Road map to Ironman AZ: Part 2 – Training Program

Rain, road, map

I don’t care who you are, what you do, or how you like to spend your free time: smart planning, working hard to follow through and turning setbacks into opportunities will make you successful.

And if you’re dreaming of dominating an Ironman triathlon like I am, sticking to a smart training regimen is crucial.

But the funny thing about plans is that they almost always change. As much as we try to cover every angle, account for all hours of the day and avoid surprises, Life will inevitably distract us with a few curve balls to jumble up our schedules: an urgent project at work, a spontaneous trip to Vegas, a family emergency, an injury or my upcoming binge on the next season of Arrested Development (I’m fine with that).

So what’s the point of planning if the times always be a changin’?

Because the value of planning lies as much in the process as it does in the product.


Going through the exercise of mapping out your training plan gets you thinking strategically about your quest to become an Ironman. You’ll spend time researching training exercises and techniques, talking to experts, planning your weekly routines, plotting checkpoints and uncovering potential barriers.

At first it seems trivial and unproductive to spend all that time scheduling, list-making and over-thinking things. But keep at it!

Take an hour every week to plan out the next seven days by scheduling the essential goal-oriented tasks on your calendar. This’ll help you not only ensure you’re going in the right direction, but you’ll also be more prepared for work appointments and all the other stuff going on in your life that week. Once your weekly schedule is set, you just show up, and do it.

Think through your training strategy, be honest with how much time it will demand of you, and the amount of time your schedule allows for training. As conflicts arise you’re going to have to prioritize and – as painful as it may be – cut out the stuff that doesn’t help get you across that finish line.

There’s no immediate reward, but you’ll see the benefits soon enough. In my case: less stress, confusion, puttering about and feeling like I have to get everything on my list done NOW.

This post is part of my planning process and I hope it gives you some ideas to try out when setting up your own workout program. Keep reading to see my Ironman training plan, a sample weekly workout schedule and links to some of the resources that helped me get this plan together.

I originally planned to start training much earlier, but thanks to one of those lovely curve balls, a foot injury in late February after the Ragnar del Sol Relay, my program has been pushed back a couple months.

Yeah, I hit a wall. But we’re getting through it by channeling all that training motivation into physical therapy, stretching and research. And until I’m feeling comfortable and confident running again, I’ll be focusing most of my training on swimming, cycling and mobility work.

A couple months ago I laid out the major races for the year leading up to my “North Star” of Ironman AZ on November 17. These checkpoints included a DIY olympic triathlon at Saguaro Lake, Ironman 70.3 Boulder in August and Nathan Tempe Olympic Triathlon in September.

Aside from tweaking the DIY Tri for Les Fuller Olympic Tri a bit – I only did the swim part, but Cecily dominated the full Olympic distance with a PR of over a half an hour – those major race checkpoints are still attainable.

Power Speed Endurance

So with those milestones in mind, I devised the following weekly training routine, which is taken from the Crossfit Endurance program, the template in Brian Mackenzie’s book Power Speed Endurance and the swimming formula in Terry Laughlin’s book Triathlon Swimming Made Easy

Sample Weekly Training Schedule


  • Morning: Rest
  • Evening: Mobility or Yoga or olympic lifting form practice


  • Morning: Swim + 15-minute Run Brick
  • Evening: WOD: Weights + Sport


  • Morning: Bike *Short or *Long Interval (Spin Class)
  • Evening: WOD: *Gymnastics or *Weights + Sport


  • Morning: Run: *Short or *Long Interval
  • Evening: WOD: *Gymnastics + Weights or *Gymnastics + Weights + Sport


  • Morning: Swim Long Interval
  • Evening: WOD: Weights


  • Morning: Bike *Time Trial or *Tempo + 15-minute Run Brick
  • Evening: Mobility


  • Morning: Run *Time Trial or *Tempo
  • Evening: Mobility

A few notes on this schedule:

  • *Indicates an exercise that is alternated weekly
  • Bricks are light runs of no more than 15 minutes
  • Evening Session WODS will be a variety of high-intensity CFE workouts
  • Time Trial means complete the workout or distance as fast as possible
  • Tempo means maintain about an 85% effort the entire workout
  • Friday, Saturday and Sunday are “Stamina” days and cover longer distances
  • This is a modified version of the general Crossfit Endurance schedule

Every Monday over lunch, I schedule every one of these workouts in a Google Calendar. I also break out my triathlon training notebook to jot down a few other Ironman-related tasks we need to get done that week (for example, replace spare tire tube, research race-course details, buy lacrosse ball), along with general notes about how training is going, to reference later.

Another way I keep myself on track is by documenting the journey with #triforles tweets and Instagrams. It’s a fun way to track progress and share (brag about) the workouts and training program.

I’ll look to Crossfit Endurance for the interval, strength and mobility workouts in the template above. But the weekend stamina workouts will be tweaked slightly to incorporate longer distances. Here’s how I’ve mapped out those longer distances.

