Sub 12 hr. Ironman on 9 hrs./wk training
Getting Big Returns from Consistent Training Habits and Moderate Volume.
Athlete: Jacob “Jake” Field. Event: Ironman Florida
Summary: Jake successfully completed his first Ironman event in 11 hrs. 55 mins at Panama City Florida on Nov 7th 2020. He bettered his training performance in both the swim and bike and held form on the run. Smart pacing on the first two legs ensured he had fuel in the tank to advance over 300 places overall on the run and finish in the top quartile. Jake trained an average of 9 hrs. per week, with a maximum of 13hrs. The key to his performance was consistency in training and mental discipline - sticking to the training and race program while managing a busy lifestyle and Covid restrictions. Other positive influences were prior athletic experience, optimal body composition, training environment similar to the race venue, uncomplicated nutrition and hydration, and staying injury free.
Race result details
Jake had completed three 70.3 ‘s in prior years in about 6 hrs. 30 mins each and had some experience of marathon running and long-distance cycling with the MS150 charity ride. He is married with three small kids and has a full-time job as a corporate executive. He stands 5’10”, weighs 165lbs and has a body fat percentage of 12%.
Quality and time management were a priority to ensure Jake hit key endurance benchmarks in building up to a race rehearsal week about a month before the event. In the 3 months build-up to the race, Jake’s average training time per week was 9 hrs., with a maximum of 13. He never trained less than 8 hrs. per week. Jake had built a decent base earlier in the year in preparation for Ironman Texas, which was eventually cancelled due to Covid. His training time was not significantly different at that time.
Jake swam two times per week with a masters group at Dads Club in Houston. He followed the coaches on-deck program and swam about 2500 yds in a typical session. He completed a couple of endurance swims longer than 2500 yds, including a rehearsal swim of 4400 yds. He did one open water lake swim as part of the Onalaska 70.3 event in September.
He completed 5 training rides of 85-mile distance, the remainder were in the 50-65-mile range. He completed one ride over 100 miles in the race rehearsal week, where he rode the full 112-mile ironman distance. Jake did a shorter ride or spin session once or twice during the week, focused on power and speed development.
Jake built a weekly long run up to 17 miles, the limiter being a maximum of 2hrs. 30 minutes running to avoid injury and lengthy recovery time. He ran three times per week, with the long run in midweek. His other runs were a moderate intensity interval session and an EZ run, both about 45 minutes duration. Jake ran a total of three brick runs in the whole training period, the longest being 45 minutes in rehearsal week.
Nutrition and hydration:
Nothing special to report on this aspect. Jake followed a regular diet and consumed conventional drinks and foods on the long training sessions and race day. (ie) Gatorade, Gu, water etc.
The Onalaska 70.3 was used as a training day Sept 13th, 2020, finishing in 6 hrs. 27 minutes. Using this benchmark, it might have been easy to predict a full ironman race time that is double (ie) 13 + hrs. In the event, Jake bettered this by more than an hour overall.
Test sessions were scheduled monthly consisting of a 500yd swim, 40-minute cycling time trial and a 5K run, but these were only occasionally practiced due to schedule and time constraints. Data from race practice and the rehearsal week were better indicators of progress.
The training and racing locations were similar: Houston Texas, vs Panama City Beach, Florida. Both on the Gulf Coast with flat terrain, warm and humid weather conditions. This reduced the risk of race day surprises due to weather or environment.
Some stiffness in right glute after the final long training ride. Successfully managed with stretching and physio treatment at E-motion sports therapy in Houston. Otherwise injury free.
Jake prepared a written race plan and thought out his whole race experience beforehand. He was committed to executing a race according to his known training envelope and was not obsessed with hitting a particular time. Although he secretly wanted to beat 12 hrs.!
Jake wanted to complete the Ironman for his own personal satisfaction and as an example to his kids that effort and hard work pay off and result in great achievements.
A custom program loaded on trainingpeaks.com, supported with weekly text or phone call review and discussion. Other contact was maintained by text as needed to clarify workout details, feedback etc. Jake used a Garmin watch to record workout data and upload results. He did not have a power meter on the bike.
Race rehearsal data, week of Oct 1, compared to race results:
Jake bettered his rehearsal performance on race day in both the swim and bike legs, and impressively held form on the run.
Performance keys, coach's view:
I think the key to Jake’s performance was his consistent approach to training and mental discipline. He hit the important workouts each week and rarely missed a session.
His lifestyle was ideal for a moderate, not epic, volume of training. He had decent fitness coming into the year and a background that included some, but not many, endurance race experiences in running and cycling. His size, weight and body composition were also well suited to the event. Combined with smart execution on race day, he was able to deliver a race performance that exceeded his training benchmarks. His steady mental attitude also helped him manage a busy lifestyle with Covid complications and he successfully kept to his personal and family commitments.
