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Part of what motivated me to complete my first couple Ironman Triathlon 5 or so years ago was blogging my experience. It didn't matter that no one was reading it motivates me by being accountable each and every week...
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Is it OK to skip training sessions?
Well I started training on Monday, overslept on Tuesday so tried to move my morning planned morning run session to the evening then had to work late and skipped the session altogether. The second session of my masterplan to knock at least an hour off my IMUK time and I skipped it! 

This made me ask the question “Is it OK to skip training sessions?”.

This has had me playing catch-up for the rest of the week having to skip my Friday day off to fit in a Swim Threshold Test. This has got me to thinking how common of a scenario is this and what is the best thing to do in this situation? Double up? Continue on ignoring the past?

This led me to doing some investigation on Google in which I found a couple of articles with, not quite conflicting, but with slightly differing views on how to react in this situation, especially around higher intensity sessions. There is a lot of great info here for you to make an informed choice in this situation.

Ironman Training Plan
First article that I came across is an article by Chris Carmichael titled "Missing in Action" in which he described how there is no one size fits all it answer to this issue it depends on your situation. I have summarised the key points from the article below:

Missed Endurance Workout – with endurance rarely being the limiting factor that prevents athletes from achieving their goals, missing the occasional endurance workout has only a minor impact on your progress. Let it be and move on with your training schedule.

Missed Interval Workout – if you’re in a phase of training where you are working on intervals at aerobic or lactate threshold intensities, shifting the interval workout forward will usually result in a two-day block (Tuesday/Thursday becomes Wednesday/Thursday). Since you’re getting more rest by not training on Tuesday, the two-day block can be quite beneficial. Just monitor your fatigue levels afterward in case you need a little more rest following the block. Don’t try and squeeze in consecutive VO2max sessions as this will have a lingering negative effect on your next week of training.

Missed key interval session in training block – As training gets more focused, you start using more two- and three-day blocks to increase overall training stimulus. If you need to miss a session remember that in the long run, recovery trumps intensity and each block is dependent on the previous one and impacts the next one.

Recovery Times – you can’t achieve two days’ worth in just one day. It’s better to preserve your scheduled recovery periods than it is to sacrifice recovery for additional intensity.

The article gives a real-life example: An athlete had a schedule of hard interval workouts on Wednesday and Thursday (two-day block), easy recovery sessions on Friday/Saturday, and another block on Sunday/Monday. On Friday he learned he had a meeting on Monday that nixed his workout plans, so he moved the interval session to Saturday, making the two-day block Saturday/Sunday.

It didn’t work. By prioritising intensity over recovery and eliminating one of the two recovery days between his training blocks, he was too fatigued to complete a high-quality workout on Sunday (now the fourth day of intervals in five days). He would have been better off keeping Saturday a relatively easy day and moderately in- creasing the workload in Sunday’s workout.

When you’ve missed 3+ consecutive days – If you are more than two months out from your event repeat the week and adjust your plan accordingly.
If you are less than two months out from your event you need to have the confidence in the training that you have done to write off a less than perfect week and continue with you peak and taper programme.

Don’t over do it in your ironman training. Have a recovery strategy in place

Secondly, I stumbled across an article from the site Coach Gordo titled Golden Rules For Your First Ironman which, although aimed at first timers, is a good reminder to all abilities alike of what you need to consider when training for an Ironman Triathlon. I have summarised the main points below:

Rule One: You don’t have to kill yourself in training.

You’ve signed yourself up for an Ironman. You know it’s a grueling race, so you better toughen yourself up by signing up for two marathons, half a dozen Century rides and a three-mile rough water swim. Not recommended!

Endurance training is exactly like turning a Styrofoam cup inside out. So long as you take it slowly you’ll be able to do it. Try to rush things and – rip – you’ll tear the cup. You are the cup. [Interesting analysis but I think it gets the point across pretty well]

Rule Two: Build technique and endurance in your first year.

Laying out a sketch of the year is essential. The core of your week is your long slow distance session in each sport. Plan to build your swim up to 4K, your ride up to five hours and your run up to two and a half hours. Build up very slowly (no more than 5-10% in terms of duration in any week )three weeks forward, one week back, repeat.

A classic “Ironman Weekend” is a six-hour ride on Saturday followed by a three hour run on Sunday. These sessions are typically billed as “confidence builders”. However, these sessions are counterproductive leaving you destroyed until at least Wednesday. Spread your key sessions for best results.

Rule Three: Focus on your key sessions and make your key sessions focused.

With your key sessions laid out, the rest of the week is easy to plan. Add your other workouts so you get three sessions of each sport. You have one goal each week-hit your key sessions fresh and injury free. Everything else is filler. If you are whipped, take a rest day. The most important predictor of success is the quality of your key sessions rather than the overall volume of your sessions. So, if you are recovering well from your long sessions, don’t sweat the volume.

