Ask the Experts: Long distance triathlon training with Gordon Crawford

A date for your diary!

Right here next Friday at 1pm (October 26) K-Swiss Ironman and Endurance Running Coach Gordon Crawford will be joining us for a live webchat. He'll be on hand to discuss endurance training and how to tackle training for long-distance events such as middle distance and Ironman.

A former Scottish international athlete, Gordon Crawford is an Ironman coach with a whole host of elite triathlon champions under his wing.

So whether you’re an Ironman veteran or are just dipping your toe into long-distance triathlons, Gordon will be on hand to answer all your training questions.

Start posting your burning questions now!



  • H0NKH0NK ✭✭✭

    I have a question, All the Ironman training plans I've come across start off at less hours per week than what I currently train at then build up to more than my current time training.

    If I am enjoying my training and feeling good on it would you reccomend I cut back time training to follow the plan or stay at my current level until the Plan catches up?

  • How should the use of a treadmill be adapted to support going long.

    (Running outside is not an option for me until springtime)
  • Gordon,

    If training for long distance races, do you do long runs at target race pace?

  • I understand that we cannot train for standalone running race at race pace.

     Ive seen from more than one source that a well paced Ironman marathon should be around 30 mins slower than stand alone marathon.

     So lets assume a 3.30 stand alone time with an IM marathon target time of 4 hours, what would be long run training pace.

  • Alternativey, do you measure heart rate and just keep at around 70 % of max and let pace be dictated by this?

  • Serious Question for Gordon

    At work, I have an on site gym, with free weights, machines, spin bikes etc
    As I work in the a*se end of nowhere and have no friends, I have 4  * 1 hour lunches to fill, which ends up being 4*40 mins of training time.

    I run / bike commute, and swim in the evenings so that stuff is largely coverred off

    Whats the best use of my time for these sessions?
    functional body weight type stuff on the legs, (lunges / squats etc etc)
    spin bike intervals
    stepper, rowing, x trainer
    stretching / rollering?
    x-training classes


  • i thought one constant speed was the idea for Ironman as oppossed to speed off and die on your feetimage


    right another question to the expert....


     what would be your best advice for training for a good even bike split whilst keeping enough in the tank to  complete the run evenly.....


  • I have finished my first season of long distance

    triathlons and loved it. What's the best approach to maintainig endurance or fitness built over the last 9 months?

    PS is there any benefit to attending tri training camps when preparing for long distance events next year?
  • Prior to starting Base training, approx 30 weeks out from 'A' race, what should the goal be, endurance or speed?



  • Hi 

    Just so you're aware, I'm cleaning up this thread just to keep questions on here, otherwise the post gets a little difficult for new people to follow. We obviously don't do this with other posts on the forum, but the webchat threads are an exception just to keep them relevant for our experts and other users.


    Katie RW



  • Hi Gordon,

    I'm going to build up to my first IM over the next 18-ish months. My HIM time this year was just under 5 hours with a big lack of endurance training as I was only focused on olympic and sprints. My run let me down slightly I think, coming in about 10 minutes slower than i was hoping for. I was on track at the halfway point and burned out a bit.

    What do you think is the key to running the IM marathon close to the time you would do a standalone marathon? Obviously it comes down to a bunch of different factors.. among others there's nutrition and pacing in the race, lots of bike and run endurance training.. if you had to pick one or two factors as being the most important what would you go for? Out of interest, how would the elite racers IM marathon times compare to their marathon PBs? And lastly, if you were to include 2 must-have endurance focused sessions in a weekly plan what would they be?


  • I'm currently off swimming, thought I'd try 6+ months of not swimming, before getting back into the water in the New YEar and start training for an IM swim.  Read somewhere, that if you were OK at swimming, I average around 1:05 for the 3.8km in OW, then after a break, you could make substantial improvements on a return, and you can relearn your stroke and make big changes, rather than just minor tweaks.  Any thoughts?

  • Hello Gordon,

    I'm signed up for IM Lanzarote next year and I want to try to develop some more leg strength over the upcoming months to (hopefully) increase speed on the flat and to prepare for the long uphill drags.  If it's of any use it will be my 5th IM and my time last year at IM Wales was just over 7:31.  Any pointers gratefully received.


  • Hello Gordon

    Do you think that composing poetry is helpful for Ironman training?
  • heart rate, or perceived effort - which is going to help most in training and convert best through to race day?  Caveat, as a nearly 50 year old I am struggling to read the numbers on my garmin and polar so while I would like to train to HR, the tech is becoming backup only (ie it waits until I get home to my reading glasses) and I am training off the data AFTER the run/bike! 

  • Katie - are we going to be able to download this later and read/listen at a time of our chosing?

  • Any tips on the best way of developing strength for short steep hills. I've signed up for IM Switzerland next year, it will be my 2nd iron distance - I did Outlaw this year. 

    I understand there is a hill like this on the course (Hearbreak Hill??). I'm OK on long drags (slow and steady), any advice other than just practice?


  • Hi PSC

    Yes, I'll be writing up all the questions in a blog early next week, and this forum thread will stay up on the forum.

    Thanks, Katie RW

  • Welcome, Gordon!

    Thanks for joining us on today’s webchat, Gordon. The theme for today is Ironman and endurance training. Gordon will be answering the questions that you’ve posted through the week, and any more you have over the next hour.

