Monday, August 31, 2009


This post was the suggestion of a reader. If there is a topic you'd like to see discussed here please write to me. I'm always open to your ideas.

It’s common among advanced multisport athletes to do two workouts in a day. Some even do three-a-days. The demands of such a sport make multiple daily sessions a necessity for high-performance. Some of these two-a-day triathlon workouts may be “bricks,” workouts combining two or more sports such as bike-run, swim-bike or swim-bike-run sessions. In triathlon such workouts are done year round.

There are also some mono-sport athletes, such as runners and cyclists, who do two-a-days. But these are not nearly as common as in multisport. Should you as a cyclist, runner, or swimmer do two (or more) sessions in a single day? There is no easy answer for this question. There are only possible advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of them.

The way you increase fitness is to gradually increase stress. Stress comes in the guise of workout duration, intensity and frequency. Increasing any of these while maintaining the others improves fitness. Duration and frequency taken together are called “volume” – how many hours or miles you do in a week. By doing two workouts in a day you have the opportunity to increase volume and thus fitness.

Double workouts also increase the possibility of greater intensity of training. And intensity is the key to success for high-performance athletes. How does intensity increase? Let’s take an example. You could do a single, two-hour workout in one day including intervals followed by a long, steady effort. This would produce a lot of fatigue and you would likely not produce your best-possible performance for either portion of the workout as a result. But if you divided this into two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, fatigue (and your perception of expected fatigue which may cause you to hold back somewhat) would be lessened and so performance could rise. The first session might be the intervals and the second the steady-state effort. By the afternoon workout your greater recovery could produce a higher power or pace output. So, more stress from increased intensity would mean more fitness even if volume didn’t increase.

Two-a-days also increase your fat burning helping to reduce excess body weight. Following a workout, especially an intense one, your body continues to burn fat during recovery. The harder the workout, the longer this fat burning continues. By doing two workouts in a day you get this fat-burning benefit twice. It may not last any longer in total for the day than had you done only one long session, but causing it to occur twice in a day may have some fat-burning benefits although I’ve not seen any research to support this. This is based strictly on experience.

Of course, as with everything in life, there are disadvantages to working out twice in a single day. And they are potentially more deleterious than the benefits.

Increased stress means increased fatigue. Some athletes seem to handle that very nicely and bounce back quickly. Others, especially novices and seniors, recover more slowly. So several double days could easily lower the quality of your training.

And more stress also raises the specter of overtraining from trying to do too much in too short a period of time. Raising the workload significantly by doing two-a-days could cause an athlete to become overtrained in just three to six weeks depending on how well he or she copes with stress.

For many runners the risk of injury rises quite quickly as the frequency of training increases. I have coached many runners over the years who have what I call “glass legs.” It doesn’t take much stress to damage them which could leave such an athlete hobbled for days if not weeks. So for the runner, two-a-day workouts are very risky. What some do to avoid this problem while reaping some of the double-daily benefits, especially the fat burning, is to ride a bike as the second session of the day. There is even some research showing that riding a bike improves running performance.

While cycling isn’t an impact sport like running, increased risk of injury can still come with riding twice a day. For the cyclist the knees are typically where overuse injury is mostly likely to occur. This may be related to mediocre pedaling skills, unusual biomechanics, too much climbing in too high of a gear, or, most commonly, a poor bike setup.

So if you’re a mono-sport athlete and decide to start doing two-a-days, how should you train to minimize the downsides while reaping the benefits? Here are some basic guidelines.

+ Only do twice-daily workouts if you are an advanced athlete, meaning, primarily, that you have been at the sport for two or three years.

+ For runners and cyclists the best time to start doing two-a-days is in the base period. Keep the intensity low with the focus only on volume at first.

+ Allow your body to adapt gradually over several weeks. Start by doing only one day in a week with two workouts. If your body handles that alright then eventually bump it up to two. Do a couple of weeks like this before going to two double days. I’d recommend doing no more than three such double-dailies a week in your first season of trying this. Keep the risk low as you learn how your body responds.

+ At first use your easiest training days for two workouts. If you handle that alright then begin to carefully experiment with a more intense session followed by an easy session the same day.

+ Provide adequate time for recovery between the two daily sessions. There should be at least one meal in the recovery period. Two are better. This could be a workout before breakfast and a second session before supper with a lunch in between.

