Road to Kona – Stefan Leijdekkers
Qualified at Ironman Cairns 2014 – M40-45 /9hr32 /6th Place
Ironman PB – 9.15 at IMWA 2013
Stefan started working with me shortly after he began triathlon and has been a joy to work with. Having pretty much a blank canvas to work with in terms of training history and ideas it was a case of Stefan getting down to work and completing the training rather than second guessing the workload and questioning volume as is common with many athletes.
Balance is the background to everything we do at ironguides and with Stefan’s demanding job in banking and a young family at home it was never going to be put to the test more. In setting up Stefan’s workload I always look at what he has to do in terms of work and make sure there is plenty of family time and relax time in his schedule!!
When designing Stefan’s programs it has been a case of making sure stimulus was present and fatigue levels remained constant but never too high. We started with a goal of hitting 8-12 hours a week and looking to get all we needed in this time, Stefan has shown a great talent with endurance. It was clear to me early on that training to strengthen this aspect of his fitness would be a waste of time. Building strength and speed has been the focus and it has paid off as we have seen a consistent rise in performance weekly over the 3 years of working together.
I think it has been frustrating for Stefan to lack speed and not perform to the levels he wanted in shorter races while we seem to do nothing but speed work, but that frustration always disappeared on ironman race day when the performances have just shone through and times dropped significantly. We always need to remember what we are training for and look at the big picture.
Over the 3 years working together I have not really increased volume beyond our basic 8-12 hours a week. If you are seeing constant improvement then it’s not time to change anything – this is such an important part of coaching that i believe is regularly missed as athletes feel more is always going to be better. The only time I move from our regular training load is for my special 4 days endurance blocks in the short period leading up to a long distance event!!
Coaching has to be a 2 way relationship and Stefan’s success has come from his amazing communication with me, I have had a weekly report every week since we started working together, I get to know everything that is happening with Stefan’s body, his workload and family life from these emails – this level of communication is what is needed so I know what is happening when its happening and can change and adapt as needed.
A little step beyond the ordinary is what makes a Kona qualifier and Stefan has shown this in spades, with a heavy travel schedule through work and entertaining clients Stefan has maintained his training well. How many of us would head to the treadmill at 10pm after a business meal and a couple of beers just to make sure the training stays on target – I am sure not many!!
See below for Stefan’s history and thoughts:
– Have always been “sporty” but never been (very successful) in competitive sports. Never smoked.
– I think I built my base in cycling to school from 12-18 years old: 36k per day
– Also built my base in windsurfing. Complete fanatic from 14-22 years old. Would spent entire days on the water, preferably in strong wind and high seas. Often “forgot” to eat in-between.
– Ran my first marathon in December 2007 in just below 5 hours
– My first triathlon was the Aviva Ironman 70.3 in Singapore 2009, which I completed in 5:39. I only bought my road bike after I had signed up a few months before.
– First IM: Korea 2011 in 11:24 (largely due to nutrition issue / upset stomach making the marathon a loooong walk)
– After that each IM, apart from Cairns where I qualified, was a PB
– Best IM was IMWA 2013 in 9:15.
– Shifting goals: first goal was to finish an IM. Then you know you can do better and want to prove it to yourself. Kona only came in sight in the second half of 2013. I just missed it by 3mins42 mins at IMWA 2013.
– At IM Cairns I came 6th in my AG in 9:32 and qualified for Kona. A dream coming through!
– Did many shorter races, especially sprint and OD. Always close to the top of my age group but somehow am better at / prefer IM distance.
– Next big race is Kona. Am going to go as good as I can while absorbing the atmosphere and embracing the experience.
– Started training with Woody for my first ironman. Ironman Korea 2011.
– Challenge for Woody and me was to structure the training plan around busy work commitments and family
– Consistency in training is important, even when challenged. How do you stick to your program as good (and creatively) as you can while traveling? Running usually is ok. Swim: find pools in the cities you are visiting and block time to get the swim in. Bike: use the gym bike instead. Not great but better than nothing.
– Value of coach has been critical. A few key points here:
– Methodology / the method: most IM training plans in books and online have huge volume. 20 hours or more. I don’t have that much time and I don’t think it is necessary to have such high volume in my training plan. Actually it could be counter productive. Focus on bike strength, low cadence bike work: painful but paying off. All-out intervals to help recovery. High speed short intervals on treadmill. Just some examples of workouts you wouldn’t find anywhere else and that make a big difference.
– Flexibility: Generally I have a training schedule that is the same for weeks and weeks which works well as you can see your progress. However, when needed for travel and especially injury Woody has provided great tailored workouts and training schedules.
– “6th sense: Through good communication (see below), Woody knows me very well and somehow prescribes workouts that just work for me. This 6th sense of knowing exactly what your body / mind needs is especially critical for endurance weekends and taper.
Key success factors:
– The method: high intensity, big focus on strength and speed, relatively less volume. This formula works for me and I know it works for most.
– Consistency: Trust the coach and just follow the program (sounds simple but isn’t always!). Try to get all workouts in and at least don’t skip an entire day. If no time for at least a single entire workout, do 20mins easy run, bike or swim.
– Communication: weekly email to coach with key workout stats and feedback for each workout on how you felt during and after the workout. This will allow the coach to get to know you very well and tailor the schedule, endurance weekend, taper and race strategy for you. Be honest and if workouts are skipped explain why so the coach might be able to do something about it.
– Get support from your environment: family and friends. My wife and daughter’s support has been key in training for and racing Ironman. Share the passion, do “trications” / destination races. Get the workouts in at times that don’t go at the expense of quality time with the family.
– Workout timing: for me (and most working athletes), getting a workout in first thing in the morning is important. If something happens at work you may not be able to do the evening workout or you can be so tired that it’s hard to get it in. I get up at 5:15 most morning to get a workout in before the rest wakes up. In Singapore we start the long bike on Saturday at 4:30am, also to avoid some of the heat of the day.
– Learn from mistakes and embrace things that worked in races. This applies to everything including where to position at the swim start, nutrition, race pace, etc.
Enjoy your training!
Coach Alun “Woody” Woodward