not allowed in most mountain bike races.)
Summarizing the riding issues, the race has now become an unusual mix of road racing (planned team tactics from corporate sponsors, VIPs and perhaps others), mountain bike (mostly due to equipment and course), and Ironman (no categories, mass start, line-up wherever you think you can finish - no matter if you have zero mountain bike race experience, zero bike racing experience, zero ultra-distance race experience and zero experience at altitude). Rules are loosely enforced and self-interpretation, justification is widely used. Due to the mix of riding skills, safety is an issue.
Twin Lakes station has become so crowded with support crews and spectators (parking and people) that race volunteers find it impossible to get some people to comply with instructions. This log jam delayed the transport of at least one injured racer to an ambulance.
Some people are of the mind-set that this race is so heavily supported with the entry fee, etc. that they can just discard bottles and wrappers on the ground (like some of the pros and sponsor riders do) because “someone” is paid to pick all that stuff up. (Never mind what the wind does between Saturday and Sunday when the volunteers go back to clean up after the race.)
Now with all these issues and more that I didn’t mention, it seems that I’m complaining. Not exactly.
You see, I was able to get a personal best time in 2009 because I seeded myself in a good location, was able to descend at a pace that matched my skills and I found great (skilled, fit and experienced) riders to work with on many of the flat sections so I wasn’t solo time trialing in the wind (like this year).
Are there solutions to all the problems?
Of course, but not all riders will be happy with the changes.
This race has the power to inspire a wave of mountain bike enthusiasts like Ironman helped inspire the growth of the sport of triathlon. It can do it with dignity, responsibility for rider safety, and a fair enforcement of rules and standards for all riders. This can grow the sport for everyone at all levels from the individual rider to the businesses behind sport.
I wanted to send you a quick note of thanks... let me explain.
Over the last 6 months I have been using your 2 most controversial training programs. I started out using your 13 weeks to a 1/2 IM for people with limited time & raced my first 1/2 IM at Canberra (Australia) in December.
I paced myself conservatively, knowing I was exploring new territory & as it turned out dealing with the run in 35+ Degrees Celsius heat & finished within myself in just over 6 hours. Most importantly I enjoyed myself & gained some confidence - I think this is the key.
After such a good experience, & having validated the possibility of racing a full IM by finishing in Canberra, I had a couple of weeks off before deciding to have a go at the full IM at Ironman Australia on 28 March 2010. The bike course is one of the toughest on the world circuit, lots of hills & strong sea breezes.
Luckily I am strong on the bike & regularly train on hilly terrain. I stuck to your 13 week plan unswervingly and 2 weekends ago successfully completed my first Ironman. I can't tell you what an overwhelmingly positive experience it has been, on many different levels. I supplemented your training plan by talking to as many experienced Ironman triathletes as possible, picking up tips along the way, & I sought help from a sports nutritionist which turned out to be essential as well.
I'm sure I am not the first to have stacked the 2 plans together, but it worked very well for me & in the end I finished IM Oz in just over 13 hours, exactly on target according to the plan.
I found I had to hold back at times in order to maintain the pace i had trained on, which was a good conservative strategy for the first IM, but now I will want to step up and address racing faster in the future.
Anyway, I hope my experience & positive feedback makes you feel good & thanks again for being an integral part of my IM journey this far.
I have put up a few images from the race on the web that you might be interested in having a quick look at too...
USAT, our sanctioning body, does not have a cold water policy, like ITU does. They leave the decision up to each sanctioned event.
However, Ironman has a cold water policy that considers water temperature, air temperature, and whether the water is fresh or salt. Ironman has altered swims due to cold water and/or rough conditions and will always consider environmental conditions and the safety of its participants. If necessary, a decision to alter the swim will be made one hour prior to race start and will be clearly communicated to the athletes.
Bottom line, with regard to St. George, race operations feels confident, based on historical data, that the water will be “warm” enough for the full swim distance.
For those of you doing any cold water swim event, here are a few tips I give my athletes:
Consider purchasing a neoprene cap to wear under your official race swim cap. (Don’t wait until the last minute, in the race town, to make your purchase.)
If possible, have a thermos of warm fluid to consume pre-race (tea, coffee, chicken soup, etc.) Pre-heating your core seems to keep people comfortable for a longer period.
Stay as warm as you can pre-race. (Keep your shoes on, sweatshirt, etc.)
Don’t “warm-up” pre-race in really cold conditions. Just take the first part of the swim as your warm-up.
If you haven’t practiced cold water swimming pre-event, know that the first time you put your face in the water, it feels like your breathing disappears. Know this is coming, relax and take a few strokes to settle into a rhythm.
An update for inquiring IM racers. I have not heard back from IM yet on the water temperature question. I don't know if they don't plan to have any guidelines, are working on it, have not seen my requests (to two sources now) or what. As soon as I know anything, I'll post it here.
