As of December 1, I will be just 4 months away from my very first Half Ironman, and just under 7 months away from my first Ironman. We’ve decided to officially start Ironman training the week after we complete Insanity – December 5, which is also 16 weeks away Oceanside and also the number of weeks in many of the Half Ironman Training Plans we’ve come across. However, which plan to use is still up for debate.
Where to Start?
Whether or not to use just one online training plan with specified daily workouts was debated for a while. Since I plan to use some of the TCSD group workouts as well as my Sufferfest cycling DVDs in my training, I ultimately think that I won’t use a pre-designed schedule which outlines exactly what kind of workout to do each day. For example, a set schedule may say swim Monday morning and outline specified intervals and drills and then instruct you to do a 60 minute bike ride that evening at 65% of your max heart rate. Since I plan to use my TriClub master’s swims at least once a week, I’m going to arrange my swims around that schedule. And since Sufferfest has its own interval workouts, I will use that instead of following a specified workout.
The part that I need guidance on is how much volume to complete each week, how long my long rides and runs should be, and when to rest. I found a useful plan on Trifuel.com that comes with a general weekly outline of the workouts within the plan. Here’s what most weeks in their plan look like:
The typical training week for all programs is as follows, in the suggested order, with the most significant daily session in bold.
- Swim – moderate intensity & duration
- Bike – low intensity & duration
- Bike – moderate-to-high intensity, moderate duration
- Run – moderate intensity, lower duration
- Swim – moderate-to-high intensity, moderate duration
- Bike – moderate intensity, low-to-moderate duration
- Swim – low intensity, long duration
- Run – high intensity, moderate duration
- Complete recovery day
- Bike – longest duration, moderate-to-high intensity
- Run – moderate intensity & low-to-medium duration
- Run – longest duration, lowest intensity
- Bike – short duration, low intensity
I think this will be a great guideline for building my training plan. It is useful in that it instructs which day of the week is best to rest (left to my own devices I may not schedule any rest at all!) and which workouts should be the focus of the day. I can schedule my group Master’s swims for days that require medium or high intensity swims and do the easy and long distance swims on my own or with TriClub in the open water. I can add in my Sufferfest cycling workouts to the cycling days that call for moderate or high intensity workouts (Sufferfest has workouts that vary in intensity and duration so this will help) and on the days that call for recovery cycling workouts, I can just get on my trainer in front of the TV and catch up on Biggest Loser. I can join in on a track workout or do my Yasso 800s on the high intensity run day and do a nice jog down the coast on the easy run days.
After I’ve figured out my weekly schedule, I can use online plans to fill in the distances and durations. Most schedules that I’ve seen include 3-4 weeks of building followed by 1 week of recovery. Usually, the frequency of workouts doesn’t change much but the intensity and duration does. Another important tweak I’ll have to make is that in December and January we will be training for both a Half Ironman and a marathon so we’ll also need to modify our long weekend runs to incorporate more miles.
Time vs. Miles
Every training plan I have used for a running race has been ruled by miles. Run 5 miles on Monday, 6 on Tuesday, 10 on Thursday and 18 on Saturday. Yet, most Ironman training plans I’ve seen are in minutes. Swim 45 minutes. Bike 60 minutes. Run 120 minutes. Personally, I prefer miles. What one person can accomplish in two hours is pretty different than what another can accomplish in that same time. For example, someone who can run a 6 minute mile will pump out 20 miles in 120 minutes whereas someone who runs 10 minute miles will only accomplish 12. Since the end goal is to run 26.2 miles, it doesn’t seem logical that one person should be only running 12 and the other 20.
This point is especially relevant when it comes to cycling. Due to stop lights, bathroom breaks and the like, time on the bike doesn’t always equal miles ridden. Many of the Half Ironman plans I’ve seen only call for up to a 4 hour bike ride. Based on my experience riding for 4 hours, it’s likely I will get in only 45-50 miles in that time, which means I will never get in a ride as far as the 56 miler that I will do on (Half Ironman) race day. Completing a distance for the first time on race day is ok for running races – most beginner marathons plans include just one 20 mile run and none instruct you to actually run 26.2 miles – but when it comes to triathlons, it’s different. You want to ride at least the distance you will be asked of on race day becuase immediately following that ride, you will also be asked to run a half or full marathon!
According to an article I found on Ironman.com, riding 100 or 112 miles before the full Ironman isn’t essential to being capable of physically finishing the race, but it’s oftentimes a good mental boost. Pro Coach Lindsay Hayman advises, “If you can carve out the time for this ride, it’s a good idea. But understand that its benefit if more psychological than physical; if you can’t get this ride in, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have a terrible bike leg at Ironman.” I plan to ride at least 100 miles before the race, even though many plans I’ve seen specify to only ride 6 hours before race day. Since I can’t possibly ride 100 miles in that time, it’ll take me longer but at least I will mentally know I did it!
Despite my need to get in a 100 mile ride prior to Ironman, I’ve done plenty of research that indicates I should not do a training run over 3 hours prior to race day. Coach Lindsay also recommends that the longest run prior to the Ironman should be a run that is 45-60 minutes shorter than your full distance marathon time. For example, my marathon time is 4:02 so I should not let my longest run pre-Ironman get any longer than 3 hours and 17 minutes. Since we are planning to complete a full marathon in early February, I will be confident that a 3 hour run will be adequate preparation during peak Ironman training.
Ensuring I Cross the Finish Line
There’s so much to think about! I plan to meet with my training buddies Asia, Jeremy and Mike to set up a plan in the next couple of weeks. I do well with a set routine and once I put a plan in place, I will religiously follow it. I know that making my own plan will probably add a little bit of fear in my mind that I didn’t train enough or right, but I just have to trust in the work I put in and know that as long as I’m hitting my mileage, eating right, focusing on my long ride and long run nutrition, resting enough, that I’ll survive race day. If I could afford to have a coach construct a plan for me and give me day by day workouts, I’d probably do it. But since that isn’t an option, I’m going my own route. I won’t be the first and I won’t be the last!
Have you ever made your own training plan? What are your thoughts on my strategy? Help wanted!