With just four weeks to go till the first Rat Race City to Summit, use these killer sessions to help you prepare.

Completing an long-distance triathlon, let alone one like the Rat Race City to Summit, means taking on the ultimate

Rat Race City to Summit

The gruelling run up Ben Nevis, the final stage of the City to Summit

endurance event. You test every fibre of your body, pushing your performance beyond what you think you can achieve. You surrender to the unknown. This is why the training is so important. Miles matter you’re tackling an event like this. Long miles build physical and psychological competence and confidence. For the most successful long-distance triathletes, century rides (of 100 miles), mega bricks (long bikes followed by long runs), endurance runs and super swim sets are the mainstay of their racing armoury. If overnight success or quick-fix fitness is what you’re after, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Whether 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 nine killer sessions, you should have been working towards your Rat Race City to Summit goal for a couple of months and 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 the City to Summit hopeful into the race preparation phase of training. The workouts aren’t for the faint-hearted, but then neither is the challenge of a 2.4-mile sea swim, 112-mile ride through Scotland’s stunning mountain scenery, and a 26.2-mile off-road run up Britain’s highest peak. Get to it!

KILLER SESSION 1 SWIM

Open-Water Race Simulation

Time needed

  • 1 hr 15 mins

Equipment needed

  • Wetsuit, goggles, swim cap.

Coaching tip

The point of this session is to get in the lake or, ideally, the sea and practise starting off fast then settling into race pace swimming. Practise sighting every three to five strokes. Do this session well and you’ll be more likely to catch the feet of faster swimmers and stay there.

Warm up

  • 400m (approx) steady swim. Focus on faster stroke final 100m.

Main set

  • Deep-water start or land start as chosen IM race
  • 30 strokes flat out – approx 300m at race pace – 20 strokes easy
  • 30 strokes flat out – approx 300m at race pace – 20 strokes easy
  • 30 strokes flat out – approx 300m at race pace – 20 strokes flat out
  • Tread water 60 seconds 30 strokes easy – approx 300m at race pace – 20 strokes flat out
  • 20 strokes easy – 30 strokes flat out – 300m race pace – 20 strokes flat out

Warm down

  • 400m (approx) easy + wetsuit removal practice on exit.

Total

  • 3,000m

Make it easier

Only do the first three repeats of the main set.

KILLER SESSION 2 BIKE

The Solo Century Ride

Time needed

  • 5 hrs +

Equipment needed

  • Bike, helmet, nutrition.

Coaching tip

Complete a 100-mile ride. To ride the tonne is a mainstay of long-distance success. It builds muscular and aerobic endurance and gives you the confidence that you can nail the distance. The City to Summit course includes 2,500m of climbing so make sure your long practise rides include a few inclines.

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 4×25-mile loops.
  • Ride the first lap at an easy pace (below race 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 City to Summit race effort. Use your aerobars. Keep your upper body still.  Concentrate on efficient, smooth, strong riding.
  • Ride the third lap below your target 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 bike target effort.

Make it easier

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

KILLER SESSION 3 RUN

Triple 20

Time needed

  • 1 hr 30 mins

Equipment needed

  • Running kit, trainers, shorts, vest/top, socks, cap, glasses, nutrition/energy belt.

Coaching tip

This run session avoids you spending weeks in your race build-up just plodding around. It reminds you what it’s like to pick up the pace, keeps your mind alive, provides physical stimulation and keeps you feeling fit. Accelerate your running speed each 20 mins for an hour. This session should be run on a flat out-and-back course to enable distance and progress to be measured over time, though ideally you’ll tackle it off road. It can be run using heart rate, effort level or running speed as the measure of intensity increases.

Warm up

  • 15 mins easy paced

Main set

  • 20 mins at steady pace – 20 mins at threshold pace – 20 mins at fast pace

Warm down

  • 15 mins easy paced.

Make it easier

Cut the main session down to 3×15 mins and reduce the warm up and warm down to 10 mins each.

KILLER SESSION 4 SWIM

Pool 500s

Time needed

  • 1 hr 15 mins

Equipment needed

  • Pull buoy, fins, hand paddles, kick board, goggles.

Coaching tip

This session develops the ability to surge and control swim speed under pressure. Complete this session and you’ll be able to hold your race pace from start to finish.

Warm up:

  • 100m freestyle (FS).
  • 50m kick (with kick board).
  • 100m FS.
  • 50m kick on back (with board).
  • 100m FS bilateral breathing.
  • 100m FS (with fins).
  • 100m FS bilateral breathing.
  • 100m FS (with fins).

Main set:

  • 4x100m (20s rec) as 1. pull buoy, 2. paddles, 3. pull buoy, 4. paddles
  • 1x500m FS build speed each 100m (3s increment each 100 – final 100 at sprint pace)
  • 1x200m recovery – FS
  • 1x500m FS at IM race pace
  • 1x200m recovery – FS
  • 1x500m FS build speed each 100m (final 100 at sprint pace)
  • 1x200m recovery – FS

Warm down

  • 200m easy as 50m FS – 50m kick – 50m FS – 50m kick on back.

Total

  • 3,400m

Make it easier

Drop the 500m efforts to 300m efforts.

KILLER SESSION 5 BIKE

Turbo Charged

Time needed

  • 2 hrs

Equipment needed

  • Bike, 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, triathletes 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.

Warm up

  • 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

  • 3×20 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

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.

KILLER SESSION 6 RUN

The Long One

Time needed

  • 3 hrs +

Equipment needed

  • As a mountain run, the  City to Summit course has its own mandatory kit list including full windproof gear, gloves and head torch. Find the kit list here and do this long run carrying the kit you’ll need on the day. You’ll find more advice on where to buy the right kit for City to Summit here

Coaching tip

Long run at realistic race pace, off road and with plenty of climbing. Unless you live in Fort William, the chances of you being able to practise on the race course are minimal, but you should at least get used to changing pace and cadence over varying terrain and gradients. You should already have been doing at least some run training off road and on steep hills and uneven ground. For this run, keep it up for three hours – even if the pace is slow.

Main set

  • 3-hour run on hilly, off-road tracks.

Make it easier

No way – this one’s for everyone.

KILLER SESSION 7 SWIM

The Big Aerobic Booster

Time needed:

  • 1 hr 30 mins

Equipment needed:

  • Goggles, pull buoy, kick board.

Coaching tip:

This session really builds your aerobic swim strength and stamina. As the session progresses, concentrate on holding your race pace after the effort sections.

Warm up:

  • 100m FS – 100m pull – 100m kick
  • 25 scull – 25m catch up – 25m fists – 25m FS.

Main set:

  • 1,600m FS as 25m fast – 150m at IM race pace – 25m easy (60s rest).
  • 1,200m FS as 50m fast –125m at IM race pace – 25m easy (60s rest).
  • 1,000m FS as 75m fast – 100m IM race pace – 25m easy.

Warm down:

200m easy swim.

Total

4,400m

Make it easier?

Drop the distances in the main set to 1,200m

1,000m 600m.

KILLER SESSION 8 BIKE

  • 80-8 Mega Bike Brick

Time needed:

  • 5 hrs +

Equipment needed:

Bike, helmet, 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.

Main set:

BIKE

  • 40 miles steady paced riding (easier than or at race 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 race pace. (4 mins recovery spin between each, sit up, rehydrate and refocus).
  • 10 miles at IM race pace effort back to transition.

RUN

  • 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. Try to make this run off-road and on rolling hills, learning to control your effort level as the terrain changes.

Make it easier?

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

KILLER SESSION 9 RUN

50-15 Mega Run Brick

Time needed

  • 5 hrs

Equipment needed

  • Bike, helmet, running kit, trainers, shorts, vest/top, socks, cap, glasses, nutrition/ energy belt.

Coaching tip

This session is all about the run off the bike. It allows you to practise both pacing on the bike and run speed afterwards. Nutritional strategies should be put in place right from the start of the bike. Think: pace and energy on the bike fuels the run. Do the run on an out-and-back course (7.5 miles each way) or on 3×5 mile loops and preferably one that replicates the City to Summit route as closely as possible.

Main set

BIKE

  • 35 miles ridden at an effort level marginally easier than IM race effort. 15 miles at IM race pace.

RUN

  • Run off the bike: 15 miles. First 5 miles at target (flat ground) run speed. Second 5 miles increase the pace to marginally above target flat-terrain running speed, final 5 miles settle back into and hold race pace run speed.

Make it easier

40 miles bike followed by 12 miles at constant and controlled race pace.