+ Allow for variety in these workouts. Don’t always do the same sessions each time you do two-a-days.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Intervals, Tempo and Decoupling

A workout I often have athletes do is a combination of intervals followed by a steady-state tempo. What happens on the steady state tempo says a lot about the athlete’s aerobic fitness.

Here you see a run chart and a bike chart from a single duathlete. The charts are from WKO+ software. He did the run workout first and then the same day did the bike session. Each session involved a warm–up, intervals (pink stripes), a recovery following the intervals, a steady-state tempo (green stripe), and a cool down. Heart rate is the red lines on both charts. Run speed is the blue line. The back line is bike power. This athlete has greater experience as a cyclist than as a runner and his bike fitness tends to exceed his run fitness. This also shows up in his approach to each session.

In this chart (click to expand) he was doing 800m intervals on a track at just a bit slower than his 5k but faster than 10k pace. After each interval he did a 200m jog to recover. Each recovery was just slightly shorter in duration than the preceding work interval. Notice how he started each work interval at the fastest pace of the interval and gradually slowed down with the exception of the last where he finally settled in to a good pace initially. And he gradually got slower on each subsequent interval with the exception of the third which was his second fastest (but had the greatest pacing variability). I believe this positive-split pacing (start fast, finish slow both within and between intervals) is, in part, reflective of his more limited experience as a runner.

I was also very interested in his 10-minute, heart rate zone 3 tempo run following the intervals. Besides making for a great workout, I do this to see how aerobically fit the athlete is. Near the end of a challenging workout finding how speed responds when heart rate stays constant is a good indicator of the athlete’s aerobic fitness. Here you can see that speed drops off. Heart rate and pace ‘decoupled.’ They are not parallel. He has more work to be done on aerobic fitness yet which is all the more reason to be very cautious with pacing early in a race. Going out too fast will cause a significant drop in speed later in the race. If his aerobic fitness was higher, pacing would not be quite as much of a problem.

Here you see his bike workout with 5-minute intervals done at power zone 4 which is roughly 40km time trial power for him. The recovery intervals were short at about two minutes each. Notice how beautifully he paced the intervals. They are steady and consistent. As a coach, this is so beautiful it brings tears to me eyes. :)

Then notice how steady his 30-minute, power zone 3 tempo was. The two lines (heart rate and power) remain nicely 'coupled,' just like railroad tracks. His aerobic fitness on the bike exceeds his run aerobic fitness.

It’s apparent we still need to work on two things: run pacing and run aerobic fitness. He has made great gains as a runner. Had he done this same run workout a few weeks ago the decoupling would have been much more evident. And his running race times at 5km indicate that he is, indeed, making great progress. Stellar run performance takes a long time to achieve, as in years, but his progress has actually been quite exceptional due to his determination and discipline.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More on 'Everyone's a Winner'

I appreciate all of the comments on my last blog. There have been a lot made with a wide array of points of view. But, unfortunately, it appears that what I said has been taken the wrong way by many readers. That's my fault; not yours. I simply used to many words to try to explain a rather simple point. I'll try again only more succinctly this time around.

My concern was that all of us (athletes and non-athletes) subtly encourage everyone to do the longest events as if some how they are the 'true' endurance events. For example, if a running race offers both a 5km and a 10km there is almost always pressure to enter the 10km. You may even hear runners' comments, often in a joking way but nevertheless revealing what they feel, that 'real' runners do the longer events.

I was trying (apparently not very successfully) to make the point that this is also starting to happen in triathlon. It's not very healthy for triathlon. Finishing an Ironman has become the ultimate goal in the sport. It wasn't that way back in the 1980s when triathlon was new. Then the US Triathlon Series was a big deal in this country. Placing high in your age group, posting a fast time, and perhaps even qualifying for the National Championship was considered to be a goal every bit as worthy as finishing an Ironman. I hear of far fewer people setting such goals any more. That's too bad. Going fast is very challenging in itself and very rewarding when accomplished ('fast' in relation to the athlete only - not to some absolute time for everyone).

I should also clarify that I have no problem with people simply wanting to finish a race as their only goal. That's often necessary for those new to a distance as was the goal of my client's 70.3 race this past weekend (which, by the way, he finished with an outstanding performance in many regards). I gave the same advice to a pro I once coached who was doing his first Ironman. Finish. But after that the challenge becomes to improve on one's performance. This is when entering to simply finish does not seem like a worthy challenge any more. It's like a runner setting a seasonal goal to break 40 minutes in the 10k even though he's done it many times before. I see no satisfaction in repeatedly setting a goal such as that.

Competition has been diluted in age group running events because of this longer-is-better attitude. An example of this is Boston Marathon qualifying times. In 1983 for a male, age 40 the standard was 2:50. Now it's 3:20. Triathlon hasn't gotten to this point yet. Age group times are still improving at the Ironman distance. That was the same for the marathon back in the 1980s. But 15 years later that had changed. Triathlon can only avoid this dilution of performance by encouraging athletes, especially novices, to participate at whatever distance motivates them. Longer is not necessarily better.

(Gosh, I used a lot of words this time, too. Let's see if I made sense this go.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Everyone’s a Winner”

Today I went for a ride with an old friend of mine – Jerry Lynch. Jerry is a sports psychologist who has worked with athletes in many different sports for decades. He is also an author (The Total Runner; Working Out, Working Within; Running Within; Tao Mentoring; The Tao of Fitness; TaoSport; and more). And he’s one hell of an athlete. In his 30s he ran sub-2:30 marathons and 31 minutes for 10k. Now at age 67 he is still trim and in great shape for both running and cycling.

As we rode we talked about what running was like 30 years ago. We agreed that in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s age-group running was primarily a performance sport. It’s not as much like that now. Runners then were focused on running as fast as they could no matter what the distance was. Marathoners were not considered to be any more of an athlete than someone who focused on 5k and 10k races. Distance wasn’t the issue. Time was.

Sometime in the late ‘80s that attitude began to change. By then the general public was becoming much more aware of running. And while the sport was becoming more widely accepted by “normal” people they didn’t fully understand it. For example, if you were at a party back then and you made some comment about being a runner you’d likely be asked if you had ever “jogged” the Boston Marathon. That was about all a non-runner knew about running (“jogging”) in those days. Answering “no” would produce an uncomfortable pause in the conversation and some how seemed to give the impression that you weren’t a “real” runner. So many otherwise contented 10k speedsters decided they had to run a marathon and qualify for Boston to be taken seriously.

This attitude led to a change in the sport of running. Longer events such as the marathon came to imply something macho. Real runners ran the marathon. Others who weren’t really runners did 5k and 10k races. Soon the trend was that everyone who ran had simply to finish a marathon. The marathon changed because of this attitude. Back in the early ‘80s at age 40 you could run a 2:50 marathon, finish in 12th place in your age group and not qualify for Boston. Today a 2:50 time would easily win the age group and place in the top 10 overall in a marathon of similar size.

Overall, the times for age groupers have gotten slower, it seems. The slower age group times also reflect a changed attitude among those who run marathons. The sport for most age groupers has become a social activity rather than a performance challenge. Finishing times are not an issue any more; finishing is the whole thing. “Everyone is a winner,” permeates the sport.

Maybe that change is good. Focusing one’s life on race times probably isn’t very healthy. But then I’m not sure that walking a marathon establishes much either. I kind of liked it when a fast 5k was every bit as acceptable as a marathon finish.

I’m seeing the same change starting in triathlon. It used to be that a fast Olympic-distance race was considered quite an accomplishment. Now it pales by comparison with the Ironman. Ironman has become such a force in the sport that you aren’t considered a “real” triathlete unless you’ve done one, or, better yet, finished Ironman Hawaii. I seldom come across a triathlete any more who isn’t at least thinking about doing an Ironman in the not-too-distant future.

I also come across people who have never done a triathlon at any distance and are contemplating doing an Ironman as their first race. There’s no concern for how fast they might go. It’s just get to the finish line so they can hear those magic words, “You’re now an Ironman.” Then they can get a tattoo on the ankle, I guess.

Most “normal” people have no idea what it takes to even finish an Ironman. They see TV coverage and it looks so easy. Of course, the pros in any sport will make it look easy. It isn’t. Most people couldn’t sit in front of their televisions for 17 hours let alone swim, bike and run that long. Most are doomed to failure by starting at this distance. It would be better had they started with a sprint and five years later did an Ironman. But that’s too time-consuming for people today, it seems.

Our fascination with long-distance events concerns me. I don’t think it’s good for the future of any endurance sport when going slowly for a long time just so one can cross the finish line is held in higher regard than going very fast for a short distance. The person who starts out with an Ironman will likely have a very short triathlon career. Then what? Three-day adventure races? And after a couple of those what’s next?

