Build endurance? No, no, I mean Build Speed! Much like the times of 100+ mile weeks for marathon training, the days of epic 20 to 30 hour average Ironman training weeks for the non-elite triathlete are over. More and more evidence – both scientific and anecdotal – is pointing to the need for more speed training early in the season and early in a tri career. Think about it. Who has won the last few domestic IM races? Former ITU and short-course athletes. All of the dedicated high-mileage pros burst on the scene then fizzle out, due in part to burnout. If their bodies can’t handle the training volume, why would those of us real jobs and families be able to?
Assuming your training season is six to nine months long, you’ll have plenty of time to build endurance. Sure this assumes you don’t start from ground zero. But it does not mean you have to come in with a fitness level to grind out four to six hour bricks.
Rather than focus on quantity of training hours in the off season, focus on quality of training. Again, assuming you have some type of a base already built, spend your energy on building speed at the track and in high-intensity spin classes and pushing that aerobic threshold higher. You can complete long slow distance rides and runs all you want. It will get easier to go longer, but you’ll still be slow. The only way to race faster is to train faster. Besides, if you’re reading this and live in the north, where would you rather complete your epic long bricks – on the trainer in March or on the open road in July?
This is the sixth in a series of ten posts dedicated to athletes thinking about their first long course race in 2012. Check back tomorrow for thoughts on Establishing Baselines for Ironman 2012.