The DIY Ironman Training Camp
For most age group triathletes one of the most productive ways to create a significant bump in fitness is to attend a triathlon training camp. There are a number of excellent camps you can attend throughout the year and in all parts of the country. They range in price from $1000 to $4000 and can be very effective in taking your training to the next level. As good as these are, the reality is that for many work, other responsibilities and cost make going to a camp an impossibility. The good news is anyone can conduct their own camp either solo or with a couple of training buddies. My training partner and wife, Teresa and I have done this for ourselves in our builds for Kona in years past. I think an optimum solo or small group camp could be 3 days in duration over a weekend. Think of it as a training staycation. In my example, I will make it a 3 day block from Friday through Sunday.
Make Your Reservations
Just like you would make reservations for a camp you would pay for, reserve your camp time well in advance. It is best to do a camp like this 3 weeks out from your Ironman or at least 2 weeks (17 days is best) from a 70.3. To set up this camp a couple of things have to happen. You will need to clear most of your daily responsibilities from your schedule for those three days. The real benefit to attending camps is that all you do is eat, sleep and train. You may have to bribe your significant other, hire a babysitter or put off any type of work around the house to make this happen. Remember, it is not how much training you can endure, it is how much training you can absorb.
Camp Day 1
On the first day of the block I like to get camp rolling with a good solid Ironman distance appropriate swim. I personally gravitate to 4,000 to 4,500 meter swims. You could break this first swim down in repeats of a longer distance, such as 500’s on 30 seconds rest. Follow the swim with a 3 hour bike. During the ride, insert 4 x 15’ efforts at Ironman effort with the last 5 minutes of each set at half Ironman tempo with 10 minutes recovery between each of the efforts.
Finish the day with a healthy meal, don’t skimp on calories and get to bed early. There’s more to come.
Camp Day 2
The second day starts with a 3,000-4,000 meter swim with a main set of repeat 300’s on 10 seconds rest. After the swim, get in a good breakfast to fuel the rest of the day then get out on the bike. Shoot for a 80-100 mile bike, focusing on being smooth and steady and staying up on your calories and fluids. Ride the first 60 miles or so comfortable, but purposeful. At the 60 mile mark, go ahead and pull your ears back a bit and ride at or slightly above your target ironman effort. Focus on being solid in that last hour in the saddle. Remember, smooth is steady, steady is strong, strong is fast.
Off the bike, get ready to run. If you are a bit light on calories, hit a few gels and get in some fluids. I like to start out at a comfortable pace with my attention being on my leg turnover and dialing in an efficient Ironman running style. Run 3 to 6 miles staying smooth, steady and strong. As soon as you are done with the run, ensure you get a good feed, maybe an ice bath and start recovering for the last day.
Camp Day 3
The final day begins with a long run of up to 2.5 hours depending on your fitness and the time of the season. Bring what you need to fuel this properly. The first hour is really relaxed, then ratchet up your pace to your Ironman target effort and hold it for an hour. The last 20 minutes should be at an effort more in the half Ironman range. Cool down for the last 10 minutes with super easy running, a few striders, some bounding and a little skipping to open those hips back up and increase your range of motion a bit.
Finish the block with an easy and comfortable 2,000 meter swim with pull buoy and paddles. You can choose between 40 x 50’s comfortably leaving on 15 seconds rest or pull 2 x 1000’s, whichever you prefer.
So there is the block. That Monday should be a recovery day with a massage and a focus on nutrient dense meals and solid hydration. You should be at a place now where you can just pick up your normal basic week structure on that Tuesday and continue to keep the goodness rolling as you prepare for your upcoming race.
Concentrated training blocks and camps can be a huge plus up in your protocol. The key is to be smart with the effort you apply in each session. Focus on rest and recovery between sessions and enjoy the journey. Your training is a “want to” not a “have to”.
Train with joy or not at all!™