A word on your key sessions: If you are following these guidelines, make sure your long workouts are quality. Avoid long breaks and make sure that they are true endurance sessions that build your base. Know your HR training zones for endurance and stick with them. Long slow distance always starts at an easy pace, but after three hours on the bike, you are working no matter what the pace.

Rule Four: Sleep is more valuable than training.

Better to have a lie-in miss a short workout on Thursday, than a whole weekend with an unexpected illness. (Of course, going to bed an extra hour early every night is a better option than missing training). Weekend naps are also great for the working athlete. Keep them under an hour for best results.

Rule Five: Forget about speedwork.

Be honest with yourself. Are you expecting to run sub-four hours? Are you expecting to run the whole marathon? If the answer to either of these questions is “no”, then running speedwork is a complete waste of time. Some people disagree on this point but it is firmly believed. A track session can leave you worn-out for 12-36 hours. If you are going to beast yourself, then do it in a manner that most benefits your race (i.e. a four to five hour ride).

I am actually training in contrary to this when following the Tri-Ripped Training Programme in which some elements of speed work is done and a shedload of hills are incorporated. I suppose these are not speed sessions as such but are definitely high intensity. This personally for me in the preparation for my third Ironman season is imperative as speed / leg strength is something that I am seriously lacking in.

Rule Six: Recovery is your friend.

Make sure that you drop the volume WAY down every four weeks. Your recovery strategy is the most important part of your plan. Recovery is when you will make all your fitness gains.

You should end every recovery week feeling fresh and dying to get back on it. If you don’t feel like this after a week, then your total volume is likely too high. Note that it is called a recovery week rather than a rest week. Stay active in your recovery. Maintain frequency, but drop the volume and intensity way down.

Rule Seven: Check your ego at the door.

Any time you are in a group situation, there will always be someone who wants to go faster than you, in these situations, swallow your pride and get dropped. It is tough, but eventually you get used to it, kind of.
Know your session goals before you start and do everything you can to stick to your goals. Group rides are the most dangerous; the pace slowly creeps up and before you know it… hammer time! For that reason, either ride alone or with friends that accept your pace in advance.

Rule Eight: Keep your eyes on the prize.

Remember your goals when you decided to start this journey and keep the training fun. There is no point in putting all this time into the sport unless you are having a good time. When it all becomes a bit much (and it will eventually), back off and re-assess. The right answers will come to you.

IMUK Race Day Fuel. Make sure you practice your fuelling.

The last article I am going to discuss in this post is entitled How To Sabotage Your Ironman By Coach Wendy on website runs through ways in which you can set yourself up for a world of pain on race day (assuming you make it to the start line). The article is pretty in-depth so check it out but I have a gain summarised this main points in the article.

Sabotage No 1: Finish Line Fever Decision Making – Jump in Boots and All
Based on the fact that people have been to, or seen on TV the excitement at the finish line of an Ironman event and decide to start training the day after and blindly sign up for the following years Ironman. I was even worse than this, I signed up because I thought a mate was also signing up, he wasn’t!!!

Objectively sitting back & planning whether the Ironman is a race for you. Ask yourself if you know what is really required? Are you healthy enough to begin to train to do an Ironman? How much of your time will this event take to train for? What is the best gear to buy? How do I know what I need to do for training? How do I train? Should I take one or two years to do this event?

Sabotage No 2: Show Some Respect
Many people have this view that it’s only a triathlon! It’s just a swim a ride and a run. Remember you start off with a 2.4 mile (3.8km) open water swim, then warm those legs up with a 112 miles (180km) cycle and then you need to run a marathon all 26.2 miles (42k) of it.

Remember this is an Ironman, and you’ve got be prepared to answer some big questions as it WILL hurt. If it was easy every man and his dog would be doing them every weekend. Respect this event, and be prepared to fight it. Be prepared to dig deep, really deep and then reap the rewards that last a lifetime.

Sabotage No 3: Tell EVERYONE your goal
Listen to all, but talk to one. Talk it through with your family first and then talk it through with someone who knows the demands required for the event. Find someone who can provide you with objective advice as to the best way to approach the event. An experienced Ironman coach or training program is the best place to start. Read how I plan on conquering IMUK 2014 in My Route to IMUK 2014 and My Ironman UK FAQ.

Sabotage No 4: No Plan! Just Training!
Consider that the Ironman is a swim, bike and run combination and it is this combination that creates an entirely new event. Add to this the distance of the Ironman and the consequences of this combination demand a different approach. A skilled coach will combine these requirements into a progressive personalized training program that is tailored to both your skills and those demanded by the Ironman. Join your local Tri-Club where there is a wealth of information. I use my Tri-Club for swimming sessions and group rides (when the weather is warmer) and have followed a training program each year (year 1 (2012) , year 2 (2013) and this year 3 (2014).

