For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

IM distance in 3 hours a week

I was just checking my email and found's triathlete newsletter in the inbox. As a means of postponing doing work, i started to give it a read. After catching up on the recent goings on at Kona, i was drawn to an article about 'balancing life with training' for the long distance triathlete, and then started looking at all the 'low volume' training programs they are hawking to the everyman athlete who's dream it is to complete an IM distance race. Even though i know from experience what i'll find, i'm none-the-less always a little bit surprised and then inspired to continue my own experiment.
Here is an excerpt from a training program designed for the 'experienced' athlete hoping to break 13 hours in an IM distance race - without the typical 20-30 hour a week committment that many other IM training programs require:
This is the sister plan to the famous “Thirteen Weeks to a Thirteen-Hour Ironman Distance” plan and is appropriately titled “Thirteen Weeks to a Sub-Thirteen Hour Ironman Distance Race.” If it is possible to train to successfully finish an ironman distance event in 13 hours with 13 weeks of preparation, not training over 13 hours in any given week; how about breaking the 13-hour mark in 13 weeks of training? It is that very question that inspired me to design this plan.
 This plan is for the experienced triathlete, who currently averages 12 hours of training per week. You can swim two to three times per week for about an hour. You ride two or three days per week and a three-hour ride is easy and normal for you. You run two or three days per week and can comfortably run long for between 1:30 and 1:45.
 Weekly training hours for the plan are between 7:15 and 18:00. To best utilize the plan you need to know your T-Pace in swimming (see the Swimming Intensity document on my Training Plan page) and heart rate zones discussed in the Intensity document.
Originally appeared in the June 2001 issue of “Triathlete” magazine

Since most coaches would probably consider the following to be cutting it thin at the very least - it makes my own approach seem completely absurd. Even when i think about it, i'm faced with YEARS of indoctrination against my own ideas. The status quo changes slowly, when it changes at all. It is always resistant to giant 'jumps' in the way things are done. More than this, because the status quo is where the majority of the research is done (out of necessity and circumstance as much as anything)forming a rational basis for radical new ideas becomes exceedingly problematic. Much has to be based on personal belief and experience and is unlikely to be supported by others, until there are a great number of successes.
For example, I imagine that if i (when i?) do succeed, many will likely consider it to be a stunt of some sort, or explain it away by assuming that i am a superior athlete (after all, no one would blink an eye if Lance Armstrong completed an IM distance race in 12 hours on a modest training schedule). But i'm not. I'm fit, to be sure, and I am willing to work hard. But what really matters and makes this goal possible for me - i'm convinced - is the mental aspect of it. There are three things that i think are key - I'll mention them all here and then blog on each one seperately in the coming days.
1) Confidence. I have developed a confidence in my abilities. In my early days as a climber i'd set out to tackle routes that others said were beyond me, or that conditions weren't favorable for. I wouldn't always succeed, but i did so often enough that i learned that I , not others, are the best judge of my abilities. This realization alone is both more subtle and more important than it might first appear, and i will address it in a later post
2)Knowledge of suffering. Confidence in my abilities only allows me to approach my actual potential because i've actively explored (and explore) the edge of this potential. When i was writing to Mario to enlist his partnership on the Mantario trail (see previous post) i talked about my greatest type of trip being one in which the results (success or failure) were uncertain and the goal was completion, not a certain place or time. You push as hard as you can - find your limits. Fail. Have an epic. Enter survival mode. They say failure is the best teacher. I disagree. Failure certainly offers more lessons than success, but these still pale in comparison to the lessons of surviving.
3)WILL. This perhaps is the hardest mental aspect to cultivate. Success will breed confidence. Repeated stupidity can breed a decent knowledge of suffering (not the recommended route, however), but a force of will is not so easily acquired. What i mean is that in order to be able to get the most out of a limited fitness regimine you have to be able to PUSH. HARD. WILL allows for the reduced quantity of workouts to be done with elite racer quality.


  1. You can totally do this. I have >3 months of training recorded for a 50 mile run effort and with the exception of one week (I REALLY wanted to know what a 30 mile run felt like) average weekly training hours were around 3 1/2 hours. I could have been smarter about the training, but I was also pursuing goals outside of the 50 mile run.

    Looking forward to reading more about this! Good luck!

  2. Are you doing the Silverman? I'm stepping up to the full distance this year. We'll see you there!

    Training in HR zones has not been effective for me. Train with power & pace. Shorter more intense workouts - longer race specific workouts closer to race time. Dave Scott has Silverman specific training plans now - the bike course is relentless rollers and the run course is seemingly all uphill - be prepared and know your effective pace.

  3. Actually, no, not yet. i was signed up to do the silverman last year (2010) but was asked at the last minute to do the adventure racing national championships. Although the races weren't on the same weekend, because of considerations (such as time away from family, etc) had to decide on one. I chose the AR national champs. So an IM distance tri is still on my list. I have been pretty successful otherwise though, and compete in about 5 or 6 ultra endurance events from international stage races (abu dhabi adventure challenge) to ultra runs (my next event is a 64 mile midwinter trail ultra with a 5% completion last year...) to endurance bike races. You can check out my 'resume' on the right sidebar (past, present, and future events) - all were done on 3 hrs training a week, and everything after may of 2011 on only 2 hours of training a week..... cheers, andy

  4. Very impressive. What is your ultimate goal?