Ironman long training run

When and why.

Ironman Long Training Run Scheduling

I think there is a common feeling that your body somehow ‘understands’ what it is you are doing; like it has a learning ability and adapts according to what it understands about your goals. It doesn’t. It adapts according to training stresses, breaking down during training and adapting when you recover. It doesn’t ‘learn and know’ 42.2 after a 180km bike.

Doing a long run after a long ride does not mean your body suddenly say’s “Oh, yeah! I get it now”  

Fresh Legs

Running your Ironman Long Training Run on tired legs is not an adaptive procedure if your body is not capable of soaking in the load and recovering from it quickly (nearly all age groupers). It’s simply training on an un-recovered system. Doing this continually is not a great idea, either for performance improvement or, more importantly in a first time Ironman athlete, injury prevention.

Don’t just take my word for it!

Many people think by simply going longer their fitness will improve. Not true. You’ll actually wear yourself out! Chronic Long Ride/Long Run weekends will not result in faster races

 Dave Scott (6 x Ironman World Champion) 

(Reference: 5 Big Mistakes People Make After Signing Up for an Ironman)

What about Bricks?

You will get plenty of ‘learn to run on tired legs off the bike’ by doing some shorter brick runs – we usually do around 20 to 40  and up to 50 minutes straight off the bike. This is usually more than enough to adjust and be comfortable with bringing your run form, breathing, HR and pacing under control and adjust mentally to the physical changes of going from the bike to the run.

I would rather see athletes get physical strength and endurance benefits from doing a long run on good legs with good recovery afterwards. I would rather see athletes promote and build good run form muscle memory by doing a long run on good legs. I would rather see athletes stay injury-free. 

Continued below ……

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Leg Strength

It should also be noted that for age groupers and many pros, the Ironman run is ALL about strength. Period. This is not a run race. It is, even for good runners, significantly slower than what they can run an open marathon.

There are benefits to occasionally running somewhat long after a bike. Mentally it gets you ready for the feel and it also hammers home pacing a little bit. It re-enforces pacing on the bike (shows you quite quickly if you went too hard) and also pacing for the run (same). In our Ironman coaching I usually stick to under an hour for a longer brick.

We also do pace brick: 10mins under Ironman run pace / 10 minutes at Ironman run pace / 10 minutes over Ironman run pace to get a great feel for setting a starting target pace and a feel for what might be achievable. Alternately, a ‘later-in-the-season’ 40 minute brick at Ironman pace also brings a few home truths to the party.  

Take Aways

  1. Do what works for you consistently with regards to scheduling.
  2. For an August race, don’t be doing very long runs at an early stage of the year
  3. Focus on recovery from training sessions for the most benefit.
  4. Focus on staying injury-free, adjusting training to ensure this is achievable

Keep it Simple

I spend most of my time ironman coaching by dragging athletes back towards simplicity. Comfort zone. Consistency. Recovery. The quicker they understand this the better they are; in my experience – always. Keeping your long run in a convenient schedule and doing it on legs that have some energy in them and will recover quicker is a great idea.

A lot of age group athletes love to focus on risking all for the final ‘cherry on top’ when they don’t yet have anything to put the cherry on.

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