I've had questions about Ironman St. George's water temperature and if there is a chance the swim could be canceled or modified. I've looked at rule sets for USAT and cannot find guidelines for minimum temps. There are ITU guidelines posted (see pages 14-15) but I'm not sure these rules apply to Ironman. If anyone out there knows the minimum temperature rules for IM, let me know. I'll do some more digging too.
For all the athletes training for Ironman St. George, I’ve had numerous reports that the both the bike and the run courses are hilly. Some believe it is the toughest course on the circuit. One person told me that Paula Newby Fraser said it was the toughest run course for sure. What can you do to ease the pain?
Those of you using the 13-week training plan (or any of my other ready-to-use plans) need to include hills in your long run and long ride workouts. Begin with gentle hills early in the program and then work your way to tougher hills as the plan progresses.
For the weeks where there is an interval workout assigned to work on lactate threshold tolerance for either the run or the bike, you can use a hill if you have one close to you. Because the rest interval is so short, you may be best served using a treadmill or an indoor trainer for the intervals. Use an incline of around 4 percent.
A few words of caution…begin with a hill workout once per week in each sport (running and cycling). If you are recovering from the workouts quickly and feeling like you can tolerate a higher load, alternate doing two hill workouts in cycling and one in running one week with doing two hill workouts in running and one in cycling the next week.
Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, take a hard look at the gears you are running on your bike. Select gears (or a compact crank) that will allow you to spin up the hills. Those of you insisting on running big gears like you are riding a flat course will suffer on the run because your legs will be trashed.
Start working on any equipment changes now.
Get your head wrapped around the expectations of a hilly bike and run course.
Know that everyone at the race does the same course, so those that are prepared will suffer less.
If you want a training plan (or a variety of new workouts) to help you achieve your 2010 goals, I have designed several resources to help you. Know that I wrote my first easy-to-follow training plan and subsequent first book because that is exactly what I wanted as a self-coached athlete.
Just give me a plan to follow so I can do the workouts when it fits my personal schedule and so I can make modifications to a plan to fit my personal needs.
Also know that all training plan are designs are based on the same foundation principles that help elite athletes reach their goals; then, modified to meet the needs and time constraints of non-paid athletes. The plans range from comfortably completing events to gunning for a personal record (PR) performance.
The plans are available in a couple of different formats – electronic, book and possible combinations. Depending on what you need, one format may work better than another. First, there are several plans available on Active Trainer. This format makes it easy to move workouts around and modify them to fit your personal needs. There is some device download capability and there is data analysis to help you evaluate your training accomplishments. Be sure to take a look at all of the free downloads available on that page.
I have written several books to help self-coached athletes succeed. Some of the individual training plans are available in the electronic format on Active Trainer referenced in a previous paragraph and in hard copy within a chapter of one of these books:
Training Plans for Multisport Athletes – A book containing 14 detailed training plans for triathlon, duathlon and X-Terra events. There are plans for sprint triathlons, Olympic triathlons, half-ironman distance triathlons and ironman-distance triathlons. In addition to shorter plans, this great training resource contains three, six-month plans and a year-long plan.
Training Plans for Cyclists - This book was written based on the large number of requests I received from road and mountain bike riders, who were familiar with Training Plans for Multisport Athletes. They too wanted a book laid out for reaching new endurance goals, maintaining foundation fitness and racing. This book contains 16 such training plans. The book is written so you can mix and match various training plans. Advice is giving within the book on how to mix and match, as well as how to modify individual plans if you are self-coached. There are ride plans for 30-, 50- and 100-mile (century rides) events. There are five touring event plans and five mountain bike plans. For the off-season, there are two foundation fitness (base training) plans. Explanations are given for Level I riders and Level II riders.
Triathlon Training Basics – This book contains four detailed training plans to help first-time triathletes prepare for a sprint triathlon or an Olympic distance triathlon. Two plans are designed for already-fit beginners and two plans are for currently-unfit beginners. There are also four plans per sport (swimming, cycling and running) for individuals wanting to train for a triathlon as a single-sport team member. The plans can be used in succession, helping you progress from a triathlon team member to a triathlete. The book contains strength training, stretching and bike fit photos to help you get started on the right track. (None of the plans are the same as those found in Training Plans for Multisport Athletes.)
Bicycling for Women – Great chapters “for women only” and five training plans to help you complete a 50-mile bike ride, a century, a 40-kilometer time trial or faster group riding, a multiday tour or improve your hill climbing skills. This book is written on the premise that women can, and do, ride fast. (None of the plans are the same as those found in Training Plans for Cyclists.)
Workouts in a Binder® – I created “Workouts in a Binder®” product and co-authored the first edition of swim workouts for triathletes, which quickly sold out four printings. These handy workout cards help athletes and coaches optimize workouts and are waterproof to prevent destruction from water, sweat and dirt. This product is so popular, the series has expanded and will continue to grow: