–By Brian Reynolds
This blog is a continuation from my last blog post “My Kona Journey: Part 1.” I suggest reading that blog before reading this one.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”– Benjamin Franklin
My goal for the 2017 season was to race Ironman Brasil and qualify for the 2017 Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. To qualify for Hawaii I needed to get in the best shape of my life which required a smart training plan. For starters to determine where I needed to improve my Ironman Wisconsin results and feedback from the race were reviewed. My Ironman Wisconsin age group places for each discipline were the following: 12th in the swim, 12th in the bike, and 2nd in the run. Base on my age group placement in each discipline it appeared that my bike leg was an area of improvement since I gave up 10 – 15 minutes to my main competition. The swim was not a big concern since the athletes that were ahead of me in the overall standings were ethier slower or 1-2 minutes faster than me. The run was my strongest discipline so this was not a concern; however, there is some room for improvement. In addition, the other area I wanted to work on was my race nutrition since I had stomach issues during the bike and run at Wisconsin.
The first several months of the off-season would be dedicated to improving my bike. During the months of November through February my training would be focused on improving my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) which is the ability to sustain the highest power for about 1 hour. FTP is one of the best indicators to predict your bike performance. The goal was to increase my FTP because this should translate into a faster bike time at Ironman Brasil. Even though my focus was on the bike I would still continue to swim and run 3-4 times per week. However, the volume and intensity of the swims and runs would be lighter so I could save my legs and energy for the hard bike workouts.
I started doing light to moderate training again in early October of 2016. My October training was light to help get my body use to training again and prevent burnout later in the season. In November, I started my FTP power program for the bike. Before starting the bike program I had to do a 20 minute power test. This meant that I had to ride all-out and try to sustain the highest average power during those 20 minutes. After riding my butt off for 20 minutes and DYING the last 5 minutes of the ride my average power was 276 watts. It was not my best 20 minute power test but it was a starting point. The 20 minute power test was used to calculate my FTP by taking 95% of 276 watts which would be 262 watts. The goal was to increase my FTP by 10% by February. My FTP of 262 watt was used to establish my power training zones.
It was time to do work! Considering it was winter I had to do all my riding on a indoor trainer. That being said I was getting a good “physical” workout but also a good “mental” workout as well. The majority of my rides were between 1 to 2 hours during the weekday but on the weekends I had to ride between 2.5 to 4 hours. To help me get through these long rides I listened to music or watched TV. Another one that helped me get through some of these long gruelling rides was breaking up the workout in my head. Almost all of my rides had intervals within the workout so I would focus on executing each interval and tried not to think about the entire ride itself. For example, if my workout was a 20 min warm up, 20 min @90% FTP, and 5x 3 min hard w/ 3 min recovery I would just focus on the warm up and try not to worry about the hard sessions to follow. After the warm up I would switch my focus on the hard 20 minute effort and mentally tell myself that once I get through this interval the rest of the ride will not be nearly as hard. I continue this mindset on the 5x 3 hard intervals as well.
Another mental trick I used while riding was visualizing the perfect race at Ironman Brasil. While on the indoor trainer I would visualize myself being in the race and racing against my competition to help keep me motivated. I also had the motto that every ride I successfully completed meant that I was one step closer to reaching my Kona goal. I believe mental toughness is just as important as being physically fit because it’s your mental toughness that will keep pushing your body to become more fit.
Each week I made slow but steady progress on the bike. At the end of the FTP power program I did my last 20 minute power test in mid February to see the benefits of my hard work. For my final test I was able to average 302 watts which meant my new FTP was 287 watts! My FTP improved by 9.5% which was very close to the 10% goal. After establishing my new FTP I had a little over 3 months to go before Ironman Brasil on May 28th, 2017. My training focus would start to shift to more specific Ironman training which meant more training volume and race pace simulation workouts. In addition, the duration and intensity for my swim and run workouts would also increase. The next 3 months would allow me to practice my Ironman pacing and race nutrition for Ironman Brasil.
To be continued….