“There is no typical week. Every week is an interesting challenge to fit in as much training as I can into a packed schedule that gives top priority to work and family. Nowadays, I can afford only an average of 9 hours per week for training. I used to train up to an average of 15 hours per week. To make those fewer hours count, I had to drastically modify my training intensity and periodization in order to get the most out of the meager time I can afford.” Harm Wei
Pretty simple, racing for a continuous 1,406 continuous miles in the DECA to get to the finish line will require significant training. There are very few exceptions (just for the most gifted athletes of course), but it’s a race that you can’t just go in with minimal training and just gut it out like a 2 or 3 day event.
There is not an exact formula for success but it’s definitely helpful to have completed a Double or Triple Iron distance race prior to the DECA but it’s not absolutely necessary. Racing any long multi day race will help with respect to understanding how to best train and race the given distance through experience.
When training for the Classic DECA, the typical base building then peaking is important however there won’t be much of a taper similar to a marathon or Ironman. Reducing training time is important at the end of the peak training hours however its important not to have the body go into recovery mode right prior to this long DECA race. Your body will take a few days to get in the groove during the DECA.
Plan on 3 huge weeks of training – single sport discipline focus
This is a personal choice for my races and working with coaching clients. When prepping for the classic DECA, I feel it builds confidence with several huge weeks of single sport focus. However, the other sports will be done at reduced volume and but eliminated in these big weeks.
Swim Focused week – spend at least ½ to ¾ of the total time you expect to finish the swim. You could also do this in miles/kilometers. For example, the swim is 24 miles in the DECA and I will typically do 12-15 miles for a week and the longest swim 6-7 miles.
Bike Focused week – For almost all athletes (good cyclists and weaker cyclists) the most amount of time to gain is during the 1,120 mile bike ride. Other than saddle sores and neck stiffness you will not be pounding your legs and can make up significant time over the days riding. Remember it’s the only sport where you can coast and when there is a small downhill make sure you coast. It’s all about continuous movement.
A typical bike focused week would consist of 700-1,000+ miles. This will toughen up your ass and you do not want to go into the DECA without adequate miles or you will suffer every single day with saddle sores. Even if the bike is your weakest element in the race, you will get stronger day by day in the race. As we have witnessed so often when an athlete who is slow on day one and two of the bike then fly’s by for the next few days and builds comfort and strength.
Get on your bike and just put in the miles. You can do intervals if you like, but they provide significantly less benefit for the long ride than staying on your bike for hours and hours in the aerobic zone. Guy Rossi mentioned to me years ago, no need to do higher intensity intervals when training for the Classic DECA.
Run Focused Week – This is the challenging one for sure to ensure you don’t face injuries. Most likely you won’t go out and run 150-200 miles for the week while still doing the other two sports even though they will be shorter. The risks are greatest during the run with all the pounding.
However, there is NOTHING comparable to running/slogging/stumbling/walking 262 miles on concrete after 24 miles of swimming and 1,120 miles of biking. I suggest you consider a long run week with significant hiking and walking with purpose to your running. No one including the winners will run every single step of the DECA. You must get very comfortable of just grinding out miles with beyond fatigued legs and feet that feel like you have daggers jabbing into the midfoot.
Consider doing a 24/48-hour running race during your run focused week and keep your running consistent right up to the event (or your own do it yourself run) on a short loop. Set a target number of hours for the week with the run/walk and typically should be 35-60 hours for the week.
Don’t get Addicted to Your Training Plan
For most obsessive A personalities that is the culture of many in the world of endurance sports, it’s a struggle for many to veer off a strict training plan. I am an advocate of training for sure but flexibility and actually missing workouts without beating oneself up is crucial to maintaining an adequate life balance.
Your training plan should offer disruption times. For example, if the goal on a Sat. is to do a long multi brick session consider switching it up half way through and do something completely different such as kayaking, hiking and not grinding through another mile. Similar to the variety of food choices during the DECA race, consider a similar strategy with regards to your training and change it up on occasion. The core aspects of long swim, rides, and runs will always be the key components of any DECA training plans, however it’s ok to go for a horseback ride with your kids.
Plenty more to come in the Training Chapter of “It’s All About the DECA” and consideration and tools for both versions of the DECA. Sign up …….