Thursday, May 5, 2016

Planning my bike build to Honu

This week I went back to review my plans for the remaining bike workouts building to Ironman 70.3 Hawaii. As I began digging in I felt that old daemon, panic, a looming dark cloud of emotion, fear that I have not done enough and need to do a lot more. Only four weeks to go!

In the words of the late Erik Bauersfeld, "It's a trap!"

It started when I began to plan the details of this Sunday's long ride. My training plan calls out a basic ride/run brick, with a few Zone 3 intervals in the bike and most of the run in Zone 3 as well. I think I will get more out of a road trip back to Pineapple Hill. For those of you not familiar with Oahu roads, this is Highway 99 running from Haleiwa on the North Shore, inland and up a long, steady grade very much like the climb to Hawi.

The last time I was there was a few weeks ago, April 17th to be exact. My training plan for that day called for 1:30 bike followed by 0:30 run, with three 15 minute intervals in Zone 3. For that I substituted a ride designed to increase my FTP while simulating the long, relentlessly steady climb to Hawi. Warm up riding from Kaiaka Beach Park to the base of Hwy 99 just past the round-about, then two twenty minute intervals climbing at Zone 4.5 or better, just above FTP. Recover on the downhill. By the end of the second interval my legs were on fire. Back at the park I was too tired to run.

Here is the ride profile for that day, along with power data. You can see where I started to lose it at the end of the second ascent. The two gaps are where I stopped to take pictures.

Let's pause here and learn from this example. A cyclist riding a time trial knows that after crossing the finish line their day is done, but a triathlete still has a long run to do. In the case of Honu, a half marathon. In order to be able to run after the bike, the bike segment must be done at less than the absolute maximum. What is FTP? The maximum effort a cyclist can produce at a constant rate for one hour. If you expect to run after the bike you must ride at or below FTP. The only exception is a very fit athlete doing a sprint triathlon, in which case the bike can be a smidgen above FTP. For long course triathlon, somewhere between 65-85% FTP. How do we increase FTP? By riding long intervals at or above FTP. By definition you cannot ride above FTP for an hour. Twenty minute efforts with long recoveries are good. Can you see why I should not be surprised that I was too tired to run after my ride? Besides, it was raining and my bike was a filthy mess and I did not want to put it in the Outback without a good washing. So, no run that day.

The following Sunday was the Haleiwa Metric Century Ride. For that my plan was to ride a little below race pace, mid Zone 2, and run for at least thirty minutes after the bike. As fate would have it, I rode 56.5 miles, the same distance as the Honu bike segment. Minus the long climb to the turn-around. As I approached Haleiwa on the return I tested my legs and found that I had plenty of fuel in the tanks and could go a lot harder. Running was entirely possible. I only had to stop running because Pattie wanted to get to Haleiwa Joe's for lunch ASAP. Take that, Forrest Gump.

Until yesterday my plan for this Sunday was to do a longer version of my last Pineapple Hill ride. Three intervals instead of two. Then I got into pacing and planning my upcoming races, and that is when I got the bright idea that I really needed to do a bike ride that duplicates the full Honu course, at race pace, to see if I could. I brought up Google Maps and started to look for where I would need to start to make Pineapple Hill the midpoint. Somewhere around Kahuku it dawned on me that to ride that far that hard on Sunday would leave me wrecked for the rest of the week, and I have a race next Sunday. That is what races do, they leave you wrecked. You cannot afford to have workouts leave you wrecked. The rule of thumb is you either go long and slow, or short and fast.

As I thought about it I reminded myself I have already done a lot of long and slow. As recently as the metric century a couple weeks ago. This is not the time for long and slow.

How then do I combine the goal of running off the bike with the goal of improving my FTP? The best answer is to do these workouts on different days. But I do not have infinite days. Who does? My plan is a compromise that may or may not work. I like it because it simulates the Honu profile. I will do those three reps up the hill, but I will follow that with a ride at 75-85% FTP along the coast for at least thirty minutes. Last time it took less than ten minutes to get back to my car. I am hoping the longer ride will give my legs enough time to recover, while at the same time getting used to sustaining race pace -- that range is the upper half of Zone 3, which is right where I want to be during the race.

The following weekend is the Honolulu Triathlon. I plan to do it at my Honu race pace, with the caveat that if my legs are getting tired I will slow down on the run and walk if I have to. This is not the time to blow out a hamstring. After that there is only one more ride that really counts, on May 22nd. My training plan calls for about the same workout as this Sunday. I will wait and see how this Sunday goes, and what needs work after my next race, but I anticipate a return one last time to the hill.

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