Are you in the beginning phase of your season training? Likely you have been told that your training should be long and slow. Especially if you are an endurance athlete, in order to build aerobic capacity, you should be training at a very low heart rate, teaching the body to metabolize fat for fuel and should teaching your body how to get more comfortable being aerobic in order to prepare for your upcoming next phase of training.
Unless you are a very new athlete to the sport of triathlons and are learning how to get more comfortable on the bike or in the pool, the focus right now in this "base" phase should not be 100% long, slow distance. (I don't believe in "slow" running if it comes with poor form due to purposely trying to run slow as that can be damaging to the body. Keep in mind, the word slow is relative..what is slow for you may be fast to others.) If anything, steady is a better word and slow should be removed from your training vocabulary. Also - I don't believe in active recovery "run" days for triathletes. Get your sleep and stretch. Form-focused runs (which include drill work) are fine as a "workout" included in your plan but not on a day "off" from training to recover.
The focus of training is to make gains in fitness. A lot needs to happen with the physiology of the body in order to get faster and stronger. Certainly you can still want to get faster and stronger even if your primary goal is to finish an upcoming race. It's not all about racing fast and hard. It's all about training and racing smart.
I'm always thinking about ways to reduce training stress but still make gains. Fatigue is not something that I want to "train through" and I feel fatigue brings injury for fatigue brings poor form. Also, fatigue can come with slow distance because too much time is wasted in that "comfortable" Z2 zone.
As a coach and athlete, your primary goal on race day is to slow down the least and to pace yourself. The focus of training is to make progress so that as you continue with training you are becoming more efficient and economical with your sport. Eventually your current Z4 effort may turn into your Z3 effort on race day and you may find yourself pacing your way to a great race all because you trained your body properly throughout your periodized training plan.
We will all struggle with fatigue in training and racing. But why waste all your best efforts in training and so early in the season? Long slow distance may give you some miles on the bike to brag about in January but if you neglect some higher intensity efforts you may find yourself struggling with performance gains and the change for overtraining due to combining high volume and intensity on the weeks leading up to your big race. That's a BIG no-no....get faster now w/ a strong body (once again - strength training should be part of your training routine and a priority) and then gradually build volume. If you are training for an endurance event, your final prep should not be intense and extreme - avoid fear-based training. It should be specific to the distance ahead. When I trained for my last 2 Ironman's (Kona 2011 and IMWI 2010) I only did 1 ride over 100 miles each time. All my rides were around 4-5 hours, including steady state intervals (anywhere from 20-50 min w/ 2-5 min rest in between) with the power that I built throughout my periodized training plan. I saved my best performance for race day and had a nice big PR in Kona in 2011 and found myself racing very strong on the difficult IMWI bike course.
Use a little speed work to help your aerobic capacity. Instead of trying to resist fatigue with long hours on the bike or long running miles, focus on quality training. Every workout should have a warm-up where there is little focus on pace or speed. Monitor your HR, walk.slow down to control yourself, focus on good form and stretch dynamically (for running) before the main set. After your main set, cool down. That's how I schedule my workouts and same for my athletes. I don't care about miles but what they do within those miles. I'd rather do a 3 hour steady interval bike ride than 6-7 hours on the bike right now. Actually, for my fitness ability, I don't ever want to "train" for 6-7 hours on the bike because I know that I will benefit very little from being on my bike for that long. For running, I'd rather do 10 quality miles w/ intervals at a bit faster intensity than 14-18 miles of long slow running (OUCH).
The problem with long slow training is poor form and over/under emphasis on nutrition. It may work for some but I'd like to make better use of my time when I do my longer workouts. As much as I LOVE training, I like to feel accomplished at the end and know that my fitness on race day isn't made up of a few great workouts but rather many, consistent good workouts. I know my workouts are good because I review my training files. Great is something I say when I am feeling it during or immediately after a workout. It is how I describe how I feel about the workout - not necessarily a sign that I am making improvements aside from building mental strength.
It was super windy so combined with the cooler temps I knew it would be a challenging workout. Again, no need to waste time on the bike riding slow for hours and hours when I could have a great workout sitting on Karel's wheel.
After Karel did his TT on his fixie (for the Ponte Vedra Beach Fixie World Championships - "aka" bragging rights among guys/girls who like to ride fixies) and I warmed up, I took off a few items that were keeping me warm and it was time to head to Nocattee for a few steady intervals.
Sitting on Karel's wheel has been years in the making. There are still intervals that he does that I can not "hang on" for but when it comes to Ironman or Half Ironman training, his Z3 effort is my low Z4 effort for power zones so it works really well that both of us can get a quality workout. I don't race an IM in Z4 but instead upper Z2 and my zones are determined from a 20 x 20 minute sustainable max effort power test w/ 2 min EZ in between.
