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