More Ironman campaign

The following Ironman campaign was followed by an AG athlete whose specific mission was to shore up that athlete's self-expressed problem: the athlete possessed a decent swim, a decent run, but a mediocre bike. This is the second of three installments describing this Ironman campaign—an 8-week campaign that got the athlete ready for an Ironman race. The installments run chronologically backward, that is, the first published installment was of the final three weeks of the campaign, this installment talks about the three week prior to that.

It's published in this way to acclimate the reader to a way of thinking about campaigns, not just leading up to an Ironman, but about any fixed-date performance. Whether it's passing the bar exam, building a house before your permit expires, preparing to take a company public, or racing an Ironman, once that magic date has passed, no excuse matters. "I got sick," or, "My job changed," or, "My girlfriend dumped me," may generate sympathy, but only the performance achieved on that day matters, does it not?

Therefore, blandly starting out a program to get ready for that target day fails to honor the necessary intermediate steps to the goal. Starting a campaign too early may be as bad as starting it too late. That certainly holds true for an Ironman campaign. Assuming you're moseying along performing workouts that have earned you a high level of general fitness, I think it's tricky to extend an Ironman campaign, per se, past about 12 weeks. (You don't want to be one of those athletes posting on our reader forum, "My Ironman is four weeks out and I have no desire to train or race.")

This particular campaign is short as campaigns go (8 weeks) but it immediately follows this athlete's half-Ironman race plus a short recovery from that event.

What do you need on Ironman day, other than the technical knowledge of your sport's activities, a well-conceived nutrition plan, and an idea how you'll tactically perform the race? Fitness, and freshness. Those were our goals. The freshness part we already covered in a previous installment. On this page you'll read about the meat of the work this AG athlete performed.

What you'll note, I hope, in this 8-week campaign, is the following:

1. The work was incremental—each spate of work preparing the athlete for an intermediate goal—and had as its overall mission preparing the athlete for ultimate "indicator" workouts that not only provide the athlete with the fitness needed to perform the Ironman, but indicated the fitness already achieved. For example, certain bike rides you'll see below prepared this athlete for a 120-mile ride, the seminal event prior to the taper and, then, to the race.

2. Certain weeks were devoted to getting that athlete ready for the 120-mile ride. Other weeks were devoted to getting the athlete ready for the Ironman's marathon. Bike rides and runs were "ganged up" to stress the athlete in that individual sport. For example, two rides of 80 or 90 miles were placed back-to-back so that the athlete would enter the second ride (or run) still somewhat stressed from the first.

3. There's a lot of rest in this program, roughly one week out of every three or four. This, because a lot is asked of the athlete during the weeks of hard work. There are a lot of double workouts, a lot of long workouts, and the rest periods allow for absorption of the work. This allows the body to recover, to build, so that the 80-mile ride felt like the 50-mile ride executed two weeks prior, and the 120-mile ride seems not much harder than the 90-mile ride two weeks prior. Week-3 listed below is just such a rest week, because of the work executed in weeks 1 and 2 (which you'll read about in a further installment).

Below are the final six weeks of the Ironman campaign. The comments above refer to weeks 3 thru 5 of this campaign, but weeks 6 thru 8 are included below as well, to give the reader one place to view the final 6 weeks of the campaign. In a further installment I'll display the first two weeks of this campaign, which prepared the athlete for the workouts listed below in weeks 3 through 8.

- Rules: mi = miles, not minutes, because the race takes place in miles, not minutes.
- Swim, I don't care how far you swim in a workout. That's up to you.
- You may skip workouts as you need, but if you skip, you can't double up later. You just take a day off where a workout used to be.
- You can swap workouts within a week, that is, you can switch a Tuesday with a Thursday.
- You ought to do the back-to-backs as such, however, so, move a Tue/Wed to a Fri/Sat if you'd like. If you're really trashed after day-1, you may place a day in between the two big ride days.
- What's most important during the week is the theme of the week. Sometimes it's riding, sometimes running, sometimes rest. Whatever the theme is, including rest, that's your focus for that week.
- You'll note everything is chronological starting from this week's workouts, ending with the race at the very bottom of the document.
- Everything below is subject to change, and no doubt will change. What's below is a guide. It's a map toward a successful Ironman, but there will be a detour from time to time.


