Big Week Training

By Michael Hanreck

About Michael

Michael Hanreck Mike Hanreck is typical of many of us – he was a runner who got badly bitten by the tri bug. He has launched himself wholeheartedly into long distance racing and in Jan 2004 took part in the Epic Camp; an exclusive training fortnight for ironmen who could go long in under 10 hours. Many of us read his diaries with awe and he came back with much useful information for anyone planning big training weeks (like many of us do at our annual Lanzarote Club La Santa trip.) His advice applies whether you are doing the kinds of monster millages he does or whether your own "Big Weeks" are more modest. 

Michael's advice

I thought it might be worthwhile sharing some thoughts/observations and knowledge from my two big weeks at Epic camp. Much of this will be with our Lanzarote trip in mind as it is my next "Big Week" and probably for most of you too. I know my perspective can be a bit twisted but everything below is my best advice, from my limited, if concentrated, experiences. Do not bother calling up the advertising standards association if you thought Lanzarote would be a relaxing holiday, with some multisport thrown in! The greatest thing about our club and its trip, is the ability for it to cater for such a wide audience so effectively.

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition!

Loads of fruit is essential, have it nearby at all times. Put half a dozen pieces next to your bed at night with some water and if you wake up eat a piece. Try to eat all through the day, this often means a few bananas in your cycle top as the ride may take hours to complete. Take fruit & drink to the pool and on long runs.

I have not yet regretted carrying to much liquid but transporting enough is difficult. On long rides I have a litre bottle on my frame another 1 litre aero bottle between my tri bars and a Hydro pack with 1.5 L on my back. I used to think 750-1000ml per hour was enough I am now probably drinking 1000-1250ml per hour of sports drink (with electrolytes) per hour. It is a skill to be able to drink that amount but luckily it is easily taught. All you need to do is drink a lot regularly and your stomach gets used to emptying.

Athletes from colder climates typically find it more difficult to adjust. I will also be adding protein to my carb/electrolyte mix; 1/8th of a gram for every ½ gram of carb seems to be the recommended amount.Have a protein recovery drink after any work out. Normally I only have one after a tough session but this is a BIG WEEK so you need all the protein you can get, your body will use what you consume more efficiently if taken directly after exercise. Chicken and vegetables was our dinner at Epic more evenings than not and if it is good enough for these guys.

Supplements to consider; Vitamin E & C, Selenium and Fish oil.

Training structure

If you want big hours then you have to moderate intensity. It is well worth reading about aerobic threshold on the tips page at The high mileage, high hours training system I'm following is a choice, it is not the best thing for everybody. I have, at best, an average top speed and doubt if I could ever be much of a success at Olympic distance racing. I am however stubborn and able to work for long periods. I'm sure most people would benefit from more AET/AET-10bpm training, but like any plan or coach it is important to understand and believe, if you are going gain the maximum.

Rest is obviously vital, I like the two days on one day off system. What exactly you consider off or on is personal, but I let myself get drilled and force the mileage when "on" and proceed with caution on an "off" day. Pro athletes know exactly what they can take because they have a relatively stable environment and regularly push themselves. We civilians have a ton of other commitments and stresses that are not exercise induced. If you can minimize non-exercise related stress you will be amazed what you can cope with. I know I have been, here at Epic and last year at La Santa. If you intend to do breakthrough mileage make sure you have done enough that your joints can hold. You cannot jump into Big Week, it should be a breakthrough, from a stable plateau, not a way of kicking off a season.

Try and fit a nap in between workouts, tough to find the time, but hey, this is all about tough! Last year, for me, Lanzarote was a cycle holiday with daily swims. I doubt if I ran more than 10K total. (It is probably what I needed as I had not rode over 70 miles straight in my life, big problem if you're a race includes 112 miles cycling!). A more balanced plan means you can go longer and reap bigger aerobic benefit with more overall strength. I hope get close to 50 hours by keeping intensity easy/steady and swim, bike, running and sleeping every day.


Lanzarote is a brutal place. It is hot and the roads are rough. Bring any spare equipment you may need, it is your personal responsibility to carry what you might need when you need it. Obviously bike tires, tubes, mini tool, a pump, cash, credit card, map, food and drink but also items particular to you (Speed play makes lovely cleats, but have 7 screws per cleat and 4 of them are made specially!). Two pairs of running shoes. Antiseptic wipes & hydroquatazone cream can help you get through long days in the saddle. Suntan Cream. Helmet.

It is worth looking at your bike setup now, if you are thinking of moving your saddle or losing a spacer do it now and check out the results. Probably not best, to be getting more aero while putting in your highest ever week's mileage. Take your bike in for a service, check the frame & fork for cracks.

What to expect

A lot of fun. Be committed and confident in your ability. All of us will feel low occasionally and nine times out of ten it will be from not eating enough. If things are falling apart relax, eat and sleep, it will come back together. There is no shame drafting behind a stronger bike rider, being dropped, or missing a session. It is all about having fun and getting stronger.

It might also be worth taking a look at Gordo Byrn's "Big Week" training method