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2012-02-08 7:00 AM

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Subject: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

I read your recent article about Bricks and I completely agree with your logical conclusions and most certainly trust your years of coaching experience.   However, in the article you primarily address the effects of bricks on developing "speed".

For many newer athletes that are training for their first or second HIM or IM, speed is a secondary concern.  Their primary focus is on endurance.  Keeping in mind that a rest/easy day(s) can be scheduled the day(s) after a long brick, do your conclusions also apply to developing endurance? 

Please elaborate.

Thank You!



2012-02-08 8:57 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

Rich may give you his response, but the basic answer is that endurance is built through the sum of all your training (not just the long days) and a brick is no more effective in building endurance than any other training. 

Doing a few 'big' training days for newer athletes can often be a good idea because it helps build confidence in their training.  But relying on doing a lot of that in a training program generally leads to wasted training time on those rest/easy day(s).  That is, by doing more in a single hard workout the athlete ends up doing less over time.  And it's the 'over time' piece that matters most in building endurance.

2012-02-08 11:07 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

Rick Strauss 

In summary, we’ve learned :

  • The vast majority of the time, under-performing the run is the result of overcooking the bike or the first quarter to one third of the run.
  • If you want to run fast you need to create opportunities to run fast, on fresher legs, vs slowly on tired legs.

The first statement is virtually inarguable, but essentially unrelated to the subject at hand, which are bricks. Many fit athletes have a poor run because poor race execution. But don't blame the training bricks for that!

The second statement is much more directed at bricks. I argue that if you're running slowly on tired legs, then you're doing your bricks wrong. And bricks are one of many tools in the training drawer.  Fast runs, intervals, fartleks, long race pace runs, bricks - all have their place.

I think bricks are a time-efficient way to build base; it's why I like Fink's plans.  In fact today I have one of his typical early week bricks: a 30 minute bike / 15 minute run both in Z2. I will not be running slowly on tired legs.



Edited by brucemorgan 2012-02-08 11:09 AM
2012-02-08 11:49 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
I use what I call transition runs....just the first mile or up to 15 minutes after a bike session...

Doing 10-15 minutes of an easy run after a bike is a great way to work the "transition" period without creating unnecessary fatigue.
2012-02-08 12:48 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

Thanks for the discussion! A few notes:

  • As Johnny said (good to see you again JK!), running endurance is the sum of all of your running workouts: frequency + volume + intensity applied consistently week after week. In my experience, no one workout provides the secret special sauce to build the endurance required for success at Ironman.
  • I believe the session that the OP was referring to could be called a "big day," and we do prescribe these for our athletes. That is, a 1hr swim, 4hr bike, and 1hr run, all done back to back. In our experience, opportunities to improve pacing, nutrition, bike setup/fit, weaknesses in core/lower back strength will express themselves on a day this long. Our athletes also do 2 x 112/6 race rehearsal bricks in route to their race.
  • I think it's important to make the distinction between bricks for short course training and racing and bricks for long course triathlon. For short course racing, yes, there is value in teaching your head and your body how to come off a very hard bike and start running very hard, right away. However, I'm referring here to the focus of many IM athletes, the brick that happens off the long bike. So, call it a 45-60' brick off a 4-6hr bike, typical of many IM athletes. In my experience, this brick will be:
    • Run at a slower pace than the same run done before the bike or later in the day. Again, my personal preference as a coach is to have my athletes rack up more miles at a faster pace vs slower pace.
    • Run is done in the heat of the day, likely slightly dehydrated, low on glycogen, etc. For this reason, and several others, the recovery cost of this long bike + brick run is greater than long bike + run done before the bike (at a faster pace) or in the PM after you've recovered a bit, it's cooled down, etc. 
  • Bricks for time efficiency: absolutely, we get that and are in full agreement. However, the conversation we have with our athletes is "In our experience, there is no special run-off-the-bike run fitness. My job is to make a faster, more durable, excellent endurance runner AND ensure you are able to apply that run fitness to your race by teaching you how to race. So you're going to see a bike and a run on Saturday. My first preference is that you do the run first, eat, drink, then do the bike. My second is that you do the bike, recover the rest of day, and knock out the run in the evening before dinner. These are my recommendations based on our experience and our objectives for you outlined for you above. But if life says you do this run as a brick right off the bike...that's cool, no worries, I get it. What you're doing isn't bad. If that's the case, I want you to make _these_ modifications to that schedule run."

