Faris Al-Sultan Kona Program

The 2005 Ironman World Champion Faris Al-Sultan shared with us how he prepared for the Ironman in Kona.

“I usually did a three week training block in the US to prepare for Kona ( before a two week taper the first being at the location I did the block at, the second obviously in Kona) and it followed the “San Diego” scheme introduced to me by Jürgen Zäck.

The key elements were a long ride Wednesday, a long and hard ride Saturday and a long run Sunday.
The other sessions varied a bit throughout the years also dependant on availability of training partners and swimming times and facilities.

I didn’t do any tests in that period besides a 5000m swim test, my PB in a 25m pool was a 1:01:27 and I knew if I’m below 1:02:30 I’d be fine.

Of course different types of tests were conducted throughout the year, ranging from classic labtests to field tests.

I was and still am a big believer in classic gym work, I do it differently now with my athletes than I did back in the day though.”

Faris’s Training Week in the lead up to Kona

Monday: Rest


AM: Ride 1 hour + track run session + 2hour ride
PM: Gym + 4km swim


long ride 6 hrs + 30min run


Swim 4,5km


AM: Ride 3hrs with Intervals + 45-60min run
PM: Gym + Swim 3.5km


AM: 5-6h ride + 30-50min run

PM: Swim 3.5km


AM: Swim 5km
PM: long run 30-35km

To visit Faris Al-Sultan’s website – Click Here

Coach Darren Smith

Darren Smith is one of the world best Olympic Distance triathlon coaches. In 2012 he made history having six triathletes from six different countries make the London Olympics.

Training Cycle

Darren often runs a eight day training cycle. Developing a good routine the athlete knows works is developed three or four years prior to the athlete peaking for the Olympics.

  • Day one: Speed Day
  • Day Two: Strength Day
  • Day Three: Aerobic Day
  • Day Four: Active Recovery
  • Day Five: Speed Day
  • Day Six: Aerobic Day
  • Day Seven: Speed Day
  • Day Eight: Active Recovery

Strength Training

Darren uses a combination of gym, body weight exercises, over gearing on the bike, pool paddles and hills for strength work on athletes.

When in the gym, a focus on multi muscles and multi joint exercises with some sports specific exercises. He notes that many of his athletes don’t need the gym to go fast, they simply need to go fast however he questions their long jeopardy in the sport without gym work.

Two examples of strength sessions from Darren:

Strength Session One:

  • Kneeling push up on keiser
  • Mini ban walks
  • TRX row
  • TRX plank series with lower body drives
  • Wall angels
  • Shoulder stability planks series
  • Battling rope conditioning

Strength Session Two:

  • Running man
  • Clams with band
  • Single leg bridge
  • Side plank with rotation
  • Swiss ball
  • Side plank runner
  • Feet up clam

Balance & Proprioception

One thing Darren gets his athletes to do is before and after a hard run, stand on one foot for 60sec each leg to help improve balance.

He also has a focus on balance and movements with both eyes open and eyes shut.

Darren also likes his athletes doing their long runs on trails so the athlete’s foot/body movements changes often within the trails.

Key Performance Inhibitor

Not the normal KPIs the rest of the world is familiar with, Darren believes that most programs have inhibitors within them. Finding and working on removing any inhibitors that is holding the athlete back from performing at their potential is critical within his program. If it isn’t helping, it is gone.

Brendan Canty’s TSS, CTL, TSB

Ever wonder what Training Stress Score (TSS), Chronic Training Load (CTL) and Training Stress Balance (TSB) would be from a world tour rider?

Brendan Canty is a former pro cyclists who cycled for EF Education. Here are some of his numbers from 2017.

Volta Catalunya 2017

Volta Catalunya 2017 is a six day stage race in March. Side note that Alejandro Valverde won that year.

Taper Week

  • TSS: 490
  • CTL: 122.1 (ramp rate of -1.4)
  • TSB: 5.9

Race Week

  • TSS: 1440
  • CTL: 134.2 (ramp rate of 12.1)
  • TSB: -56.6

Tour de Romandie 2017

The Tour Romandie is a six day stage race in April. Side note that Richie Porate won that year.

Taper Week:

  • TSS: 661
  • CTL: 125.8 (ramp rate 3.1)
  • TSB: 11.0

Race Week

  • TSS: 1102
  • CTL: 131.3 (ramp rate of 11.5)
  • TSB: -27.2

Monthly Total

  • March Total TSS: 4077 (ramp rate of 2.5) (7 days of racing in total)
  • April Total TSS: 3642 (ramp rate of 3.8) (8 days of racing in total)
  • May Total TSS: 2689 (ramp rate -14.6) (7 days of racing in total)

From the start of January through to the end of June 2017 gave Brandan a total TSS of 20,707 (average of 796.4 per week) with nine key races

Aldo Sassi’s strength training for cyclists

Aldo Sassi who is regarded by many as one of the greatest cycling coaches who coached some of the biggest names in the sport including Ivan Basso, Cadel Evens, Charly Wegelius, Cam Wurf, Dario Cioni and Riccardo Riccò.

