Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: biking

Dang Guv’ment…Again

I always said that if George Bush ever figured out how good my life is, he’d find some way to come and screw it up. Now, because he shut down the guv’ment for a couple of weeks, the 2014 Rocketman Triathlon has been pushed from the Spring until the Fall. My original plan was to do that 70.3 in May, then train up to a full self-supported 140.6 in October.

Now it’s looking like Rocketman will be in October as well. Push the 140.6 to November? Maybe, but that means I won’t get my best performance out of 70.3 OR the 2014 Space Coast Marathon. Boo!

New plan… Since I’m going to be a few weeks shy of peak shape for this year’s Space Coast Marathon, I’m going to run it with no watch…just run. Then I’ll do the Celebration Marathon in January, kick in a Master’s swim class beginning in February, and start training for 140.6 immediately.

There are some Spring 70.3s I may consider (Haines City?), and I’m also freed up to do the Wickham Park Ultra in May. Interested to see how far I can make it before I miss the cut off. As always, I will be on the Trainerroad for the duration.

Or…I can focus on growing my belly.

Practicing Race Plans In Training

My race plans usually aren’t very complicated. I’m just a regular ol’ MOP’er. I don’t have the latest equipment or a coach. I don’t race very often, and I don’t live and breathe triathlon. It’s just fun for me, and I actually enjoy the training more than the racing. I’m not racing anyone but myself anyway…no realistic chance of placing in my age group.

But I loves me a PR.

So here are some of the things I’m thinking about for my upcoming race, and how I work on them in training.


The course has changed to an ‘M’ shaped swim. Sort of unconventional, and I’ve never done one. As usual, I’d I’d like to take it easy for the first “out” part. I plan for what I want to happen on race day in my training swims by overcompensating for an easy start, swimming the first 500 yards as “long” as I can. This means really reaching and gliding with each stroke; usually about 11 strokes for the 25 yard length, breathing every three strokes. I then do at least 500 with a little faster turnover, breathing every two strokes. Sometimes I’ll go another 500 at that pace. I know I can handle that, and I’d like to pick up the pace a little on the diagonal parts of the ‘M’ on race day. From there, I like to take it easy on the way back, almost a cool down, because I don’t want to transition with a jacked up heart rate and body/mind that isn’t as relaxed as possible.

Now, I know realistically that the adrenaline is going to be a factor at the start, and I also know myself well enough to know that it takes me a couple of hundred yards to settle into an open water swim. And if I find some good feet, I’m jumping on them and riding as long as I can.  But the swim is negligible for my overall time, so I just deal with whatever happens there on race day. I won’t be worried if I swim a little faster than planned, and I won’t be worried if I swim a little slower than planned.


There are some rollers on this course, and winds could be a factor as well. I have a pretty old bike that never was the latest and greatest, and I don’t have multiple cassettes and wheel options to change based on terrain or what the wind is doing. I keep my strategy here simple. Fight the wind and fight the hills, and relax a little on the downhills and with the wind at my back. I practice this in training all the time. The rationale is pretty simple. When an object, in this case a fat guy on a bike, is going slow it doesn’t take as much energy to increase it’s speed by 1 mph as it does when the object is going fast. It’s tempting to ride harder when the wind is at your back because you can look down and see your mph jump on your computer, but physics says it’s a foolish thing to do. It sucks fighting to stay over 18 mph in a headwind, but it beats giving up and going 16.5.

I stay in aero all the time, or as much as possible. If any sitting up is going on it needs to be standing to power up a hill or, if seated, with wind at my back. Even then, only for a rest. Stay aero.

I like this course for my plan because the course is a loop that starts heading south, then heads back north. The biggest hill is at about mile 27, and there’s a good chance winds will be out of the south. That means I can put a bigger effort in at the beginning going generally uphill and into the wind, and get more of a rest at the end, going generally downhill with wind at my back. That will help with my plan to fight for a pre-determined average speed on the bike and (hopefully) get a chance to try my run strategy out.


I’m doing something here I’ve never done before. Maybe it will work, and maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s a better plan than “just survive”, even if that’s what I end up doing. I’m breaking this run down into 3 separate pieces: 2 five mile sections followed by a 5k. I have paces I’d like to run for each of them, but the hard part is going to be holding those paces. For the first 5, the challenge will be getting up to speed getting off the bike. There will need to be some split differences in these miles. I know from experience that it takes me about a mile to get my legs back from the bike.

