What does strength on the Ironman bike really mean?
What does strength on the Ironman bike really mean?

What does strength on the Ironman bike really mean?

What does strength on the Ironman bike really mean?

Today on The Kona Edge, Bob McRae shares tips on how to get the best out of your shorter Ironman Bike training sessions.

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BRAD BROWN: Bob onto your Ironman bike now. Out of the other 2 disciplines, the bike and the run, which would you say is your strongest?

BOB MCRAE: Between the bike and the run?


Focus is the key to improving your Ironman bike

BOB MCRAE: I’d like to say the run but it’s turned out to be the bike surprisingly. I think as I got started again in 2012 for those next 3 years I really focused on the bike, so I suppose it’s not that surprising. Plus I have the fastest bike in the world, the Diamond bike.

If you look at my splits you have to say it’s definitely my strength compared to the run. Although if I looked at it, I guess I have to go back and look at Boulder last year which was a breakthrough race for me. I had the second overall bike split. The only person that rode faster than me is the guy who won, 34 years old. He said I was pretty clueless with that.

Even though my run was pretty solid as well, I think there were probably 5 guys that ran faster than me, or maybe that might not be true. The bike is still my strength.

BRAD BROWN: As far as volume versus high intensity sort of stuff, I know that you’ve mentioned you tend to have brought the length of these workouts down, but on the bike is it a case of you need that base so you’ve just got to do volume initially?

Making it through Ironman with shorter training sessions

BOB MCRAE: No, definitely not. Early season I’ll keep my sessions relatively short. In fact last year, I keep referring to that because this year has not turned out like I wanted it to. I guess going into Boulder, it was my third half last year, that was my fourth outdoor ride and about the longest ride.

So my longest rides typically in training are my torque intervals, which we can talk about in detail, which is basically a 90 minute workout. But everything else is like an hour. So the intensity is pretty high. It’s either the sweet spot or a threshold type workout or it’s the torque intervals or threshold intervals.

BRAD BROWN: Tell me about these torque intervals.

BOB MCRAE: It’s something that I was listening to the Fat Black Podcast a couple of years ago and they were talking about the importance of strength on the bike. But there was unfortunately a lack of specificity in them and I started looking on the internet for some details.

Create your own workouts that suit you

So strength on the bike, what does that mean? I think it’s pretty intuitive, what does that mean? It’s low cadence, high torque but then how long, how many, that sort of stuff. They seemed to be very lacking in terms of the amount of material that’s out there and still even to this day, I don’t think you find a lot of workouts that are prescribed in this way.

What I started doing a few years ago, it was in the early part of the season I’d start at 10 minutes and I’d go up to 20 and it would be 4 intervals, 60 rpm and I’ve got a Computrainer and I would say at about 92, 93% of threshold. For me it’s a modest 230 watts and I would just ride at 60 rpm, 230 watts, 4 x 20.

And that’s how I prepped for half Ironman and it’s worked extraordinarily well. I did, Boulder half was relatively short, but I did a 2:09 bike split on that workout.

Using the race course for workouts

BRAD BROWN: And then how would you change that in the build up to an Ironman?

BOB MCRAE: I started getting out on the road and I would actually drive up to the Boulder course which is about a half an hour drive and I would just basically start doing the loops, and I used that 9 weeks to ramp from 60 to 200 and probably about 4 weeks out I did my first 100 mile ride and I would end up doing probably 5 or 6 of those 100 mile rides culminating one week where I did a 100 miler on a Thursday and then another 100 on the next Saturday, so within 3 days.

Then what I tend to do typically, is also try to stack workouts of the same sort in a 3 day period. So, for example I did my torque intervals on a Friday which is probably equal to 2-and-a half Ironman type of effort or race and then I did a 100 miler on Saturday and then we did 60 on Sunday. It ended up being somewhere in the order of 210 miles, or 220 equivalent miles in 3 days.

BRAD BROWN: As far as favourite workouts on the bike, what do you love doing?

Most effective Ironman bike workout on the indoor trainer

BOB MCRAE: If I’m feeling good and relatively fresh, I really do like those 100 milers. I like to be in my car, pulling up to my car after doing them. I often start as the sun comes up so at 6am and I’d be done with 100 miles at 10:30 in the morning. That to me is the epitome of my triathlon career these days. As efficient as you can be, it’s surprising to imagine that you can get 100 mile ride in by 10:30 in the morning without getting up at 4am.

BRAD BROWN: Without a doubt. And as far as training through the winter. The winters where you are, are pretty brutal. You mention the Computrainer and not spending too much time out on the road. Is that a case right throughout, even during the season? Do you spend lots of time on the Computrainer or is it just during the colder times when weather is maybe not best to be out?

BOB MCRAE: No, I far prefer to train indoor. I train the race and training is most effective in my opinion, on the trainer. Then I don’t have to worry about all the gear, I don’t have to worry about somebody texting, coming over and ending your workout, all kinds of things. So I really do enjoy getting it done quickly and right and with the trainer. Whether it’s on the Computrainer or in spin class.


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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