The only thing I would have added to the program, if time permitted, would have been more stretching and core exercises, which may have prevented his glute soreness toward the end of the program. In the end it resolved itself during the taper period with some focused physio treatment and stretching.
[Peter Foster, USAT level 1 coach, tenwesttriathlon.com]
Performance feedback, athlete view:
I met one of Peter’s athletes in October 2019 at Ironman 70.3 Los Cabos and was told good things about him and Ten West Triathlon. I called Peter in November and started training for Ironman Texas scheduled for April. it was cancelled in March due to Covid but I was lucky enough to switch my race to Ironman Florida in November. I consider myself lucky because I continued to build on the strong base of fitness I had going into the Texas event. it ended up being one of the only races to happen this year and was a great experience.
I listened to everything Peter told me to do and was surprisingly able to fit all the training in without much disruption to my already busy lifestyle which includes having three active kids, training for my pilot license instrument rating and running a business. Peter was able to provide a schedule that could be completed in the mornings before going to work and then required only one long training day per week on the weekend. Without that guidance, I think the results of my race would have added at least two hours to the clock.
Three weeks prior to the race I had very sore muscles and was very tight and it was affecting my performance. I went to a local physical therapist, Ariel at E-motion sports in Houston, and he stretched me twice a week leading up to the race and I think that stretching also made a huge difference on race day. I am guessing a lot of people are like me and don’t stretch enough but it made a noticeable difference to me.
I always tell my kids, any competition has less to do with your performance on that day, and more to do with your training up to that point. As far as race day itself, the weather conditions were perfect. The water was 71 degrees, wetsuit legal, the air temperature was 75 degrees and cloudy, and while there was wind, it was mostly a head wind and tail wind which I prefer over the strong side winds. Some segments on the bike I averaged 16 and others I averaged 22 but overall, I kept pace a little over 18 mph which was my goal. During each leg I focused on completing that leg and didn’t think much about the next one.
On the swim I kept making sure my breathing and stroke were steady. I focused on swimming straight and spotting the next buoy while not stopping and taking a break at all. This allowed me to swim the whole time at a pace I was comfortable with but that was relatively fast for my capabilities. My swim was always the worst in races, followed by the bike then the run. This time I was right around the middle of the pack in both the swim and the bike. My run has always been my strong suit and this time was no different as I finished in the top 10%,, either because it’s at the end of the race and I still had “gas in the tank” or because I have just more running experience.
In transition from the swim to the bike, per Peter’s recommendation and contrary to previous advice I’d received, I took the extra few minutes to change into my bike gear to be comfortable, versus wearing a tri suit the whole time. I think that went a long way on preventing any extreme discomfort on the bike.
On the bike I focused on keeping a steady pace and in the right position while staying hydrated with Gatorade and eating enough food. Peter warned me if I did not consume enough calories, I’d hit a wall and thanks to that advice I never did hit that wall. I only stopped two times on the bike to use the restroom quickly and that was probably no more than 5 minutes total.
In transition from the bike to the run I also listened to Peter’s advice and changed into running clothes, dried my feet and applied Vaseline to my feet, and took some salt pills and Advil with plenty of liquids.
On the run I felt good but I was afraid of pushing myself too hard and burning out or cramping up but I also didn't want to stop running; I didn’t take any walking breaks on the whole run except for 30 seconds or so a few times walking through the water stops. The entire run I didn't even look at my time except occasionally to see how I was doing, I was focused on my heart rate and anytime it got to 145 or 135 I changed pace to keep it as close to 140 as possible. Keeping an eye on my heart rate and not my time I think made a huge difference in my ability to stay on pace.
I also kept drinking Gatorade every two miles and/or water/coke so that I’d stay hydrated and not cramp up even though I wasn’t thirsty and it was hard to get down. In the last mile I finally let it go and ran hard finishing the last mile in 7:25; when I crossed the finish line I was completely exhausted, my heart was beating out of my chest, but I was thrilled of course to finish how I did. When I started this process two years ago, I always had a goal to finish in under 12 hours, and amazingly enough, that is what happened.
Despite COVID-19, the streets of Panama City were lined with spectators and the crowd was amazing. It was also great to have the support of my family there cheering me on throughout the day. Nothing motivates you like your kids yelling “go daddy” and running after you in excitement. I almost always say after a race that I would do something differently, but this particular race went as well to plan as I could have expected given the amount of time I had to train and my level of athleticism; I really would not have changed anything on race day and I can thank Peter and his assistance in training and preparation for race day for the experience I had. I am an amateur athlete, but I feel like I received a professional level coaching experience.