Training Advice

There are heaps of articles out there on training advice.  I thought I'd add to the fodder and write one myself.  I, however, may not have the pedigree of some authors in this field, so I convened a panel of experts to contribute their tips and recommendations.  OK, really I just asked some friends, but I have some superstar friends!  They weighed in on three categories: advice for anyone doing Ironman (or similar events); extreme training; and funny/goofy advice.

Here is my panel of experts:
Jason Sandquist (JS) - my husband (say no more), 19X Ironman finisher, 9:02 IM PR
Kiki (KI) - good friend, coach, 10X IM finisher, my triathlon hero
Sean Clark (SC) - multi-time IM finisher (and fast!), head of CMS Coaching
Wendy Simms (WS) - multi-time Canadian National Cyclocross champion, uber-talented at pretty much any sport, and seems to set a course record in every race she enters, whether she's trained or not
Seamus McGrath (SM) - 2-time Olympic mountain biker, 2-time Commonwealth Games medalist
Coco (CO) - good friend, former IM swim course record holder, former marathon swimmer
Steve King (SK) - the "Voice of Ironman Canada", ultramarathoner.

Here is some good, solid advice from the above experts to anyone training for Ironman or other endurance challenges:

WS - Always keep a training log - it's the only way to track what works for you, and more importantly what doesn't.  What makes you fast, slow, sick, tired, cranky, injured.  Everyone is different and it does not take long to see patterns in yourself if the information is all laid out in front of you.
SM - Always make your training fun.  This is the heart of success - enjoy your training!
KI - Know the purpose of each workout you are doing and how it helps you get to your goals.  Doing workouts for the sake of chasing numbers is not helpful.
SK - Work on some of the possible psychological barriers by cleaning and clearing away any negative core beliefs such as not being good enough or not being worthy of or deserving success.
CO - Take advantage of wetsuits, even strong swimmers benefit from them.  There is nothing equivalent for non-runners so take the free speed where you can get it.
JS - You only have to be motivated enough to get dressed and out the door on a bad day.  Once you're outside, your workout will happen.
CO - Find a comfortable saddle.  Your partner will thank you for that.
KI - Train your weaknesses and race your strengths.
WS - Do not get swayed by other athletes spouting off about their training programs.  Neither should you doubt your program when you see/hear others doing more than you.  This usually happens mid-season and has cost many athletes more than just a bad race.
KI - Have a plan that is made for your goals, not the other guys'.
SC - Strength is much more important than speed in Ironman racing.  Durability is often overlooked as to how important it is; if you can't absorb the miles, you will never reach your full potential.
WS - Big ring in spring.
JS - Get a professional bike fit.  People spend thousands on a bike, and a good fit is less than $200, and it dials your bike in perfectly to you.
KI - Communicate with your coach.  Don't do secret training that you hide from your coach, and don't secretly skip workouts either.  If you've hired a coach, make them work for you and they can't do that with limited information.  Also, only hire a coach you trust and commit 100% to their program, otherwise save your money!
JS - Carry a cell phone - I've had rides (pre-cell phone days) where I've had 11 flats.  Out of tubes, out of patches, middle of nowhere...  Today I would simply call Alison or even the local bike shop.  Actually - run road tubeless as we do now, and never be in that situation anyway.

Here is Jason demonstrating a piece of advice from Sean:
"Ride for the show, run for the dough."
There's some great stuff in there, money tips for sure.  A lot of what my expert panel had to say really hit home with me, so hopefully there's something for you, dear reader, to take away too.  Now, pretty much everyone I know is insane when it comes to training and fitness, so some of their contributions fall into an "extreme training" category.  The following suggestions are not for the faint of heart:

SC - Swim 5-6 days/week, bike 4-5 days/week and run 5 days/week for ultimate success at long distance racing.  If you can handle that, you can handle anything.  (Note to self - maybe I'll try that one week this summer.  Kiki - just ONE week...)
SM - Live like a monk for 10 years - this is the path most Olympians/pros take.  After a 15 year career and 2 Olympics, it worked out!
JS - If you fall asleep on a cool-down backstroke set in the pool, or while riding in your aerobars on the road, you have done too much and need to take a rest day.
SK - A friend once did a 48 hour stint on his windtrainer to prepare for the RAAM.  Maybe an 8-hour indoor ride could build mental stamina for longer, lonely rides.
SC - Doing 6 hour training rides with no food and only 3 bottles of Gatorade in 40 degrees Celcius heat, thinking it would train our body to adapt.  That was before we knew better.

And of course, not only are they insane, but they are also pretty fun and goofy.  So here are some tips you should take with a grain of salt!

SC - Group mass swim starts blind in a pool.
KI - Always tell everyone about the workout you just did, or the one you have coming up after swimming, as they really care.
CO - Try new things to keep it interesting.  I have always tried new things: new food/nutrition during a distance race, new shoes on race day, no specific training for the event (i.e. just did swim training for a running race) and it all worked out in the end!
SK - Do a backwards beer mile.
SM - My Euro teammates said to eat only the crust of bread and not the inside, as supposedly it bloats you too much.  This is also a way to cut calories.
JS - Here's something to never do:  Do NOT put a dairy-based Boost-type nutrition drink in your Kona special needs run bag, checked in the day before.  Unless you want to puke out hot, curdled grossness.
CO - Don't let your partner/spouse/friend videotape you at your lowest point during your race.  This will not help out next time when justifying the costs of training and traveling to your next race.  (Note to Coco - but that video is SO funny!)
Here we are taking Seamus' advice - enjoy what you do!


  1. Wow - you certainly have some seriously high achieving friends. Good advice though that's for sure. I particularly like the idea of practicing IM swim starts by being blindfolded in the pool. I'm sure every one else in the pool will be totally OK with that :-)

  2. If only some of their talent would rub off on me by diffision...

  3. it is now on record that you will swim 6 x/wk, bike 5/wk and run 5/wk- I am happy to oblige that. btw, how come you don't want to do an 8 hour trainer w/o, that would be so FUN!

  4. Some great advice and some insane!!!

  5. ahhh! love this advice. i have to save some of the quotes for sure.

  6. Ride for Show run for dough is my motto which Sean stole from me. Have you ever seen him live by it

  7. Ha Mealing that's awesome! I should have you on there!