Port Mac is not ‘till mid next year …ages away …no need to stress. I’ll start stringing a few runs together soon, then start cycling consistently and then start to think about the swim closer to the race. A few months out I’ll put in some long rides and start swimming the distance every chance I get. I may even get some coaching, but not until I need to train properly.
That all works fine if your aim is to finish the race. If however, you want to achieve a PB, nail your first attempt at the distance or punch your ticket to Hawaii or Nice then, no – the above approach will not work!
It may sound boring to some, but planning is what this is all about. Planning well means the specific blocks are straight forward and the weekly sessions just fall into place. Achieving your goal then simply requires you to tick the sessions off. This process then becomes a joy in its own right. Achieving your goal is just a process and not some giant pie in the sky, fingers crossed, wish.
You are currently about 24 weeks out which puts you a few weeks into the Preparatory (Prep) Phase of your plan. Prep will only last November and your job during this phase is to sort out your weekly schedule and
make sure you are not trying to do to much and missing too many planned sessions. A good objective for the Prep phase is to complete 2 of each of the four disciplines – strength, swim, bike and run. If you can manage 3 of each that is great. If you are going to do more of one discipline then make sure it is strength or your weakest leg.
The reason why your Prep phase needs to happen in November is because we want to complete two (2) good Base training cycles before we get to the three tough Build phases. And the reason we want the time to complete two Base phases is because this is where the real training gets done!
Sure you can jump in at any time. Most programs can get you ready in 10-12 weeks. However, with a simple 12 week program – roughly 2.5 build phases, your best possible time or performance is set in stone from day one! You will have no time to actually correct your weakness/es, strengthen your body or build speed because you will be flat out just doing the basic training. In a 12 week program your limits are already set.
With a little (read: lots of) planning and foresight you are able to start a phased program and build yourself up step by step. With this approach you can truly achieve great things.
Let me give you a little example. At Seac Studio we have a number of members who have not come from a swimming background. Fair to say they are poor to very poor swimmers. Most triathletes and their coaches will suggest a stroke correction class or five and then just throw two or three standard swim sessions into the schedule. Their thinking is that the swim is such a small part of a long course tri that they shouldn’t be wasting their time on the swim and they will get a bigger bang for their buck by training more and harder at the bike and the run.
Studio members know this not to be true. The purpose of our base phases is to focus on and correct our swim. A strong swim platform allows for greater improvements in the bike and the run at much faster rates of improvement. Training for the bike and the run provide very little cross-over benefits to the swim. However, swimming on the other hand, provides huge cross-over gains to the bike and the run. Here are just a few reasons why we swim:
Long course triathlon is an aerobic sport (so to is short course tri). The fastest way to increase aerobic capacity is by swimming.
Recovery is one of the keys to long-course tri. Swimming is a great recovery session.
Various swim strokes and kicks will improve muscle imbalances caused by cycling and running.
Swimming requires and teaches mental focus. Strong mental focus will help on the all important last half of the run leg.
My point here is that when you start swimming you need time to relax and learn to enjoy the swim. Only when you are relaxed and enjoying your swimming will you be able to ‘feel the water’. When you have learnt to ‘feel the water’ you will “suddenly” swim faster. The improvements will just flow. However you need the time to swim not just jump in the pool, thrashing about, get out so you can fit your next ride or run on your schedule.
This brings us back to the need for two Base phases in our program. During the all important base phase we have time to work on and correct our weaknesses. Whether it is strength, swimming, cycling or running we can prioritise these sessions during the base program. As I mentioned earlier, the base phase is where the real training is done. Yet most age-group and beginner triathletes will skip this phase. Many will think they are doing base training because they are going out on their bike every week or running or swimming. They confuse general fitness training with actual base training.
The Base Training Phase is the time to get away for your training camp if possible. Training camps are ideal for laying down an awesome base layer to your training platform. Just remember to keep the spread across the disciplins as even as possible. Those training for Port Mac have the advantage (or dissadvantage, depending or work/kids/etc) of the Base phase falling over the Christmas break in Australia. If you are looking for a solid training camp in a great family holiday destination – look no further than here.
I watch on the the Facebook groups or Whatsapp chats triathletes with good, solid goals confusing general training with their base phase. Then they get themselves all twisted inside-out trying to squeeze all their training into the build phase while trying to correct their weaknesses and at the same time trying to strengthen their bodies. The usual result
is serious and/or chronic injury during their training or during their race.
The Build phase of the program should be carefully managed. The make-up of your Build phase will depend entirely on how well you handled your Base training. Unlike the Base phase where progress is difficult to see, the first part of the Build phase will see obvious and tangible results. The trick here is to (a) not test too often, and (b) remember this feeling for later in the Build when progress is slow and you feel like crap.
The Build is all about achieving the seven or eight key training sessions or partial race simulations during that hard training phase from about 8 weeks out to about 4 weeks out from the goal race. These key training sessions include the Big Day Training. However there is no point doing the Big Day Training if you haven’t done all the little days to get there.
I will write more about the Build phase in a later blog/s. For now, the important point is that we get started with the Prep today.
An important component of planning for a goal race is the simple act of entering the race and booking your accommodation. Many folks like to leave this until the last possible minute. In the misguided beliefe that if I don’t enter I am not committing, if I don’t fully commit then I have another excuse why I didn’t perform in my post race spiel. “My goal was just to finish because I didn’t have time to train – you know I only entered a month ago and had to stay in a caravan last night, which meant my knee pain that started a few weeks ago was really bad”.
If you haven’t booked your accommodation or entered the race by now you may be in for a surprise. Keep in mind that Tri-Travel have booked out many of the hotels already and they offer discount race entry with an accommodation booking.
I look forward to seeing you out there on the road to Port Mac!