How diving into the numbers can improve your Ironman bike
How diving into the numbers can improve your Ironman bike

How diving into the numbers can improve your Ironman bike

How diving into the numbers can improve your Ironman bike

We catch up with Barry Oelofsen on this edition of The Kona Edge to talk about his Ironman bike. Barry shares with us how diving into the numbers has improved his performance on two wheels.

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BRAD BROWN: Welcome back to this edition of The Kona Edge. It’s time to chat about a pretty cool Ironman bike workout with Rob Cummins in Dublin.

Rob, welcome back, thanks for joining us today.

ROB CUMMINS: How you Brad, how’s it going?

BRAD BROWN:  Fantastic. Rob, when you first started out getting fit you spent some time mountain biking and doing a bit of off-road stuff.

Obviously, you’re now doing a lot more stuff on the road plus you’re a machine on the bike.

Is there an Ironman bike workout that has given you the biggest gains?

Find a good training spot for this Ironman bike workout

ROB CUMMINS: Oh, I don’t know about being a machine. I just like riding the bike. I think the most effective Ironman bike workouts I’ve ever done, is very simple. This Ironman bike workout was prescribed by the coach and as we discovered it is very simple.

It’s a 5-hour bike ride and 3 x 1 hour at Ironman race pace. The idea with the session is to teach you pacing basically, and nutrition as well.

The way we did this Ironman bike workout little bit differently to what it was prescribed.  I was training with Aisling at the time, we were both training for Ironman UK. Our runs would be very similar and obviously when you’re training together in the pool it doesn’t matter.

But on the Ironman bike workout, we’d be different speeds. The easiest way for us to train together on the bike so that I wasn’t killing her or that I wasn’t going too slow, was to find a lap and we trained on the lap.

A 10k lap is needed for this Ironman bike workout

We’d go out and we’d do 150 or 180k on a 10k lap. It sounds mind numbingly boring but it actually turned out to be probably the best Ironman bike workout we’ve done in terms of training.

Because when you’re training on a short lap and you’re trying to do long pace work. If you slow down it can only be that you started too fast. Or that your nutrition is wrong.

It will be very obvious if you’re taking your splits every single lap. If they’re 18 minutes, 18 minutes, 18 minutes, and then at the end of the Ironman bike workout they’re 22 minutes, you’ll know that you’ve done something wrong.

We discovered that when we did the long Ironman pace stuff on a lap. We actually use a shorter lap now. It teaches you just how to pace an Ironman bike.

And again, it was really only when I went out and did it I realised physically how difficult it is.

Pacing is key in this Ironman Bike workout

When we ask an athlete to put a number on what they think they should start on, efforts wis, out of 10. Meaning how easy or hard should they go for the first hour. They’ll say 6 or 7 or 8 out of 10 is where they should start.

What it actually feels like to me from learning the pacing on that lap, is the first lap feels like 4 out of 10. It feels ridiculously easy. But I know if I start at that effort level of 4 out of 10, the same speed 5 hours later is going to feel like 8 or 9 out of 10. As the body becomes fatigued and things catch up with you.

You don’t necessarily slow down, you very often speed up. When I went and did my first Ironman after doing this Ironman bike workout week in week out. We did 5, 6 hour bike rides on this 10k loop and I improved my Ironman bike pacing. It just got better and better and better every week.

Pacing and nutrition work together on race day

The other thing this Ironman bike workout taught me was about Ironman nutrition. If you start to slow down in the middle of the ride and you ate, you’d realise you need to eat more often. I have my Ironman nutrition absolutely nailed.

It taught me how often to eat and how much to eat. In the end, we had it dialled in so well that we knew I needed to eat every 25 minutes. Then about halfway point through the ride,  I’d need to double up on a feed. That was because I was starting to become a little more depleted as we went.

When I got to Ironman UK, 5 months later, in 2011, I rode a negative split on an Ironman bike course that’s more challenging in the second half than it is in the first. I think I had a top 5 bike split in the age group on the day.

Execution not talent determines your Ironman bike time

It was purely down to execution. It’s not that I’m much stronger on the Ironman bike than people, I’m not. I’m not particularly talented on the Ironman bike or any of the disciplines. The fact that I started off coming in 1200th out of 1500 people will attest to that.

It was just learning how to do it better. That for me was the important aspect. One of the most important aspects of improving at Ironman was learning how to race. Not just being physically strong enough but learning how to get 100% out of yourself on race day. That is  much more important than being an absolute animal on the bike and going so hard that your run then is as slow as your bike. So, learning Ironman bike pacing for me was crucial.

BRAD BROWN: I love that. I think that is amazing. And then just briefly, your favourite Ironman bike workout on the bike? What do you love doing?

Race you own race

ROB CUMMINS: That long Ironman bike ride. The 6 hours with the 4 x 1 hour at Ironman bike race pace is my favourite one. It’s tough to get your head around at the start but once you get into it, you’re moving fast.

You’re feeling good and it sounds bizarre that you like hours and hours of riding around in circles.  We also do that Ironman bike workout as a group as well.

We do it with a number of athletes that would be at a similar or stronger or slightly weaker level. The great thing I found about doing that was it teaches you what’s going to happen on the day.

When you get onto your Ironman bike and you start riding, the very first thing that’s going to happen is somebody is going to go past you. Or you’re going to start passing people because you’re surrounded by 100’s of people.

It’s so easy to be influenced by what’s happening around you and if you talk to the really good athletes, the likes of Martin Muldoon or Allen Rhine, they race their own race.

Pace and race your own Ironman bike

They all have their own way of saying it. Basically they ignore what’s going on around them and do what they know works. All they  do is follow their Power meter. They ride to perceived effort or heart rate. But essentially whatever way they do it, but they do their own thing on their Ironman bike.

We do the session as you would an Ironman bike. Non drafting, so you can’t ride on wheels. You see guys riding away from you that you might think you’re stronger than, but you need to trust your perception of pacing. His pacing mightn’t be as good as yours, he might be tired. He might be just stronger this week and it really teaches you very well how to pace and how to get your Ironman bike right.

BRAD BROWN: I love that. I think that is superb! I’m going to definitely start incorporating and Ironman bike workout like that in my training.

Rob, thank you so much for your time once again here on The Kona Edge. Much appreciated.

ROB CUMMINS: Thanks Brad.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.

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