October 3, 2011

Big Weekend Training


At the moment, my weekends are pretty much a waste in a social sense, but hugely beneficial in terms of preparing for Challenge Cape Town. Over the last 4 weekends, I have built into what will be a few very big weekends coming up. As a working athlete, big weekends are a non-negotiable in terms of athletic success for these mega endurance events. The approach should always be:

1. Simulate race environment.
2. Simulate race nutrition.
3. Simulate race fatigue.
4. Simulate race pace over the last 1/4 of the session.

I like to build my long rides and runs, start slowly (read: be humble, it’ll get nasty later) so that I am realistic half way about how the body is going. On a 5 hour ride, with about 90min left, I like to rev the engine to get home, riding at the very top of the aerobic zone, taking in race nutrition at race rates and being 100% in the zone. On a 2.5hr run, that means for me, the last 45min is a non-negotiable smash it zone.

The objective is not to go as hard as you can, but go as close to race simulation as possible, remaining aerobic but being 100% focused on the finish line ahead of you.

Great practise, especially when it’s falling apart physically. That happens on race day and we need to practise being broken and moving well, amazingly, at the same time.

If you really want to test yourself (beyond riding and for Ironman specifically), run 5km off the bike. How are the legs on that run? Do they feel ready for a marathon? If not, I would adjust the pace in the FIRST 90min of the ride, not the last 90min.

Other factors that make big weekend training a success:

1. I have Fridays off training. I like to sleep in, eat well and take it laaaank easy on Fridays.
2. Imagine that Saturday is the start of your week. You will mentally, feel more fresh for the challenge ahead. Seeing something as the start or the end of a week can make a huge difference to performance.
3. Let your last hard session be Wednesday afternoon, giving 2 days in the legs to recover for the weekend.

Here are some examples for various people on what a big weekend may constitute:

Getting Into Endurance:

Saturday – 3hr ride, 40min run (run after lunch and eating).
Sunday – 1hr swim, 3hr ride, 20min run (almost continuously, pausing only to eat between sessions).

Privateer / Elite Age Grouper:

Saturday – 1hr swim, 6hr ride, 1hr run (split only to eat between sessions)
Sunday – 5hr ride, 30min run (brick)


1. Communicate your weekend plans before the weekend starts. Nothing irritates our loved ones more than when we are away the whole day, on the weekend, unexpectedly, without prior notice.
2. Stock up on nutrition and food before hand. On Sunday afternoon, you will want to eat a mountain of food, non-stop. Make sure you have whole, healthy, raw food at home.

I hope this will help a little with what is an essential part for success in endurance races for amateur athletes with normal commitments and family time pressure.

Have a great week.

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