Training for Ironman Korea – The Reality

In my previous posting, I described how I established my training plan for IM Korea and how, except for swimming, I managed to largely stick to it. On paper it sounds easy, but the reality of training is that it can become a  burden. Indeed, one of the best things about having my race in a few days is that I can reduce the volume and intensity of training. Indeed, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my tapering for the race.

Ironman training calls for a combination of volume and intensity. You need to do sufficient volume so that your body is able to survive the race. You also have to do high intensity which will improve your performance. The swim training I did was typically 3 km with lots of intensity so if you are considering an Ironman I would suggest finding a good master’s group to train with – it makes a big difference. This posting will therefore focus on running and biking.

I divided my cylcing into three broad groups. Firstly, I did long rides on Sundays.  I started off with 40 miles in week one, building up to 100 miles by increasing 10 – 20 miles a week.  These were followed by a run, typically 6 miles but sometimes as high as 13.

Some rides I enjoyed the company of Taneen and Laura who are in my triathlon club. Others, I did on my own and the latter I tried to do them at or above my race pace. I used these particularly for testing my nutrition plan since that has often been problematic. Wherever possible I cycled in areas with hills since these are the best way to improve your overall fitness and strength.

One weekend my wife, sister-in-law and neices went down to West Virginia. Of course I took my bike and while they went on the Cass Scenic Railway, I did an 80 mile bike ride. It is important to fit it in where you can. This was a great area for riding as there was little traffic and was VERY hilly. The only downside was the storm I got caught in, but fortunately was able to shelter at a church.

During my taper I was in Wuhan China so I went for a 50 mile ride around East Lake. This is a magnificent park area across the Yangtze with roads surrounded by lakes. You would not think you are in a city of some 7 million people. To avoid traffic (especially buses) I left just after 05:00 and was at the lake before 06:00.  On the way, I passed a street dirtier. In the west we would call them street cleaners but here all they seemed to do was to spray mucky water everywhere. They got me good. I finished the ride but it looked more like I had been mountain biking than road biking. Fortunately, there was a car wash next to the hotel so I took the bike there and gesticulated to the two fellows that the bike needed cleaning. Never having seen a bike like mine before, they were quite fascinated with it, and did a great job as well. Didn’t even charge me 🙂


For the intensity training, I used a simple program while in the USA, often after I had finished my swim training.  Haine’s point in Washington D.C., where the pool was located, was ideal for interval training. Flat with a circular loop of some 3 miles it is a magnet for cyclists. After a short warm up I would do a set of high intensity (90% max. heart rate) and high cadence (90 RPM) intervals.  The intervals were 1 minute on, 1 off, 2/2, 5/2, 10/3, 10/3 and then a warm down. The beauty of this approach is that you just have to put your cyclecomputer on time and then go for the interval period.

In China, I have left a trainer at the hotel so I used this in conjunction with Spinerval DVDs. I’d set my bike up in front of the TV and then watch a DVD.  The ‘Suffer-o-Rama’ is my favourite, if that is the correct description, since it is a very high intensity 50 minute workout. Usually at the start of the season I can’t do the whole thing and feel like throwing up so it is a good measure of my fitness. The other one that is useful is the ‘Time Trial’ which, although not high intensity, still gives a good workout. 


My running program consisted of long runs, recovery runs, and speedwork/other runs.  I chose Tuesday as my long-run day and ran to work.  I started off with 16 miles and built up to 22 miles. These were all done at about 8:25 pace. We are fortunate in the Washington area to have the C&O Canal so that was where I did the runs. It is great to be running next to the canal where it is quiet, there are trees and all sorts of animals (from deer to geese to turtles). I pushed out the distance every week until by the end I reached the beltway.  From there it was directly to the office where I had a hearty breakfast in the cafeteria. The biggest problem for me was hydrating and even with a 2 litre hydration pack I would still not drink enough – on my 22 mile day I dropped 2 kg. Not good.


One thing I’ve learned with age is the importance of recovery runs and I was quite religious about doing these. The pace was typically just under 9 minutes and I did these on Thursdays. Sundays I did speedwork and tempo runs after my bike ride so I didn’t always quite hit the pace that was desired, especially when it was hot!

When I went to China I continued my runs. In Wuhan they have a park which is 4 miles long next to the Yangtze river. That is where I do my distance runs. It is 2 miles from the hotel to the park, I then run the length of the park the number of times appropriate to get my daily distance. I also stop at a shop just outside the park to rehydrate since it was in the 90’s with high humidity, even early in the morning. The concierge at the hotel got the photo below when I came back from one of my runs.


One problem arose while in Wuhan – I got a pressure problem on the top of my left foot on the exterior tendon for the small toe. There was a small lump on the top of the tendon and it felt like I was getting a drill into the foot every step I took. Not good with a 42 km run a week away.  My running coach Ray advised me to relace the shoes which helped a bit, but I laid off almost all running for the 10 days before the race. I did one 6 mile speed workout once I had managed to fund some bunion patches which, with a hole in a suitable place, relieved direct contact with that spot on the tendon. Hopefully they will last the race.

Reviewing my training log in July I did 497 miles of cycling, 24,020 yards of swimming, and 87.4 miles of running.  August had my peak week of training and a long taper. We’ll see if that was enough to see me through IM Korea in a respectable time.


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