Set a blistering pace in your Ironman with these gruelling bike training drills

Ironman BikesWhether it’s your first or your fifth Ironman, these sessions will help you as you prepare for the biggest physical challenge of your life.

Before having a crack at these killer sessions, you should have been working towards your Ironman goal for a couple of months and have built up your swim, bike and run volume.

The sessions are designed to take place at the end of a structured and progressive 10-to-16-week build phase and to see you into the race preparation phase of training. These workouts aren’t for the faint-hearted, but then neither is the challenge of an Ironman.

Keep the pace hot throughout with our swim and run training drills.

Session One: The Solo Century Ride

Time needed
5 hrs +
Extra equipment Nutrition
Coaching tip Complete a 100-mile ride. To ride the tonne is a mainstay of Ironman success. It builds muscular and aerobic endurance and gives you the confidence that you can nail the distance.

This ride encourages you to be disciplined with your bike speed and effort in the early stages of your ride. It trains your body and your head to focus fully on the task at hand and not to lose concentration. Ride to effort level as opposed to trying to hold a set average speed.

Main set
  • The century ride should be done on 4 x 25-mile loops. 
  • Ride the first lap at an easy pace (below IM effort). This should feel controlled. If you’re puffing, you’re going too hard! Focus on nutrition. 
  • Ride lap two focused on your bike position. Ride at your target IM race effort. Use your aerobars. Keep your upper body still. Concentrate on efficient, smooth, strong riding. 
  • Ride the third lap below your target IM race effort. This should be a marginal drop in effort and not a significant reduction from applying yourself to gentle spinning. Keep the momentum of the ride going. Focus on nutrition. 
  • Ride the final lap at an effort level that’s greater than your IM bike target effort.

Make it easier Remove the changes in intensity during the ride and set yourself the challenge of covering the distance.

Session Two: Turbo Charged

Time needed 2 hrs
Extra equipment Turbo trainer
Coaching tip This ride can be based on heart rate, power output or effort level. It might seem as though indoor cycling and Ironman don’t fit well together, but they do. In the UK, Ironman hopefuls frequently have to wrestle inclement training conditions and sometimes have no option other than to hop on the turbo trainer. This shouldn’t be seen as torture, but as of great benefit. It breaks up your training, is good for motivation and provides variety. There’s nowhere to hide on the turbo. There’s no stopping at lights, waiting or coasting on descents. There’s no wind behind you or in your face to contest with. It’s just you, your bike and the session.

  • 20 mins at easy pace. Cadence 90rpm. 
  • 10x (30s right leg only spin – 30s both legs spin) at 90rpm. 
  • 10x (30s left leg only spin – 30s both legs spin) at 90rpm.
Main set
  • 3 x 20 mins at target IM race pace effort (5 mins spin recovery).
  • 10 mins at threshold intensity up to 85% effort level. 80rpm.
Warm down
  • 10 mins at very easy pace
  • Optional: Run off the bike for 10-15 mins. Relaxed, easy and familiarising your legs with running after riding.

Make it easier Do 3×10 mins as your main set instead of 3×20 mins.

Session Three: The 80-8 Mega Brick

Time needed 
5 hrs +
Extra equipment Nutrition, running kit.
Coaching tip This is a race simulation ‘bike to run’ brick session. Focus on the miles on the bike and the cruise intervals incorporated into the second half of the ride. This will help develop your threshold, cycling endurance and replicate fatigue leading into the brick run. Don’t run hard. The run off the bike is where the training intensity damage can be done. Don’t compromise consistency for intensity.

  • 40 miles steady paced riding (easier than or at IM effort level).
  • 5×6 miles cruise intervals – focus on lower cadence, larger gear and strong, smooth riding position. These should be ridden on a flat course at faster than target IM race pace. 
  • 4 mins recovery spin between each, sit up, hydrate and refocus.
  • 10 miles at IM race pace effort back to transition.
  • Quick change into running kit and cover 8 miles at a very controlled pace. If it hurts or you’re breathing hard, then you’re going too fast.

Make it easier? Ride 50 miles easy paced into 4×5 miles cruise intervals and 10 miles easy paced to a 6-mile run.