All About The Bike

As I have mentioned before, cycling is where I am going to focus most of my energy. I did give the general outline, but there were a few specifics I didn't get into. So how will I focus on the bike?

Firstly I still believe in the principles I outline in Cycling For The Ironman last October. These principles I summarise as:
  • Develop central endurance and fat metabolism with long rides (4-8 hours) at 55-75% VO2max (approx 60-80% HRmax)
  • Keep general pedal cadence moderate and gradually progress my comfortable range
  • Keep the long rides steady (minimise freewheeling)
  • Ensure good core conditioning and flexibility
  • Train in race position

Now to get a little more specific to Ironman Australia. The race course is 180km divided into three laps. The majority of the course is undulating with a relatively short but steep hill on each lap. There are hardly any flat areas at all. The course profile can be viewed here. This creates some interesting points in regard to race strategy. The main challenge is the variable terrain means that it can be difficult to maintain an even, steady effort throughout. Power output can vary, there is more opportunity for getting up off the saddle, cadence ranges can vary a lot and there is a risk of spiking the intensity to high levels often, even if it is for short periods. In my opinion it is a course that will punish the weak on the bike, but for those with the appropriate training and temperament it can become relatively easy. Well, as easy as 180km time trial sandwiched between a swim and run can be.

If I was to sum up preparing for Ironman Australia in one word, it would have to be hills. The majority of my training ride will be over a mix of undulating and hilly terrain. I was recently chatting with a friend about this who has completed a few Ironman races and is now coaching. He offered the opinion that people get carried away with hills, and they should only play a small part in training. While I agree that people can get carried away, I think it has more to do with how they approach hill training, rather than the volume. The main mistake is that hills are often attacked, taking you well above the targeted training intensity and moving away from the goals of the session.

The key to my bike training is to focusing on the demands of the event. The aim is to prepare my body to be able to work at a constant and relatively low intensity over variable terrain. The long rides while typically including plenty of hills of variable grades and lengths, will also be performed within my set intensity ranges. This means holding back on the hills. Developing efficient muscular endurance to be able to handle steep grades without skyrocketing the heart rate. Over the last weeks I have already seen a reduction in the variability of my heart rate on these rides, while maintaining similar speeds.

So is there room to go hard on the climbs? Of course there is. Always a time and place to go hard. At the moment this time is during my shorter rides between the key workouts. Here (if my legs are feeling good) I'll pick the effort up to around 85% HRmax. The sessions are short enough not to prolong recovery. This is in preparation for when it really is time to go hard. This will be during my IM II phase of training, which will include higher intensity hill repeats. More on that as I get closer to this phase.

In the end it is only a small change to the first of the five points given at the start of this post:

Develop central endurance and fat metabolism with long rides (4-8 hours) at 55-75%VO2max (approx 60-80% HRmax) over hilly and undulating terrain.


  1. liked your blog.

  2. I have a stupid question. What's free-wheeling? Is that when there's no real tension?

  3. Thanks for posting about how to tackle the hills. IM Wisconsin is hilly as well, and I shoot my HR through the roof when riding hills. I think your strategy to go harder on the shorter rides vs. the longer key sessions makes a lot of sense.

  4. It's pretty hard to avoid hills around Canberra - unless you do 200 laps of the criterium course. Good advice Jason (when I eventually get back on the bike). The only problem with hills I guess, is not doing many miles in "race position".


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