Day 44 Splits
I’m often asked how I developed James’ training plan. I could write a few chapters about this (someday I might), so I’ll give you a version that’s as long as I have time to write this evening.
I’ve coached many athletes participating in various multi-day events. The 505050 was obviously unique. The foundation was really laid when we we completed his 2012 Guinness world record for most Ironman events in a year. In fact, the 505050 was originally scheduled for 2014, but James wisely delayed it for a year to recover from 2012.
There is very little creativity in what I did to prepare James. I used a strict periodization plan with a brutal Specific phase. It was the same template I used for athletes doing Marathon de Sables, Ultraman, Bosphorus, or Haute Route. This methodology has never let me down, propelling my athletes to become Ironman qualifiers, 70.3 qualifiers, Boston qualifiers, world record holders, and National Age Group championships.
It was technically only an 8 month plan, but James had spent all of 2013 and 2014 building a huge base. In October 2014 we began his formal General training for the 505050. Nothing but Zone 2 or Zone 4+. VO2 intervals, cross fit, strength training. Lower volume but high intensity. The purpose was to get his VO2, Muscular Endurance, and Strength at the best they had ever been. In fact, he hit his career highest 30 minute power of 295 in late December. We didn’t touch Zone 3 until late February (Zone 3 is poison if adopted too early in a training program). This period varied very little from what I would have done to prepare an athlete for a single-day Ironman event.
My late March we had transitioned from the General to Specific phase, and the real training began. Tons of Zone 2, high volume, reduced or eliminated Zone 4+. 50k trail runs. 70.3 races as a recovery day. Running 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours at night. Week after week of 30 or more hours of training a week. But, most importantly, three to four days in a row of 7-9 hour bricks. The specificity required for the 505050. A very specific taper, and he was ready to go.
If I were to do it again, I would have had him do absolutely no Zone 3 for the entire 8 month plan. Zone 3 was worthless for this endeavor. I had James in heavy Zone 3 rotation for 4 weeks in April. Looking back now I was far too optimistic about often that intensity would be called upon in the 505050. Zone 1-2, heavy (heavy) volume, and blocks of multi-day bricks was all he needed for the Specific phase.