January Ironman Training: 4 Hours per Week

January Summary

Back when training was fun, the 1996 Eco Challenge (Suz Bottom, second from the left)

Starting weight (first three morning average): 217

Ending weight: 215

10 total workouts (two Monday holidays)/ 4 hours per week

Hardest workout: Riding computrainer through two episodes of Mad Men for 1:30, a great series but not exactly adrenaline-filled.

Estimated Ironman finishing time: 11 ¾  hours (1:25/6:30/3:50)

ON January 1st, 2012, I weighed 217 pounds. Finishing up my book, The Snake Eaters, took a toll on my Fall workouts. I’m a demand-sider: I control my weight with exercise, not food intake. I need to be 200 by mid-June, giving me 2 months to train at race weight before racing Ironman New York in the August 11th heat.

To drop weight and get fit, the biggest challenge as a father of two young boys – and a debtor to a wife who was already allowed me several big adventures – is time allocation.

In January I was able to carve out 4 hours per week of workouts. The book debuts in May so for the next few months writing may outweigh Ironman prep as a hobby. Here’s the January split:


8 hours of writing, 4 hours of working out

-50 hours working

-50 hours sleeping

-40 hours family

-16 hours commuting

-8 hours writing

-4 hours working out



I won’t be able to easily replace writing with working out in the Spring. I write on the train and at night. The little writing I do on weekends will be replaced by coaching duties. To boost my fitness, I’ll need to attack commuting and sleep. The year goes like this:

January thru mid-February—2.5 workouts/week (weekends), usually one indoor ride and one outdoor run. I don’t use treadmills.

February break thru March—4 workouts/week, including a weekly cycling interval workout, with occasional 7500m ergs mixed in to remind me what hard training once felt like. I’ll also hunt out any races to get some max efforts in.

April-May—4.5 workouts/week including bike commutes into the city (42 miles), some long workouts, and a few short triathlons.

June-July—5 workouts/week mixing regular bike commutes, weekend triathlons with no tapers, and the occasional all-nighter (for the last two years I have ridden from 5pm to 5 am, including several Bear Mountain repeats, to get my mind right)


September-December–Perhaps I’ll take one final crack at the 3-hour marathon barrier in DC or NYC in the next few years. But the fall is generally reserved for soccer coaching, plentiful food, and Redskins games.

On 1/1/2012 I ran a flat 5.5-mile loop around Tod’s Point in Old Greenwich, a typical Fall maintenance run, to establish a baseline. I finished in a sprint in 39 minutes (~7:05/mile). The fall layoff had taken its toll. Bigger every year.

ON January 2nd, again at 217 pounds, I rode a flat 30-mile course in the aero position on the computrainer in my basement to the first three episodes of Mad Men. I averaged 177 watts in 1:30:55. I wasn’t able to stay in the aero tuck for more than 20 minutes, and by the end it was 5 minutes on the aero bars, five minutes on the horns. I’m ~30 watts stronger on the horns. I suffered from obvious heart rate drift: HR165 (minute mark :20)/HR172 (:25)/HR178 (:38)/HR179-181 (:45)/HR183 (:50)/HR188 (1:15)/HR190 (1:25).

I’ve got weak legs, but 177 watts was an especially weak output considering my heart rate. In 2010 and 2011, I rode two Tour de France stages over Tourmalet (2010) and Alpe D’Huez (2011) to get a tiny taste of what the Tour de France riders face daily (having heard the Tour compared to other endurance events, I was curious). I was able to get my sustained (4+ hours) sit-up output well over 200 watts.

Unfortunately in both those Tour stage  I suffered from severe cramping (I walked 750 meters up Tourmalet in ’10 and soft-pedaled the top third of Alpe d’Huez in ‘11). The latter race had zero to do with sodium, electrolytes etc. I was pounding pills. Either I stayed too long in the red or my Lipitor prescription (ten years now) finally caught up with me and caused the muscle fatigue I’d dismissed for a decade.

I’m going Lipitor-free this spring and summer as a test run.


Jan 1: 5.5 mi run, 7:05/mile

Jan 2: 30 mile flat computrainer indoor aero ride, 177 watts, 1:30:55, HR 180

Jan 7: 33 mile ride/HR 160/2:27

Jan 14: 1.5 mi run/1 hour upright [email protected] watts/1.5 mi run

Jan 15: 30 mi flat computrainer indoor aero ride, 178 watts, 1:30:47, HR 180

Jan 16: 7.6 mi run/one 9% 500-meter hill/173 HR/7:36 pace

Jan 18: 45 minutes computrainer/200 watts

Jan 22: 6.5 mile run one 9% hill/ HR 165/ 8:18 pace

Jan 28: 25 mi computrainer indoor aero, 180 watts, 1:15, HR 180

Jan 29: 9.2 mile run one small hill/HR 172/7:47 pace