    Over to you Gordon…

    Katie RW

  • Honk

    If you are enjoying your training and improving I would continue with your training until the programme catches up with you.  It is better if you have an individualised programme that considers your work, family and racing requirements.

    Planning your training can be difficult.  So it's a good idea to invest in a coach or a training programme that will help give you direction. Do whatever you can afford.

    Many coaches will offer an online service, with a bespoke training programme and consultation by telephone once a week. This can range from £50 to £150 a month; the price depends on how much contact you choose to have with your coach.

    If you can't afford a coach, have a look online or in specialist triathlon books for a programme that will give you a structure to follow in preparation for a race. Another option is to go through your local triathlon club; many have volunteer BTF-level coaches who will be happy to offer you training advice.

  • Sgt Laird

    If you are unable to train outside in the winter but can use a treadmill I would use it exactly the same way you would run train outside, particularly if you are going long. You can make the session harder by raising the incline.

    The key run requirements for going long and training over the winter would be:

    • a long run, progressing up to 30-32k
    • a brick session of a longer bike, turbo or spin bike, with a longer run off from 15-20km at just below half IM pace
    • a longer running intervals session, at IM run pace with shorter recoveries with warm-up and cool down
    • possibly a recovery run at an easier pace



  • F.oggy

    I would suggest that you try and run your longer run at as near to race pace for an IM as possible.

    • When I was preparing Fraser Cartmell for IM UK 2 years ago our long run, starting from 25km and working up to 32km was run at his target marathon pace, 4min km’s. He managed to run 2.40 on the Bolton course so we were not too far off.
    • This longer paced run was completed off a 90 min bike and I would always recommend that the longer race specific run was completed off a bike.
    • In terms of pacing for your IM run compared to a straight marathon run the time differential will vary depending on the experience level of runner and and their ability to run to pace.
    • You can run at 70 % HR but this will be dictated by the weather conditions and the course.



  • O.rangeCannon-Extravalanza-ing

    If you have 4 sessions of approximately 40 mins per week I would suggest the following use of your time.

    • Core conditioning sessions that may include or be yoga. These sessions should work on core exercises that would ideally replicate, swimming positions, biking, balance, band or cord work, working your slings, stretching or running. I would suggest 2 sessions of this per week to make improvement in these areas.
    • 1 spin bike session if that could be used to develop peak power, effort up to 10 secs and or strength sessions up to about 4 mins with approx. 2 mins easy spin rest in between.
    • Possibly one of the 4 sessions could be a rest session and it sounds like you have quite a schedule.


  • Seren nos

    A good even bike split is achieved by good even biking in training and trying to replicate the course that you will be racing on or simulating the course on a Compu trainer or Tacx turbo.

    • Train for good pacing on the bike and the run
    • I would always try and do a longer bike at an even pace followed by a run off the bike.
    • If it is possible work the bike training based on watts or average speed.
  • Ktpie

    I would continue training regularly in the winter and work on the areas that you know to be weakness. Training camps for tri are great and are a great way to break up training in the winter.

    • join a tri club
    • get a coach or a training plan
    • have a support structure in place
    • rest and recover
    • have fun and work hard
  • M..TRIumphant

    30 weeks out from your race I would have the key component as endurance but I would still have elements of speed through the swim, bike and run.

    • The speed should be race pace and also faster than race pace.
    • It is very easy to lose speed, particularly as we get older
    • Key sessions should be very race specific

    In terms of the swimming and your break there is a school of thought that on re-introducing swimming it is better for learning. This would have to balanced with:

    • Loss of swim fitness
    • Feel for the water
    • Additional time allocated to re-develop your stroke and fitness


  • B_Kins

    I think that it is very difficult to run a stand-alone marathon time to that off a bike in an IM.

    The 2 key factors that I would have in the weekly programme would be:

    • a long run of up to 25-30km at the IM run race pace off and easy bike if 30-60mins
    • a longer brick: bike 3-5 hrs with a 1 hour run off
    • when I was preparing Fraser Cartmell for IM UK 2 years ago our long run, starting from 25km and working up to 32km was run at his target marathon pace, 4min km’s. He managed to run 2.40 on the Bolton course so we were not too far off.


  • FerrousFerret

    Great choice of IM for next year! It will certainly test your leg strength on that course given the bike and the run.

    My suggestions would be the following for over the winter:

    * Some leg weights, leg press, hang cleans and squats

    * good hard turbos, 1 longer set that would incorporate over geering sets or single leg work or longer interval work: repeats intervals of 15 mins and longer up to 30 min efforts

    * Brick sessions that involve a long hilly bike, 3-4 hours with an hour run off. You could over layer the clothes on the bike and run to try and replicate the heat and sweating.

    * Mountain biking sessions are a  great way to develop general and leg strength.

    I hope these help?

  • PSC

    Perceived effort or heart rate?

    Given modern technology available, including light weight prescription sports glasses, I would suggest for the IM that you use:

    • HR, kph on the bike and kpm for the run
    • During the race to maximise performance you need to work off live data and work to exact effort rather than perceived.
    • The information feedback you get can act to motivate and influence a performance outcome during the race.
  • bburn.plO.dder

    Short steep hills improvement advice:

    • Practice short steep hills whilst fresh
    • replicate aspect of the bike course, preferrably on laps and then when your training allows start to do the short steep hills within your longer ride, particularly when your tired.
    • you could also practice the short steep hills in a bigger gear so when it comes to race day you are really able to work the gears on the climb and should find a noteable difference.
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