I was listening to a Webinar by Joe Friel (long-time triathlon coaching guru), where he was walking through setting up an Annual Training Plan (ATP) for a 32-year-old, age-group athlete that was hoping to useÂ Ironman Coeur dâ€™Alene 2011 to qualify for Ironman Hawaii, which he estimated would take about a 9:45:00 Ironmanâ€¦so a prettyÂ high-endÂ goal.
ThisÂ athlete was training last year around 11 hours a week on average, so about 550 hours for the yearâ€¦and has a baby on the way in 2011.Â The fellow said that his goal for 2011 was 12-15 hours a week.
Joe said that for Ironman, heâ€™s found that an annual average of 12 hours a week is about a minimum if you just really want to finish the raceâ€¦proâ€™s are 25-35 hours a week.Â Joe therefore setÂ up the ATP at an average of 14 hours a week, or 700 hours a yearâ€¦.which ended up with about a half-dozen peak weeks at around 20 hours of training.
So when Joe puts together his ATP over a year, it includes Prep, Base, Build and Peak periods before a Raceâ€¦and obviously if you race more than once a year, these are adjusted around your A, B and C priority racesâ€¦and with a rather slick technology twist, the Training Peaks software (both Daughter and I use the program for logging our training) will set this all up automatically by answering a few questionsâ€¦pretty cool, to give you an idea of what a training year will look like.
Gale Bernhardt, also long-time triathlon coaching guru, created quite a stir over 10 years agoÂ when she published herÂ Â â€™13 Weeks to a 13-Hour Ironmanâ€™ in 1999â€¦highlighted with approximately 13 hours being the peak training weekâ€¦of course, this wasnâ€™t â€˜Couch Potato to Ironmanâ€™ in 13 weeksâ€¦you needed to come into the program with a reasonable level of fitness alreadyâ€¦this is the article that first got me thinking that maybe, just maybe one day I could do an Ironman…I had just finished my first marathon the year before, so feeling quite good about myself, although I couldn’t possibly imagine doing the same thing at the end ofÂ an Ironman…just too unbelievable to fathom.
What kind of shape do you need to be in?Â Coach Gale says:
Athlete Profile. You are an experienced triathlete. You have completed spring and Olympic-distance races. Life, however, has your clock in a stranglehold and training time is at a premium. Before beginning this plan, you are capable of swimming three times per week, about an hour each time. You estimate you could hold a 1 minute 45-second to 2-minute pace per 100 yards, for the 2.4-mile swim (total swim time of 1:12 to 1:25). Cycling currently includes being able to comfortably go an hour and a half or so. Youâ€™re thinking you could average somewhere between 15 and 16 mph for 112 miles (total bike time between 6:15 and 7:30). Your long run is in the 1:15 to 1:30 range. You think you could manage a marathon pace of 10- to 11-minute miles (total run time between 4:15 and 5:00). up to this point, youâ€™ve been training around eight to 10 hours each week, which is very comfortable. (editor note: bold is mine)
Your typical training week is fairly light during the week, due to a long list of commitments. However, weekends are open for longer training hours. You need at least one day completely free from training each week because it keeps you healthy and in good spirits.
If this athlete profile fits you, your estimated completion time for an Ironman-distance race is between 12 and 14 hours. If necessary, you are willing to walk to comfortably complete the race. What this means is that even if youâ€™re on the top end, estimating your finish time at 14 hours, you still have a three-hour buffer to complete the race under the time limit of 17 hours for many Ironman-distance races.
When I first read that, I couldnâ€™t swim at allâ€¦like thrash back to the boat if I justÂ fell out of it, but that was itâ€¦in reading this, thought that the bike and run were doable howeverâ€¦so if someday I wanted to commit to figure out that swimming thing, and get my base training up to 8-10 hours a week, I too could be an Ironman.
â€¦of course, because of my swimming â€˜limiterâ€™ I am a â€˜special needsâ€™ triathlete.Â A 2 minute pace swimming for only _one_ 100 yard lap even today, is about top speed for meâ€¦no matter 2.4 milesâ€¦and still my fastest Ironman to date is under 13 hours, because of a good bike, and reasonable runâ€¦so lots of ways of getting there.
So whatâ€™s the summary?
First of all, everyone highly recommends that Ironman is not your first triathlonâ€¦at least a few Olympic distance races, and a least one or twoÂ Half-Ironman distance races preferred.
For the minimalists, Joe Friel says an annual 12 hours a week minimum average…maybe a hair less if pressed…Gale Berhardt says 8-10 hours a week average, then bump up the focus 13 weeks out to the 10-13 hour a week range…both would stress ‘minimum’.Â When we say average, it means that a typical pattern as the volume is increasing, may be 2 weeks in the 12-15 hours range, and then a recovery week of 7-8 hours, and then repeat.
So having said that, about 12-14 hours a week of training should get you an Ironman medal, and still be smiling at the finish lineâ€¦more than that if want toÂ have a faster and/or more comfortable raceâ€¦or working to improve a particularly weak area…or wanted to recover a little more easily after.