Training is a touchy subject to bring up, especially to those that have been doing it a long time and are dead set in their methods. People get set in their ways, and long distance runners and cyclists become married to the training methods that got them to where they are, and no amount of data or studies will sway them. It’s a lot like nutrition. There are tons of studies out there showing that carb loading (the act of stuffing your face with pasta the night before long run) has no benefit and actually can cause you to run slower, yet you still see Runners World magazine and coaches telling people to do it. The other practice is Gu’s. One of the better analogies about the practice of using sugar over fat during long training sessions and races is the tanker on the side of the road. A gas tanker can only go as far as the gas tank can take them. when that is empty they have to pull over, even though they may have an almost inexhaustible supply of fuel in the tank they are pulling behind them. Without access to that fuel, they die on the road. The same can be said of carbs. Your body can only hold so much of it before it needs to be refueled, and it burns through that quickly and inefficiently, so you are constantly feeding the monster, and the harder you push, the more you need. But on your body you have enough fat on you (even thin people) to be able to keep going, if only you could access that almost inexhaustible supply. This is where Zone 2 training comes in, teaching your body to use fat instead of sugar.
I can hear the crickets …
So in training the disconnect happens when you talk to “runners” or “cyclists”. They have built themselves to the point where they can run a marathon, or do Furnace Creek, and most have gotten there by doing long mileage in training. And that works when all you are is a runner or cyclist (though I would argue long miles is still not a requirement here). As a triathlete this is the road to injury. There’s an old joke that goes around the triathlete world (and probably why they are looked at with disdain by other sports) where if someone runs a marathon the reply is “that’s cute … how long was the bike before that?”. Likewise, if they bike 100 miles the reply is “now go run a marathon”.
As “douchey” as that sounds, there is some truth to it. Where I have gone wrong, and where a lot of triathletes go wrong, is we try to train as a runner, a cyclist, and a swimmer instead of training like a triathlete. This is where the runner or cyclist missteps as well when they tell us to “train for the mileage” like they do. What they fail to realize, for the most part, is that while they are running 20 miles as a workout, that’s ALL they are doing. A triathlete also has to find time for a long bike and a long swim.
I will say this to runners all the time when they question my mileage. “You need to train for the marathon portion or you won’t make it”, they say. “No,” I reply. “I need to train to run a marathon after I have biked 112 miles”.
Crickets again …
All of my injuries last year, including the one that cost me Chattanooga, have been due to me not heeding my own advice and trying to train as long and as hard as I can. This has resulted in fatigue (not tiredness … there’s a difference), Achilles strains, and inflammation flare up’s. I thought that by gutting through the pain I was feeling it would get better, but instead it got worse. It’s not at the point where I can’t race but I am becoming aware that 140.6 miles, and even 26.2 miles, may not be in the cards for me.
I read a lot, and I make sure to read opposing view’s as much as I can so that when I make a decision it’s not coming from a single-minded view (an example the folks in Washington should try once in a while), and what I have been re-reading recently is “Time Crunched Triathlete” and “Read to Run”. The longest run Time Crunched Triathlete has in his plan for a 70.3 race is 90 minutes. The longest bike? 2 hours 30 minutes. His plan is based a lot on intervals, so although you are training shorter time frames, you are pushing pretty hard the whole time. You can also look into Jonathan Bailor who advocates for shorter exercise times at higher intensity, and Kelly Starrett. One of Bailor’s workouts revolves around the bike on a trainer set to the hardest gear (measured in you having to stand and push to get it to move), doing a minute, then resting 2, 5 times. That’s it. I tried that once last year and thought my legs were noodles afterwards. There is merit to this plan.
I know a lot of people reading this are not going to agree. Hell, even Jennifer argues with me about this. She feels she needs to run the full mileage to mentally prepare her, as does Mary. But the thing is, mental does not equal fitness. It’s two different things, and personally if I can get the fitness with less time, I want that.