Stamina Timeline

Swim: 1,500m / Bike: 90 minutes / Run: 60 minutes
Swim: 2,00m / Bike: 2 hours / Run: 70 minutes
Swim: 6x500m / Bike 2 hours / Run: 80 minutes
Swim: 15x100m (rests: 7 deep breathes) / 90 minutes / Run: 60 minutes

Swim: 20x100m (Rests: 7 breathes, Fast last 3-400m) / Bike: 80 minutes out, back / Run: 70 minutes
Swim: 2×1,500m / Bike: 3 hours / Run: 80 minutes
Swim 20x100m (Rests: 7 deep breathes, Fast last 3-400m) Bike: 3 hours / Run: 90 minutes (fast last 25 minutes)
Swim: Open Water 1,000m / Bike: 2 hours / Run: 70 minutes

Swim: Ladder 300, 275, 250…25m / Bike: 3 hours / Run: 80 minutes
Swim: 20x100m (Rest 6 deep breathes, Fast last 6-800m) / Bike: 3.5 hours / Run: 90 minutes
Swim: 3x600m / Bike: 4 hours / Run: 100 minutes

Recovery week: strength, mobility workouts
Swim: 15x100m (Rest 5 deep breathes, fast last 6-800m) / Bike: 4:20 / Run: 90 minutes
Swim: 20x100m (Rest 5 deep breathes, fast last 6-800m) / Bike: 5 hours / Run: 100 minutes
Swim: 25x100m (Rest 5 deep breathes, fast last 6-800m) / Bike: 5.5 hours / Run: 110 minutes

Swim: 25x100m (Rest 5 breathes, fast last 6-800m) / Bike: 100 miles / Run 90 minutes
Swim: 30x100m (Rest 5 breathes, fast last 6-800m) / Bike: 100 miles / Run 18 miles
Swim: 30x100m (Rest 5 breathes, fast last 6-800m) / Bike 100 miles / Run 110 minutes

Swim: 30x100m / Bike: 100 miles / Run 60 minutes
Swim: 35x100m / Bike: 2×4 hours / Run 18 miles
Swim: 35x100m / Bike 8 hours / Run 90 minutes
Race: METRIC IRONMAN (Swim 2.4k / Bike 112k / Run 26k)

Swim 35x100m / Bike 3 hours / Run 18 miles
Ironman Taper: light in all sports, strength training and mobility work

The general thought process for this stamina timeline is three weeks of steady increases in distances, followed by one relatively lighter week. As noted in my weekly training schedule, I’ll alternate the Time Trials and and Tempo workouts between bike and run every week.

Curve Ball

Also, keep in mind that these stamina distances are mainly placeholders and subject to change, depending on how many curve balls we see along the way. I’ll most likely focus more attention on the bike and go easier on the runs as my foot heals – since bike training feeds run strength, with less impact and stress on the sensitive El Gimpo.

It seems like a lot when you look at it all at once like this, but whittling it down to those weekly training schedules makes it easier to digest – one step at a time.

Some good resources and references:

Now that it’s all mapped out, I’m looking for honest feedback on my training plan.

I especially want to hear from you – or anyone you know – if you’ve done your first Ironman with the Crossfit Endurance approach. Please post your thoughts in the comments, or send me an email (adamsfuller at gmail). Thanks!

Update: Read Part 3 of my Road map to Ironman AZ series, and see how it went putting this plan into action.

– Live every day –


  • Mark McNellis

    Adam….I am not sure how old this post is but I just signed up for my first IM and like you I want to do it on a CFE regimen. From what I can tell your program looks close with a couple exceptions: CFE promotes only 2 stamina workouts/week rather than the 3 you have listed. Additionally they suggest no run longer than 90-120 mins and no ride longer than 5 hours. By now you should be almost half way through this program and i’d like to know how it’s working for you.



    • adamsfuller

      Hey Mark, This was posted at the end of April. Training has been going great, and I’m feeling good about this hacked CFE Ironman program – although we really won’t be able to truly evaluate its effectiveness until November 18.

      As you noted, I incorporated longer swims and rides to prep for the long IM distances. However, I haven’t been able to follow the run sections of this program as I’m still building up strength in my left foot after an injury I suffered in February – which you can read about here: I figured by going harder on the bike, I could build strength for the run without pounding on my foot too much before it’s ready. Most of my runs these days are about 30-40 minutes at an 8.5-minute/mile pace. I kept the longer swims in the program too, since they don’t wear on the body, and the focus is on technique and body mechanics more than fitness/exercise. See

      I’m excited for the upcoming Boulder race, although I won’t be doing the run leg, since my foot isn’t ready for a 13.1-miler.

      Hope this info is useful. Your comment reminds me that I’m overdue for a progress report blog post on this training plan, so stay tuned for a more comprehensive analysis and update.

      Also, what IM did you sign up for? Good luck, and keep me posted on how you find the CFE IM training routine.

      • Mark M

        Adam…I signed up for the Boulder 2014 race. I will also be volunteering at phoenix this year working the night run sag wagon- hopefully I won’t see you :)

        I don;t know if i could do that many 100 mile rides. I also worry about the sun intensity at 5400′ elevation. I am in Albuquerque and we’re at about the same elevation and the summer sun can totally drain you and make you hallucinate. I finished 71 yesterday and couldn’t have run a mile if i had to after that. I have along way to go. Is your sister following the same CFE program? Doing Boulder HIM? I’d love to hear how the training works for you guys. Regardless, I really like the overall conditioning of CFE. It’s funny, I thought i was in pretty good shape until I started crossfit classes. It has been a very humbling experience. Anyway, thanks for posting your progress. I have your page bookmarked and will be tuning in regularly