The Endurance KingCraig Alexander, 37
You'd think Aesop's moral about slow and steady winning the race would apply to the Ironman. But to notch his second consecutive world championship in Hawaii last year, Craig Alexander averaged 65 seconds per 100 yards in the water for 5 miles, 25 mph on the bike for 112 miles, and 6:24 per mile on his feet for 26 miles. Hardly tortoise-slow. His overall time was 8 hours, 20 minutes, and 21 seconds. The key to training your body to be fast and steady is efficiency. "I constantly strive to sharpen my technique and nudge my lactate threshold higher," says Alexander. Your lactate threshold is the point at which your muscle cells cannot clear lactate (a byproduct of metabolism) as fast as it's being produced, forcing you to hit the brakes. Alexander's daily training involves drills to hone his swimming stroke, pedal motion, and running form. He also does 45 minutes of ab work and savage intervals. He might bike for three hours (faster than his race pace for the final 90 minutes), and follow that up with five 5-minute running intervals at the fastest speed he can maintain, with two minutes of recovery in between. If you imagine your body as an engine, high-intensity intervals soup it up to run with greater fuel efficiency. "I know the competition is gunning for me," says Alexander. "To keep winning, I have to keep improving."
It's best to test yourself outdoors on a track or flat stretch of trail or pavement where your distance can be accurately measured. If you choose to run on a treadmill, make sure you elevate it to 2 degrees to make up for the mechanical assistance you're receiving from the moving belt. Once you're sure of the distance, start your stopwatch and take off.
Below average You need 12+ minutes to run a mile
Average 9 to 12 minutess
Above average 6 to 9 minutes
MH Fit You run a mile in under 6 minutes
Reach the Next LevelUse this running primer from Dowdell to cut minutes off your time. Twice a week, warm up for 5 minutes—easy jogging if you're an accomplished runner, three minutes of walking and two minutes of jogging if you're average to below average on the mile run. Once you've warmed up, do this interval routine: Pick up your pace for 60 seconds, and then follow that with a 60-second walk and then a two-minute jog. That counts as one interval. Do three or four intervals each workout your first week. In subsequent weeks, add one interval to your workouts. So if you completed four intervals in week 1, you'll do five in week two, six in week three, and so on. When you reach eight intervals, reduce your walking time to 30 seconds. Run hard for 60 seconds, walk for 30 seconds, and jog for two minutes. After 8 weeks of interval training, take the mile-run test again.