Finally, I want to step back and make a broader comment about all of us as triathletes. If you look at the mass of discussion and material out there centered on "how to train" stuff, you'll see that it significantly outweighs the "how to race" stuff. As a result, we are culturally conditioned to seek a training solution to perceived problems: "I had a poor swim, bike, or run, ergo, the solution is obviously to SBR differently in some way -- longer, harder, faster, this or that special workout, etc."

So as a doode who's put more than a few athletes across IM finishlines and has been to 4-6x IM's every year since 2002 -- standing on the bike course, at mile 1 or 18 of the run course -- these are my observations:

  • IM athletes are some pretty damn fit people! Whether you train the way I would recommend or do your own thing, no worries...I'm very sure that you and many, many others have certainly punched the clock and are crazy, crazy fit. You're doing your long bikes, long runs, long bricks if that's your bag, it's all good.
  • Yet, the majority of the IM field continues to underperform on the run because they haven't applied the focus they applied to "how to train" to "how to race." 
  • As a result, these same very fit people are riding too hard the first 40 miles of the bike, riding the hills too hard, coming off the gas on the downhills, and, most importantly, are running the first 6-7 miles of the run too fast.

In my experience, THESE race execution mistakes are much more the cause of running under-performance than some training this that or the other thing that didn't happen.

Good stuff, thanks again for the discussion!

--

2012-02-08 1:06 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
Thanks to everyone for the excellent responses!

Edited by bhc 2012-02-08 1:09 PM


2012-02-08 1:07 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

 

Thank you for posting Rich.  This is very helpful in my mind.

2012-02-08 5:14 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

just wanted to say that this thread here is another reason why I love BT.

keep it coming everyone

2012-02-08 6:33 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

Rick, your answer is confusing to me given your article.  Your article says "Brick Workouts Have (Limited) Value for the Long Course Triathlete"

You prescribe a 1hr swim / 4hr bike / 1hr run "big day" brick.
You have all your athletes do a 112 run / 6 mile brick, twice.

You then say in the post above that a 45-60' brick after a 4-6 hour bike will have those attributes you don't like (slower, tired legs, heat of day, etc).   Yet you prescribe exactly that for your athletes.

Your approach seems like pretty standard stuff to me, so I'm not getting the "rethinking" part about bricks. Maybe it's just because we're in strenuous agreement about the value of bricks!



Edited by brucemorgan 2012-02-08 6:35 PM
2012-02-08 6:54 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
Rich Strauss - 2012-02-08 1:48 PM
  • In my experience, this brick will be:
    • Run at a slower pace than the same run done before the bike or later in the day. Again, my personal preference as a coach is to have my athletes rack up more miles at a faster pace vs slower pace.
    • Run is done in the heat of the day, likely slightly dehydrated, low on glycogen, etc. For this reason, and several others, the recovery cost of this long bike + brick run is greater than long bike + run done before the bike (at a faster pace) or in the PM after you've recovered a bit, it's cooled down, etc. 

Thanks for posting, Rich. These two points are interesting, and I'm not sure that I agree. 

On the first point (better to do more faster miles), I think that a more common concern is that runners overcook their run speeds in training, doing too many hard/fast miles before they've built the base to effectively tolerate the longer/faster runs that pound the body harder. This increases the injury risk. It's likely a particular concern among AGers who are training for an IM, as they're likely to want to do the long runs needed for marathon training, but less likely to have the time to put in the miles needed to support those long runs. So more steady miles is a good thing for lots of folks. 

As for doing the runs during the heat of the day, isn't that a key part of race preparation that many of us need? We do most of our running in cooler months or early/late in the day, but need to run off the bike when it's much hotter. Learning how to pace, hydrate, stay cool etc. in those situations is an important part of being ready.

2012-02-08 6:55 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
Rich, can't you simply qualify a brick for what it is, more run volume, and call it a day?


2012-02-08 7:45 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
Thanks for posting, Rich. These two points are interesting, and I'm not sure that I agree. 

On the first point (better to do more faster miles), I think that a more common concern is that runners overcook their run speeds in training, doing too many hard/fast miles before they've built the base to effectively tolerate the longer/faster runs that pound the body harder. This increases the injury risk. It's likely a particular concern among AGers who are training for an IM, as they're likely to want to do the long runs needed for marathon training, but less likely to have the time to put in the miles needed to support those long runs. So more steady miles is a good thing for lots of folks. 

