Gale Bernhardt on Back-to-Back Ironman Races

Q. Dear Gale—How do you approach back-to-back big events?

I am signed up for IM St. George in May 2011 and CDA (Coeur d'Alene) end of June 2011. It's a bit much I know, but for various reasons, it's the only time I can do these races.

What advice would you give on how to approach big events two months apart? I did CDA June 2010 and it felt great. I qualified for Boston just a week ago. I will take December off for anything structured.

I know a lot of people that think about back-to-back events—riding the fitness wave instead of having to ramp back up again for the next one. Do you prepare for the first event, recover 2 to 3 weeks, then have a few solid weekends and race again?—SA

A. Prepping for back-to-back IM events is tough—especially with only six weeks between the two events. It typically takes people some three to four weeks to fully recover from an Ironman event. By the time you recover, it's time to taper and race again.

What I did with a fellow this year, in the same situation (different races), was to aggressively recover for two weeks (really cut volume, keep some intensity, but keep the intensity bouts shorter with plenty of rest).

In the second two weeks, build some volume, combined with intensity that is slightly faster than race pace. (These two weeks should be 50 to 80 percent training volume of the biggest weeks for your first race). Then a two-week taper similar to the first event.

Most people try to do too much too early and end up feeling really tired for the second event. Additionally, most normal (non-elite) racers have a lot of life responsibilities that pile up, making the second event more stressful. As long as you know this upfront, you can have a heads-up and perhaps do things to minimize the stress and do a good job of recovery.

Best wishes with the races.


Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Games in Sydney. She currently serves as one of the World Cup coaches for the International Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow cycling and triathlon training plans. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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