Ironman Training: What It’s Like to Workout All Day?


I’m putting in a bit of volume this week — especially since I’m not fully on a Monday to Sunday schedule right now. That’s meant that I’ve had quite a few days of working out all day lately, which I suppose is good practice for Ironman, but it’s also long, long, long. And dirty and sweaty and it hurts in ways and places that you don’t expect.

Tuesday I did the third of four big prep workouts. The end one, which will come next Monday or Tuesday, is a five-hour hard ride followed by 10 x mile at slightly faster than IM race pace — 7:40-45 pace (with warm-up and cooldown). So the other key workouts have been building up to that, doing it over two days, doing smaller versions, etc. In case you were wondering where I get this shit from and how I decided on an Ironman training schedule anyway: it’s not totally made up. I sat down with Craig Upton, my last triathlon coach, who I love btw, at the beginning of all this Ironman shit. He laid out a rough plan for me. In it he heavily emphasized starting with harder shorter rides and strength work on the bike, then adding volume without losing the intensity. This is in contrast to the standard Ironman plan of 6-7 hour slow, easy rides every weekend and lots of shitty, slow base volume. My low(er) volume plan has been full of 4-5 hour rides with tempo and work and hill repeats and a few longer rides. Same with the running. Steve and Steve’s old coach, who also happens to be the coach of the guy who just won the Dauphine fyi, are also big proponents of harder medium-volume and tempo and all that. As was Mario. So, that’s what we believe in currently — especially given my particular strengths and weaknesses.

All of that means that Tuesday I had to ride 4 hours moderately hard, followed up by 7 x mile running at faster than IM pace. The thing about working out all day is that it actually takes all day. I left at 9:40 a.m., after an hour or two of work in the morning. I needed to leave by 3:35 p.m. to bike to somewhere I had to be at 4 p.m. That sounds like plenty of time. It wasn’t. It gave me just under six hours to do 5:20 of training + stoppage time + shower and eat before leaving. It was rough.

The bike was ok and included some Ironman pace and some hard long tempo uphill, but died in the last 30-40′ of going through town. It’s very nearly impossible to actually call it a bike ride when going through town. Can you imagine if on your run you had to stop every 30″-1′? Ugh.

Then, I needed to cram in the 9-mile run with 7 of it at 7:40-45 and I did not have much time. So, instead of doing a more interesting run, I warmed-up to the track and ran the miles around the track. This is easy; the pace just slips out of your legs. And I do need to convince my legs that 7:25 pace is NOT Ironman race pace, because my legs seem determined to blow the rest of my body up. Running around the track is easy, but it is also hot and mind-numbing. There was a lacrosse camp going on, so all the coaches kept making comments to me in that way that’s supposed to be vaguely humorous but isn’t actually funny. ‘You’re going to wear the track out.’ Yep, I said, and then went back out and did two more miles around the oval.

And, then, I showered while drinking a recovery shake at the same time and jumped on my bike to ride (not easily) to my appointment. Needless to say, I was still burning when I got there. And, when I finally got home I couldn’t move or think or get out of my chair.


After a few days of insanely easy stuff, I did the Best of the Bay long ride yesterday, which everyone kept calling Bob and The Bob.

My goal was to get in a ride that was significantly longer and harder than IM Canada will be. Accomplished. Usually when I have a long workout I come up with my worst case projection: NO way this will take me more than 8 hours. That would be crazy.

It took 8:40. There was an hour or two that I thought it might take ten hours. And, I wasn’t going slow. For those that care about the numbers and stuff: I averaged 117 watts, just about my regular long pace (though easier than my 4-5 hour rides lately obviously), and I did 3,600 kilojoules. Mathematically, I don’t think I even expect the Ironman bike to take that many kilojoules.

It was long and it was really hilly. I maybe should have expected that. For about 7 hours I felt pretty good. I sang songs and wrote stories in my head and talked gibberish (also in my head) and imagined there was actually a guy called The Bob who was in charge of this whole thing. Actually for the first hour or two I felt sort of shitty. But, I just kept chugging along and going up the hills and down the hills. The miles passed, even though I could not physically eat enough. By halfway, I had finished all the bars and gels and chomps I packed. Then, I was relying on aid station food — which was a mixed bag: latkes, goat cheese crostini, fruit cups, veggie wraps. I had to eat it, but it didn’t sit well. I suppose that was good practice for Ironman too.

At 90 miles, you had the option of turning towards the finish — 15 miles away — or turning and heading out for a steep, steep loop up Sierra Grade and then coming back to that same point before turning towards the finish. That means the whole extra loop all you can think is, ‘I really don’t need to be doing this extra loop.’

Sierra Grade is a Category 1 climb. Everyone the whole ride kept talking about Sierra and how hard it is and how steep it is and how rough it is. It wasn’t until partway through that I remembered I had ridden it once eight years ago as part of a race. I didn’t remember it being steep then, though that may have just been because that was a race, so it was all hard. The only things I remember from then are that Paul and Steve told me it’d take ‘x’ amount of time and it definitely took 1.5x, and at the top was a woman dressed as the Specialized Angel with wings and platform boots. I’m 90% sure that it only took me 5′ longer yesterday in hour seven of the ride than it took me as a stand-alone race eight years ago. There’s not really a way to go easier; it’s too steep. I was pouring so much sweat on the way up yesterday that when I stood up and bent over my bars the sweat fell on the inside of my sunglasses and pooled. When I tried to look up and not down, I started to swerve and wobble. It was hard.

And, then I was emotionally and physically done. But, we still had an hour of descending and flat riding to the finish.

At mile 112, which took 8:20 to get to, I asked myself, ‘Could I run a marathon right now?’ And, of course, my immediate reaction was, ‘Nope, no way.’ But, I did a self-evaluation and thought about it and realized that yeah, sure, I could do a marathon. It’d take a while, but I’d get to the finish eventually. So, Ironman, watch out.

Then, I had to take BART from the finish back to my car, drive home, eat (and also try not to throw up from my stomach being so unhappy), and go to sleep. That’s what training all day is like.

7 thoughts on “Ironman Training: What It’s Like to Workout All Day?

  1. BEAST. If I tried to do anything even close to this, I would die. (Also, I think the main reason I could never do triathlon is just the sheer volume of time you have to spend on the bike. Also my fear of bikes.)

  2. […] The Long Day: Rode 4:00, with about 3:10 of it reasonably uptempo — including 20′ at IM pace and another 20′ at slightly harder than IM pace. Then ran 9 miles with 7 x 1 mile, which was supposed to be 7:40-45 but were all in the 7:20s instead. By the end, it got hard. More in a legs locking up, how am I supposed to run a whole marathon, kind of way than actually hard. But, I think that’s what Ironman hard is. […]

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