Ironman Hill Training

I am an experienced triathlete/IRONMAN and I will be racing in IM St. George in May 2020. I’ve used a coach in the past, but for this race, I’ve decided to try TrainerRoad programs to get me through the next 5 months (I live on the East Coast and will spend most, if not all, of my cycling on my smart trainer). The course is very hilly (gain of 6500+ ft) and I’m expecting temperatures to get quite hot.

I’m currently in the first week of a 6-week sweet spot base program. What should I follow it up with, considering I need hill work as well as a solid amount of time on the saddle for the full IM?

Should I even be doing a sweet spot base right now? Maybe a climbing road race program to start?


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You probably already reviewed this, but to make sure we cover the bases, this is the typical HIM progression:

I think you can use the “normal” programs and consider how you plan to ride those hills. Depending on the volume you pick, there are plenty of workouts that allow use of high force & low cadence… if that is what you expect to do.

Using an ERG trainer, in low gearing (34x17 or slower) along with slower cadence (60-70 rpm) can do well to prepare for climbing hills. Here is my initial guide on low cadence work that generally applies in this context.

The other thing that must be stated is to consider your gearing. If possible (and not already present on your setup) look into more appropriate “hill gearing”. That may mean changing the cassette and even rear derailleur, but it can be a smart change when you have those hills to contend with on the run.

St. George is a Full distance this year, along with a 70.3. I think the Op is referring to the full distance (or at least I hope he is with 6+k feet of climbing!!).

For the Full, it is also the NA Championship, so extra slots to Kona will be available.

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OHHHH, hadn’t caught wind of the full option (and overlooked it in the opening sentence due to knowing locals who have done the HIM in past years).

Even with that difference, I would still lean towards using the main IM plans and include appropriate climbing cadence and gearing.

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Yes - I’m participating in the Full distance IM (it went back to St. George!) and I’m a strong-climbing female triathlete. =)

My first was in Mont Tremblant last year and then this year I did a couple of flats in Texas (April) and then Maryland (Sept).

Right now, I am using the sweet spot base, then into a full IM build (medium level), then full IM specialty (medium level).

I’ve played around using ERG and yes, on my KCKR snap I DO notice that resistance seems easier than I’d like. I guess I’ll try slowing my cadence down and seeing what happens.

If you have hills in your area with similar grade / pitch, try riding them at the general effort level you expect to apply, and see what gearing / cadence you end up with.

Considering that, apply those cadence ranges in general, and consider using lower gearing on the bike while in ERG mode. This slows the flywheel (especially noticeable if you tend to use high gearing most of the time, like 50x16 or faster) and gives less “help” with kinetic energy through the pedal stroke.

It tends to require earlier and longer muscle activation through the pedal stroke, that is more akin to actual climbing while outside. So, playing with gearing (flywheel speed), cadence (your expected demands) can get you to be more prepared for the actual hill efforts.

I applied this to great results for my Tour of Utah Ultimate Challenge when I knew I would be climbing consistently at the bottom gear (34-32) on 10-15% climbs for an hour straight. It still hurt like heck, but I was able to make both climbs (1 hour each) at the desired cadence, without walking, stops or “paper-boy” moves on the hill like I saw from so many other riders on the day. Point being that target and intentional use on the trainer can do really well if you plan accordingly to match the event needs.

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I’m pondering the same question. I’ve got this next year and the two 11-mile cat2 climbs have me worried :worried: