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The Road To St George: Mark Allen gives you his IM WC training plan

Mark Allen has won six IRONMAN World Championship titles, few have a better take on what is required to scale triathlon’s biggest mountain. In his latest ‘Road To St George’ feature, he tells us how he would prepare for Saturday May 7.

I was watching a broadcast of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship the other day and it really reminded me how difficult that course is to prepare for.

It’s not like Kona, where things are a little more gradual in a sense, you don’t have any true climbs. In St George you do have true climbs. The marathon in Hawaii is not quite as hilly as the one in St George. So that course is going to require some specific preparation if you’re going to do well there.

So I was asking myself, if I was getting ready for this race – this IRONMAN World Championship in St George – how would I do it? And here’s what I came up with:


Training for St George

One of the keys is going to be to really push your effort on the bike on the climbs late in the race as you are fatiguing. That takes place very simply by going out and doing long bike rides, where first of all you spend a lot of time going hard kind of in the aero position on rolling terrain, and then you go into some climbs – climbs that are difficult, long and demanding. Not every time you go out, but specifically when you are preparing for that race.

Probably even more important is how someone gets ready for the marathon. If I was going to be doing that marathon, I would do a lot of runs where I am pushing on long, long upgrades, to get that sense of load on my body.

There are a lot of long grades where the athletes are going to be running up on the marathon, there are going to be grades where they are running down – which requires you to have strength in your quads so that your muscles don’t break down.

So I would do runs where I am just working that long, uphill climbing capability and the real focus would be keeping my core strength together.

In the video of the 70.3 Worlds this past September that I was watching, it was clear that the athletes who were running fast had real core stability, their glutes were firing, they had good form.

Those who were slowing down a little bit were the ones who were losing a bit of stability in their core platform.

IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship 2021 St George
St George will provide a unique challenge on May 7 (Donald Miralle for IRONMAN).

I know this is getting kind of technical, but I used to do that kind of thing getting ready for Kona. I would do a run that was about 15 miles long, in the altitude of Colorado up in the Rockies. It was a 6-mile long steady upgrade, then rolling and some steep uphills and downhills to get back to where we started.


Mark Allen St George plan

Anyway, the short version is, you have to over-emphasise the parts of the course that are challenging. In St George those emphasise points are going to be:

  • Being able to climb strong and late on a long bike ride.
  • Being able to push high speeds on rolling terrain in the aero position for extended periods of time.
  • Being able on the run to have a strong core so that you can actually push as you are going up long upgrades.
  • Having the capacity to run pretty fast on downhills, which comes from doing actually that in training so that your quad muscles get strong, so that muscle breakdown doesn’t happen, so that you have the ability to run fast for 26.2 miles. That’s a big demand.
  • And the swim, don’t forget there is a swim. It can be windy – I would do some swimming in open water in a lake, somewhere it can actually get turbulent so that I get used to swimming in turbulent water. I would be prepared for choppy.
  • Throw on top of all of this, the capacity to be able to compete in heat. St George in May, it can be cold in the morning, but it can get up into the high 80s in the afternoon. That is something which is critical to be able to manage.

That’s how I would prepare for the IRONMAN World Championship in St George in May.

Mark Allen
Written by
Mark Allen
Mark Allen has to be in any conversation about the greatest triathlete of all time. A six-time IRONMAN World Champion, he won every other title that mattered in the sport and dominated like few others
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