With July come and gone, and August closely following, the Northern Hemisphere race season has crested and is coasting gradually into “late season” mode. Now’s the time to reap the rewards of the work you’ve been doing all year and apply it to the weekend races.
If you raced an Ironman in the last few months, you’re set up to have a fantastic series of races if you focused on recovery and kept the ensuing three to four weeks’ training volume modest. Finishing an Ironman contributes to your fitness like no other workout you’ll do, and as long as you avoided the temptation to keep training at pre-Ironman levels, you can put that fitness to work at the sprint and Olympic distances.
The first key is to keeping your training efforts short and light in the first 7 – 14 days. If you took a week off after the race, you’ll feel extremely sluggish getting back into action as your systems have shut down and you’ll need to gently stimulate them to bring them back online before you can access your new abilities properly. Avoid the temptation to push long or hard as you’ll only delay your recovery and hit a mini-plateau as a result. Now’s the time to “save your cans of whoop ass” for the races — stick to 30 – 60 minutes in your workouts, and make gentle “nudges” at top end or intermediate speed. Make sure you book yourself into some sprint races for the three weekends starting two weeks after Ironman.
The second key is to keep the first key in mind for days 14 – 21, too! After a week to ten days of training again, you’ll find things are coming ’round and the short, hard efforts feel like something you’d like to act on and “test” to see what you’ve got.
Well, you’re right to feel this way — you can be on fire right now, but save that fire for race day! You want to set the scorching performances when it matters, so hold back them horses and keep your hard efforts well short of race distance. Keep “nudging” at high intensity — just enough to engage the system, then back off, recover, and do it again. All you want to do is re-engage your speed without pushing it so much that you delay recovery from Ironman.
Be a mature athlete and rein in your horses, keep your training to very moderate amounts, eat healthy and get your sleep — that’s all you’ll need for some smoking fast sprint and Olympic distance races after Ironman. Keep your impulses under control, wait for your fitness to come knocking again, and you’ll be on fire at the races in the month following your Ironman!