Training Hacks for Ironman: Traditional Vs. Crossfit

I didn’t do this on purpose for any means, but over the last two years I have completed two Ironman 70.3 distances (Boulder both times) with radically different training programs. Today I looked at my times and think there are some pretty interesting conclusions.

2009: I raced the distance for the first time with pretty beginner, but not poor, gear.  My training was a six day a week, at least an hour a day, schedule.  About 14 hours a week if you included the longer bike ride on Saturday.  Three ‘bricks’ or multi sport days (a run then a bike).  It took a great deal of effort and I was very proud of my first 70.3 distance:

2009
57:23 swim
2:44:14 bike
2:30:18 run
6:18.15 finish time

race report

Recovery from the race took a full week of very sore knees and legs.

2010: There were so many weird things about this year, but I never really got my traditional training into gear.  I was training at Crossfit Roots in Boulder and loved about everything they had.  A intense challenge with a focus on a fun community.  I didn’t have to worry about solo runs or workouts, they had quality coaches to keep you in check and push you when you needed it.  When I raced in August, it was my longest swim, bike and run of the year.  I was proud of my effort as well (especially for my three hours of training a week):

2010
45:14 swim
2:44 bike
2:50 run
6:25:06 finish time

After the race I drove myself to town, had drinks and dinner with friends and went for a nice relaxed run the next day with very little soreness and a massive racing suit tan.

race report (and I got this medal that says I swam 13.1 miles)

Ironman Boulder finisher medal. We swam, biked and swam, according to them. 13.1 swim. Arms still tired. #fail

What does the data tell us?  What did other things contribute to the races (such as, in 2010 it was much hotter and as you can see I bonked on the run).  I finished within seven minutes with completely different training styles.  In 2010 I had a nicer bike but also a foot injury.  Offsets.  I wasn’t a rookie and knew what to expect for my swim (the time shows this) and was more relaxed.

If I were to do it again, I would do Crossfit with some longer bike rides to get my cardio up.  Mix in some 400 meter running sprints and a once a week mile swim (400 meter sprints as well).

The final word: you don’t have to train traditionally for longer endurance events.  My longest workout going into the 2010 race was 38 minutes.

That is crazy talk. It worked well though.

  • I was just checking out the post and noticed the funny typo on the medal. You swam 13.1 miles?? WOW!
    😉

  • NULL

    They sent a replacement, but a funny typo on their part.

  • That is a really inspiring post. I am running my first marathon later this month and am thinking about a triathlon (though likely a shorter distance to start).

    My favorite part of the post though: the typo on the finisher medal. A 13.1 mile swim would be really impressive.

  • Congratulations on 2 awesome completions!

    A couple comments:
    1. Not being a rookie your second time around is actually pretty significant. You had a pretty good idea how your body might react from the first experience.
    2. Muscle memory. It takes less time to get yourself back into shape once you’ve reached a certain level of fitness.

    Beware the idea of not having to train “traditionally” if you are a beginner and have not really reached a base level of fitness. You could be in for some serious injuries.

  • NULL

    That is a great point. I wonder how a marathoner would transition to
    triathlon if they just did core work. I did get an injury earlier in the
    year from running with some poor footwear too fast, but besides that felt
    much less injury prone than the year before.

  • Nicholas E Massie

    AH, I wonder if doing fewer long distances or more short ones put your body in a different state of readiness. Though the ease with which you resumed daily life would indicate that you didn’t burn off reserves during the big event. Maybe you hit a sweet spot with a tapering off of exertion before the tri? Congrats regardless!

  • Ahhhh, good points. I think you are absolutely correct, a full body workout on a regular basis with some sport specific workouts is plenty.

    When I merely ran a half marathon, I had done about 6 sprint triathlons is the year previous, but time became an issue during the half training and I ended up only doing my long runs. In other words, I ran once a week only I think from 6 miles up. So 7 weeks out, I ran 6 miles, 6 weeks out I ran 7 miles, 5 weeks out I ran 8 miles etc. One long run a week and nothing in between.

    I ran it in 2 hours, 22 seconds (at 6’1″ 235lbs with a BMI rated at obese btw 🙂

    So there you go. Untraditional but effective.

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