As I was typing the title of this blog post, I got really really excited. If you were reading along last year, you may remember that I did a series of 6 posts in the lead up to my first half Ironman, Challenge Penticton on August 30th. Well my friends, it’s time to restart that series.

For those that aren’t familiar, a half Ironman (or 70.3) is a triathlon consisting of a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) swim, a 56-mile (90 km) bike, and a 13.1-mile (21.1 km) run. You may ask, “why would someone want to put their body through 70.3 miles of all that – twice?!”

post-race at challenge penticton

I’m not going to lie – there were a few times last year where I asked that question of myself. It’s a lot of work. There’s the commitment to the long training hours, gear expenses, laundry, the occasional social sacrifices needed in order to get quality sleep, and I’m just talking about a half Ironman – a full one is an even bigger commitment! But why would I sign up again?

There are several reasons. Building overall fitness, the ability to say I’ve accomplished a tough physical feat, and the training buddies acquired in the process are just a few. But above all, the reason that reigns supreme for me is that the process of working towards a big goal like a half Ironman taught me so much about myself last year. At the end of the day, the challenge helped me grow into a better person.

So what’s the next race?

Ironman 70.3 Victoria, and it’s on June 12th. I’ve been eyeing up this one since I got home from my weekend in Penticton last year, already eager to put my body to the test again. It’s on my 2016 vision board, and that means I’ll be doing everything in my power to make it happen!

Each part of this new series will include training and nutrition components, as well as some commentary on how I’m trying to balance it all with the other important things happening in my life. However, I’ve left out nutrition in this posts because there’s loads to be said about training. We’ll get to nutrition next time!

So with that, let’s kick it off!

Training

As I mentioned earlier this year, my plan is to self-coach this time around. I used a coach for my first half Ironman because I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing outside of the running portion, and his guidance was exactly what I needed. But this time around, I’m excited to have a go at it on my own.

out for a ride on my bike

The work has already begun, although not quite in the way I’d anticipated. My original plan was to start my structured self-designed program on January 4th, but having come back from Bahrain with a really bad cold, I decided to prioritize getting better so that it wouldn’t linger for any longer than was necessary.

I’ve been running and cycling (albeit not crazy intensely) regularly this month, and although I took it easy over the holidays, I don’t think I lost too much fitness. For most of January I’ve maintained ~7-9 hour training weeks and have thrown in a 2-hour ride each weekend as a gentle ease back into the long stuff. Later this week I’ll be headed to Ontario for a very quick trip to celebrate my cousin’s wedding, and that means that structured periodized training officially starts on February 2nd. 18 weeks + 1 taper week to go before race day: it’s game on!

Swim

Admittedly, this is the discipline I enjoy the least. It’s not because it’s super hard or anything – just like any sport, the more you do it, the more you get better and gains seem to come quick. It’s just… well, boring.

The swim is one of the reasons a lot of people don’t get into triathlon, but in the grand scheme of things, it makes up such a small portion of the race time-wise. For me, the bigger obstacle is the inconvenience of getting to and from the pool and all the gear hauling, showers etc. It’s a lot more convenient to switch from the bike to the run than from swimming to anything else!

swim course at challenge penticton

As it stands now, I’m planning to do 2-3 swims per week, ranging in distance between 2000-3000m depending on the goal of the session and the stage in my training program.

Bike

Looking back on last year, one of the things I felt I lacked was strength on the bike. This is the discipline that I know I have the greatest amount of potential for improvement. Building strength is something I’ve worked on over the winter by spinning 2-3x/week at Method, and I’ve seen major gains in my all-around fitness because of it. My awesome friend Steph is an Ironman triathlete and her classes are very much triathlon-focused, so I know they’re preparing me well. There are also a whole bunch of other full/half Ironman triathletes in these classes, so I’ve got great company and new buddies to ride outside with when the weather gets nicer.

Riding at Method

Long, lower-heart rate workouts are really important in a half Ironman training program – there’s no denying that. Legs need to be strong, an aerobic base needs to have been established, and your butt’s gotta be prepared for the assault of sitting in the saddle for several hours at a time! But one of the changes I plan to make this time around is to continue with my classes at Method. I’ll use them as the quality, higher-intensity bike workouts each week, in combination with my less-intense long sessions.

The other big change is going to be a heavier emphasis on road riding, as opposed to so many hours logged on my bike trainer. Part of last year’s problem was that I didn’t know where to ride outside because I was still new to the city. While the trainer was great for developing mental focus and allowing me to do steady heart rate progressions, the reality is that it’s not a very good simulation of race conditions. It’s still way too rainy and cold for me to be taking my bike outside (sorry, fair-weather athlete here!) but once it warms up, I plan to do most of my long weekend sessions on real roads with real hills!

My typical Saturday morning bike trainer setup

My typical Saturday morning setup

Run

My favourite of them all! Running takes the biggest toll on the body impact-wise, so the trick will be not over-doing it here. Outside of triathlon I have some running races plotted out – some a part of my training, and some just for fun. Like the bike training, I’ll be doing a mix of shorter intense sessions, plus one long run per week. My goal, having not done brick workouts for a while, is to get my legs adjusted to the bike-to-run transition quickly. Therefore, I’ve got a couple of bricks scheduled each week.

asics gel tri noosa 10s - blue and purple

The Schedule

To make my half Ironman training plan, I combined the one my coach gave me last year with a few others I found online that sounded like they’d be a good fit for me. Last year my highest-volume weeks were 16-17 hours, and I don’t plan to exceed that because I know it was as much as I was willing to take from a work-life-training balance perspective.

I’ll be working in 4-week blocks, each one building week over week. Depending on how I’m feeling during my lowest volume weeks in each cycle, I’ll ease off a little or a lot in order to go into the following weeks strong and recovered. I’ll also be using my Polar V800 and analyzing my heart rate throughout the program. Heart rate training was new for me last year, and it’s now something I consider a huge asset. With heart rate you can monitor your progress over time, watch your fitness improve, and notice weird spikes that could signal overtraining or a medical issue. Seriously, it’s super useful stuff!

Without getting into the nitty gritty of what each session will look like, this is my general plan for block 1. I’ve accounted for other things I’ve already committed time to, and anticipate being able to stick to this pretty closely. These 4 weeks will take me to the end of February:

Ironman 70.3 Training at a Glance- February - Eat Spin Run Repeat

Using this format, I’ll have 4 complete training cycles plus one week to taper before the race, and I don’t plan to take my volume much higher than 15 hours per week. The difference from block to block will be in the intensity of the workouts. Of the volume that will be added, most of it will be extending my long weekend rides, eventually hitting ~5 hours.

Alright, that’s enough for part 1 of my training check-in series. I’ll let you know in about a month how this plan is working out, nutritional focuses, and anything else that I happen to discover while swimming, biking and running my way to being half Ironman-ready!

So tell me…

  • If you’re training for a race right now, how are you going about doing it? Do you have a coach, did you make your own plan, or are you using more of an unstructured train-by-feel approach?
  • Anyone else doing a half Ironman this year?