We look at a concept for the very first time today on The Kona Edge.  Martin Muldoon chats to Brad Brown about decoupling  on the Ironman bike and how to improve it over time. Martin also shares his favourite bike workout with us on this episode.


BRAD BROWN:  Welcome back onto this edition of The Kona Edge, time to chat some biking, Martin Muldoon joins us one again.

Martin, welcome back, thanks for joining us. As far as the three disciplines go, you’ve mentioned that the swim is your weakest, the run is your strongest, but you’re not half bad on the bike either.

Manage your time on the bike in Ironman training

MARTIN MULDOON:  Yeah, I’ve done a lot of work on the bike over the years. The biking, as anybody knows, not only the longest on race day but it’s usually the most hours that people spend in their training week as well and I’m no different. I probably have about 60-70% of my training hours on the bike and most of the time I enjoy it and I think that’s a bit part of it. Trying to enjoy those solo rides where some days you can’t find anybody to go with because you’ve got a different plan.

You could be out there for six hours and I actually enjoy that stuff. I think you’d be in big trouble, so it’s good to enjoy that model lifestyle where you’re actually, sometimes I have a radio on my head, it’s just me and nature and it takes you away from the real world, so that’s not a bad thing either.

BRAD BROWN:  What’s the one thing you’ve done in your Ironman career that you reckon has given you the most benefit and the most gains on the bike?

MARTIN MULDOON:  I would say, there’s lots of different methods that work. But I would say there’s a couple of things that, well, there’s probably three things I would mention. The one thing that makes a difference is to improve your decoupling over time, the separation of your heart rate and Power is something that my coach has written a lot about over the past.

It’s where over time your heart rate goes up or stays the same and your Power starts to drop and there’s physical reasons for that happening. One is dehydration, it could be a lack of energy, but it’s more likely a lack of fitness. It could be a lack of strength, so that’s sort of the cause of slowing down in an Ironman near the end, of getting tired and not being able to run properly.

We attack that using things like low cadence Power work, high cadence work for improving your efficiency, for burning less energy or less glycogen. They are the things that we try to improve it with and if you do those consistently, you’ll find that your decoupling of heart rate and Power over time comes down.

I think the pro guys sit around 5% or even below 5% and I find getting near a number like that in those race simulations, in towards race week, then I’m usually in a good place on race day. I would say trying to attack that decoupling problem between Power and heart rate is the one thing I’d say that when we work on consistently, I tend to have good races from.

BRAD BROWN:  It sounds pretty technical, but it makes a lot of sense. You mentioned the stuff that you do to improve it. How soon into your Ironman career did you start working on that sort of stuff?

Understand the numbers of your heart rate and power when training for Ironman

MARTIN MULDOON:  Probably with Alan, I mean I’d done a little bit of coaching with other guys before that, but probably more to do with half Ironman. They may have had sessions in there which were similar, but there would have been no explanation as to why we were doing them, it was just do them and there was a spreadsheet and they didn’t take any feedback. Alan, everything is recorded, everything is put into different algorithms that he’s set up and he can work out numbers to see the improvement, to see it actually working.

Something like that, I started with Alan early days and over time, whenever you get a chance to sit down with a coffee and read through the articles and read through what he’s saying about why you’re doing it, I started to understand that a bit better, but I think you actually enjoy the understanding of it. You enjoy to see the improvement a bit more, if you understand why you’re doing it.

You don’t necessarily need to monitor it during the session. I think that takes away a little bit of the focus from the effort itself. But it’s good when you go back and plug in your Garmin and upload it to training peaks and then look at some of the spreadsheets that come out and see those numbers. And over weeks and months, if you can see your performance is improving in training, you get a lot of satisfaction out of that and you know that you’re improving it. It means you’re not wasting your time.

I know that for certain people who over train, they could be wasting their time, but they won’t know that until race day. They just assume they’re getting fitter and faster and it comes to race day and they’re disappointed when things don’t go well.

BRAD BROWN:  Absolutely. Martin, your favorite bike workout, what do you love doing on the bike?

Building strength in your Ironman bike training

MARTIN MULDOON:  I would say hill reps, long is not great, anywhere around a big city is not great, certainly in this city, there’s a few hills here, about 3-4 minutes long and we do big gear work for strength. I like that because there’s a huge focus on it. They’re not flat out, it’s very few sessions I do that are flat out. It’s not really part of Ironman training, but certainly hard and feisty sessions do have a place. But you don’t do them very often and you take plenty of rest after them.

I’d say the hill reps are a big one for me because I usually do it on a quiet road and there’s that challenge of trying to get into that zone where you’re actually doing the session properly and you know you’re building strength. It’s a bit like doing squats in the gym, but it’s more specific on the bike. I would say hill reps, I quite enjoy that.

I would like to live somewhere maybe like Boulder or somewhere you can actually find a 10-20 minute hill which is what Alan subscribes to us guys, but he realizes that we have to break it down into 5 minute reps instead. Instead of doing 3 x 20, he’ll have us doing 4 x 5 and multiply that by three instead.

You still get the same workout for it and as long as you recover properly, you’re getting the same benefit from the longer sets, so hill reps are a big one for me.

BRAD BROWN:  Nice. Cool, let’s talk running in the next one, we’ll save that for the next time we catch up. Thanks for your time today here on The Kona Edge.

MARTIN MULDOON:  No problem.