The main set was the following
15 min Z3 (Karel)
2 min EZ
2 min EZ
2 min EZ
So while Karel was focused on his zones in Z3, here's how my workout on Training Peaks looked:
15 min - 168 watts, 138 HR, 88 cadence, 23.24 mph
15 min - 172 watts, 139 HR, 86 cadence, 22.4 mph
20 min - 164 watts, 139 HR, 87 cadence, 22.54 mph
There's a few things I'd like to point out as I know triathletes love comparing numbers. I've been working on my lactate threshold for years as cycling was not a natural sport for me so for me, my HR may look "low" but it is certainly not a HR that I enjoy to tolerate behind Karel's wheel. The wind was really strong and we did long loops in Nocatee so with every change of direction, there would be a need to change gears to keep a steady cadence. I am working on my cadence as I was a slow masher and now I am getting much better with a higher cadence. I do ON/OFF intervals to work on a fast spin (ON) which burns like OMG but it is making me better.
Speed is irrelevant in my mind when training as I can not hold those speeds on my own so I guess I will enjoy getting in more miles due to higher speeds sitting on Karel's wheel. So more importantly, the power is what I care about. My ability to maintain a certain wattage for a period of time. No matter the terrain, wind, etc. I need to be consistent with my effort. Karel is super steady so riding behind him gives me a great workout for this base phase of training.
We rode for 2 hours and 50 minutes by the time we finished the workout and cooled down and it was time for a 25 minute form-focused run off the bike (7:30 min/mile pace average) for me and for Karel (who has not been traveling like me so he has been doing a few more bricks than me) he ran for 30 minutes and covered more distance because he is faster.
After the workout - time for the Farmers Market!
Karel did a bit longer run than me because I believe that every athlete needs to consider their own consistency with training before jumping in on group workouts (especially long ones). I have not had consistent weekend training for a few weeks so I can not rush my mileage.
Karel and I went our separate ways along the roads and paved trails in the neighborhoods of Nocatte and Karel finished with 1:30 of running and I had 1:20.
I am a firm believer in pace training and monitoring the HR. I am strict on form right now for me and my athletes so anytime form begins to struggle or get sloppy, it's time to walk or slow down.
I consider myself a better runner off the bike due to being warmed up on the bike so it takes me a while (more like 3-4 miles) to feel good on a long run.
I noticed my HR was a bit higher on warm-up than I wanted it to be in looking at my garmin when I started - despite me feeling good with my perceived exertion/form. My perceived effort was fine but my HR was not where I wanted it. This could be contributed to several factors (a bit warmer today, legs weren't sore but felt a bit heavy - more quad dominant this morning, likely my hamstrings were a bit tight) so instead of pushing through with a high HR and struggling with form later in the workout, I opted to walk for a few minutes (1-2) every mile until I finally felt like I was ready for my main set. That came around mile 4. Like usual, I don't care about my pace or distance in warm-up..the warm-up is there for me to warm my body up for the main set. If no main set - there is still a focus for the run.
I carried my gel flask filled with hammer heed (1 scoop) for this run and refilled as needed.
I have my Garmin 910XT set on proper screens which allow me to properly pace my efforts.
I have a screen that shows current pace (so I don't go out too fast in each interval), current HR and time and another screen that shows lap pace (which is great for shorter intervals around 2-6 minutes), distance and time. I tend to use the second screen more. I also hit lap anytime I do an interval. Because it is set up on auto-lap for each mile, I do not need to hit lap when a 1 mile repeater is completed but instead, when I start the next 1-mile lap. Same applies for any other interval distance (2 minutes, 1/2 mile, etc.) - I always hit lap for it is much easier to review in Training Peaks. I also have a screen with the normal functions that most people refer to in training - total time, total distance, average pace and average HR. I tend to flip to this in warm-up and cool down without focus on my total distance. I stop when I am cooled down or my time has been reached and it is time to cool down. I don't run to complete x-miles in training. I have stopped plenty of times with x.90 miles or x.40 miles on my watch but no need to prove anything to get to the next mile.
2 min recovery walk - 123 HR
Mile 2: 6:47 min/mile pace, 153 HR
2 min recovery walk - 123 HR
Mile 3: 6:47 min/mile pace, 155 HR
2 min recovery walk - 127 HR
Mile 4: 6L43 min/mile pace - 158 HR
2 min recovery walk - 126 HR
I couldn't ask for a better week of training. 11 hours training (which was my peak hours in Branson 70.3 prep), good sleep, good nutrition and good balance. A day off Monday, strength training Wed/Fri (including plyometrics on Wed) and 2 solid brick workouts (thurs/sat). The 35 min recovery spin with Karel after our run was the perfect way to end our training week. This was a week of quality and structure. I had a plan and a purpose and I look forward to doing it all over again next week. 9 more weeks of half IM specific training and then it is time to gradually move into more specific Ironman training. Build the form, strength and speed now and endurance will follow. Train smarter to get faster.
Quality - base building.