Tips for conquering the 70.3 / half-iron distance

An athlete friend of mine (runner, biker, swimmer, among other vigorous pursuits) asked me for advice about training for her first 70.3 this summer. I did one a couple years back with my sister – the White Lake Half in NC. And have done a couple of the same distance without the run more recently (The Wilmington Beach to Battleship Aquabike in 2014 – 1st  age group, 2nd female overall with a combined 1.2 mile swim  and 56 mile bike time of 3:26:42.)

Since I started “triing” I’ve completed dozens of sprint triathlons and a handful of olympics, and duathlons over the years. The majority of which I was able to pull down some top age group wins and a few with overall wins (surprised me too). Not bragging, but wanted you to know that I do have some solid experience under my race belt.

The story of my first half iron is not a “winning” story though and I only have myself to blame for the poor performance. It was a great race though and I learned from it so you can too. It’s an absolutely  gorgeous venue alongside a State Park. The lake is crystal clear – you can see straight down to it’s pristine white sandy bottom. Sweet! It’s a wet-suit legal swim with a flat, fast bike, and a flat double loop run. These types of runs aren’t my fav – I’m a scenery girl and get my energy from the sights. Also, as bizarre as it sounds, I’m do better on hilly courses – I like challenges and get bored with flat pavement.Others love it because they can keep an eagle eye on the competition and know the course. There’s a race for every preference.

My first Half Iron : White Lake Results

Distance           1.2 swim      T1         56 mile bike             T2             Run

My times          39:35             5 min         3: 04 / 18.2 mph              2:55     2:02 / 9.19  pace  : (      

Finish time & place            5:54:35             9th in  age group

Disclaimers, I was on a rental bike  – not recommended unless you can get dialed in on exactly the same model you use at home. Also, I made the fatal mistake of eating half a dozen rolls slathered in butter the night before. How could that possibly hurt? Oh, at about mile 4 of the run I was doubled-over with unrelenting stomach cramps.  Consequently I  walked most of the run. Definitely should have known better.

So what do I say to someone who says “I’m the kind of person who can’t just follow a 12-week training plan and go.” I hear ya, neither am I. We have a similar “training personality”.  We don’t want rigid regimens, we want the freedom to wake up and decide what we feel like doing. It’s not that we’re slackers – we’ll do the work. In fact, we love doing the work. We just want to decide exactly what we’re going to do day by day intuitively and physically. Others need a rigid regimen to keep them motivated. Neither is right or wrong, but mixing it up is a good way to go here. For the most part, freestyle it if that’s your preference, just be sure to mix in those scheduled track & master swims workouts. Those on the regimen, listen to your bodies. If you’re not feeling it, do something different or take the day off. Beware of burnout. Take a hike, rollerblade, surf – change it up as a treat. And treat your body well – fuel it nutritiously, take jacuzzis, get massages, sleep.

Training tips

  • Do’s
    • Join your local tri club – you’ll always have peeps to swim, bike or run with when you want company. These groups are very social too – parties & good food and good people abound.
    • Join a Master’s swim group if possible, group workouts are very helpful, also you’ll get tips on your technique and increase your speed (just as you would with track workouts). Also, it will teach you how to draft  – follow those bubbles and toes, and you’ll have an advantage.
    • Immerse yourself in some open water swims – lake swims if it’s a lake, ocean if it’s a ocean. Practice your ocean entries & exits, get comfortable in the waves / lake, sighting. Wear your wet suit.
    • Buy a swim wetsuit and get used to it- it’s a huge advantage. It streamlines you and floats you like a cork. Yes, it’s a pain to get on & off  – there are tricks – will do a post on that too-Trust me, you will gain so much time in the swim, and come out of it fresher. Also, everyone else will be wearing one if it’s wets suit legal and they’ll have a huge advantage over you, unless of course, you’re Dara Torres or Michelle Phelps.
    • Get some track workouts in to work on your speed, hills for strength and enter some 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons too.  
    • Bricks / double workouts – “bricks”- bike rides followed directly by runs or in the same day. do some swims followed by bikes too
    • Race, practice racing by racing – start with prints, followed by olympic distance races. Nothing gets you in race shape like racing…Just hold out your big guns for your “A” race. (I once had an elite pro tell me you shouldn’t enter a race, unless you can race the distance. I wanted to “tri” an Olympic distance to see what it felt like and use it as a “trainer”. I got 3rd in it btw. The lesson, enter what you feel like doing and know that you only have a couple A races in you per season, but the Bs and Cs will keep you tuned-up. )
    • Do the full distance of the swim, bike, & run, but don’t feel you have to put them all together before the race.
    • Practice your transitions – it’s easier to take time off getting your bike shoes. helmet, and sunglasses on vs. trimming time off your run or swim. (And yes, there is an art to transition preparedness – I’ll devote a separate post to that.)
    • Consider taking salt pills in warm climates to prevent cramping on the bike and run. Do it in training first.
    • Taper a couple weeks prior to your race – far better to be rested & ready on race day than tired and over trained.
    • Eat and drink on the bike. You may not feel like you need to – do it anyway. It fuels you. Get in this good practice and carry it over on race day.

Race prep

  • Don’t do anything new / untried the night before or on race day – that goes for both food and equipment
  • Eat the night before the race the same way  you’d eat before a big training day – wisely and adequately, but not overboard as I did. 
  • If you live near the venue, train on the course! If not, get to the venue a day or 2 early and do a really easy 20 mile ride to see some of the course, trot a mile or 2, & take a little swim – nothing to tire you out – just keep your body loose and warm. If it’s ocean, practice your entries and exits.
  • Check your bike thoroughly and make sure everything is running smoothly before you rack it in the transition area and review all your transition set up. (Not a bad idea to get a tune up a couple weeks prior if you are overdue.)

