Mar 262012

(This is part one of a multi-part series.

Given various obligations, I am adjusting my training and incorporating more high intensity (i.e. Heart Rate Zone 3 and Zone 4) training into my workouts, and cutting out some of my long, slow Zone 2 work. Our previously posted and expertly written series on Heart Rate Zone Training by Jennifer Lynn is an excellent compliment to this series. Please take a look if you have not already done so.


This series will follow my training, track my season, chronicle some workouts, etc. I hope you enjoy it – James Kezele)


My first triathlon was a small sprint in Boulder, Colorado. My training for that race was comprised of my regular running, my regular biking, and a little swimming here and there (and I mean a little bit of swimming). I was lucky; that training, although entirely unstructured, was enough for me to survive the race, and do well enough to really catch the triathlon bug.

I can imagine many of you reading this can twist my story into your own. It is not unusual for a 5k race, entered with trepidation, to become an obsession for half and full marathons. And with me being the case-in-point, a Sprint triathlon can plant the seed (and the goal) of Ironman aspirations.

However, it is clear that a 5k racer or a Sprint Triathlete cannot transition into marathons and Ironmans with a training plan that mirrors what I implemented before my first triathlon. To do so would be lead to a painful and looong race day, at best…and injury on top of that looong day, at worst. So, when I decided to step up my “triathlon game” I started looking at training plans.

I was blown away.

Having played sports on a collegiate level I was used to high volume workouts…but 15 hours…on a “recovery week”…you’ve got to be kidding me…no?

Nope…it was no joke. Granted, that was for Ironman, but Ironman was my goal.

My “A Race” last summer was a Half-Ironman, so I found a plan that looked do-able, scaled down workouts where I could, and went at it. I put in multiple 3+ mile swims, 70+ mile rides and long-slow runs. That base was necessary, and I did get faster. But, as a runner, I used to be really fast and as I reflected on my last season I felt I was losing some of that top-end speed.

Now I need to provide a disclaimer here: I think that my season of “Zone 2” work was necessary. I needed to get comfortable in the water, I needed to get used to spending hours in the saddle, and I needed to build a decent long-distance running base.

On race day for my half-IM there was a comfort level knowing I could swim 3+ miles, bike 100+, and run 20, even though, on that day I would only be called on to swim 1.2, bike 56, and run 13.1. So, the purpose of this series is in no way to dissuade you from putting in those long days. My schedule right now just doesn’t allow a season of them – so I am tweaking it.

 How does high-intensity training benefit the traithlete?

Motivation for the adjustment to my workouts comes from a great article in Triathlete. There, the idea behind high intensity training is well stated:

“The reason you need to incorporate short intervals (anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes) at very high intensities (120 percent of lactate threshold power on the bike, for instance) is that you need bigger and more abundant mitochondria in your muscle cells so they can break down fat and carbohydrate into usable energy more quickly. With greater capacity in your mitochondria, you can go faster before you reach the point where accumulated lactate forces you to slow down (lactate threshold). And since mitochondria also reintegrate lactate into normal aerobic metabolism so it can be broken down to usable energy, having more and bigger mitochondria also means you can recover from hard, lactate-accumulating efforts more quickly.” See “High Intensity for High Performance”

Another (possibly oversimplified) way I like to explain the idea is as follows:

If you consistently spend your weekend brick riding at an 18-mph pace, and then running at a 9-minute mile, you will get slightly faster throughout your training – no question. But, if you spend your whole season training at an 18mph – bike/9-minute mile – run pace, how can you expect to crank out a 21 or 22 mph spilt on the bike, or a 7:45 mile on race day. (Fill in whatever values you are currently training at, and those you are striving for).

If you want to race fast – you have to train your body to work at a faster pace. You need to recruit those often-times dormant “fast-twitch” muscles. If not, when you push your body to that point on a race day it simply will not know how to respond. You’ll reach your lactate threshold more quickly; you’ll spike your heart rate to a possibly uncontrollable level; and you’ll likely “bonk.”

Now again, the distance has to be there, you cannot run a marathon putting in nothing but 800-meter runs. But when racers and coaches say – build FAST, and add FAR to it, I think this is what they mean.


Why the change?

In the next month I graduate from law school. From now until then I have an ever growing list of projects, exams, papers, etc. After that, I start to prep for the bar exam. It goes without saying that I could not put in 15-hour weeks training for a big tri AND study for the bar exam. One of the two would suffer, and neither can.

So, I have decided to hold off on signing up for an “A” race this year. I will instead be working on a strong and hopefully fast base this season. I will have a number of smaller races (5k’s. 10k’s, sprint and Olympic tri’s) spread throughout.

What will I post about?

I had a VO2 max test done last season. It was approx. 64 ml/kg/min., then. I will be having another done soon. There will be a blog post about that test. Hopefully I can recruit Fitness Electronics Reviews co-creator, John to join me for that “fun.” [Last time I did the test I thought I was going to die.]

I will have another VO2 max test done in late August to see how a “season” of training that incorporates a lot more high intensity work affects that number. I like using my VO2 max as one basis for judging an improvement (or perhaps lack thereor) because VO2 max can improve.

I’ll also keep a detailed log of speed, times, distances, etc. We are fortunate to be testing a number of great GPS/heart rate monitors that will greatly aid us in this series.

Also, expect pictures of me – likely in misery – after 800-meter repeats, fartlek runs, and max efforts on the bike.

I love hearing from all of you. Let me know your thoughts on the series, provide recommendations for high intensity workouts, let me know if you’re trying something similar, etc.

Happy training!

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