8 Week – Training to Peak Performance for Iron Distance

Many athletes ask me how long are my training cycles for peak performance levels in preparation for an Iron distance race.   Interestingly all the miles “in the bank” and experience allows many athletes to target a focused 8 week time period of distance and intensity to be ready for race day.    On caveat, this is not for everyone and works best for seasoned athletes who have many years of established base levels of training.    I have used this same program for years when my training hours are lower with family or business commitments.

In preparation for an Iron distance triathlon, experienced athletes will include concentrated efforts leading up to the peak race when mileage in the last several months was low because of time constraints.  Remember, it’s normally better to be a bit undertrained vs. overstrained leading into an event.

8 Week Performance Peak training cycle for the Iron distance events (based on hours).  The target is 15-18 hours per week:

  • Swim – 2-3 swims per week (one swim at race pace – long swim)
  • Bike –  5 workouts including  2 key workouts – 1 long session of 5-6 hours (steady but manageable pace), 3 hour race pace tempo ride followed by a 1 hour run
  • Run – 6 runs including three key sessions:  1 Mile repeats (6-8 repeats) at Iron distance Marathon pace and each mile repeat 3-5 seconds faster, full recovery between repeats.   Long Run of 18- 20 miles (preferably after a mid distance ride), also one fatigue running session/brick session middle distance or back to back runs with intensity.
  • Strength/Flexibility – strength workouts can vary but normally 2 per week and stretching (yoga, Pilates) 4 times a week.

So on average the total endurance workouts will be 13-14 and stretching exercises 4 days per week, 2 strength sessions.   The key to this peak performance training cycle to be effective is consistency.  The goal will be to complete at least 90% of all the workouts over the 8 weeks.   Fitness levels will increase dramatically if you have been challenged with time constraints leading up to these workouts.   Injury prevention is a key priority and you must manage how you feel.   It’s a compacted group of intensity and long distance that is not easy but will pay off if you can maintain the focus for the full 8 weeks.

Follow this plan (seasoned athletes) and you will be ready race day!

By Wayne Kurtz

Wayne Kurtz is founder of RaceTwitch.com and Endurance Racing Report,  he has a lifelong passion for racing in various endurance sport races throughout the world. He is also the author of: ‘Beyond the Iron, a training guide for ultra-distance triathlons.’