After my disappointing performance at Ironman Hawaii I felt like it was time for a change, so I stopped working with my old coach and decided to coach myself. The whole last season was not as good as previous one and I felt like I was stagnating. On the other hand, I had my own ideas that I wanted to try out.
During the past couple of seasons I improved quite a bit over ironman distance, but that improvement didn’t transfer to half-ironman. For example, last year I run 1:18h during Ironman 70.3 Barcelona. Only 2 weeks later I went through the half way point of the run course at Ironman Nice in 1:21h and the pace felt comfortable. The pace in Barcelona wasn’t uncomfortable as well, but the legs wouldn’t move any faster. I think part of the reason for that lies in the way I trained.
I used to have a lot of sessions at medium intensity. Somewhere between ironman and half-ironman pace. Since I rarely went above half-ironman pace, it’s no wonder that my body was not used to those speeds. For ironman distance that type of training worked well, for anything shorter not so much. Main change I made since I started coaching myself is that I polarized training intensities. Easy sessions are now easier, there’s fewer hard sessions but they are at much higher intensity.
I made the most changes in my swim training. When I met Sutton in the year 2010, he changed my swim stroke and told me to swim with straight arm in recovery phase (above the water). At that time I started to stagnate on the swim. Initially I even got slower and it took me a couple of years to get to the level I was at before. For that I blamed the increase in bike mileage which would often hinder my swim. Now, I think that was probably not the only reason for the setback. It’s much more important what the arm does below the water then above. However, I noticed I can’t control my arm below the water as good if the other one is swinging. First change I made is that I returned to more relaxed, bent arm recovery.
Run and bike training affect the swim. For that reason I swam almost every session with a large pull buoy. That would allow me to have a good swim sessions even when my legs were sinking because of the work I’ve done in other two sports. In time I improved a lot when swimming with pull buoy. The problem was that I would sink as soon as I left the buoy on the deck. So, the second change was that I swim far less with pull buoy. I only use it in combination with paddles when doing strength set. I didn’t plan to do a drastic change, but I soon realized I feel much better in water the more I swim without tools.
Third change is about training structure. I used to have hard swim sessions almost every day. Sometimes even twice per day. That made me quite tired, so at the end, none of those sessions was really hard. It was all at medium intensity as I was not fresh enough to push harder. Like in other two sports I polarized the intensity. Now I have more easy sessions so that I can go HARD on hard ones.
In the other two disciplines I didn’t make so many changes. I polarized the intensity, but on the run I’m just starting with harder sessions. The reason for that is that I first wanted to increase the run mileage. I noticed I used to run well in races when I did high volume in training. On the other hand high volume would often result in an injury. After short analysis I noticed the injuries occurred mostly when I had high jump in training volume. This time I slowly increased the volume by less then 10% from week to week. Currently I got to a level where I run 100-110 kilometers per week and so far I’ve had no issues with injuries.
All in all, I feel like the changes I made so far work. For more noticeable results I’ll need time and since the speed is genetically limited I’m not sure if I’ll ever get much better over shorter distances. My focus still lies on ironman distance. I’m not expecting I’ll get much faster over night, but I think I need to raise the speed ceiling so I can pull my ironman intensity on a higher level. Time will tell if I was right.
Last season didn’t end on a positive note. The whole season was not as good as the previous one and last race on Hawaii was another level below that. That reflected on my motivation and self-confidence. I felt that I need a change and decided to part ways with my coach and started coaching myself.
I had some ideas on how I could improve and felt like those ideas work. Dubai was a chance to test if it was really the case, but on the other hand the race is very early in the season. It’s not a good idea to be in top shape when your next race is in more than 2 months. That’s why I wasn’t sure if I should go there and made a final decision about one week before the race.
Water temperature was just over 22 Celsius, so professional field had a non-wetusit swim. I had one of my best swims over this distance and only lost about 2:30 minutes to the front group. Some guys that usually swim much faster were only 30 seconds in front of me. Last year my swim was really poor (even for my standards), so I’m happy that it finally started to improve.
The bike course was the same as last year but the conditions were very different. Last year we had tailwind on the way out and this year it was the opposite. It made for a very fast second half of the ride. I lost Plese in transition and he later caught Billard and Wild. I could still see them 50km into the ride but then they started to pull away. For the most of the time I rode with Degham. In the first half he managed to pull away a bit but I caught him again on the way back. I averaged 43,7 km/h and set a new PB over this distance.
Run reminded me of last season. It never felt very hard but legs wouldn’t move faster. Obviously, I’m lacking speed. So far this season, I was trying to increase my mileage and didn’t have time to work on speed. I’m sure I can improve on that, I only need some time. I lost two positions in the first half to Degham and Ruttmann, but I felt better in the second half and managed to repass them.
There were plenty of races where I had good placement but still wasn’t satisfied with the performance. This time it was the opposite. Final position (13th) is nothing to write home about, but performance was quite good. I got what I came for, a boost in self-confidence and motivation. The changes I made in training are working and I feel like I know how to improve areas where I’m still lacking.
It’s a tradition that I post training stats on New Year’s Eve and this year won’t be an exception.
This year I raced more than in previous years, which meant less time for training. Total training time was 1,118 hours, 282 hours of swimming, 614 hours of cycling and 222 hours of running. In that time I swam 1,028 km, biked 18,263 km and run 2,904 km.
Longest swim: 6,600 m, biggest distance in one day was 9,100 m (two sessions)
Longest bike: 220 km with 3,579 m of ascent
Longest run: 34 km
Here’s monthly stats:
I wish you happy New Year.