Swim tips

  • Before your swim start, get in the water, submerge your head and swim around a little. (If the water is cold and it hits your face for the first time when the gun goes off, you will likely hyperventilate and that’s not the way you want to start.)
  • If you’re a confident fast swimmer and it’s a land  or water start, get out there in front. If that’s not you and you are worried about the clobberfest that’s about to ensue, hang back and just follow Dora and Michael’s lead. Drafting in the swim is legal, do it.

So my friend is a speedy marathon runner, an avid high elevation cyclist who bikes in frigid, low, double-digit temperatures, and who swims 2400 meters on her “off days”. She’s a girl after my own heart. She needs my advice like – well, let’s just say she’s got this. Perhaps she just letting this ol’ gal feel vital and helping her remember the glory days and lessons learned…

Between you and me, I know she can easily  and relatively quickly finish a 70.3 tomorrow with no further training . (Of course, I’m guessing that she will pick a grueling course because that seems to be her general inclination.) I’m just indulging her by writing this post and hoping it will be useful to those who are considering getting in the fun and fray of triathlons.

And me, I’m still “triing”. A pic from The San Diego International Aqua Bike I did this past June. Unfortunately, I had a bike malfunction – brake dragging on my tire so I didn’t do as well as I should have. Hence, the tip about checking your equipment before you leave the transition area for the swim.

sd-international-tri-june-2015

3rd place SD International Aqua Bike                          Swim 1000 Meters 16:49         Transition 1:57                         Bike 18.6 Miles  55: 28    Total 1:14

Let me know if you have any questions. As you can see, once you get me going on the subject… : )

Stoned – my battle with dehydration. 12 tips for the hydration challenged.

Kidney stones that is. I’ve had them since I was in my 20’s. A handful in my left kidney, another handful in my right kidney. My 1st stone was relatively small and on the verge of passing. My urologist told me to go ahead with my plans of running the Long Beach Marathon as it would most likely pass during the throws of it. So it did…

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NC: Lake Logan Multisport Weekend

20160805_154149Located about 30 miles West of Asheville, NC, the Lake Logan Multisport Festival has something for everyone in an incredibly scenic venue. We made a family affair of it. My sister and boyfriend signed up for the 1/2 iron distance triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). I did the 1/2 iron distance swim and bike minus the run (the aquabike, designed for people who can’t run any longer, or just don’t like to). I’m the former. After a 30 some year passionate affair with running, I’ve literally “run” out of cartilage in my knee, making running extremely painful. My brother-in-law was on Daddy duty Saturday so he did the international distance (1500m swim, 24 mile bike, 10K run)  on Sunday. There’s also a sprint (500m swim, 12 mile bike, 5K run). So whether you want to go big or just jump in with a sprint, you have all the options.

The lake is lovely though there’s not much visibility. It’s always a relief not having to worry about big surf, or sharks for that matter. The bike course is gorgeous, rolling through bucolic countryside – my boyfriend said it is more hilly than rolling. It definitely works those gams. There’s very few cars on the road – it’s absolutely dreamy. The race is well organized. I definitely recommend it.

Lake Logan  1/2 iron  Triathlon / Aquabike Rating

 Difficulty: 2.5 out of 5            Scenery: 4 out of 5              Competitive field: 4 out of 5

We rented a cabin and made a weekend vacation out of it. Fun times!

Reset your mindset on exercise―from punishment to achievement. And get set for success.

You’ve probably gotten the idea by now that I find being vigorously active outdoors exhilarating. And I count myself as fortunate to have friends who like to share in the fun. Yes, I said, “fun”. I understand that some people, perhaps the majority (certainly, the sedentary majority) think of exercise as punishment. And therein lies one of the greatest obstacles to being more physically active and improving our health. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens when we think of sugary / fat, high-calorie, low nutrition foods as “treats” or “rewards” and exercise as “punishment”.

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Cure diabetes? As for Type 2, it’s a do it yourself proposition.

I was in a retail store the other day and noticed a poster on the counter: “Donate to cure diabetes.”  As I was paying for my purchase, the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate a $1 to cure diabetes.  Really???!!!  As a medical writer and health educator, I happen to know that when we talk about the diabetes crisis in our country and other developed countries, we are in fact talking about a self-inflicted condition, directly related to obesity and inactivity – type 2 diabetes. Our sedentary lifestyles and excessive consumption of junky, highly processed, high-calorie, low nutrition food are almost entirely to blame.

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Stop making resolutions. Start setting goals and getting off your butt!

Day 5, 2014. How are those New Year’s resolutions going? If you’re already falling short, you’re not alone. (I was supposed to be on my 5th blog by now.) According to the University of Scranton, of the 45% of us who make New Year’s resolutions, a mere 8% actually achieve them. So what’s one to do? Instead of making blanket, generic resolutions – be healthier, lose weight, exercise― get specific.

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Healthy eating strategies for holiday hedonism

It’s that time of year – whether you face it with humbug or lots of cheer; it’s here. Holidays are celebrated with food and spirits all over the world – not just by us pilgrims.

From now through the first weeks of January, It’s hard to escape the bombardment of holiday party invites and obligations. (Of course, not everybody wants to escape the holiday hedonism.) But we’re all faced with the temptation to over indulge. Today, I’m going to provide some strategies to help keep you on track for holidays. You get to join in all the reindeer games, without the guilt or the dreaded weight gain.

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