Full Distance Base High-Volume -- Why so much VO2-Max?

Hi there – A few months back, I finished 8 weeks of Half Distance Build, which was preceded by 8 weeks of Half Distance Base. The cycling workouts seemed pretty spot-on to my taste. Then COVID hit, and my target race was postponed. I fumbled around a bit, finishing most of a mid-volume Full Distance Build, thinking that I might sneak in an IM circa August (ha! what a dreamer).

Then it became clear that races weren’t happening, and I was feeling pretty burnt-out on ~15 weeks of intense, ~.90+ IF interval workouts. So why not go back to base work, while we’re in this holding pattern? And why not add some volume, since there’s nothing better to do these days?

I’ll tell you why not – the high-volume Full Distance Base plan includes some pretty gnarly VO2-max workouts. What’s the thinking behind this? By comparison, the high-volume Half Distance Base plan (at least as of February) included zero VO2-max work.

My experienced triathlete and cyclist friends all have the same reaction I did – “WTF?” But (certain run recommendations aside), TR seems pretty solid to me, and I’m guessing there’s a method to the madness. Coach Chad has my full respect, both for his attention to science and his taste in beer. But I’d love to know what the method is before I suffer through Mist in a few weeks (finished Dade -1 today – fun!)

Maybe there’s no downside to VO2-max work year-round, and I just need to stop being such a wimp?

Thanks for any insights!

So there are really 2 reasons for this
The first one is periodization. The closer you get to your goal race the more ‘race-like’ your workouts get. And an Ironman is pretty much all z2 low 3. Rolling this into the 2nd reason is you want to raise your fitness capacity. If you start by doing traditional base, and using the periodization model you would just get pretty good at doing endurance.
When you first work on your vo2 max, you start raising your ceiling. At first you may not be able to touch that ceiling very often, but week after week your goal is to get to the ceiling for longer and longer durations. As you do this your ftp is increasing, your ftp as a percent of vo2 max is decreasing(if i remember that right) which means ftp isn’t as difficult to ride at. And when you can ride longer at greater intensities you are also improving upon your muscular endurance which comes in handy for an ironman event.

So stop being a wimp and bring on the pain! :wink:
I did Dade -1 yesterday and almost died. 9x2min at 120% oof


Thanks! That makes sense – basically, the periodization for an IM race is a bit reversed, with more VO2-max upfront, and less later on? I can dig that.

And yeah, Dade -1 was a good one. I was afraid this AM that my wife was going to wake up thinking a pregnant lady had snuck into our garage and gone into labor. (Though, to be fair, she usually thinks the lady is gonna have twins when I’m doing a ramp test :wink: ).


Yes. VO2MAX work has little applicability to IM racing specifically. What it does is raise your ceiling, which is useful. IM training establishes your fitness (I.e. FTP), then seeks to expand the duration at which you can sustain the desired power, while reducing the physiological impact of doing so so that you can run. In terms of reversing periodization, that’s a decent analogy when compared with road racing, for example.

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Thank you! I’m starting to find the motivation to confront Mist.

Follow-up question: What plan (or philosophy) would you choose if you were training for races (let’s assume a half IM, followed by an IM circa July 2021) whose dates are unknown, except that you know the first race won’t happen for at least 4.5 months? By way of background, I’m building on about a year of “serious” structured training (10+ hours per week), have 30+ years of on-and-off endurance sports experience, and have never done a full IM.