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After a decade as a professional triathlete and with ITU world championship wins at both the short and long course distances, Leanda Cave seemed to have her training dialled in. Then two years ago, she slipped and cracked her ribs while pulling a pool tarp during a spring training camp in Borrego Springs, California So her coach, Siri Lindley, limited Cave’s running to uphill treadmill intervals because running any other way proved too jarring and painful. The result?
A month later, Cave surprised herself by winning the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon, covering the half-marathon distance in 1:25, her fastest showing ever over the extremely hilly course. Realising that uphill running could help with her long-course weakness, the marathon, she and Lindley soon made it a regular part of her programme, which enabled Cave to run her way to a podium finish in Kona in 2011 and two world championship long-course wins in Vegas and Kona last year. “Uphill running helps every athlete,” says Cave. “But until then I never really had the time to hone in on uphill running to see the effect that it had on me.”
The point of Cave’s story is not that uphill running should be a component of your Ironman training (although it does help those who, like Cave, lack natural leg strength). It’s that people respond differently to training. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. And developing your own training recipe for long-course success, as Cave herself discovered, can take years of trial and error to figure out.
Over the past decade, I’ve talked to enough pro and age-group winners at Kona about their training to realise that Ironman athletes prepare themselves for the performances of their lives in vastly different and sometimes contradictory ways. Some find that high-volume, low-heart-rate training works best, while others have discovered that frequent doses of quality and speed are far more important for a solid performance on race day. So instead of presenting another cookie- cutter, long-course training programme for the “average” athlete that may or may not work for your next 70.3 or iron-distance race, here instead are some key questions to ask yourself before embarking on (and hopefully modifying) your training plan to achieve a peak performance in your next long-course triathlon.
Did you do enough volume last year to train for an Ironman this year?
That’s the first question Jesse Kropelnicki, the founder and head coach of QT2 Systems, asks prospective clients who inquire about his Ironman training programme.