On a very hot and humid Sunday 30thSeptember 2018, on the beautiful Mexican Island of Cozumel, Michi Weiss grabbed his fourth outright Ironman win of the year, posting the day’s fastest bike and run splits in the process. Having won the full Ironman here, which incorporates much of the 70.3 course, on three previous occasions, it is clear that the warm, crystal clear ocean swim, pan flat superfast bike course and hot but flat running conditions seem to suit Michi’s style of racing rather well. In this article I will unpack Michi’s race winning SRM power file and explain a little bit how we use it to dial in his race winning form.
‘We use the climatic conditions in Cozumel as a training tool for Kona’
Michi had a really good swim, hitting T1 in 23’36” for the 1.9km one lap ocean non-wetsuit swim, which was just 2’15” off the lead swimmer. He then went on to post the fastest bike split and second fastest run split of the day, to come home in 3h47m14s, which was good enough to take the overall victory. A great day, if a very hot one, which will serve Michi well in terms of heat adaptation come Kona in 2 weeks time.
‘I was really suffering on the run. Thought about stopping completely a few times’
The bike leg itself was hot at around 28C average but this is one of the reasons we use the climatic conditions in Cozumel as a training tool for Kona. While not quite as hot as Kona (no "lava heat" from the ground), but more humid as it can rain several times a day, such as on race morning, Cozumel allows quality adaptation and preparation.
Power Is Nothing Without Control
Michi averaged 349W/82rpm and 45km/h for the 90km bike course, which broke down into a first half of 364W and a second half of 346W. From the power file below we can see that Michi was required to make two key attacks – the first to pass and drop the large group and then another to despatch the leading duo of Ruedi Wild and Tyler Butterfield. All the while, you will note, that Michi’s cadence remains almost unchanged at 80-85rpm, even during these supra-threshold attacks. This is a great example of how to apply power smoothly and sustainably in order to maximize efficiency over a flat course – if you have trained the legs to do it!
All Power Is Not Created Equally
Attacking with high power for 2’-4’ minutes at a time is an essential attribute of the uber-bikers in pro triathlon because it often allows them to get a gap on the best runners out of T2. These attacks are always impressive to see, not least when we consider just how big the numbers are and how long they are held for. But there really should be no surprise here. The body gets good at what it does often and Michi incorporates intervals very like these attacks in training on a weekly basis. Below you can see just such an interval session. Typically these intervals are placed at the end of a bike session when there is less freshness in the legs and the intensity is just above threshold while cadence is kept quite low in the 70-80rpm range, as it is the ability to apply high torque to the pedals that is important to develop as it allows high power efforts out of a constant cadence which is a very efficient way to lay down the power over a 2hr+ race effort. But this ability needs to be trained for specifically - Not all power is created equally!
Less Is More
I have said this many times but I truly believe that the volume of training that athletes, age group and pro alike, believe is required for Ironman racing (70.3 and full) is a erroneous. Folks are training too much and especially too hard. It is not that the level of training itself is the problem but rather the individual’s ability to recover from it. Recovery is a slow process and we are all in a hurry all of the time. The result is lots of athletes who perform better in training than in races – sound familiar?
‘Sports science ain’t rocket science but rather applied common sense!’
Training NOT Straining
This year Michi has won 4 times at the highest level. He has done this on an average of 19hrs total training (swim/bike/run/strength) per week and most of this at low intensity. I have come across many age groupers with full time jobs and families who do more than that. As for pros, there are numerous doing 30hrs plus. That is unsustainable for anyone. Even the most ambitious age groupers should be able to reach their potential and perform at their peak abilities when it counts – on race day – on an average of 12-15hrs maximum and most will benefit more from 10-12hrs per week. What matters is training consistency, training progression, training mostly well below race pace, training some above race pace and recovery periods from training. Sports science ain’t rocket science but rather applied common sense!
Michi now goes on to Kona for the Ironman World Championship where the goal is a Top 10 finish and if the stars align who knows what may happen. Michi is unquestionably in the shape of his life and we wish him every success on the Big Island. We will be watching!
As always, we thank him for his power transparency and I especially look forward to analyzing Michi’s next SRM power file for you from the World Championships. Go for it champ!
May the Force X Velocity be with you,
Garth Fox MSc
Sports Scientist & High Performance Endurance Coach