Sunday, January 18, 2015

Changing to minimal training

I haven't really been training for the 70.3 nearly as much as I would like. In fact, I don't think you could call what I've been doing "training" by any means. When it's warm enough outside, I ride. When it's cold or I'm tired, I sit on the couch.

As a result, I've been getting a bit scared about how this is going to turn out for me in the next three months. I know I can finish the thing, but I want to do so with a smile on my face rather than cursing the course under my breath.

On the other hand, I'm reminded of the last triathlon I did, an Olympic distance event over five years ago. I was 80 pounds heavier, had no fitness base, and had to bike over a mountain pass as part of the course. I hated the tri, barely even set out on the run, and didn't get back on my bike for months afterward because I was so mad about the whole experience. But I did finish, which is really my goal for this thing in April.

Since I'm clearly off track for the 20-week training plan, and the 16-week one is a bit overwhelming, I've been looking around the interwebs to see what other people have done.

Here is a sampling of posts I found on the subject that give me some hope, from a forum on
N=1: I did my first half at Singapore last month on a little bit of run base (20-25 mpw for a few months but no running in the 8 weeks prior to the race due to an injury), about 3 weeks of bike training at 6-7 hours a week, and maybe 10k yards of swimming on a good week. I was definitely not racing, but I completed it faster than I projected that I would due to a flat bike course.
So how long did I train for the 70.3? About 9 weeks. Only the last 5 weeks did I actually follow a plan (which I wrote on the back of an envelope. Really!) My weekly training hours peaked at about 10. The only reason it happened without problems is that I had a pretty good cycling base.

That plan isn't recommended. My swim was fun, but not super fast. My bike leg would've been fine, but I had to stop twice with a flat. The run started well but the lack of adequate running base, combined with the >90 temps left me melting down in the middle of the run. I pulled it back together, but it was a lesson in doing the training and having a good hydration/nutrition plan. I got a decent MOP finish out of that.
I was overweight and smoking half a pack a day and managed to get by with a couple months of minimal training. Then again, my only real goal at the time was to finish.

And some more from a forum on
If you can do the swim in 40 minutes, the bike in 3 hours, and the run in 2:10, plus transitions you will break 6 hours. Can't really tell from your log if you're capable of holding these paces for that distance.

FWIW, I finished my first HIM and only did 6-8 swims total, and a relative handful of longer rides, plus I did almost no running in the month preceding the race - and I finished under 6 hours. But I had also completed 6 marathons and a bunch of century rides in past years so I had more of an endurance base than you seem to have.

Can you ride 56 miles in 3 hours easily? Can you hold a 10 minute pace on tired legs easily? Have you figured out your nutrition plan that will allow you to have enough energy to go the distance?
I did my first HIM last September, a flat course. Went back and looked at my graphs, and my average weekly training time was 6 hours and 30 minutes. My three biggest weeks were 11 hours or so, all were over 2 months out. Had life stuff going on that interfered with training. I finished the race in 5:55. A friend who did the race with me, her first HIM, finished in something like 6:30, and did even less training, with less base than I did.
If I were shooting for a sub 6 HIM (and I pretended to in 2006) and only had 6-9 hours per week I'd work towards 5(ish) hours biking, 3(ish) hours running, and a generous hour swimming each week. 
Swim twice a week for 40 minutes/2000 yards each expecting to finish the swim in 35 minutes.
Run three times a week, 40 min, 60 min, and 90-120 min and shoot for a 2:15 run split.
Bike three times a week for 60, 60-90, and 150-180 minutes and shoot for a 3:00 bike split.
This gives you 0:10 (total) for transitions.

You can work out the math to see what pace you'd need for each and how close you are. For my IM the plan (BT Intermediate) called for alternating long-run and long-ride weeks.
Really depends on your endurance starting point, as everyone said, but I made it through on an average of about 6 hours a week of focused activity: 2 days of biking: one long (2+ hours), one sprint/interval/climbing workout (1 hour); one good swim (45 mins); 2 runs, one long (1-2 hours) and one sprint/interval workout (45 mins.) Really had to focus to make the shorter rides and runs count.
Depends what phase of training you're talking about. I went 5:36 in my first HIM and peaked at about 10 hr/wk...but only went just over 10 hrs twice. In general, I was around 7 - 7.5 hrs/wk. I definitely think you can get by on less, but maybe not get to sub-6 (I had a strong running base, including a recent sub-4 mary, going in, so that made things a bit easier). My attitude about most racing, btw (and fwiw) is that you need to build your minimum weekly workload to equal the approximate time and distances you'll be covering in the race. So--by that strategy--you should build to no less than 6 hours a week (big weeks obviously more): Minimum 2K swimming, 50 mi. riding, 14 mi. running every week by the time you're at peak phase (which for most people would mean at least 6 hours). Some people are going to consider those too minimal, but I'd stand by them as weekly minimums.

In summary, I can totally still finish this "strong" if I up my exercise a bit in the next three months. I'm not willing to put in 10 - 15 hours per week, but I can definitely do 6 - 10 without being grumpy.

In fact, the second to last comment speaks the best to what I'm willing/happy to do for the time being:

Swim - 45 minutes once a week
Bike - one long (2+ hrs) and one sprint/interval workout (1 hr)
Run - one long (1 - 2 hrs) and one sprint/interval workout (45 mins)

I'm already swimming once a week (I'd like to increase that to twice), and do a running track workout on Sundays, with another long run thrown in on the weekends. Now that the weather is warming up, I just need to add biking back into my schedule and I'll be set.

As I've said before, I just want to have fun during this triathlon. I don't want the training to be stressful, either. I want to enjoy the whole process without being miserable. I know I can finish the race if I had to run it tomorrow. But I still have three months to increase my paces and get even faster. With a tolerable amount of effort, I can totally make this happen. At least that's what the internet tells me :)

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