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By Shane Smith.

You work 40-plus hours per week and training for a long distance triathlon. How do you fit two long rides into an already packed schedule?

The hardest part for most people who are training for an Ironman is getting in the required mileage on the bike. This is especially true when most athletes are working full-time and have friends and families to keep happy.

Fitting in that second long ride is always difficult, and if you don’t have flexible work hours, then the usual Wednesday long ride is out.

However, with a little manipulating of the traditional training program you can get the benefits of that extra-long ride.

Triathletes are sticklers for routine. Saturday is always the long-ride day. Sunday is the long-run day. Tuesday is a tempo run and Mondays are the day off.

That’s fine, and for the majority of the year it’s OK to follow this practice, but once in a while, when trying to bump up your mileage for an Ironman, changing the program may help you achieve improved performances.

By adding a second long ride to the program when you normally do not have the time for it, you will help yourself get through the 180km of an Ironman more comfortably, and this will assist you with the run off the bike.

While training for the Japan Strongman several years ago, I was working full-time at a magazine and was struggling to get a second long ride in during the week due to deadlines and workload.

So, after some planning and rearranging of my program (and the panic of knowing there was just 10 weeks until the event), I was able to achieve the training required to have a good ride during the race.

Here is what I did: 

Six weeks prior to the beginning of the four-week taper, I used the weekends to build my bike mileage and changed the Sunday long run to Thursday mornings.

On weeks one, three and five, on the Saturday, I would do a hard ride of three to four hours (usually as part of a group ride) followed by a transition run from 30 to 45 minutes at Ironman race pace.

The Sunday ride was long and aerobic, which I usually did alone, and varied it between five and seven hours. It was always easy and used purely to build mileage and my aerobic base.

On weeks two, four and six I would do the long ride on the Saturday (again five to seven hours) but this time with 2 x 20 minute efforts at Ironman race pace, followed by a transition run of 20 to 40 minutes, which was run 5 to 10 seconds faster per kilometer than Ironman race pace.

On the Sunday the ride was a hard group session of three to four hours. It hurt, as I was fatigued from the day before, but that was the idea. It would help me prepare to push hard in the last half of the ride during the race when I started to become fatigued.

There’s no run on this day, but sometimes an optional 2K swim in the afternoon was possible.

The key to the success of the program is fitting the long run in on the Thursday. You need to wake early on Thursday morning and run for between two and 2.5 hours, go home and have a quick stretch, have your food and drink ready to go and replenish yourself while you drive to work.

It is not ideal, but the reality is this is the only way to fit everything in. Friday was always a rest day (or maybe a long, slow swim) to prepare for the weekend rides.

Try to fit most of your swimming and running into the weekdays, leaving you free to ride on the weekend.

The program is really only sustainable for a six-week period as it won’t be long before your family and friends begin to disown you for not socializing on the weekends. So use it only when getting ready for your big Ironman event of the year.

Sample Program

Swim, turbo session (easy)

Tempo/hill run, swim

Turbo session (hard intervals), easy run

Long run – 2 to 2.5 hours

Off or long, slow swim

Odd weeks: 3 to 4 hours hard, transition run 30 to 45 mins
Even weeks: 5 to 7 hours easy, transition run 20 to 40 mins

Odd weeks: 5 to 7 hours easy
Even weeks: 3 to 4 hours hard


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