Secrets For Short-Course Triathlon Speed

Ride faster in your next Olympic-distance triathlon using a long-course mindset.

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Ride faster in your next Olympic-distance triathlon using a long-course mindset.

A few years ago, I shifted from long to short and from elite to amateur. By approaching my short-course racing with the mind-set of a long-distance athlete, I was able to improve my ability to ride fast over the Olympic distance. My four key techniques included:

1. Race-duration intervals
2. Sustained uphill sets to build specific strength
3. Long climbs for race-pace levels of output
4. Race-duration time trials (TTs)

With Ironman training, it takes an entire season to build the stamina necessary to cover the iron distance. However, with short-course racing it’s possible to train your entire race duration in a single session. I recommend that you take this further and train your race duration in your longest intervals.

Race-duration Workout

– On a flat course, gradually build your effort to 25 beats per minute (BPM) under the average heart rate than you expect to ride in the race. Hold this effort for 90–120 minutes of continuous riding.
– As your fitness improves, insert blocks of 3–12 minutes duration where you ride at an intensity level of one heart rate zone higher.

In your specific preparation phase, insert two to three workouts where you seek to hold a race duration effort that’s 90 percent of goal race power.

The greatest challenge with Ironman preparation is recovering from all the training that’s packed into a week. As a result, long-course athletes become specialists with getting workouts done that don’t require long periods of recovery. In other words, we seek techniques where we can do work at low to moderate heart rates. My favorite technique for this type of work is riding uphill in a big gear.

RELATED: Train Like An Olympic Triathlete

Uphill Big Gear Workout

– On a gradual climb, build your effort to heart rate zone 2 while keeping your cadence under 60 RPM. Hold this effort for 40–60 minutes of continuous riding.
– As your fitness improves, progress this workout by alternating miles between your TT and climbing positions.
– In your specific preparation phase, insert two to three workouts where you seek to hold a race-specific effort, while climbing in your TT position. Keep your cadence under 60 RPM. This effort should be 100 percent of goal race power and capped at 10 BPM under your average racing heart rate for the bike leg. Hold this effort for your bike-split duration. If you don’t live by a long hill, do this workout using a big gear over flat roads.

Building from my first two tips, train your ability to hold race levels of intensity by using long climbs at race-specific output.

RELATED: Get To Know Your Big Ring

Long Climb Workout

– On the longest climb you have available, ride at race-specific power outputs.
– Start with 30 minutes of work. Each week, add an additional five minutes of work until you work up to 90 minutes of work. This gradual progression takes 13 weeks and should end 10–17 days out from your goal event.
– Once your main set duration is an hour or more, ensure that at least 50 percent of your main set is done with race-specific position and cadence.

Finally, put it all together with race-duration time trials. The perfect course for this type of work is a mixture of climbs and flats.

RELATED: Tough Big Gear Workout

Race-pace TT Workout

– A best-effort TT taking two hours to complete.
– Do this session no more than three times in the final seven weeks leading into your goal race.
– Ensure that your final TT session is no closer than seven days to your goal event; 10–14 days out will prove optimal for most athletes.
– Pace yourself so your second hour has power that’s 3–5 percent higher than the first hour.
– The session should be strong but not too mentally grueling. Once you are within 14 days of your goal race, conserve mental energy!

For best results, these workouts should be part of a standard training week that contains no more than three key workouts.

Remember to save your best for race day!

RELATED: Spruce Up Your Swim With Time-Trial Workouts

Looking for a short-course triathlon to sign up for this year? Check out the TriRock Series. Their events feature a fun atmosphere for triathletes of all levels.

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