Perhaps I’ve become an old curmudgeon who longs for the good, old days when distance wasn’t the key issue; speed was. Of course, there will always be athletes who strive to see how fast they can go at short distances. But they seem to be a slowly diminishing breed of endurance athlete. One good thing I see about this shift in attitude in sport is that it encourages more people to participate. Finishing is a lot less challenging than going f

Monday, August 17, 2009

Half-Ironman Race Plan for First Timer

Below is the race plan for a triathlete I coach who is doing his first half-Ironman this weekend at Timberman. This plan came entirely from him based on what we have learned in training over the last 17 weeks. Note his first goal to 'finish.' That's wise. He has been in the sport about one year and has done a few sprint- and Olympic-distance races. His run pacing chart may be just a bit aggressive in the latter few miles. But I like that he plans to start the run at a slow pace and then build into it. That mindset will hopefully keep him from going out too fast. We've set his bike power range on the low end. I believe he can ride at a higher level than 180w but given this is his first race at this distance it's best to be conservative, especially at the start of the ride. He'll be doing a second 70.3 race nine weeks after this one. We'll know a lot more about his capacity for work at this distance by then. And we'll do a better job of refining his plan.


Timberman Ironman 70.3 2009

• It’s simple: finish!
• Pace, moderate efforts at beginning of each leg
• Have fun and don’t worry about time
• Race your own race, don’t worry about other athletes (especially when they pass you)

Key For Success:
• Good pacing in each leg and no bonking
• Stay healthy, no upset stomach or cramps
• Don’t forget to refuel and hydrate

Race Week:
• In bed by 9:30 every night
• 15 minutes of stretching morning and night
• Visualize a strong finish before sleep each night
• Eat clean, avoid foods that upset stomach (lactose, mustard)
• Review race plan nightly

Day Prior:
• Rack the bike
• Drive the bike course
• Early to bed

Race Morning:
• 4:00AM: Wake up, Park gates open
• 4:15AM: Coffee and peanut butter & toast
• 4:30AM: Head to start
• 4:45AM: Head to transition
• 5:00 AM: Transition opens, body marking begins
• 5:15AM: Get body marked
• 5:30AM: Prepare transition
• 6:00AM: Warm up & stretch
• 7:00AM: Watch pro start
• 7:15AM: Apply body glide, HR belt, put on wetsuit
• 7:55AM: Wave 12 Start!

Swim – 1.2 miles

• 38 minutes (30 seconds / 25 meters)

Key for Success:
• Relax, avoid anxious thoughts
• Find a good consistent rhythm
• Sight frequently and avoid zigzags
• Breathe often to avoid hyper-ventilating

• Efficiency not effort
• Rhythm is king
• Sight, sight, sight


• 5 minutes

• Unzip wetsuit after water exit
• Remove wetsuit at transition
• Bike shoes on
• Sunscreen
• Helmet & sunglasses
• Quick hydration (add solid food/gel?)

Bike – 56 miles

• 3 hours (19 mph average)

Keys for Success:
• 180w on flat
• Pace, pace, pace – aim for negative split
• <240 on hills
• Hydrate with Gatorade Endurance
• Gels every 45 minutes (4 total)
• Be safe, avoid accidents
• HR<160

• Light legs and high cadence
• Aero is the way to go


• 5 minutes

• Rack bike
• Bike shoes off, socks and run shoes on
• Helmet off, visor on
• Wear race belt (or add to T1?)
• Quick hydration (add solid food/gel?)

Run – 13.1Miles

• 1 hour 45 minutes (8 minute / mile average)

Keys for Success:
• Follow Plan:
Mile 1 9:00
Mile 2 9:00
Mile 3 8:30
Mile 4 8:30
Mile 5 8:30
Mile 6 8:00
Mile 7 8:00
Mile 8 8:00
Mile 9 8:00
Mile 10 7:30
Mile 11 7:30
Mile 12 7:00
Mile 13 7:00
• Hydrate at every aid station
• Gel every 45 minutes (3 total)
• Focus on form: stand proud, slight lean forward, mid-foot strike
• Don’t over-do it on hills
• HR<169

• Stay in Proud form
• Light feet!
• Tight core

Planned Time: 5 hours 33 minutes

Post Race:
• Call Joe – we did it!
• Stretch & ice
• Nutrition
• Enjoy festivities

Friday, August 14, 2009

Moderate Altitude Training

I spend my summers in Boulder, Colorado. Part of the reason is the heat where I live in Scottsdale, Arizona the remainder of the year. The average high temperature there from June through August is 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42C). The daily low is around 85F (29C). And to make matters worse, that is also the monsoon season so the relative humidity is often 50 to 60%. It isn’t a “dry heat” then. Training (and living!) is really difficult there in the summer.