As for doing the runs during the heat of the day, isn't that a key part of race preparation that many of us need? We do most of our running in cooler months or early/late in the day, but need to run off the bike when it's much hotter. Learning how to pace, hydrate, stay cool etc. in those situations is an important part of being ready.

Colin, thanks for the note. Coach Patrick from Endurance Nation here. From our coaching experience most age groupers targeting Ironman aren't in any danger of running too fast. In fact, most sign on to a long slow distance program. With multiple 5k swim workouts and long rides, there is very little energy left to overdo the run. This is why so many folks show up on race day with over-use injuries, not acute injuries due to intensity, etc. Our approach, of which the brick workout strategy is a part of, is to not bury athletes with volume to the point of mediocrity across all three disciplines. 

As for preparing for running in the heat of the day, our experience says that once you have figured that out, you've got it (drink more, wear hat, pace drops by X, etc). The quality of that run as a training stress exercise is compromised because it happens, repeatedly, at a sub-optimal time. It's not bad, we're just saying it could be better. 

Hope that helps!

2012-02-08 7:47 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

bryancd - 2012-02-08 6:55 PM Rich, can't you simply qualify a brick for what it is, more run volume, and call it a day?

Our broader point is that it doesn't just have to be more volume, but that you can choose to make it a better run. More better runs per week across many weeks = improved run fitness, etc.

2012-02-08 8:54 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

pmccrann - 2012-02-08 8:45 PM 

Our approach, of which the brick workout strategy is a part of, is to not bury athletes with volume to the point of mediocrity across all three disciplines.

Right. The focus on intensity for swimming and biking is relatively uncontroversial. It's your application of the same approach to running that is more debated. "Burying athletes with volume to the point of mediocrity" sounds like a nice phrase that doesn't really do justice to what's at stake here. Run volume and run intensity both have well documented physiological benefits and real world results, and it's clear that one of those two takes up less time. The question is whether the impact aspect of running is important enough that it tips the balance in favor of volume, due to adaptations to the pounding and lower injury risk. One can argue the science, the results, and the risks, but it can't be trivialized as "running lots makes you mediocre".

[quoteAs for preparing for running in the heat of the day, our experience says that once you have figured that out, you've got it (drink more, wear hat, pace drops by X, etc). The quality of that run as a training stress exercise is compromised because it happens, repeatedly, at a sub-optimal time. It's not bad, we're just saying it could be better. 

Ok, so I don't know the science here, but your claim is, in effect, that training in the heat is all about learning strategies for coping effectively, and presumably that there are no physiological adaptations to the higher temperatures. If there were physiological adaptations, then it would make sense to seek out those adaptations by training in the heat. That's also why lots of Olympic athletes devoted resources before Beijing '08 and Daegu '11 to training in hot and/or humid environments. They were assuming that there would be physiological adaptations, and they weren't merely learning to HTFU. Is there evidence that they are mistaken?

2012-02-09 7:38 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
brucemorgan - 2012-02-08 7:33 PM

Rick, your answer is confusing to me given your article.  Your article says "Brick Workouts Have (Limited) Value for the Long Course Triathlete"

You prescribe a 1hr swim / 4hr bike / 1hr run "big day" brick.
You have all your athletes do a 112 run / 6 mile brick, twice.

You then say in the post above that a 45-60' brick after a 4-6 hour bike will have those attributes you don't like (slower, tired legs, heat of day, etc).   Yet you prescribe exactly that for your athletes.

Your approach seems like pretty standard stuff to me, so I'm not getting the "rethinking" part about bricks. Maybe it's just because we're in strenuous agreement about the value of bricks!

I took his article and post to mean that long bricks have no benefit in developing speed nor endurance.  The only reason to do them is to nail down nutrition.  Once that has been done, the only value is if one has time constraints, in which case they should be of short duration so that extended rest is not warranted.

I look forward to his response.

2012-02-09 7:54 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
Love the debate and I am very impressed with the level of knowledge on this board. Thanks to everyone.


2012-02-09 8:38 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
brucemorgan - 2012-02-08 6:33 PM

Rick, your answer is confusing to me given your article.  Your article says "Brick Workouts Have (Limited) Value for the Long Course Triathlete"

You prescribe a 1hr swim / 4hr bike / 1hr run "big day" brick.
You have all your athletes do a 112 run / 6 mile brick, twice.

You then say in the post above that a 45-60' brick after a 4-6 hour bike will have those attributes you don't like (slower, tired legs, heat of day, etc).   Yet you prescribe exactly that for your athletes.

