Train Your Limiter is the name my coach gave to his off-season promotion. In essence, the idea is to focus on that event that might have held you back from having a better race. Few of us age groupers truly excel at all three sports so it only makes sense to focus on the weakest one and seek to make improvements.
If you read my race report from the Harvest Moon, you’ll know that I truly struggled on the run—specifically the last three or four miles of the run. Despite having spent so much quality training time running, I clearly had struggles as the long-course event wound down. Based on that account, you might expect me to say that my off-season training focus would be on more running. However, looking more deeply into the root-cause of my late-race fatigue persuaded me that the real focus needs to be the bike.
Not everything about my ride is negative. The consistency of my ten second power average was impressive enough to my coach that he used it as an example at an Interbike symposium! Additionally, I was pleased with my ability to ride hard and fast on the back stretch of the course. That indicates that I put more effort into that section than I might have in years past.
Ultimately, though, the level of fatigue I felt in my legs as I started the run was too high. It did not keep me from running consistently for over eight miles before taking a walk-break, but it did lead to my eventual slow down during the last three or four miles.
Instinctively, I feel that there’s not a lot more that can be done to improve my running performance. Much of last season was spent doing some very demanding drills at both long and short distances and it resulted in me being a faster overall runner. It also helped me to develop a level of cardiovascular conditioning I’ve not had for years and indeed that benefitted me greatly at Harvest Moon. Muscle fatigue was a factor but being winded was not. Spending my off-season doing more intense running work would undoubtedly make me marginally better, but it’s unlikely to have a significant impact.
Swimming is also an area in which any gains from off-season work would also be minimal. In addition to the fact that I’m usually within the top half of my age group out of the water, the swim is relatively short part of any triathlon. I hope to make some slight improvements in my swim, but there’s probably not room for much more than that.
Therefore, the bike is the only event remaining. If I had the same feeling of nearing my potential on it that I do in the water or on foot, then I might be inclined to just focus on staying in shape during the off-season. Fortunately, this is an area in which I still see considerable room for improvement.
My last post discussed the process of testing my lactate threshold (LT). The results show that threshold to be around 125 BPM and that my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is about 187 watts. To be perfectly candid, I was both surprised and disappointed that the latter number was so low. After some consideration, however, I think my expectations may have been unduly influenced by some of the talk I hear from athletes who are simply better than me. Expecting an FTP in the upper 200 watt range from a middle of the pack age-grouper (and one who is 45 no less) isn’t very realistic. Besides, they don’t conclude a race by looking at the power readings of the participants. The point of the metric is to have a basis upon which workouts can be built. What’s more, I expect I’ll do another FTP test in six months or so and would expect to see improvement at that time. Here is the graphical representation of my test:
As I mentioned last time, for reasons that are not at all clear, I tend to run with a much lower heart rate on the bike, even when my perceived exertion rate is high. That’s not a limiter per se, just a curiosity.
With this information in hand, my coach has been writing cycling workouts for me that will help not only help me stay well-conditioned during the off-season, but that will also position me to make definitive and significant strides in the upcoming year.
I have no illusions about completing the bike stage at Ironman Boulder and feeling fresh and ready to run a marathon as if it were a stand-alone event. I try to be optimistic, but not to the point of naiveté. That said I do hope to be able to dismount in T2 and start running without any acute fatigue. At some point during that 26 mile trek, I have no doubt that it will become exceedingly difficult to keep going. A realistic and sound race plan requires anticipating pain and suffering. In my own, very amateur opinion, the key to success lies in pushing that point as far back into the run as possible. Should I start to feel a bit overwhelmed at mile 16, I’m reasonably confident in my ability to get myself over the finish line by sheer force of will. Doing so at mile 6 would be monumentally more difficult.
Of course, all of this is just the first brick in a foundation that will support me on that quest. In a very real sense, I am merely preparing to prepare. Like any foundation, however, the presence of a single weak spot can cause the entire structure to crumble. Relatively speaking, an Ironman needs to be approached slowly and methodically. Training for the race needs to be approached in a similar manner.
More updates on the success of these efforts in future posts. Thanks for reading!