This is the point where everyone wants to start testing how their preparation is going. A piece of advice, don't! Why? You are not there yet, in fact you are a long way from it.
Too much, too soon
4 weeks is a long time in training terms. This is a point where athletes tend to think they should be on fire, feeling strong. For reference, every time I have seen an athlete racing strongly somewhere 4 weeks out from an Ironman, to me, it’s a danger sign.
This is where it comes down to the hardest thing to do in an Ironman preparation. You have to trust that the underlying form is there without knowing it and start to provide your body the chance to do what it wants to do, peak! But it’s not just a physical peak, it’s also very much a psychological peak that is required.
Instead of testing and pushing, you need to trust and allow form, function and mental stability to become the key.
If you start throwing in test sets at this point, you are setting yourself up for a psychological melt down. What you want in four weeks time and what you have now at this moment are two different things.
What you want and the reality that matches it need to intersect in four weeks time and not a moment before.
What does that mean? It means the appropriate training, at the appropriate time, for the appropriate outcome.
Faith and trust is critical at this point. It's this trust, or lack thereof, that can either make or break the preparation.
So here is a little advice for that last four weeks based on one critical component.
Pull the long run volume now
That’s right, break up the run volume, no longer than 90mins for the last 4 weeks, heck you say?
This is where you really need to ask yourself the question.
Do I want to survive or do I want to race?
Long runs over the last 4 weeks are a great way to destroy any chance of real form.
If you want to peak with great legs for a strong bike and effective run off the bike, you have to give your legs the space to come online.
If you think your bike legs are going to come online while you are banging out 3 hour runs, you are deluding yourself. You are training yourself to survive, not thrive, and survival is what the race will look like.
I’ve seen more than one run record set amongst the crew that trained here with not one run over 90 minutes. If I had my way no one would run over 90 minutes period.
Why? Because the Ironman marathon is about function, not survival. Long runs are a great way to teach yourself how to run with bad form. Don’t believe me? Come and stand on the side of the road and watch it go down with me and I’ll point it out - it’s impossible to miss.
More than anything when I schedule longer runs, it’s not for the physicality. It’s to reduce the psychological anxiety that revolves around trying to control external outcomes.
When you are trawling through the results post Ironman, how many effective marathons do see compared to the bike splits?
You’d be better off working on your stability
Dropping hips, sway back, cadence low, leaning back, arse sticking out and going no where fast is the default Ironman run form for most. I see very little written about it.
The default form on race day will surface from the form you held in training. If you run efficiently and effectively up to the point where you feel it ebb and go no further, then that’s what you can expect on race day. Even though you have to run further in the race because your body has been trained to run efficiently.
If you train long distances on the run and you are down to fumes with bad form, then that’s what you can expect on race day.
For some reason we are still stuck in the old running miles mentality. When we are not feeling like we are running well, let’s throw miles at it. It fails and it fails miserably for Ironman because Ironman is not marathon.
I’m out there for that long, I need to train to be out there for that long
I’ve heard the same rhetoric for 25 years, I’m out there for that long, I need to train to be out there for that long.
That makes no physical sense, it’s a psychological standpoint. You have the ability though to thrive over longer distances than you have trained if you are strong and healthy at the outset.
If however you let the fearful mind run the show, then it stands to reason that the body on race day is going to respond with - oh this old fatigued routine again.
Overtraining for the most part is a symptom driven by anxiety thanks to overthinking.
So getting back to the point, over that last four weeks, what is the best way to optimise that time?
Drop the long run volume and break it up. Let the bike legs come online because while that is happening you are vastly improving your chances of running well off the bike.
You are increasing your chances of starting healthy, strong and more importantly motivated and mentally fresh.
Don’t test, trust. If you feel like you can’t trust even though you’ve been doing the work, don’t look at the work, look at your head space.
You’d be far better served using that last 4 weeks to work on your mental application than physically testing yourself.
A fatigued body is a fatigued mind because they are hardwired together as one. A fatigued mind is not a rational mind.
If you can’t cope, there’s no hope.