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.