2019 - what went wrong?

[Pre, postscript] that turned into quite a ramble. Cathartic maybe, but I don’t know how much can be derived, particularly as I can’t see my TR history any more]

Going back a way, 2016 was my ‘best’ year. Had a coach. Trained a lot, nailed IM Copenhagen.
Best as I can see looking back over training peaks, I averaged over 10hrs a week, with plenty in the 12-14 range, av TSS 670 and .82 IF (obviously that’s broad brush… I spent a lot of time in Z2, but did plenty of threshold and some Vo2 work), plenty of weeks of 900+ tss.

2018/19, I used trainerroad plans. half distance base, full distance base, build, speciality, all mid-volume. Given the history and my previous TSS that didn’t feel like it was going to be punchy, however…

Quite early on in the full distance base I was really struggling; vo2 workouts would wipe me out, and I’d struggle to do subsequent workouts. I went down several rabbit holes with respect to power numbers from outside (25 mile TT), trainer, quarq… ramp and 20mins… but fundamentally there’s maybe a 20w spread between the ‘best’ and ‘worst’. I went down the road of turning down some of the Vo2, but eventually as the weather got better started going off-piste and riding outside more at the weekends, while trying to keep the TR stuff in the week. TP gives me a weekly average of 600TSS at .88, with a bit less time invested, perhaps not surprisingly shorter and sharper.

In considering TSS, worth mentioning that my run TSS comes from training peaks based on pace. It gives way more TSS than trainerroad indicates, even when doing trainerroad run workouts. That probably inflates the numbers somewhat.

5 weeks out from my IM I did a half and it went (very) well. I felt utterly broken going into it, trained the whole week, took saturday off and raced sunday. Didn’t feel great, but went OK on the bike and blew all my expectations on the run. So far, so good.
Past that I stuck to the TR plan and taper as much as I could, under cooked during taper if anything.

Come race day, it took 10mins on the bike to know it was going to be a s**t day. Power wasn’t there. Was probably 20mins slower than I should have been. Sucked it up for the first half of the run, but when it dawned that basically all my goals were out of the window, I decided there was no point in trying anymore, and just walked/chilled the back half. Pretty sure I could have held pace if the mind hadn’t called time.

In 2016, I was surprised how I coped with the volume (subjectively a lot), but didn’t notice the intensity being demanding. This year on TR the volume felt (subjectively) a lot less. But I was dreading most of the workouts. Both years I’ve reached ‘heartily sick of it, and it’s all a bit much’ around the 6-8 weeks our mark! But it’s one thing putting in the work if you get something out. Another if you’re just banging your head on a wall…

For context, I’m 44; age may be starting to bite! After 3 months licking my wounds, and not really training I’m trying to figure out if there’s a different way forward, better way of doing it, if I can find some mojo for 2020 or if I should really just quit while I’m still somewhat sane…


Well can chalk it up to one of three-ish things.

  1. You had a great 70.3 before hand which is a positive, so you could say the plan was working and you had a bad day when it came to the 140.6. That happens, just sucks when your off day falls on your big race day. Bummer.
  2. You had a great 70.3 before hand which is a positive, but you just couldn’t recover enough from that to be ready for a 140.6 a few weeks later. You said you smashed your 70.3 PR, people tend to forget that will take a lot out of a person and they might not be ready for another peak performance.
  3. The TR plan for the full was not ideal for you, which happens (but it sounds like a lot of it workout for you based on the 70.3 PR). A canned plan is not always going to be best for someone. If you did really well with a personal coach in the past that might be good to look into again.
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20 minutes slower is quite a big deal for the bike-leg meaning your power was down significantly. With power down that much you could have been over trained and fatigued coming into it. Were you strong in your taper workouts?

TR intensity can be pretty hard to maintain for athletes of our age. I am a similar age and needed to switch to a 3 week training block and 1 week rest period. I feel the standard plan was too much for me and my circumstances. Your coach would have managed this for you previously but now you need to take the actions into your own hands.


@MarkS I’ve been training many years bike only. Long time TP/WKO+ guy. Historically, I’ve logged a lot of miles mainly because the warm climate where I live and race approx 40 events a year. Been coached. Done canned plans. Used TR.

Maybe it was the type trainer or my phenotype or some combination but, a MV build for me after decades of 10k/year was really difficult and I could see burn out being a real possibility.

Perhaps cut back on the higher intensity sessions/week on the trainer.


