We catch up with Scott Cooper on this edition of The Kona Edge to chat about his Ironman run. Scott reveals his strategy is to finishing an Ironman well and the importance of interval training in his Ironman training program.
BRAD BROWN: You’re listening to The Kona Edge, it’s great to have you with us, we head back to Canada now to chat to a returning guest, Scott Cooper. I’m Brad Brown, Scott, welcome back onto The Kona Edge.
SCOTT COOPER: Thank you Brad for having me, I’m excited to be here.
BRAD BROWN: Scott, when we first spoke you said to me that growing up, obviously a lot of the sports you did, there was running involved and you enjoyed it, but again, we spoke about the bike and how good you are on the bike. You’re a natural runner, your marathon times at the end of an Ironman are something else.
The value of a strong run
SCOTT COOPER: Yeah it’s good to fall back on, for sure, it’s nice when I get off the bike and I know that I still have a strong finish in me. I catch a lot of guys on the end of the marathon and I find that helps give me a lot of confidence to know that I can put together a good run. No matter how shattered the legs are after 180km on the bike.
BRAD BROWN: As frustrating as it is having your swim as your weakest discipline, I’m sure you wouldn’t trade it, you wouldn’t trade a strong run in for a stronger swim?
SCOTT COOPER: Absolutely, if you look at the time spent on each of the three sports, having a strong bike/run is obviously invaluable because if you lose a few percent there, it can be 10-15-20 minutes whereas if you lose a few percent on the swim, it might be 5 minutes. It’s good to have that run strength and a lot of people, that’s where they start struggling on the day. So I really like to be able to put out good efforts there and really hammer out the run courses.
BRAD BROWN: You also said to me your first Ironman, the second half of that marathon was particularly tough. We all get to a point at some stage in a race where we’re in a really dark place, some of us like hanging out in those dark places, others not so much. What’s your strategy to pull yourself out of one of those holes?
Break it down so you keep running
SCOTT COOPER: My biggest strategy is really just breaking it down. I try not think about how many K’s I still have to go and then I just sort of, I make deals with myself, essentially is what it comes down to. I’ll say: Okay, get to the next aid station and if you get to the next aid station and you’re really fried, then you can walk. What I find is that when I get to that next aid station I’m still feeling good. So then I’ll be able to keep running and as I get more and more tired, I just break down how far ahead I’m looking. In races I’ll count telephone poles. I’ll just try and run to the next telephone pole and then tell myself, if you get to the next one, and if you still feel bad, then you can take a break. And I always find that when I get to that next telephone pole I go: You can do one more and then that’s how you can get that rhythm back and slowly work yourself out of those dark holes.
BRAD BROWN: As far as gains on the run, what are some of the things you’ve done that you feel have given you massive improvements?
SCOTT COOPER: To be honest, with my run, just because it’s always been my strength and I’ve been trying to build up my bike and swim over the years, I haven’t done a huge focus on my running. Again, I find that consistency is important. I just really have to put in some solid miles in the couple of months leading up to a race and then my runs will sharpen up. But if I did have to put down one thing that I find is really helpful, is thinking about efficiently hitting the paces as opposed to just trying to do whatever I have to do to hit paces.
In a hard interval work, just really hammering, I can also hammer, I’ll still go hard, but I’ll really focus on, can I be a little bit more efficient while I’m doing the set and still hit this pace. And especially in Ironman running, where you’re already tired and you have a long way to go on a marathon, efficiency is just so important. Really focusing on that and maintaining good form later on, in hard interval sets, I find really pays off when you get to race day because that’s when you can focus on those little technical cues, like keeping your feet underneath you and hips over your feet, that sort of thing. You can focus on those 30-35km into a marathon and keep your pace up and not slow down at the end and then that’s where you can get a good run time.
BRAD BROWN: As far as workouts go, what do you love doing run-wise?
Brick runs improves run speed
SCOTT COOPER: One of my favourite workouts that I do, and usually I’ll do this as a brick run, but I’ll do a set of, I’ll increase the number as I go through the season, but the main part of the set is a 15 minute block where you do 5 minutes, 4, minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute at increasing speeds. What I’ll do is I’ll start with the base speed that maybe at the beginning of the season I’ll start with 13.5km an hour. And then for each of those sets I’ll increase by a kilometer per hour. I don’t know if that’s too confusing but anyway, essentially, you do 5 minutes at 13.5km, then 4 minutes at 14.5km, 3 minutes at 15.5km, 2 minutes at 16.5km, 1 minute at 17.5km an hour and then just repeat through that cycle. And I find that that’s a way that you can again get that feel of a build throughout a run and you can get some good top speed, but for short periods of time and then I find that that’s a really good one. Just to work on tempo and improving that run speed and efficiency.
BRAD BROWN: Deeper into the season do you make those 15 minute blocks longer or do you do more of those 15 minute blocks, if that makes sense?
SCOTT COOPER: Yeah, I’ll do both. What I’ll do, is I’ll increase the number of 15 minutes, say in February maybe I’m doing 30 minutes total, so I’ll do twice through that. Whereas at this time of the season when I’m about to do an Ironman, maybe I’ll do five times, so it’ll be an hour and 15 minute main set and then the other thing I do is I’ll increase that base speed. I guess at the start of the season, I’d say 13.5km an hour and then I’ll work my way up to, by the end of the season doing, starting at 14.5km or 15km an hour and then building all the way up to say 19km/h for the fast one minutes and so kind of build it up in both ways.
BRAD BROWN: Fantastic, and then puke afterwards I’m sure!
SCOTT COOPER: Absolutely, I have a little puke and a lie down off the track, then you’re good to go.
BRAD BROWN: I love it! We’re going to get you on next time to talk a little bit about your nutrition strategy and how you approach an Ironman, but we’ll save that for another day. Thanks for your time today Scott.
SCOTT COOPER: Thanks so much Brad, great talking to you.