Your approach seems like pretty standard stuff to me, so I'm not getting the "rethinking" part about bricks. Maybe it's just because we're in strenuous agreement about the value of bricks!

I can't speak for EN - but my .02:

yes there are still some bricks thrown in for specific workouts but not on week in, week out basis.  I don't think it's controversial to see the benefit of doing a long bike/run type of workout a handful of times during your build.  It's  a great way to make sure nutrition is dialed in, make sure bike pace is appropriate, etc. 

Of course you have to actually use those long days to learn something...Everytime I did one of those long days the result was the same - my run sucked.  Guess what happened on race day?   Yup the run sucked.   In hindsight it should have been easy to see I was headed for disaster yet I just kept rationalizing those sub par runs (it as hot, i was fatigued, etc) and hoping it wouldn't happen on race day.  Bad idea! 

 

2012-02-09 8:54 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
brucemorgan - 2012-02-08 6:33 PM

Rick, your answer is confusing to me given your article.  Your article says "Brick Workouts Have (Limited) Value for the Long Course Triathlete"

You prescribe a 1hr swim / 4hr bike / 1hr run "big day" brick.
You have all your athletes do a 112 run / 6 mile brick, twice.

You then say in the post above that a 45-60' brick after a 4-6 hour bike will have those attributes you don't like (slower, tired legs, heat of day, etc).   Yet you prescribe exactly that for your athletes.

Your approach seems like pretty standard stuff to me, so I'm not getting the "rethinking" part about bricks. Maybe it's just because we're in strenuous agreement about the value of bricks!



The 112/6 are done as race a rehearsal to test bike set up ,clothing, nutrition, target watts/HR, then some flavor of your vdot off the bike. They are done at specific times near the race.

The article I believe is related to the week-end-week-out approach to running off the bike all the time.
2012-02-09 9:37 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
colinphillips - 2012-02-08 9:54 PM

Ok, so I don't know the science here, but your claim is, in effect, that training in the heat is all about learning strategies for coping effectively, and presumably that there are no physiological adaptations to the higher temperatures. If there were physiological adaptations, then it would make sense to seek out those adaptations by training in the heat. That's also why lots of Olympic athletes devoted resources before Beijing '08 and Daegu '11 to training in hot and/or humid environments. They were assuming that there would be physiological adaptations, and they weren't merely learning to HTFU. Is there evidence that they are mistaken?

There are some adaptations that take place and, I believe, studies have shown that you can get the majority of those benefits by training in similar conditions for a few weeks just prior to your event (I don't recall if there was a more exact period suggested by the studies).  That is, you'd still want to do most of your trianing in such a way that you can get the greatest physiological benefit from it (probably not in the heat of the day) but if you expect some unusual conditions (relative to your norm) then you should try to mimic those conditions in workouts over the final weeks.  Really, no different that moving to 'race specific' workouts (like some race rehearsals and 'big day' training for IM) in a training plan.

2012-02-09 9:41 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
bhc - 2012-02-09 8:38 AM

I took his article and post to mean that long bricks have no benefit in developing speed nor endurance. 

You are taking way more than is written, then.

2012-02-09 9:51 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
brucemorgan - 2012-02-08 7:33 PM

Rick, your answer is confusing to me given your article.  Your article says "Brick Workouts Have (Limited) Value for the Long Course Triathlete"

You prescribe a 1hr swim / 4hr bike / 1hr run "big day" brick.
You have all your athletes do a 112 run / 6 mile brick, twice.

You then say in the post above that a 45-60' brick after a 4-6 hour bike will have those attributes you don't like (slower, tired legs, heat of day, etc).   Yet you prescribe exactly that for your athletes.

Your approach seems like pretty standard stuff to me, so I'm not getting the "rethinking" part about bricks. Maybe it's just because we're in strenuous agreement about the value of bricks!

Those are about the only bricks in their plans (AFAIK)--excluding the option of 'time constraint' bricks, i.e., I run off the bike because if I don't, I won't be able to run later at all.  

I'm a bigger believer in frequency & volume over intensity in running than they are, so I actually think it's a more reasonable alternative to do more of those off-the-bike runs (20'-30') in order to get some running in that might otherwise not get done.  But it all depends on the athlete, their constraints, and the rest of their training program.  If you follow an EN-style plan, it's challenging to get the 'quality' that you need (in all 3 sports) if you are doing a lot of bricks within the plan. 

