Road to IRONMAN - Prep and Base I

Published on 29 January 2021

As per my last post, in this series I'm covering my whole progress in training for the IRONMAN Copenhagen 2021. Let's start this series with a short overview of my current standings and focuspoints for the next months. I'm running since late 2017 and turned to triathlon because I wanted some more variety. To date, I finished multiple marathons (2 races and 3 "just for fun") and just ran a 10K-PB of 37:18 in august 2020. My last "event" for 2020 was the virtual NYC-Marathon on october 31st. After that, I took two weeks off from training and to get myself mentally ready for the following months.

I split the months from november to august in different training periods, each of which targets different goals. Besides Copenhagen, I'm planning to race the IRONMAN 70.3 Venice, Italy on May 2nd, and the IRONMAN 70.3 Kraichgau, Germany on June 6th. Additionally, I'm signed up for the Zugspitz Ultratrail in late June, where I'll do the Supertrail (64KM / 2904M Elevation) in late June and the Berlin Marathon in late September. I'll do the trail just for fun and not treat it as a race, I'll need some hill training in advance and some more rest after it tough. Berlin will also be covered separately. Right now, I'm not too optimistic about it happening in 2021 but I'll still train for it.

Back to the schedule - with these races set, I came up with the following periodization:

Calendar Week Date (From) Content
48 23.11.2020 Prep
49 30.11.2020 Prep
50 07.12.2020 Prep
51 14.12.2020 Prep
52 21.12.2020 Base I
53 28.12.2020 Base I
01 04.1.2021 Base I
02 11.1.2021 Base I (Recovery)
03 18.1.2021 Base II
04 25.1.2021 Base II
05 01.2.2021 Base II
06 08.2.2021 Base II (Recovery)
07 15.2.2021 Base III
08 22.2.2021 Base III
09 01.3.2021 Base III
10 08.3.2021 Base III (Recovery)
11 15.3.2021 Build I
12 22.3.2021 Build I
13 29.3.2021 Build I (Recovery)
14 05.4.2021 Build I
15 12.4.2021 Build I
16 19.4.2021 Peak
17 26.4.2021 RACE
18 03.5.2021 Build I (Recovery)
19 10.5.2021 Build I
20 17.5.2021 Build I
21 24.5.2021 Peak
22 31.5.2021 RACE
23 07.6.2021 Build II (Recovery)
24 14.6.2021 Build II
25 21.6.2021 Build II
26 28.6.2021 Build II (Recovery)
27 05.7.2021 Build II
28 12.7.2021 Build II
29 19.7.2021 Build II (Recovery)
30 26.7.2021 Peak
31 02.8.2021 Peak
32 09.8.2021 RACE
33 16.8.2021 RACE

As you can see, I'm sticking to a 3/1 rythm, where I will execute three weeks of high volume and intensity followed by one easier week for recovery. In the recovery weeks, I'm just doing the same workouts and intensity, but cut back on the volume. I'll cover each period and week in the following posts. Since I'm starting to write this series while I'm already in training, I'll be covering the Prep and Base I periods right here.

My regular weekly structure consists of restdays on monday and thursday. On these, I'm trying to only do light sessions, or focus on strength work. On the bike, they could contain some active recovery, which means 30 to 60 minutes at 50% of FTP. The complete content of each week is planned just the week before.

Prep

The preparation period consists of four weeks with easy training, just to slowly get back into the regular schedule and increase the total training durations. It also contains some cross-training, just to keep stuff more interesting. Since the races are still far away, there's no real need to train too specific. General endurance excercises will be totally fine.

I started this period with some easy indoor-sessions on Zwift, a bit of mountainbiking in the forest and very easy runs. I also started to focus more on general strength training. Firstly to replace the swimming, because all the pools closed down again in germany, and just because I really started to enjoy it. This summer, I've been doing a CrossFit introductory course and I'm trying to add some of the excercises in my strength routine. Most of the workouts are very short, but also very intense and I'm feeling as if I'm really getting a great return on investment from the more functional approach compared to the regular gym-machines.

Anyways, since I didn't really follow too much of a schedule at this point, I'll leave this here and jump right into Base I. As I mentioned in the previous post, all the workouts are documented on strava, check them out if you want more information.

Base I

The first three "real" periods in the training plan are mostly to build base endurance. Especially in long races, like a full IRONMAN, that is where you can really suffer if you get it wrong. I did a performance diagnostic on my running in march 2020, and I'm still structuring my running workouts by following the heartrate zones we measured back then. I'll update the values early 2021, but so far, it'll do. Altough my pace is getting better for the same heartrate, my maximum heartrate shouldn't vary too much since then, so that should be fine. As of this evaluation, my current Z2 lays between 148 and 162 BPM, so that's what I'm targeting for the easy runs.

One of my weaknesses right now is definitely on the bike. I feel like the longer, easier sessions feel just way too hard and I should really focus on the base here. So, for Base I I'm planning to do four bike sessions per week, focusing on building base endurance and working on my general FTP. I did my last FTP test earlier in the summer, but ditched biking to a minimum after my 70.3 in switzerland was cancelled. So I started the period with a new FTP test. Usually I've been doing the regular Ramp-Test from Zwift for this, but I decided to move to the custom one recommended by Triathlon Crew Cologne (TCC) on their website. It's basically the same, altough they use 30 second intervals instead of 2 minute ones. I'm starting the test at 100 watts and increase the resistance by 25 watts every 30 seconds then. My results at this point where the following:

Initial FTP Test Results

To be honest, that was better than I expected. It's basically the same result I had in the early summer, so at least I didn't lose anything.

Most of the bike sessions are easy ones right now. I'm doing most of them with changing powers in the LIT-area, mostly between 60 and 68 percent of FTP. 68 percent is considered as the regular FatMax-spot, the spot where most fat is burned. Of course, that's nowhere near as accurate as if you would do a professional performance diagnostic, but it'll do for the beginning. I'm not fully training in this area because the total amount of carbs required to fuel these workouts would be way higher than if you would just switch back and forth in the LIT-zone. I'll cover this in another post in more detail.

Once a week, I'm trying to add a short, more intense session as well, just to stay used to some intervals or speedwork. In total, I've been averaging around five hours per week on the bike.

Besides the biking, I'm also trying to get four runs per week in. Weekly average at this point is also around four hours.

As I mentioned earlier, pools are closed, so no indoor swimming right now. In theory, I have the option to do some open water swimming as well, but right now this isn't really an option, considering the ~6°C water temperature. I'm doing a weekly session tough, but more for the mental challenge.

Next to the bike and run workouts, I've been doing 3-4 strength workouts, one of which usually is for swimming-specific strength work and two core workouts. For these, I mostly do some of the crossfit-wods.

In total, the four weeks of base I training totalled to 12 hours of training each.

I've ended the base I period with another FTP test. I usually integrate the in the recovery weeks, because I'm more rested at this point anyways and get reproducable environments every 4 weeks. The following picture shows the results just four weeks after the initial test. As you can see, I've been able to upgrade my FTP from 238 to 266 watts, which means an increase in relative FTP from 3,2W/KG to 3,6W/KG. So far, I'm considering this a great start for me!

FTP Test Results after Base I