If your goal next season is to smash a Half Ironman, then consider changing up your winter program a little.
Racing Half Ironman or 70.3 distance is very much about the run. As opposed to the full Ironman where the focus needs to be on the bike (in order for you to be able to run), the Half-Iron, is all about a strong run. Sure you will need to be able to put in a solid bike however, training for a 2:40hr +/- 30mins bike is relatively straight forward. The key is to be able to string together a Rockstar run.
A Rockstar run is different for everyone. For some, it is simply not walking, for others sub 2hrs or sub 100 mins will be the goal. If you can manage a 40minute 10k you will probably be eying off a 90 minute Half Ironman run split. Whatever your Rockstar run is - you will need to lay down a great winter training plan to achieve it.
These four steps will take you to a great Half-Ironman race, a Rockstar run leg and possibly a PB.
1. Start your winter with a rest
Resist the temptation to sign up for a winter race! Especially if it is just to keep you motivated. Instead use this plan as your motivation.
A good month to two-months is required to recover from a hard racing season and especially an Ironman. Do not fear the break – relish it. Play tennis with friends, netball with your kids, bushwalks with family. Keep active and keep moving. Go for a swim or a ride but leave the structure and the racing and the Strava segment for next season.
2. Look closely & honestly at last season’s performance
Reviewing last season will have a dramatic impact on next seasons performance. Yet, not many athletes will take the time – they will spend longer buying a new bike. Of the few athletes that do take the time to review last season, very few will write down their findings.
Write down what worked for you – the positive’s from the season. Write down what did not work for you. This requires honesty. Failing in you’re A-Race due to cramps, an overuse injury or even a flat tyre is not ‘unlucky’, it was a training failure.
In reviewing your performances do not compare times. Compare your place in the AG with previous performances and decide if you are happy with the improvement. Where you have identified something that did not work pencil in an alternative.
Evaluate your training partners, training squad and coaching structures. This is where honesty is required. Make changes if required.
3. Put together your plan
Define your overall performance goal. This should be at least nine months to three years away. List three to five supporting objectives for each one. The tricky part is next – write down key actions required to meet each objective. The latter will be used next year to decide success or failure.
The plan should identify a weakness in each leg of your triathlon. Even your best or preferred leg will still have a weakness. Your weakness or limiters should be the focus of at least one training session per week as well as your strength training.
As a guide only your plan should work backwards from your goal race. Count back sixteen (16) weeks. This is when your focused build training will start. Worry about that part of the plan only when you are about 4 weeks out from then (i.e. 20 weeks from goal race). Until then everything else is called base training. Sure, you can race in this time but it is a B or C race.
When building your plan remember that the broader and deeper your base the higher your peak will be.
4. Base is base.
Many athletes and triathletes don’t quite understand what constitutes good base training. As a result of poor base training they are effectively applying a cap to their future training and indeed their race results.
Here is a quick guide to base training:
Build base over years. Not just for each year.
It will take 6-8 years to build a solid base. Don’t rush.
Build base with frequency. This simply means strength, swim, bike and run often. You do not need lots of long or hard sessions just consistent, regular sessions.
Winter and/or base training is the time to consider a training camp like SEAC's Mooloolaba Winter Camp with Shorto & Sharpie. If you can’t find a winter training camp that suits then build your own two week home-based training camp by taking an annual leave day or half-day midweek for two weeks.
Your emphasis should be on technique. Focus on improving one key limiter for each leg.
Emphasise lower intensity, higher volume training. “Excuse me, what did you just say!?” I know the trend is to do harder, higher intensity, so-called quality training. But I urge you to consider the massive injury rate in the current triathlon environment. Also, the fact that the general AG population is getting slower over all distances of triathlon. Lower intensity, higher volume training has a very important place to play in your training plan. It builds an injury proof body and an aerobic engine that will come in handy come race season.
Cycle your training volume through each of the legs. Where this is particularly valuable is on the run leg. Spend a few months (winter is a good time) to focus on volume running while keeping the swim and bike on low volume, quality training.
Build or maintain limb speed with technique drills. Anytime is a good time for drill work, but winter is when your drills will have the most benefit. Neuromuscular training is important for progression.
As you age the importance increases – yet is undertaken less by older athletes – go figure.
Address musculoskeletal, functional and biomechanical deficiencies with specific strength and mobility training. Emphasise trunk, core and gluteal strength, thoracic mobility and scapular stability and strength.
Train as often as possible off-road. Choose an off-road race or three as a fun event to challenge you but mainly to mix up the terrain you train on. SEAC Studio will usually have an off-road run to suite - check them out here. Mix up your swimming with lake, ocean or even different pools.
If you can lay down these four steps over winter you will be ready to for an awesome race season.
If you choose to make this winter your mega-run base phase then you will be able to rip out that elusive Half-Iron 70.3 Rockstar run leg you know you have in you.
I am always happy to help athletes with their programs and long-term planning. Please feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .