Since I started Ironman training four years ago, I have “skipped” a lot of workouts–and felt guilty much of the time. But now I look at these rest choices as a calculated-energy savings. One “over-workout” can throw off an entire week and I’d rather cut one short than get sick or battle exhaustion.

Yesterday, my three hour trainer ride started with optimism and quickly turned into a shit show. I felt weak and had a hard time getting the blood going, so I settled for an easy-gear spin and worked on staying in aero.  I hoped to eventually loosen up and slowly wind into a tight coil that would explode on the bike trainer universe!  But 45 minutes in, I felt worse.  I decided to hang till the one-hour mark, then make a decision . . . which was to get off the bike.

So, my three hour trainer ride was a fail.  I tried to put it out of my mind, but the nagging gets louder when you’re less than 3 months from your race.

Luckily I remembered the whole two-a-day thing (how can I forget these things?) and how one of my favorite things to do is split up long runs with two shorter ones 6-8 hours apart.  Why not do it with the bike??

As hard as I try (I’m currently reading The Morning Miracle) I’m just not at my best in the mornings.  Even though that trainer ride started at 10 am, I just didn’t have it, but at 5 o’clock, I felt like a different person.  I filled my water bottles, re-greased my chamois, and climbed aboard to see what happened.

I didn’t really have a plan, but after a ten minute warm up, I slipped into a gear that would be about 80% effort (85 rpm or so) and laid in aero for 20 minutes.  This woke me up a bit and I thought I might have two hours in me.  I took a 5 minute easy spin, then went back to pushing in aero.

It should be noted, that I do nearly everything in my training by feel and try very hard to keep good form with swim, bike, and run.  If I’m starting to lose my way, I’ll back off and/or stop.

I have two main goals for the bike right now:  build power in aero, and push big gears for the hills at Wisconsin.

My split-bike-workout yesterday looked like this:

1 Hour easy (mostly in aero) with full intention on moving my legs in a smooth rotation.

2 Hours that night broken out like this:

10 min warm up easy
20 min in aero at just above perceived race pace on flats around 85 rpm
5 min EASY gear recovery
20 min in aero at just above perceived race pace on flats around 85 rpm
5 min EASY gear recovery
5 min hardest gear sitting down at 55rpm
5 min easy gear recovery at a good clip 95rpm
5 min hardest gear sitting down at 55rpm
5 min easy gear recovery at a good clip 95rpm
5 min hardest gear standing at 55rpm
5 min EASY gear recovery
20 min in aero at just above perceived race pace on flats around 85 rpm
10 min EASY gear cool down

I have no idea if this is an effective strategy, but it felt good to me.  I’m really concentrating on a smooth pedal stroke with everything I do. I also like to think of simulating the course on a trainer to create different challenges with a wide range of rpm, then finding a sweet spot where I’ll have the most efficient speed.  This was a pretty tough workout, but when I keep my mind focused on form vs. mashing the pedals, you find a better rhythm and cycling doesn’t seem quite as hard.

I suppose some of your are asking why I would ride the trainer for 3 hours on a beautiful Saturday morning, especially after hearing the best triathlon cyclist, Andrew Starykowicz say he rarely rides the trainer?  Well, two reasons, actually.

Last year, for the 6 weeks leading up to Ironman Chattanooga, I was working under the guidance of pro-triathlete, Jim Lubiniski.  I told him flat-out that I wasn’t in the mood for any 4-6 hour rides and asked if there was a work-around.  I’m not saying he endorsed my “no-long-ride” strategy, but he developed a killer (tough) trainer schedule that I hammered 3 days a week for 5 weeks.

Before Chattanooga, my longest ride was 68 miles but I still averaged my fastest IM time of 20 mph for the 116 miles.  There could be a number of reasons, but the one thing I remember about that ride is that I seemed to have another level of tenacity for getting back in aero and pushing through.  I attribute a lot of that to the consistent, non-stop-grind of the trainer.

Secondly, I’m not much for riding on roads or greenways.  Roads because people driving cars seem to get very angry at the simple thought of someone on a bicycle, and greenways because I can’t stand when I see cyclists cooking by me in aero with kids and dogs and groups of kids on skateboards.  Neither place lets me focus like a trainer.  Here in Nashville, Natchez Trace is the exception, but it’s 45 minutes from my house and with set up, etc, it’s a 2 hour round trip.

I guess thing I like about the trainer is the mental toughness.  It’s become almost a meditation for me.  Clear the brain and work on form. And last night I was blessed with a pouring rain while I rode in my garage.

Though I biked well at Chattanooga, I still feel like my run suffered from not being in better cycling shape.  I was in the best run shape of my life last year, but it didn’t matter because my legs were fried off the bike.  I still ran decently, but if my bike form would have been tighter and my legs a little stronger, that run could have gone much better.

Biking (along with swimming) have been my main focuses this year.  I’m backing off on the run to add time in the water and saddle.

I guess the whole point of this is . . . if we’re doing a lot of two-a-days training for Ironman, don’t underestimate the thought of splitting long swims, bikes, or runs into two.  There’s definitely something to be said for getting used to and plowing through a tough patch, but it’s a fine line. Sometimes we just don’t have it, and risking the loss of a few training days to exhaustion isn’t worth it to me.

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Doubling Up The Bike Trainer