Training picks up pace

It’s been a while since I have written an update on how training is shaping up. First ‘A’ race is Alpe D’Huez (still) and now less then 20 weeks away… In fact only 16 weeks. Which frankly is starting to feel bloody close! So what’s working and what isn’t?

As I write this I am just starting my second ‘build’ phase. The plan is based around RG Active’s Intermediate Ironman plan. Even though D’Huez is a half, because of the terrain it is generally regarded as needing a level of fitness comparable to a full distance race. So this is a four phase plan and now entering phase three.

The big difference between this year and last, is that I am much more focused on ‘Relative Intensity’ of a given session as opposed to just doing the hours or distance. This is probably blindingly obvious to everyone else, but as a complete begginer there is just too much to take in and this subtelty washed over me.

The consequence of this is that my fitness level plateauxed. I use TrainingPeaks has the hub of my ‘fitness’ applications and it very convienetly gives me two numbers to track (it gives many more, but these are the two that I follow closely; Fitness and Form.

My Fitness number was struggling to ramp and my Form (measure of how much training stress I am putting on my feable body)was not doing anything exciting either.

This year, and specifically this block, is completely focused around a smaller number of higher intensity sessions (one for each discipline per week) and then the rest of the weeks training time being at ‘aerobic’ levels (so broadly Z2 however you track your work).

Swimming

The most encouraging improvements over the past six weeks have been in swimming. I guess given the very weak position I started from there was the most scope for improvement! But I am now feeling stronger and seem to be improving speed whilst reducing effort. I have always appreciated that swimming is about efficiency but it has only just start to fall into place.

Have invested a lot of time in the pool to try and build a decent level of base swimming fitness through the Winter months and I think this is paying off. Have been working to CSS as a way ensuring that I build in some intensity and again, seems to be paying off.

Of course the bad news is that proportionally the time spent swimming is relatively small and therefore the true gain will be less in terms of race position from being faster. But I am hoping that as I get out of the water and into T1, greater efficiency will mean that I am less tired and therefore can hit the bike leg in better shape… Which neatly takes me onto…

Cycling

You don’t have to be a sporting genius to realise that Alpe D’Huez is all about climbing. It’s a mountain for fuck sake! Actually there are three Alpine passes to get over in the race. But what matters is the key number of 3,500m of ascent.

Getting out of the swim in better shape will certainly help. But working on the bike specifically will never have been more important.

Bearing in mind what I learned from Mallorca last year, I am much more focused on getting bike fit for this year. Woefully under trained last year led to a very mediocre / piss poor performance really.

What am I doing about it? Three things in this block:

1) Keep using the turbo for very focussed HIIT and Interval sessions. These are all about the right structure and hitting the right numbers. My plan is to take variability out of the equation and do these sessions in the ultra controllable world of Zwift on the turbo.

2) But races happen on real roads, with weather and other shit going on. So building in more road time (with as many natural climbs as I can find) is equally important. But my focus in these sessions is easy Z2 riding. Good form and focus on technique. Control the heart rate. Ride efficiently.

3) Which leads into set the bike up for climbing which my friends at Gorilla are doing as I type. And focus on power based training. (Intensity in cycling is all about power zones which seems to be the most recognised method).

Progress is slow and not particularly encouraging to be honest. But I do seem to be moving forward and will be prioritising cycling in this training block. By ‘prioritising’ I mean any extra sessions / hours in a week will now be bike (were run before) and done as Z2. Each week will have one hard bike HIIT session on the turbo and will make sure that it’s execution is spot on!! (As far as my aged decrepit body permits)

Running

And then the inevitable end to each race, is the run. I still have a bit of a love / hate relationship with running. It’s just not my gig! I do feel that I’m OK at it and certainly my pace is better and I feel confident. Have been using a Monday session with the Bedford Harriers for my main hard session and a long aero run on a Saturday. Throwing in a couple of other aero runs in the week as they tend to be more social and I just enjoy them. One of the beauties of self coaching… Running is ramping up now in the plan a bit 2hrs for the Saturday run with some undulation and generally 1.5hrs for all the other sessions. I have realised that 1.5hrs of intervals is bloody hard… But I expect that is the point really 🙂

Have got a grip on pacing. Feel I understand what I can hold and what a sprint feels like. Have taken a minute off my pace and would say that my easy run all day now is 9min miles. So no whippet but getting better. Certainly 5k is now comfortably sub 25min and I expect that will get faster next time I test it.

In Conclusion

Weight management is becoming more of an issue! I may not be racing for England but I am bloody eating for it… Sitting at around 85kg instead of 80kg so not best pleased. But just feel hungry a lot of time. Or maybe I am bored… Or dehydrated… Regardless I am definitely back to monitoring my diet and as the hours of training build (putting in about 12hrs a week now but expect to be at 16 at peak) I’m hoping that I will be burning off more fat.

Have got the bikes set up and ready to roll. Planning to race D’Huez on the Dogma. Have put some climbing wheels on it (gone with Mavic R-Sys) and an 11/32 cassette to give me a bit more help. Planning to do the St George Sportive to test both me and the bike on some longer climbs. Other than that it’s just really about long 5hr Sunday rides and turbo sessions to make my fat little legs as good as they can be.

Have bought some new Lycra at the London Tri show. Proper bargain. And looking forward to a first race in a few weeks – probably a standard distance at the Anglia Water event… It’s local. If not then Blenheim at the start of June. Feels like I have done nothing for ages so need to find something that gives me a big finale and a medal. And if it’s a triathlon then so much the better. The Body Glide is calling… I had better go 😉

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