Aldo’s thoughts are muscle strength is almost as important as aerobic fitness for a cyclist. Early on in his carrier, he was an advocate for gym strength work but as his coaching career progressed, he changed his philosophy on strength training for cyclists. Apart from back and abdominal work, all other strength training for the legs were done on the bike.

Training Sessions

Aldo would call these sessions “SFR” for an Italian term that translates to “strength endurance climbs.”

Ado would give his athletes SFR twice a week in the offseason and once a week between races. These sessions would involve low cadence work on hills of 6-8% and placed with high tension. This builds specific strength because the strength limiter in endurance cycling isn’t just neuro-muscular. More important is the extent of blood perfusion into the muscles.

A typical SFR session would look something like; Warm up well, using a 6-8% hill, 8x 5min hard efforts @ 35-40 rpm with 2-3min freewheeling/easy spin down the hill for recovery.

Coach Patrick Sang key run sessions

One of the things that really sticks out with Coach Patrick Sang who has coached Eliud Kipchoge since 2001 is the control of pace with faster sessions. There are no fly and die sets. The fast sets are really not all that fast for the athlete. An example, an athlete who marathon pace being 5min per km, wouldn’t be doing intervals no faster than 4:10-4:15 km pace. On top of this, the majority of the athlete’s long runs in the lead up to the marathon is done at or just slower than race pace.

While these key sessions are for his marathon focused athletes, the theme is the same for all his athletes and everything is kept simple. Even though his athletes may run 12-14 times per week, most of the run sessions are done at an easy state and more times than not, his athletes have only three key sessions per week. Track, Fartlek and a tempo long run.

Patrick Key Sessions

Fartlek Sessions:

These sessions would be done at or around marathon race pace depending of terrain and altitude.

  • 4x 10min + 2min rest
  • 13x 3min +1min rest
  • 25x 1min +1min rest

Track Sessions

  • 12x 800 + 90sec easy, 10x 400 +90s easy
  • 1200m + 1 lap easy, 5x 1km +90sec easy, 3x 300m +60s easy, 2x 200m +60s easy
  • 20x 400m +50sec rest
  • 15x 1km +90sec rest
  • 12x 1200m +90sec rest
  • 5x (2km + 1km) +90sec rest


  • Long tempo runs at or just around marathon race pace. This would be between 80-95% of the marathon distance.

Lionel Sander’s Ironman Program

In 2017, Lionel Sanders was training to a ten day program that saw him get 2nd at the Ironman World Championships that year. In the lead up to the Ironman in Kona, his program looked something like>

Lionel’s Training Program

  • Day One: Quality swim and high end bike
  • Day Two: High end run
  • Day Three: Long day consisting of quality swim, long bike and moderate length run
  • Day Four: Long run
  • Day Five: Active recovery
  • Day Six: Quality swim and threshold run
  • Day Seven: Threshold bike
  • Day Eight: Rest day
  • Day Nine: Active recovery
  • Day Ten: Active recovery

The method Lionel was working too was load up the body with intensity and volume for the first seven days and spend three days shedding the fatigue that had accumulated. This also lead to Lionel having a short taper of only a week.

Brett Sutton’s Ten Day Program

There is little doubt that Brett Sutton is the most successful coach the sport of triathlon has seen with a list of world champion athletes that has been through his system. Sutto normally works off a ten day program cycle for much of the athletes he coaches.

It is worth noting that while Sutto coaches his athletes on a ten day cycle, his online training planes are done on a seven day cycle (I will also add that his online plans are of high quality).

Sutto’s Ten Day Structure

  • Day One: Strength Focus
  • Day Two: Speed Focus
  • Day Three: Strength Focus
  • Day Four: Aerobic Focus
  • Day Five: Active Recovery
  • Day Six: Aerobic Focus
  • Day Seven: Strength Focus
  • Day Eight: Speed Focus
  • Day Nine: Aerobic Focus
  • Day Ten: Active Recover or Rest

While there is a big focus on strength for Sutto’s athletes, his athletes are not in the gym lifting weights. His strength training approach is done with swim paddles, using big gear and low cadence sets for the bike and running up hills.

Sutto isn’t a big fan of technology to help guide his athlete, he does things more on feel. His three training zones are

  • Moderate: this is all day effort. Should feel very comfortable.
  • Medium: This is difficulted but manageable.
  • Mad: as fast as possible without compromising technique.

