So a couple of months into my training what has happened? The first four weeks I was training less than I thought I could, and getting used to doing something every day again. In this time I was working out my fitness I carried over from last year. Alan gave me a cool formula which shows the link between my performance and my fitness (fitness is defined as the amount of daily exercise my body is used to which will keep me at the same level, i.e. if I did this amount of exercise I would stay where I am). I look at my performances over the course of a couple of weeks, take an average (to mitigate against good or bad days) then use the formula backwards to get my starting fitness for the year.
By performance I use Tim Noakes’ formula for VO2MAX that looks at heart rate (in relation to resting and maximum) compared to power/pace for the workout. This serves to be pretty accurate especially when you collect data on a daily basis through power meters and run GPS watches. This number (which we call VDOT) gives a pretty accurate Threshold power, from which I work out on my zones. To give further validation I used real world data (e.g. five minute, one hour, and even five hour (!!!) time trials, to confirm they are correct). Like I say it takes a years worth of data collection before you can use these numbers to guide your training.
With the first month out of the way and everything set up I went into the next block pretty happy, I am the man with a plan, I stick to the rules, I remind myself of the common mistakes people make when trying to work with this method of training, such as chasing numbers rather than letting the number be the biproduct of correct training, and not listening to your body when the numbers tell you can go harder. I also added more structure, knowing how fit I was let me know how much training I needed to do to get me appropriately tired (as tired as possible without going over the line where it would make me over trained)
The first week ended up not quite as much as planned, then I found out that I would be going with my girlfriend to Chaminoux for a walking holiday. The way the dates worked out I’d be starting my next block while still walking in the mountains. I decided to do an extra week and do my recovery a bit later, getting me to the same point of tired but over a longer period of time. I’d be starting the next block a week later but do more in less time, so over all I’d be where I would have been, but instead of a two week block it turned into a three week block, I’d be doing it in reverse. Let it be said now, that I don’t follow the standard three weeks hard one week easy, as the season progresses so will the way I accumulate and shed fatigue, for the most part of the season though I’ll be following a pattern of three weeks hard two weeks medium (it takes me a while to shed fatigue and I do better by having two ‘kinda easy’ weeks than one ‘very easy’ week).
So what has it done to my fitness, I went from a cycling VDOT (when I say VDOT remember it is just VO2Max) of 50.1 to 54 and for running 54.1 to 58 (running uses more muscles so running VDOT is higher than cycling, as you’d expect I have an ideal ration between these two numbers to shoot for so I will not let either sport become a strength/weakness). This is much higher than predicted, however I won’t get carried away, and see what happens in future. What it means for now, is that I don’t need to force anything, just keep with the programme, get big in the gym, keep doing the monster gears on the bike, and have fatigue proof calves for the run, by doing the hill bounds and the mountain walking. Remember Ironman run times are generally limited by muscular endurance not fitness, if you’re legs are wrecked and you can’t get your heart rate up it is your muscles which are limiting you not your fitness! If you train to get your muscles round, the fitness you spend from training to do this will be close to the same you’d do as if you dedicated yourself to fitness to the detriment of these other necessary abilities.
So what about swimming? Swimming is going well and doesn’t concern me too much, I’m doing short sessions focusing on swimming well rather than swimming quickly or ‘getting the miles in’. After the work I’ve put in, I don’t have to worry too much about my swimming at this time of the year, Alan shared a very good study which looked at skill levels in relation to fitness (VO2MAX) for my fitness I am slightly better than the ‘triathlete’ standard. Also I am swimming with the correct stroke length for my height, so it is the stroke rate which I need to improve over the course of the season which will improve with miles in the pool and better fitness in general, for those who are really interested in this sort of thing, my current default steady stroke rate (set with a wetronome) is 57, I’m looking to get it up to 65, or maybe even higher by the time the races come around next summer. I spent a lot of time working on my stroke over the last two years and I’m looking forward to sharing my swimming journey with you guys soon, but for now swimming is for the first time for me, going swimmingly well.
So that is where I am at the moment, so far better than expected. I did miss getting my entry in for the outlaw next year, and was looking forward to it. I will have to change my plan slightly and peak for a different race but that’s months away, I’ve got some more general prep on the way. Next month I’ll be trying to hit my goals in the gym, putting that into maintenance mode and cracking on with getting through my plan. Happy training!