Ask the Coach: Ironman Heart-Rate Zones

author : mikericci
comments : 0

I am spending most of my time in Z4 and Z5. My question is does this support my goal of completing the 26.2 in sufficient time based on the cut-off?

Member Question 

I am a 90% disabled veteran and I'm preparing for my first Ironman. I've read some varied information regarding HR zones. I would like to know what zones I should be training in in order to support a full IM. I am averaging between 8.5 - 9 minute miles. I currently run 3-4 times a week. I've included my averages for Z1-Z5 from my most recent short day. I am spending most of my time in Z4 and Z5. My question is does this support my goal of completing the 26.2 in sufficient time based on the cut-off, or, per my goal, sooner? 

Zone Heart-Rate Time Spent in Zone
 Z1 92-111 02m 48s
 Z2 111-129 03m 32s
 Z3 129-148 05m 34s
 Z4148-166  08m 34s
 Z5 166-18517m 02s 

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated as I am running short of time.These are my normal ranges and regardless of the distance/time, the breakdown is generally high in Z5 and Z4 falls in line next.

Answer from Coach Mike Ricci  - BT's Online Coach

First and foremost, thank you for your service.  

After reviewing your question here is my recommendation:

  1. How are you determining your threshold? Are you testing with the 30 minute test? The protocol can be found here: Setting up your Lactate Threshold Heart-rate Zones.  Your zones may be off or you're spending too much time in the higher zones for Ironman training.
  2. Once you have the zones dialed in for the bike and run I would then apply the zones to your workouts. 
  3. Being that you are many months away from your A race I would work on strength and speed now. For example, for May and June work on weight room work, while adding in some hill and big gear work 1x per week as well. Once you have done 6-8 weeks of strength work in the weight room, I would change up the plan to get work done on the bike and run. These can be big gear rides where you ride for a couple of hours and ride only in the big ring and the cadence can be as low as 55-65rpms. 

For running, you could add in hill repeats. I would start with 6x2 minutes and add in about 2-3 reps per week (up to 15x2 minutes) to add in strength.

Once you are done building strength, it's time to add in some speed! For IM or HIM racing, you can start with some LT intervals about 8-10 minutes long. Even 1-2 reps starting out would be great. 

When you are 12 weeks out from the race you can start adding in longer race specific rides, of 4+ hours. Up until this time I would keep the rides shorter and easier.

The same can be said for running as well. Running two hours every or every other week is fine and then once you are within 12 weeks of the IM, you can increase the runs 15’ each week, eventually topping off at 2 ¾ hours.

The long runs and rides should be done in Zone 2 and race day nutrition should be practiced as well. One more idea that could be worked into your plan would be to add in some longer days, maybe two or three to simulate the race day experience. Also read: Using Bricks During Your Training.

All in all, make sure your zones are calculated correctly, and then work the strength into your training early, then add in some speed and finally finish off the training with some longer rides and runs to cap off your training heading into the race.

Good Luck! 

Head Coach Mike Ricci and his coaches provide the support for BT's Online Coaching option - an add-on to any Silver or Gold Membership.


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date: June 11, 2013