This is our third summer in Boulder, but I lived in Ft. Collins just up the road for 30 years (1971-2001). So I am pretty familiar with the area. Of course, the downside here is the altitude. Where I am in Boulder is about 5500 feet (1670m) above sea level. There’s no doubt that when I first arrive the training is difficult due to this altitude. For any given power output my heart rate is a bit higher than it is down in Scottsdale. Within a few weeks, usually about three, things start to get back to what I experience in Arizona.

I’m often asked if I come back to a lower altitude in Scottsdale (about 1,800 feet or 550m at my home there) in better aerobic shape from having spent time at a higher altitude. While there’s no doubt that it feels easier down there after a few weeks in Colorado, I have never believed there was much of an aerobic benefit. A moderate altitude such as in Boulder never seemed to do much to stimulate an increase in red blood cells, it seemed to me. In fact, all it seemed to do was make my training just a slight bit slower. Any benefit I get from being in Boulder is more due to the great training venues and weather than it is to the altitude, I believe.

Until now I’ve really not had much to support that opinion. But today I came across a recent study which addressed this issue [below]. German researchers took seven, under-23, national team cyclists to 6,000 feet (1816m) where they lived and trained for three weeks. At the end of three weeks there was no difference in red blood cell volume, hemoglobin (the oxygen-transporting part of the red blood cells), plasma volume, or hematocrit (the proportion of blood volume occupied by red blood cells). The authors of the study proposed that a minimum of 7,000 to 8,250 feet (2,100-2,500m) is necessary for measurable changes.

At such an altitude I’m certain you would find your power and pace considerably reduced. That can’t be good for performance no matter what happens to blood markers of aerobic fitness. This is when “living high and training low” becomes almost a necessity. The only other way I know to get around this problem at high altitude is to do very short intervals with long recoveries. Something on the order of work intervals of two minutes or less followed by two minutes or more of recovery intervals will allow you keep power and pace high. The intensity of these two-minute-or-shorter work intervals needs to be above anaerobic/lactate/functional threshold. Ten to thirty minutes of total high intensity time within a workout, depending on the intensity, your fitness and your purpose, is probably about all you need two to three times a week.

Such a workout really isn’t necessary in Boulder. But I do allow for two to three weeks for adaptation. After that the altitude isn’t noticeable.

Reference: Pottgieser, T., C. Ahlgrim, S. Ruthardt, H.H. Dickhuth, Y.O. Schumacher. Hemoglobin Mass After 21 Days of Conventional Altitude Training at 1618m. J Sci Med Sport 2008 [epub ahead of print].

Monday, August 10, 2009

More on Peaking

In my last post on the Peak period I explained how I go about managing fitness and fatigue in order to produce high form for an A-priority race. Here are two charts (from WKO+ software) which may help to explain this a little more clearly.

Chart #1
This is for a road cyclist I coach who was preparing for Masters Nationals Time Trial on July 1. He races 65+ so his event was 20km. We started his Peak period 12 days before the race. At that time his fitness (blue line) was 85.2 TSS/day. You can see there is a gradual decline with fitness becoming 76.1 by race day. That’s a drop of about 11%, so right in the neighborhood of the 10% decrease that I attempt to get. Note how his fatigue (red) dropped very fast in the first three days and then stabilized before dropping again three days before the race.

This change in fitness and fatigue produced a rapid rise in form (black) so that nine days before the race it was positive and remained so until race day when it was +20.

Chart #2
This is the Bike Performance Management Chart for the Peak period for an Ironman triathlete I coach who was preparing for Couer d’Alene on June 21. His Peak was longer than the one in Chart #1 – 21 days. His fitness dropped from 62.8 to 56.9 TSS/day. That’s about 9%. Again, right in the range I try to hit.

His fatigue (red) actually rose on day 6 when he did his last long bike workout. This was a five-hour ride with 20-minute intervals done in power zone 3 followed by a 15-minute run at Ironman race intensity. The fatigue steadily dropped down to the day before the race. The “sawtooth” spikes during this decline show when we did his mini-race simulation workouts which gradually became shorter (the intensity remained the same).