This is a problem of 'cherry picking' individual workouts and trying to ascribe meaning to them out of their context.  It goes back to my first reply in the thread.  It's the sum total of your work, not a specific workout that is key to your fitness and race-readiness.  And, as Rich points out, even more important is how you use that fitness on race day.  Don't get caught in the weeds.



2012-02-09 11:19 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

Let's summarize, OK?

  • Long bricks: good for various reasons, bad for various reasons.  Do a few, but not too many.
  • Race day simulation: good, do a few, not too many.
  • Short bricks: good for various reasons, bad for various reasons.  Do them if your time constrained, but avoid letting a brick be the only time you run.
  • Running: Fast on fresh legs is better than slow on tired legs.  Try to do most of your running this way.
  • Long runs off the bike every time: not needed, more harm than good
  • Race day: don't hammer the first 40 miles on the bike or the first 10 miles of the run. Poor race execution can botch good training and overall fitness.

So far, that's pretty much exactly what my coach, friends, the little angel on my shoulder all say.  So I apparently I was ahead of the crowd.

2012-02-09 11:36 AM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks

Only two modifications to clarify:

Let's summarize, OK?

  • Long bricks: good for dialing in nutrition and race day simulation various reasons, bad for various reasons.  Do a few, but not too many.
  • Race day simulation: good, do a few, not too many.
  • Short bricks: good for various reasons, bad for various reasons.  Do them if your time constrained, but avoid letting a brick be the only time you run.
  • Running: Fast on fresh legs is better than slow on tired legs.  Try to do most of your running this way.
  • Long runs off the bike every time: not needed, more harm than good
  • Race day: don't hammer the first 40 miles on the bike or the first 10 miles of the run. Poor race execution can botch good training and overall fitness.

So far, that's pretty much exactly what my coach, friends, the little angel on my shoulder all say.  So I apparently I was ahead of the crowd. Wink

 



Edited by bhc 2012-02-09 11:39 AM
2012-02-09 12:38 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
brucemorgan - 2012-02-09 12:19 PM

Let's summarize, OK?

  • Long bricks: good for various reasons, bad for various reasons.  Do a few, but not too many.
  • Race day simulation: good, do a few, not too many.
  • Short bricks: good for various reasons, bad for various reasons.  Do them if your time constrained, but avoid letting a brick be the only time you run.
  • Running: Fast on fresh legs is better than slow on tired legs.  Try to do most of your running this way.
  • Long runs off the bike every time: not needed, more harm than good
  • Race day: don't hammer the first 40 miles on the bike or the first 10 miles of the run. Poor race execution can botch good training and overall fitness.

So far, that's pretty much exactly what my coach, friends, the little angel on my shoulder all say.  So I apparently I was ahead of the crowd.

Nobody's arguing it's revolutionary.  Or complicated.  Just that there are still a lot of athletes that seem to have trouble with some/all of it.  Especially the last part.

2012-02-09 4:50 PM
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Subject: RE: Question For Rick Strauss Regarding Recent Article On Bricks
bhc - 2012-02-09 8:36 AM

Only two modifications to clarify:

Let's summarize, OK?

  • Long bricks: good for dialing in nutrition and race day simulation various reasons, bad for various reasons.  Do a few, but not too many.
  • Race day simulation: good, do a few, not too many.
  • Short bricks: good for various reasons, bad for various reasons.  Do them if your time constrained, but avoid letting a brick be the only time you run.
  • Running: Fast on fresh legs is better than slow on tired legs.  Try to do most of your running this way.
  • Long runs off the bike every time: not needed, more harm than good
  • Race day: don't hammer the first 40 miles on the bike or the first 10 miles of the run. Poor race execution can botch good training and overall fitness.

So far, that's pretty much exactly what my coach, friends, the little angel on my shoulder all say.  So I apparently I was ahead of the crowd. Wink

 

I'd say this is pretty close but of course there are many, many other discussion topics within that list above: the role of speedwork in IM run training, "big days," the scheduling and execution of race rehearsals, heat adaptation, and much more.

And, as you noted, these are bullet points that many experienced Ironman athletes have come around to on their own. We've had these conversations internally and formally/informally with our folks for a while now. 

But, as Johnny noted and as some discussions here and elsewhere in the triathlon space indicate, many, many athletes, and coaches, are still doing things that more experienced athletes have learned not to do.

Thanks for the discussion!

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