Dr. Michele Ferrari Training Method

I want to do an overview into Dr. Ferrari’s coaching method. I am not covering anything to do with performance enhancing drugs, this is simply an overview into the way Dr. Ferrari coaches.

Ferrari’s Zones

Dr. Ferrari uses five training zones that are created with regular lab and field testing of lactate, power output, VAM and heart rate. His zones are:

  • Lento Rigenerativo (Very Slow) – just how it sounds, nice and slow.
  • Lento (Slow) – Lento is done at a slow pace/speed and is simply miles in the legs.
  • Medio (Medium) – This is more challenging effort. The majority of high spinning sessions are done at this level.
  • Soglia (Threshold) – Soglia is very close and fluctuates around threshold.
  • Super Soglia (Super threshold) – This is very close to maximum effort.

Translating Ferrarie’s zones to FTP

So looking at a couple of athlete’s files that Dr. Ferrarie coached and or consulted, translating MF zone list to a FTP test would look something like

  • Lento Rigenerativo < – 72% of FTP
  • Lento – 72% – 82% of FTP
  • Medio – 82% -91% of FTP
  • Soglia – 91% – 101% of FTP
  • Super Soglia – 101% > of FTP

Training Principle

Dr. Ferrarie’s training method is “threshold method” and he made augments that this method received better results than “polarized training” with regards to performance.

Medio would be between 20-40% of the total volume however it could be higher in the off season and lower during the race season. Dr. Ferrarie uses Medio to build the base fitness for his athletes. Soglia sessions would generally be given twice per week and the rest of the training in the week was done mostly at Lento.

One part that I struggled to fine was apart from short 20-30 second surges, there was no finding of VO2 max work. most of the intervals/efforts were done at or hovering just under threshold. All up, He gives very little Super Soglia. This is inline with an interview Lance Armstrong gave earlier 2020 that Ferrarie’s philosophy “We never, ever, ever, ever, ever trained above threshold” Armstrong said, “The only time you would get efforts above lactate threshold was in races.”

Weight Loss

Dr. Ferrarie is well known for telling his athletes that they are too fat even if they are bordering on being anorexic. He would get athletes to weigh food so they consumed the right amount of nutrition and not to consume any more or any less.

When it would come to weight loss and calorie deficiency, he wouldn’t let his athletes go more than two weeks in a row. If the athlete had a good amount of weight to lose, he would get them to be calorie deficit in two week blocks as the quality of the training was more effective with performance improvements.

Cadel Evans Training System

A glance at how the 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans trained and prepared when training under his coach Aldo Sassi.

The System

The training system that Cadel was in was rather simple. He would do a VO2 Max test, a anaerobic threshold test and Aldo would take these numbers to build Cadel’s program and ran a “three day algorithm.”

Training Block

The three day algorithm or three day training block looked like:-

  • Day One: Strength and resistance training on climbs (SFR)
  • Day Two: Anaerobic threshold work
  • Day Three: Long ride with climbs

Every day Cadel would download his SRM power file and send feedback to Aldo and Aldo would use this data and information to update sessions, offer suggestions and create the next three day block.

He would change sessions to include the time trial bike instead of the road bike or change some power numbers here and there or use motor pacing but often would keep with the same three day block.

It is also worth noting that Ivan Basso used this exact same training system created by Aldo Sassi.

Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso

Unfortunately Aldo Sassi passed away in 2010.

Chris McCormack’s 2010 Ironman Program

Macca’s training program structure didn’t really change too much leading into the Ironman World Championship. His volume would increase a little each week and his intensity would change as he got closer to race day.

This is Macca’s week 16 out from Kona.

Side note that Macca’s race plan for Kona 2010 was to put Craig Alexander under pressure on the bike.

Early Morning: Swim – 12x 400m aerobic
Mid Morning: Bike – 4hr ride with 4x 12min hill climbs @ 6-7% using big gear and low cadence
Afternoon: Recovery run with added walks.

Early Morning: 4hr Group ride with high cadence
Afternoon: Run – 1:20hr with 5x 1.5km hill repeats on a 6-7%
Late Afternoon: Technique swim

Morning: Bike/Brick run – 5.5hr aerobic ride with a 20min easy jog off the bike

Morning: Run: 14 miles done on feel
Afternoon: Swim 20x 200m pushing the pace

Morning: Bike: 4hr aerobic ride with high cadence

Morning: Bike/Brick Run – Ride 6hrs all in the aero position followed by run 1hr at race pace off the bike.
Afternoon: Swim 10x 400 pull & paddles

Early Morning: Run – 20 miles

Midday: Swim – Open water

Afternoon: Run – Done at the track with a focus on drills and technique

Blog at

Up ↑