Recently, Canadian triathlete Lionel Sanders published a blog post discussing the 14-week “Kona block” of training he did leading up to his 2nd place finish at the IRONMAN World Championships this October. We jumped at the opportunity to get some insight into the training behind a world-caliber performance and ended up doing some deeper digging of our own.
Details on distance and duration
He was very open with his data, sharing some totals for training distance and time for the entire year, and some screenshots of the weekly breakdowns (daily, for his swimming):
Also, a shot of his combined weekly totals for training duration:
A peek at the PMC
With the body of the blog post being focused on training time and distance, it surprised us that he finished with a screenshot of a PMC for his “Kona Block”. He wrote that this 14-week period leading into the week of the World Championships peaked out at a Fitness (CTL) of 182:
Making the switch from talking about training hours to talking about his PMC and peak Fitness (CTL) values is a bit of a jump. Hours, after all, are not what gets fed into a PMC; that’s training load. In order to calculate training load, you need to know the intensity at which those training hours were performed.
Training time and distances are great, but this PMC screenshot left us hungry for more insight, so we dug deeper…
Reverse Engineering the “Kona Block”
With a screenshot of his PMC, we were able to eyeball weekly Fitness (CTL) values along the build, and used Bereda to reverse engineer what kind of weekly training loads he had to complete in order to achieve the shape of his “Kona block”.
We overlaid a 14-week grid onto his PMC to help with the Fitness (CTL) approximations, using the 100, 150, and 200 CTL gridlines from the original picture as reference points.
Then, with a Fitness (CTL) target for the end of each week, we positioned the weekly training loads in Bereda to meet those targets.
The original PMC:
The Bereda approximation:
How the two match up:
With the PMC recreated in Bereda, we get a set of weekly training loads that were required for the “Kona block”. We then took Lionel’s combined weekly training hours (which involved another gridline approximation method) and added them to the reverse engineered plan in Bereda. Here’s the final result:
With both training load and hours known, Bereda is able to calculate weekly intensity values. You can see how over the course of the “Kona block” they vary slightly from week to week, achieving an overall intensity for the block that was just below 0.8, shown by the long blue bar. The week that strays furthest from the norm is week 9, during which Lionel only training 9.5 hours but at an intensity of 0.96. If we had to guess, we’d say that was a week full of testing to gauge his readiness for the World Championships.
To appease the data junkies, we’ve included a spreadsheet view of the above plan’s data. Check out the training loads in the last five weeks!
Recreating Lionel’s PMC gives us some general insights that weren’t available in his original post. Over the course of the 14 weeks, he trained an average of 19 hours and 1200 Training Load points per week. He went from a Fitness (CTL) of 110 to 182, an average ramp rate of 5.1 points per week.
But looking at Lionel’s training on a weekly basis is a bit misleading. In his previous blog post, Lionel describes his typical training cycle which actually works on a 10-day basis as opposed to seven.
Lionel, after all, is a professional athlete and doesn’t need to structure is training within the constraints of a standard work week.
Bereda’s recreation of the “Kona block” actually looks a bit unstructured, it doesn’t appear to have the standard training load shapes that are available when building a plan in Bereda.
Looking at Lionel’s training once again, we can see 10-day cycles, however, and we see the outline of the same patterns:
Because Lionel’s analytics app gives training hours on a weekly basis, that’s the structure we followed in order to get intensity values and paint a complete picture of his Kona build up. Bereda intends to enable planning with variable microcycle lengths in 2018, but we wanted to point out that regardless of his microcycle lengths, Lionel’s training follows the same patterned approach enabled by Bereda.
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