The hard ride on day 6 of the Peak period caused form (black) to drop quite a bit. But with eight days to go until the race it became positive and remained so until race day. On race day form was +22.

I wish I could tell you that if you followed this procedure every time before an A-priority race you'd have great performances. Unfortunately, as I mentioned below, that isn't always the case. There are just too many variables in a person's life, some of which may occur right before the race or even weeks before with lingering affects. Common disruptors of training are illness, injury and lifestyle changes. This is what happened to the triathlete. The road cyclist had an excellent race.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


One of the most important but least understood times in the season is the Peak period which usually starts two to three weeks before an A-priority race. If training goes well in this period you can come into great shape on race day. If it goes poorly much of the work of building up to the A race could be wasted. It's a critical time.

There are two mistakes often made in the Peak period. The first is training too hard. What's needed now is some mixture of rest and hard training — with an emphasis on rest. Self-coached athletes tend to do too much hard work in the last few weeks since they don't trust that what they've done so far is enough. On the other hand, a few rest too much and don't train hard enough because they've heard that rest produces greater fitness. They're not exactly right. Rest actually produces greater "form" (race “restedness”), but causes a loss of fitness.

There are three elements of physical preparation that you are trying to balance in the last three weeks before your A race – fatigue, fitness and form. Fatigue is a measure of how great your workload is in the last few days. If intensity and/or duration have been higher than normal for the last few days then fatigue is elevated. In this situation, fitness will also be high. High-workload training produces both fatigue and fitness simultaneously. But fitness rises slowly relative to fatigue. Three hard workouts in three days will produce a lot of fatigue but only a very small increase in fitness. Fitness occurs over long periods of time whereas fatigue occurs in short periods of time. During the Peak period we're not trying to gain fitness but rather reduce fatigue.

Form is also one of the key elements during the Peak period. This has to do with how well your rest is progressing. The more rested you are, the greater your form. You want to have high form (well rested with fatigue low), but must be careful that fitness is not lost rapidly due to too much rest. The trick is to gradually lower fatigue, maintain fitness at a relatively high level and steadily increase form. Then you are peaked and ready to race. So how do you do that?

Starting two to three weeks before the A-priority race do a race-intensity workout which simulates the conditions of the race every third or fourth day. For most athletes doing these every third day is better. These workouts gradually get shorter as you progress through the first week or two of the Peak period. With the workouts getting shorter the weekly volume is also dropping. That's good. It should drop rather rapidly. Something such as a 30% to 50% drop each week is about right. The intensity for these intense workouts should be at least heart rate zone 3 or tempo power or "moderately hard." Such intensity is the key to maintaining fitness. The two or three days between these race simulations are the key to reducing fatigue and elevating form. They should be low intensity, low duration workouts that also get shorter as the Peak period progresses. So what you are doing is mixing the two key elements – intensity and rest – to produce race readiness at the right time.

For the single-sport athlete, such as a runner or cyclist, this is pretty simple. For the triathlete the peaking process described above may be modified by sport. For example, running requires a longer taper than does cycling which is usually longer than for swimming. There are other elements to also consider such as the length of the race (long races mean long tapers), how fit you are (high fitness means long tapers), how easily injured you are (injury prone athletes should taper longer), and how old you are (older often athletes need longer tapers).

The week of the race I handle a little differently. Now you want to emphasize rest even more but still need to do just a bit of intensity to maintain fitness (note that longer duration is not necessary to maintain race fitness at this point). I like to have the athlete do three or four workouts this week in which he or she completes several 90-second intervals at race intensity (for short races) or at least zone 3 (for long races such as Ironman), with three-minute recoveries. Five days before the race do five of these 90-second efforts. Four days before do four times 90 seconds. The pattern continues throughout the week. I believe the easiest day of this week should be two days before the race. This is usually a day off or at the most a very short and low-intensity session. The day before should also have some racelike intensity within a very brief session.

I've been using this method of peaking with the athletes I coach for many years and generally have good results. But you must realize that there are many factors that influence your readiness on race day, such as diet, sleep and lifestyle stress. We're biological organisms, not machines. Regardless of how well we manage things, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. That's simply the way the real world is for humans. What you want to do is keep good records of what you did to prepare before an important race. If things go well try to repeat this process the next time. If things don't go well study what you did and make appropriate adjustments the next time.

You can find more on my peaking protocol on my website.