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Should you do a marathon as part of your Ironman training?

The email below is in response to a question I got from blogger Pat B of 3sportjourney. The gist of his original email to me was around what he should do now before his formal training for the 140.6 mile Chesapeake Man tri begin next April and should or shouldn’t those plans include a training for a full marathon. Here is my response. Check it out and be sure to check out his 3sportjourney blog.

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Ironman off season training
From:
Date: Tue, October 04, 2011 2:42 pm
To:

Great questions. I don’t know much about the plan you’ll be using for official IM training so it’s hard to make detailed off season recommendations. Here are some quick thoughts though.

My athletes spend the out season working on speed, not endurance. It may sound counter intuitive, but hear me out. Once your base is built you’re not likely to lose it, as so many others on your blog were correct to point out. Your base is built (I assume). This isn’t to say you can bike 100 or run an open mary or somewhere in between with a 50 + 10 brick. I’m just saying you’re likely in pretty good shape. If this is true, read on.

The (Physical) Recovery Arguement – Marathons require a lot of energy and recovery. You do not need to do one between now and Chesepeake Man. Please reread that last sentence. There is nothing harder as a coach than to schedule around than a marathon in the midst of training for a 140.6. The recovery time is just soooo long. For sure do your Turkey Day half mary and maybe even find another one in March. Just don’t run a marathon. is probably a really smart guy who’s coached a lot of great athletes and I’d love to buy him a drink some day and get the full scoop on the marathon recommendation. Him and I just disagree philosophically on this one. If you feel that your endurance needs work, find a century ride or 2 mile OWS to train for. Those would be far easier on your body than running a marathon while still developing your aerobic base.

The (Mental) Recovery Argument – Stay in shape. Maintain your base. Build your speed. But, above all, keep it fun between now and the formal beginning of your long-course training plan. Schedule says LSD run but you’d rather swim? Swim. Schedule says swim but you’d rather play ultimate frisbee? Play frisbee. Most everyone has a smile as they cross the finish line. The real goal is to have that same smile throughout the training plan.

The Physiological Argument
– Going slow for long periods of time only allow you to go slow for long periods of time. To go fast you have to go fast. Use the off season to make that happen. Even if your goal is to “just finish” at Chesapeake Man I’m guessing you’d rather finish in day light than at midnight. The only way to do this is to push your lactate threshold out. This is done by lots of cruise intervals and tempo sets. These work sets cause changes in your body that cannot occur from LSD work (long slow distance). If I were trying to sound smart here I’d take up another 500 word with phrases like “increased mitochondrial density” and stuff, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The Lifestyle Argument – You have a family, right? You kinda like them, right? Why spend huuuuuuge hours in the off season away from them when you already know that you’ll be disowning them next June, July, and August anyway? Go crush short speed sets and get back to your family this winter.

The Anecdotal Argument – Who is winning long-course races these days? Former ITU guys. Not the ultra-runners and randoneurs crossing over to long-course racing. People who built a career on short fast racing are now hitting the long-course scene in a big way. Mere mortals like you and I aren’t former short course elites with years and years of racing behind us. However, we can take their model career and apply it over the next 12 months.

Thanks Pat. Keep the questions coming.

Train smart,

~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~
Scott Beesley, USAT, ACE, RYT
(248) 877-5338
www.SolesInspired.com

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