Sabotage No 5: Over Train, just do a bit more!
Many pass on the fresh fruit and veggies, eat minimal meat and go to bed really late, but still get up early for your 5am swims. Just get used to being tired and grumpy. If they get injured they just keep training, what doesn’t kill them will make them strong and after all the Ironman is about being tough!
Remember recovery, getting enough sleep, eating well and keeping a good eye on how your body is dealing with the progressive training load. Over training is poor training.

Sabotage No 6: Training Intensity: 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year 
You have one year and the clock is ticking so make the most of everyday by training everyday, rest days are for softies. Remember to train really hard every session, if you miss a session then double it up on the next session.

Periodisation is important. The progressive planning of training that enables your body to adapt to a training load. One day a week off training will probably be the least you need to keep your life a little more balanced and also consider having a week off at least every three months. Use your rest day to do some core conditioning work or go and get a massage. Should you miss a session, forget it and plan for a more effective use of your time so as to enable you to minimize those missed sessions. As for the bricks, like everything there is a time and a place, ask someone at your local tri-club for advice if not following a training plan.

Sabotage No 7: Pacing and Racing
Pace and train smart so you develop a solid aerobic base to which you then add some strength – that will provide a great foundation for your Ironman. Combining endurance and strength is one of the key components to the Ironman. Discovering an effective race pace takes time and practice so be patient. When deciding which races to do, go to your goal and ask yourself which races are going to provide you with the necessary skills needed to do the Ironman. Don’t jeopardize your Ironman for the sake of another race. The Ironman is to be your number one race so therefore turn up at the start line ready to race not having already raced and tired.

Sabotage No 8: Making Time the Main Measure of a Successful Ironman
In making time the measure of your Ironman success, three things normally occur. Firstly, the time you set is often quicker than is realistic so you end up going slower and getting frustrated. Secondly, you put huge pressure on yourself. Thirdly, the Ironman has so many more measurable criteria for success, so why limit it to time.

Sabotage No 9: Give the swimming the biff 
The Swim may only be 10% but it takes up 90% of your emotion the morning of the ironman so give it the respect it deserves. A swim squad with a good coach will enable you to swim efficiently and bilaterally breathing is very important not only for your stroke, and your body posture but it will enable you to breath regardless of the wind condition on race day. Open water swimming will get you familiar with sighting and drafting others. Resist buying a wetsuit while you have your winter coat on! As you get closer to the ironman you will lean down and this is the fit that you want the suit to recognize as your suit needs to fit you like a glove not like a rain coat! Position yourself in the pace so as to allow yourself to get a smart swim, not one where you are likely to get a serious smacking!

Sabotage No 10: Bike Fits, Big Bike & ride off the back!
Your height will determine what size wheels you should be riding. Given that the bike is a time trial you really should be riding a triathlon specific designed bike. Try to convert a standard cycling bike into a tri bike and be very wary of the change in the bike handing and stability. Spin the bike course and enjoy the marathon with fresh legs. Helmets and shoes wear out so get these checked before assuming they are okay. Ironman bike fitting is a science, so make sure the person fitting you to your bike is experienced with the Ironman distance and has proven results with their techniques of bike fitting.

Sabotage No 11: Run Hard, Big Miles & Fast
Many run a couple of marathons before the Ironman, just to make sure they can do it. But consider doing long slow miles on off road terrain, keeping your pace slow enough to build up a huge aerobic capacity is the key to Ironman base training. Training pace and race pace are two separate levels of intensity and as such, have a time and a place in all effective programs.

Sabotage No 12: Eat What You Like
Nutrition is one of the four golden aspects of Ironman – other than Pacing, Heart Rate and Cadence, getting your Nutrition right will help to ensure a good race. Ensuring a good balance between the carbs and protein, along with sufficient electrolyte intake, is the constant nutrition juggle that will have a major impact on both your ability to train and more importantly your ability to recover and train again and again. “Practice, practice, practice” is the nutrition catch phrase.

Sabotage No 13: Race Day Aid Stations
Learn what fuel is going to be available on the race day aid stations and plan your use of this accordingly. Practice riding through aid stations, grabbing food and bottles whilst keeping your head up and holding a straight line. Stick to your race nutrition plan regardless!

Sabotage No 14: Race Everyone
Ironman is about you getting through 2.4m (3.8km) of swimming, riding 112m (180km) and running a marathon. It is about you and no one else. The ability to hold that mental focus for the entire day is a huge skill and often one of the most neglected. Focus on the smartest way to swim the next 10 strokes, the most efficient piece of road to ride on for the next 200 meters and the best posture for the next 20 steps on the run. You won’t have time to focus on anyone else and if you find your mind wandering – bring it back and zone it on YOU. It’s you out there, so let other competitors do what they like, your race isn’t over until you cross that finish line and the sooner you can get there the better.

There is some good advice here hopefully it will help you like it has helped me. 

Please comment and let me know how you find the article.

All the best
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