Training for Ironman Canada officially began in October for me. Yes, that is indeed 11 months prior to race day. And yes, that's a long a** time to focus on ONE race. However, I work best when there is a plan and something to follow. More importantly, I wanted to make the most of the off-season so I called up Coach Daryl and put him to work.
Base training. Let me first explain what that means and how that differs from any other training period. Basically it means training at slower speeds and lower heart rates over longer distances. The point is to train the body to burn stored fat for fuel so you can maintain energy throughout an entire day/race. All, or at least most, workouts are done at a level (in most cases determined by heart rate zones) that is aerobic and fat burning. This is in contrast to anaerobic workouts (carbohydrate burning) - intense bursts to promote strength, speed, power, and muscle mass. The theory is that over a period of time your aerobic strength/stamina (not sure about the right terminology) will improve and your speed/pace will gradually get faster while your heart rate will stay relatively stable. Essentially getting faster will get easier on your body. Behind the scenes your body is more effective at breaking down stored fat for energy.
Here are additional articles that are way more informed than my short little paragraph above.
Sounds like a great idea right? Of course! The problem for me, and for most athletes I think, is having the patience to actually go SLOW. I hated it. I've always been of the mindset that if I go faster in my training I will 1) be faster in the end and 2) finish my workout sooner (well...if you're training by distance that is). In addition, Gabe hated it and I don't blame him. It wasn't very fun to run with me. Every time I hit a hill, even a bump, my heart rate would skyrocket. Granted, my heart rate isn't super normal. I have a hummingbird heart. To put that into perspective, my heart rate starts at 180 when I start running and typically averages around 195 for a normal run. I can still hold a conversation between 190 and 195.
The first several months were miserable. Initially, Daryl used the generic calculation to get my heart rate zones set up. This resulted in me going for runs at a 12 min/mile pace which in and of itself isn't a terrible idea since I should be training slower than my pace but it literally became painful to run that slow. I was changing my stride and was basically just jumping up and down in place. After a bit of whining, Daryl assessed my stride, form and heart rate, and adjusted accordingly. Since then the training has been fine and at times I've even enjoyed the comfortable pace. It's like I'm getting away with something. Not to mention I have noticed a slight increase in my pace since the beginning of this training without an effect on my heart rate. More importantly to me, I haven't slowed down. In fact, in early January I had a solid 7:45 min/mile 10k.
Does it work? Well, I won't really know until August 28th. So until then I guess I'll just keep at it.