Sorry to hear about your struggles. Knowing early in the day that you’re not going to enjoy yourself is a real buzz killer, happened to me in a 50 mile ultra, I know after 15 miles that I wasn’t going to be finishing let alone walking it in…

I used MV full distance plan base-build-speciality and found it overall manageable. I replaced some of the longer Z2 rides with outdoor rides as we had a very mild winter and spring. Some of the two hour midweek rides I swapped out for 90min workouts (or did morning/evening double) as to be honest two hours was just too much to fit in. About four weeks before CeltMan this year I was finding it challenging to be motivated to do the longer rides, but I think you just get there eventually with long course training.

My bike pedigree doesn’t sound like it’s anywhere close to yours. I wonder if there is another external factor(s) affecting your training and performance? How has your resting heartrate, weight, general mood, libido, diet etc been? Do you have kids? Are you still truly motivated by an IM PR or has it become a stale goal? Is it part of the process of trying to qualify for Kona? Lots of variables at play here!


I really like TR, but following the plans this year got me into a hole. I was completing all the workouts, but the fatigue kept building. Then I had some poor early season race results. I eventually got a coach that was able to build a plan that allowed me to get more weekly hours on the bike, but in a way was manageable and sustainable. Then the results started to improve.

A one plan for all isn’t going to work for everyone, and most people like myself don’t have the experience to recognize when things are going south. Mix in motivated individuals, and we’ll train ourselves into the ground. It sucks I have to pay for a coach to protect myself from myself, but that’s how it is.


I can relate to a lot of that, 2016 also had my best Ironman performance, I’ve had a few wayward years using TR but perhaps not as committed as I was in 2016, and I tried a few things beyond my capability, consequently the training hasn’t been as consistent or effective, at least until 2019 when I think I’ve turned things around. Swim and run are now best ever, and my bike execution problems sorted gave me my best bike split. I’m also 44…at least we age up next year! :wink:

Failing vo2 session flags burn out for me, I did too much trying to hit HV plans, but now I think even MV isn’t right for me. As per the other thread on Changes, I’m mixing things up again for 2020 to keep me keen to train.

Feel free to join the rest of us on the Ironman in 2020 thread moaning about the training :wink:

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Switch it up. Do nothing but sprints next year or try your hand at something like cross??? You don’t say it explicitly but in reading between the lines, it sounds like you have been doing the same thing for a couple years now. Your body might benefit from a very different training stress.


Didn’t want to write about me but since I saw you in the other thread I decided you might find my experience helpful anyway.

Through winter 2017 I was running more than ever, goal was to improve my half marathon time in the spring. Everything was slowly coming together, the first races were not great but not bad either (still 10k PB). The main preparation race was another 10k and I improved my best by 35 seconds! I was stoked and trained even harder. Race was on Saturday and I ran another hour in the evening and close to two hours on the following three days. On Wednesday I had one of the toughest but also best interval sessions ever. And that was basically it. Two and a half weeks before my goal half marathon I was cooked (but didn’t know it). Tempo session on Sunday went okish, two race pace simulations were failures (overcooked and too difficult for it’s length or lack of it). The race was a disaster, in the first half I still went for it ignoring my feelings. After 10 ks I had to slow down by 20s/k and was passed by nearly every body (at least that’s how I felt). Final time was 1.5 minutes slower than my PB and 3.5 minutes slower than my goal time.

Looking back at it I was overreaching for a long time, I didn’t have any days off and during the short taper my body decided enough is enough. Sometimes learning hurts :slight_smile: I hope you find it useful. But it is just my story not saying it’s the same in your case. For reference, I was 35 back then.

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Thanks everyone for the thoughts, some interesting things for me to contemplate.

Taper workouts felt strong - I wonder if I tapered too much TBH; objectively felt really knackered before the prep half, but went well. Felt very rested before the full, and it didn’t.

I’m surprised by the 70.3 result… maybe that I did quite a lot of running this year, typically my bike is far stronger than the run (5:15 bike, 4hr run). But yes, I suspect it was the bit in between the two that really went wrong. If I had to guess, maybe I overcooked before the taper.

I seem to handle volume fine. I didn’t feel like the half took that much out of me, and stuff like the raid-pyrenean, week long camps and such don’t tend to put me in a noticeable hole, but those all tend to be masses of ‘Z2’ type steady load. I’ve probably done a hell of a lot of that over the years!

