If I learned anything from my last 70.3, it’s…well, actually I learned a lot of things.

  1. Don’t set time goals for these distances. They aren’t anything like running races. The number of variables beyond your control is almost infinite, and you can’t just power through the obstacles you are presented the way you can in a sprint tri.
  2. Managing yourself should be the real goal. It’s one of the few things in the race you do have control over, and (for me anyway) the hardest part to master. If you can control yourself by keeping HR, power, perceived effort, or whatever measurement you use in check, you have a much better chance at getting the best possible time on race day given the conditions you are presented with. We’ll see soon if I’ve actually learned this.
  3. What you can do with these sports individually is almost meaningless. I tested myself at 400 yards all-out yesterday and got a personal non-race best of 6:30. I was very happy with that, but it’s pretty meaningless considering it was in a pool, with a wall, with only one other person in the lane, and with nothing to do afterwards. If you think the time it takes you to bike 56 miles translates to what you can do on race day, you’re probably pretty close to being right. Of course, you’re going to give back all that time and more on the run because of it. Your half marathon time is pretty meaningless as well. Maybe the second half of a full marathon is a little more accurate? Maybe.
  4. Don’t set time goals for these distances. Did I say that already?

I was pretty lucky when I did my first 70.3. I was severely under-trained. My buddies I was racing with liked to joke about my 5-6 week taper. I was scared to death of the distance. I spent most of the Saturday before the race watching the weather and hoping the race would be cancelled. I spent the pre-race time that morning looking at the lightening feeling relieved that the race would be cancelled. The race went on, and I didn’t race it. I did the course, but I didn’t “race” until the last 5k. I was able to go all out for the last mile and came away feeling great and having met my original time goal.

But that was just dumb luck as a result of respecting the distance and knowing I wasn’t trained to go at it hard.

My approach to training has changed quite a bit since then.

My last time out, I was pretty well trained, but not very confident in my run. I hadn’t done much running distance for a few years. I trained for months at a HR that was WAAAAAAAY too high–I practically lived in Zone 3. On race day, I was a little disappointed in my swim, soI took it out on the bike course. I came out of T2 “grinnin’ like a possum eatin’ saw brar”.

But the run course had the last laugh.

The plan was to PR by 15 minutes. The result was missing a PR by 15 seconds.

So there are no time goals this year. I have goals, but they are very different.

Swim: For the first time, I’ve put in good work on the swim. My easy pace is a touch slower than my hard pace, but I’m happy with how the easy pace feels, and form doesn’t fall apart. All I want to do is comfortably complete the course breathing every 3 strokes. If I have to speed up for a bit and breathe every other stroke, that should only go on for 10 breaths. Focus on exhaling and thinking “PULL!”

Bike: Keep the heart rate at ~125 for the first half of the course and ~130 for the second half. Last time out I averaged 145, and I thought that was a good thing. What?!?!?! Take splits every 30 minutes to check the average and be mindful of how it is increasing. The bike computer will not ever display current speed or average speed. Only elapsed time. That’s all. If I feel like doing math, that will give me something to pass the time.

Run: Keep the heart rate below 142 for the first 7 miles, keeping the 30 minute split checks going. At 7 miles, I’ll assess how I’m feeling and possibly let it go up to 150. If still feeling ok at 1o miles, let it rip.

We’ll see how this plays out and what I learn from it. Mistakes will be made…a perfect race is next to impossible. The key will be to realize the mistakes in the moment and try to come up with a work around.