Those who don’t know me, I am a middle aged man who came to triathlon later on in life as an mechanism by which to lose weight and reduce blood pressure. The journey started in 2014 with a couple of sprints and an almost Olympic length (the Bananaman), and has continued on in 2015 and 2016 with sprint and Olympic distance races on a fairly regular basis.
In an attempt to retain ‘the fear’ (without ‘the fear’, training seems to peter out slowly) I’ve entered two middle distance in 2017: The Outlaw Holkham, and The Vitruvian.
Training needs to get serious. The problem was that I didn’t know how serious it could get: I wasn’t sure how my body would cope, and I wasn’t sure what other important factors in my life would have to be sacrificed: I’m a busy boy with a full time job, family, covers band, golf habit and nascent rugby refereeing and coaching hobby to balance.
With this in mind I decided to have a dry run at a training plan leading up to Christmas, which is why I’m blogging about my experience now as I ‘taper’ for my ‘race’ on New Year’s Day.
There are many half iron plans out there, some free, some paid, and I selected one based on recommendations from the good folks at FetchEveryone.com (and it’s mentioned in one of the ‘oops I done an iron man’ books I’ve read), and it’s eulogised on some of the Iron Man facebook threads I half-heartedly follow.
The plan is in Fink’s book: “Ironfit Secrets for Half Iron-Distance Triathlon Success: Time-Efficient Training for Triathlon’s Most Popular Distance”: For those without the book, I do recommend it as it has some useful information with chapters covering a whole range of subjects like nutrition / hydration planning, transition strategy, mental preparation and technical aspects of the individual disciplines (to name a few).
There are also three training plans named (something along the lines of) “Just Finish”, “Intermediate” and “RRRAAAWWWAAGGGGHHH”. As this was a dry run I plumped for the middle distance / time commitment with being able to shift up or down a gear in mind depending on how the body and personal life coped.
~Your Mileage May Vary~
Assuming no prior knowledge of the Fink method: all of the run and bike sessions are time and heart rate based. This means they mostly auto-adjust to your current level of fitness – if you’re already running half marathons at the weekend, for example, your one hour of zone 2 running will cover more ground than mine. It does make it a fairly lonely affair if you’re strict about it though, as running buddies disappear into the middle distance as Z2 is actually quite slow.
It’s also worth noting that Fink’s heart rate bands are different to every else’s, and they vary based on if you’re running or riding, but generally once you’re set up and in the mind-set it’s easy to remember which band you’re supposed to be in and for how long.
I have completed the plan, which is 16 weeks long. 8 weeks of base, 6 weeks build, and 2 taper.
The plan takes roughly 10 hours a week. Actual hours spent during October and November were 41 hours training (each), September and December had 31 hours. December will have a little more as it isn’t over yet.
Overall the plan looks like this:
Monday – “Slide” Day (A ‘slide’ day is a day which you can slide any other session to if required)
Tuesday – Swim & Run
Wednesday – Bike & Run Brick
Thursday – Swim & Bike
Friday – “Slide” Day
Saturday – Long Bike (or bike biased brick)
Sunday – Long Run (or run biased brick)
Swim sessions are a main set of 1k to 1.5k sandwiched between warm up / cool down and 6x50m ‘drill’ sets. The plan does include some suggested swimming drills, but the ones I did were culled from the tri club sessions.
Enough of technically what it consisted of. I’m writing so I can reflect on questions like:
How did I find it?
Was my body able to cope?
What sacrifices had to be made in order to complete it?
Did I miss any sessions? Why?
What would I modify to make it fit me better?
Am I ready to step up a gear or is this a realistic goal for 2017 Middle Distance Triathlons?
In general I was able to fit the plan in around my life. I kept a spreadsheet with the planned activities and traffic light colour coded them – happily most of it is green. Some yellow as some of the longer sessions were shortened (due to time constraints), and there isn’t much red apart from the week where I had been bitten by a dog, and the occasional 15-minute brick run (again due to time constraints).
I really like the “slide” days concept –you don’t beat yourself up over missing a session (you just do it on Friday) and can do something early in the week if you know time is going to be tight later.
My body held up just fine, apart from some creaking knees the day after the longer runs and bricks.
Apart from the Sunday long runs, all the runs were able to be completed within my lunch “hour” at work. I’m fortunate that work is reasonably flexible and allows me to take 90 minute lunch breaks.
Most of the bike was done on a commute between Thorpe and Woking. The Wednesday bricks were done in the same manner. This wasn’t always compatible with the interval or hill sessions, but mostly these could be done on the turbot at home if required.
I had to reduce some of the longer bike rides due to family commitments. There are two super-long bricks (5 hours in total) of which I managed one at full length and had to shorten the other.
My long runs were on a Sunday starting usually at around 6am. This was incompatible with getting into bed at 2am after playing a gig that finished at midnight. This was also awkward during late December when my routes around Virginia Water were closed as dawn wasn’t until 8am.
There isn’t any cross training built in (circuits class, pilates, yoga) and there isn’t much time to displace sessions and maintain two days of rest. Sometimes the Tuesday run session was replaced with Pilates.
Sacrificing an hour long Z2 run for a Triathlon club training session and substituting the Tuesday morning swim with a Triathlon club swim session was deemed acceptable in my eyes, and I will continue to do so.
My golf buddies thought I was bonkers when I went for a run (with hangover) at 6am on the Sunday of a golf weekend.
I liked the plan, it was time efficient. I have confidence I could do the distance after completing it.
I will be using the intermediate plan for my 2017 Middle Distance Triathlons. I cannot commit to the longer time required for the Advanced plan, and of course reserve the right to drop down to ‘Just Finish’ should something disastrous happen.