I’ve also wondered about ‘overtraining’, but inclined to think that’s just being a wuss :wink: In respect of the VO2 stuff, I started failing those as soon as they got past about 2 mins, and still early on in the program, so I’m not convinced that’s fatigue. In fairness to TR, after persisting for a few weeks, I started to go off-piste and adapt more towards what I’m used to, certainly the weekend work was outside long rides, while trying to keep some of the weekday stuff and using -1 versions etc.

In respect of HR etc, both this year and 2016 I noticed that in the last 4-8 weeks, I just couldn’t elevate heart rate like normal - my HR at steady pace would be in around 10bpm lower, which is probably conditioning, but even at flat out intervals it just wouldn’t rev up. I’ve wondered if that’s a bad symptom. Now after 3 months off I hit redline just thinking about a run!
As for external factors… well, I’ve finished up very low mood and unbearable on the lead in on both cases. That is a big motivator to re-consider the approach, after all it’s supposed to be fun.

… and yes, I’ve done full distance 5 of the 8 years I’ve done tri now. I’d love to say I’m trying for Kona, but I’m solidly MOP, I’d need to lop about 90mins of my PB to get there. Can’t imagine how that would happen.

I guess there’s two things I need to do - the first is to rediscover some love for it - that might well mean going and doing something a bit more ‘adventure’, and less ‘race’… Then figure out a training approach that works and doesn’t kill me!

Just a short note on one of the paragraphs. My heart rate was 8 beats below max even during my 10 k PB and during the failed half marathon it hit threshold HR and actually fell! Today on over-unders my heart rate was higher (!) than during those races. So it is not that dissimilar. And btw while keeping the volume up I could do all those prep races just fine but during the taper although legs were getting better something went wrong (as alluded above I think the recover was just due and body took it).

But most importantly as you said there is no point doing it if you are not feeling it. For me the change was the bike. While I do some occasional runs during the winter cycling is my sport now and I enjoy it very much. Also I found out that a day off won’t kill me and recovery weeks are necessary. And while I wouldn’t call my riding adventurous I “don’t” race (did just one race this year) hence no pressure except my own expectations :slight_smile:


bummer to hear man! it sounds to me like you’ve had at least a bit of ‘overreaching’ - a failure to elevate HR at intervals and very low mood are excellent indicators of that. it’s a broader picture and you could take other factors into account, but it’s good to evaluate that.

when I read your story, I wonder whether you had more outside / Z2 TSS and that gets you thinking now that you actually do less work. trainer / TR TSS are representing a lot more work than outside TSS. you may actually not have done as bad during training as you think? and when you thought your TSS was relatively lower than before, maybe you felt like you should’ve done more but were actually already against a limit?

for the VO2max workouts, we’ve had some discussions about this. it’s ok to lower the intensity for them as not for all it is 120%, particularly if you fail them consistently. see also here Time at VO2max discussion

it’s great to learn from this though! if you feel like a change, why don’t you mix it up next year and do something else/consider shorter distances, may potentially even help to find another gear. why don’t you even try out a lower volume as well and see how that feels?


I think it’s a bit of a case of ‘Not all TSS are created equal’ as they frequently say on the podcast! Putting aside TSS for a second, my average IF was a lot higher on the TR plan; too high maybe…

Historically I’ve been able to handle very high TSS, but it has been low intensity TSS. Definitely find the trainer harder - 250w indoors feels a lot tougher than out on the road. Doubling down on that there’s just a lot more intensity in the TR plans… which I think is what you’re saying, don’t believe (just) the TSS?

Definitely thinking other things next year, not quite sure what yet. Training wise, I think I’m leaning towards a more polarised model. I guess gut feel is that that makes more ‘sense’… but I’m guessing really.

Totally, that is exactly what I meant :+1:

Whatever you choose, good luck!

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When your fitness is high, you can rough your way through shorter races. A HIM is closer to Olympic than a full. So you were probably overcooked and gritted our a good HIM which was the last straw for your body.
Last year I did the same. In IMMT I came out of the water really fatigued. 30 miles into the ride my whole body started cramping. Going into survival mode for 80 miles of biking and a marathon was not fun.
This year I added more rest. I spread my work over 8 day instead of 7 and I make sure I have 2 rest days over the 8 day week. Plus if I’m feeling really tired, I take a rest day and don’t feel guilty. It worked great in my HIM. We will see in 2 wks if it worked for a full.

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