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3 Key Sessions of Craig Alexander’s Build to Kona

BY AJ Johnson

Three time IRONMAN® World Champion Craig Alexander gives a sneak peek into 3 key bike sessions he uses to prep for Kona.

All athletes racing the 2014 IRONMAN® World Championships have spent months training to tackle 140.6 miles. Three time IRONMAN World Champion and two time 70.3 World Champion Craig “Crowie” Alexander knows exactly what he needs to be fully prepared. Here is a look at three of Crowie’s key sessions that prepare him to tackle Kona.

Sunday, August 24th

View Alexander’s full file here.

From Crowie: “This session includes 8 times 10 minutes with 2 minutes of pretty steady recovery. The goal is to hold sub-threshold power, trying to replicate IRONMAN effort or pace, or your “all day long pace.” This was followed by an hour behind the scooter.”

Each of the 10’ sections was done at a Normalized Power® (NP®) of 275 to 290 watts. This is right at or slightly above 4 Watts/kg, which higher than the 3.8 to 4.0 W/kg we typically see for pro men during the full 112 miles of an IRONMAN bike. The Intensity Factor® (IF®) for this wattage is approximately .84 to .86, which is again slightly higher than what we see on race day. Each interval had an average cadence in the high 80’s to low 90’s.

After these hard intervals, Crowie rode behind a motor scooter to work on leg speed. This is called motorpacing and it is very effective for increasing an athlete’s leg turnover speed. For the 1 hour behind scooter he held an NP of 260 watts. His cadence over this hour averaged 96 rpm, which is the main point of motorpacing. Doing this hour after a hard session of intervals helps to engrain a fast cadence even when the legs are tired.

Wednesday, September 3rd

View Alexander’s full file here. 

From Crowie: “This is a long ride with some climbing then finishing off with an IRONMAN pace 20km TT.”

This is a classic ride for many pro triathletes in Boulder. After 2 hours of flat to rolling terrain, Crowie started the big climb of the day up HWY 34, known as Big Thompson. This climb took nearly half an hour, where he had a Normalized Power of 226 watts while gaining 2,379 feet of elevation. To build strength, he pushed a slightly bigger gear than normal, averaging only 75 rpm’s. After a quick break, (likely to down a doughnut and Chocolate Milk), it was back on the bike to climb out of Estes. On this forty minute section Alexander put out an NP of 238 watts again at a lower cadence, this time averaging 72 rpm’s. Climbing another 1,504 feet, he hit his peak elevation of 9003 ft. Starting at 5120 ft, this means that in total, over two hours and ten minutes, Crowie climbed 3,883 ft.

After an hour long descent Crowie did a time trial that lasted just over 32 minutes and covered 11 miles. This section was done at an average of 258 watts, or 3.79 W/kg, right at the W/kg number we see on race day. So, after 6 hours of riding and climbing almost 5,700 ft. Alexander replicated the last miles of race day and had a great performance. His totals for the day were 115 miles at an NP of 208 watts and he burned through 3905 calories.

Friday, September 5th

View Alexander’s full file here. 

From Crowie: “This is a hard interval session. Good warm-up followed by ascending/descending intervals. I always find these sessions the hardest at altitude, particularly the first couple of times you do them.”

Just one day after his big day climbing, Crowie jumped on the trainer for a hard intervals session. As you can see from the file, he starts with a long warm up that includes two sets of intervals consisting of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. The first set of 30 second bursts are at 300 to 330 watts, followed by 5:30 of easy spinning, then the second round is a bit harder with average power at 360 to 370 watts.

After 5:30 of spinning, he gets to the super hard intervals. This session is structured as a pyramid of 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 3 minute intervals, each with equal amount of recovery between them. All of these were done at 340 watts, which is slightly above his threshold. Once again we see a cadence in the low 90’s.

These are just three sessions in Crowie’s long build to Kona. After years of preparing for IRONMAN racing, he knows just what he needs to do in order to be competitive on race day.

Photo Courtesy: Courtney Johnson

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About AJ Johnson

AJ Johnson is the Content Editor and Power Analyst for TrainingPeaks. He is also a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach. A jack of all trades in endurance sports, he has raced everything from IRONMAN and marathons to road, mountain, and track cycling. A former freelance writer and editor of TRI and ROAD Magazines, when not editing or writing he spends his time with his family or out on long rides to think of more great content for TrainingPeaks readers.

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