Run an Ironman PB with the running sessions that helped Michael Weiss to victory, says Garth Fox

Surge Running for IronmanAs a former professional cyclist and Xterra World Champion, Michael ‘Wiki Miki’ Weiss has always had great bike legs, but a carefully designed new run session has also given him a killer turn of pace off the bike.

In this feature I want to show you how to apply this key session to your own training. I can’t promise you’ll run a 2hrs 51mins Ironman marathon like he did to win Ironman Cozumel last December, but it’ll certainly help.

First of all, it’s important to realise that no single session is ever responsible for a big change in performance. The secret to success is consistent, varied and progressive training combined with a lifestyle that allows the body to absorb them.

That said, there are great benefits to be had from a well-designed workout that targets a specific performance limiter or addresses an aspect of your training with which you have become too comfortable.

In Michi’s case it had become clear that simply running off the bike at a constant Ironman pace was not challenging him in training anymore, unless we ramped up the distances ever higher. So we decided to put together a session that wrenched him out of his comfort zone, did not generate too much residual fatigue and kept him adapting as the weeks went on.

Essentially, this consisted of a run session performed immediately after a long steady or short intense bike session. The aim was to ensure he was carrying a good level of fatigue in his legs from the bike. Then he had to run a series of repeats of anything from 400m to 2km at significantly above Ironman race pace (usually half marathon pace) with short periods of running at just below his Ironman race pace in between.

He found this constant pace change or ‘surging’ quite uncomfortable at the beginning as there was no chance to get into a steady rhythm. However, after a few sessions he noticed that when he went back to normal steady paced running he effectively had another gear in reserve.

The lesson for the rest of us is that when we find ourselves getting comfortable with any given session – run, bike or swim – then it is time to change it up. This will encourage your body to keep adapting, and more importantly it will make you faster when you get back into steady-state sessions.

Add these surging sets to your brick sessions

Surging: Workout 1

Ride 2 to 5hrs at a steady pace, and then go straight into 4 to 8x1km repeats at your best half marathon race pace (around threshold pace) with 2mins running at your target Ironman pace in between these repeats.

Surging: Workout 2

Ride steady for 1 hour, but include 4-6 x3mins hard efforts. Then go straight into a 1 hour run, to include three pace changes: from half marathon pace, to 10km pace, to 5km pace; each 2-3mins with 2mins IM pace in between surges.

Garth Fox is a coach, triathlete and cyclist with a masters degree in sport science (garthfox.com).