Week 3
Point on the calendar: 41 days out to 35 days out
Theme: Make room for rest
Message: Your body does not make increases incrementally, rather like a set of stairs. You'll stay in a place, then make an increase all at once. Then, a plateau until your next increase. Rest helps pave the way for those increases, and one week out of four, roughly, ought to make a place for rest.

Workouts =>
Monday: Easy swim, or day off, athlete's choice.
Tuesday: Swim + 5-7mi run
Wednesday: 65-70 miles on the bike, slow, fun, easy, well-sagged
Thursday: Swim only or day off (athlete's choice)
Friday: Swim + 4mi run
Saturday: Swim only or day off (athlete's choice)
Sunday: 7mi run


Week 4
Point on the calendar: 34 days out to 26 days out
Theme: Back-to-back rides
Message: The two important workouts are the rides. You can miss anything else, and you can switch the days of the rides, but somewhere during the week these two rides are important, and it's best to do them back to back, or with no more than 1 day in between.

Workouts =>
Monday:Easy swim, or day off, athlete's choice.
Tuesday: Swim + 6mi run
Wednesday: 80-90mi ride
Thursday: 50-80mi ride
Friday: Swim only
Saturday: Swim optional +10mi run
Sunday: 55mi ride


Week 5
Point on the calendar: 27 days out to 21 days out
Theme: Big runs
Message: You can skip workouts, but the runs, these are the workouts you ought not to miss.

Workouts =>
Monday:Easy swim, or day off, athlete's choice.
Tuesday: 15-18mi run
Wednesday: swim + 8-12mi run
Thursday: Swim + 12-20mi bike
Friday: Swim only
Saturday: 55mi ride
Sunday: 40mi ride


Week 6
Point on the calendar: 20 days out to 15 days out
Theme: Indicator bike ride, then rest and absorption
Message: Many athletes complain that they're worn out, bored with workouts, and unmotivated just before their Ironman. That happens when there is not enough time allotted for rest. After doing a very long, arduous ride, time must be given to rest and absorb the work.

Workouts =>
Monday: Easy swim, or day off, athlete's choice.
Tuesday: 120mi ride, or “Big Loop” (rider's choice)
Wednesday: Swim only
Thursday: Swim + 10-15mi ride
Friday: Swim only
Saturday: Swim + 4mi run easy
Sunday: 15mi run


Week 7
Point on the calendar: 13 days out to 7 days out
Theme: Two long runs
Message: It takes time to recover from long bike rides, but less time to recover from long runs, as long as they aren't too long. So, we'll do our final long runs now, they'll be back-to-back, but not too arduous. And, not in overly hot weather.

Workouts =>
Monday: Easy swim, or day off, athlete's choice.
Tuesday: Swim + 12-13mi run, easy to moderate pace
Wednesday: 20-25mi ride, easy to moderate pace
Thursday: Swim only
Friday: Swim + 12-13mi run, easy to moderate pace
Saturday: Swim + 5mi run, easy
Sunday: 40mi ride, easy to moderate pace


Week 8
Point on the calendar: 6 days out to 1 day out
Theme: Travel, organization and rest
Message: There is no fitness to be gained, there is only sharpness to be lost. Keep workouts short, sleep is a priority, keep stress at a minimum, organize well and early, guard against last minute problems.

Workouts =>
Monday: Swim + 5mi run easy
Tuesday: Swim + 20mi bike easy
Wednesday: Hugs, kisses, tears, travel, no workout
Thursday: Travel, 4mi run
Friday: Travel, equipment check, 4mi run
Saturday: Check-in, equipment check, a ride of no more than 5mi, just to make sure everything works.
Sunday: Race!