For the second 5, the challenge is going to be getting to the right pace in the first mile and then holding it without speeding up. I’m not really concerned with what will happen if I slow down during this section. If I can’t hold the pace for the entire 5, there’s no way I’d be able to race the last 5k anyway, so I’ll be better off saving myself whatever gas I can to get through it. But I don’t want to go faster than my predetermined pace, so I can have as much as possible available for the 5k.

If I make it through the second 5 on pace, it’s a 5k race with whatever is left in the tank. Again, there’s a course advantage here. The course is three loops, and the first part of the loop is uphill. If I can make it to the top of that hill on pace  in the last lap, what I’m left with is a mostly downhill 3 miles or so. That should help with the pace. Again, if I can’t keep on the pace schedule for the first 1o miles, then whatever happens happens.

To train for this, I’m going out and doing short runs and trying to hit those paces. For instance, I’ll do a one mile warm up, then try to do my first mile at the pace I plan on running the first 5 during the race. For the second mile, I’ll try to hit my planned pace for the second 5 during the race. And for the last mile, I go at the 5k pace I’d like to hit on race day. I’m actually doing my long run this weekend with the same strategy, but using 2 miles instead of one for each planned section.

It’s worth noting that this entire, detailed, thought-out plan is a product of two things: (1) Not listening to music when I run, so I have nothing to do but think about this and (2) Tapering right now, so I’m obsessed with thinking about this race. If you are using this plan as advice, keep in mind that it’s free advice, and it’s worth about what you paid for it…if that.

In a way, I’m looking forward to this all being over with so I can go back to worrying about what new features Google is pushing out this week. Or maybe I’ll keep up with the Kardashians for a day or two until I’m so repulsed that I want to train for something again.



Tweeking 70.3 Training Three Weeks Out

I’m three weeks away from my big (for me) race, and am having to make some pretty major training changes. Realistically, I know anything that happens from here out is going to have very little affect on what happens race day, provided I’m rested. “10% under trained is better than 1% over trained”.

Oh, and injuries could make a difference too. That’s the reason for the training tweek.

I pulled up with a cramp in my calf at the end of my brick on Sunday. I’d dug a nutrition/hydration hole I couldn’t get out of, and I thought that was the main cause. It was still a little tender on Tuesday, so I bailed on the run scheduled for that day and gave it a shot again for a quality run on Thursday. Pain was almost instantaneous, so I guess it wasn’t just a cramp. I’m self-diagnosing as a Grade 1.5 strain. And I’m self-treating it by taking a solid week off of running. That means I’ll miss one long run. No biggie. I still will have one more. If I have problems on that run I’m not going to push it…I’ll stop running entirely until a day or two before the race, just to test it out.

That means last night’s swim, which is one I usually take very easy, was a hard one. I really pushed to see what I could handle for a race pace, and the good news is I’ll probably be about three minutes faster than I was last time I did this distance. Shooting for 35:45.

It also means I’ll be spending a lot more time on the bike. I think I can bike enough that I won’t lose any run fitness, even if I don’t get another long one in before the race.

If all goes well, I’ll be pain free going into the race and can just manage my pace on the run to keep this from cropping back up again. Even if it becomes an issue, once I’m in the race I’ll be able to fight through it.

If this persists, well, that’s when it will get fun. If I’m going to the start line with any kind of pain at all, the race strategy will change completely for me. I will push the swim a little harder, and I will bike like the race is 57.2 miles long. Drop the hammer. Empty the tank. I’ll assume my run is already bonked and go for broke on the bike, getting every second out of it I can.

Trusting the Training Plan

Right now I’m about 6 weeks out from Haines City 70.3, and almost everything is pointing to a much better performance than the last time I did this distance. I credit this to sticking to the training plan much more strictly and actually listening to people who get paid to spout information about endurance training. I’m not saying I haven’t missed workouts…I have. Two separate sinus infections hurt me pretty bad. But I haven’t missed a single long workout, and I’ve done a much better job prioritizing workouts. For instance, most of what I’ve missed have been swims. If I’m going to miss something, I want it to be a swim.

I’ve also been reviewing my logged workouts from my last 70.3 as I go, and I’ve noticed a few differences. First of all, I never trained on heart rate before…I just did the distances. Also, it looks like my training was much more sporadic than I remember. This hurt me pretty badly last time around. In fact, I distinctly remember treading water right before the gun went off hoping the race would be cancelled because of lightning and wondering if I could really pull off that distance. I ended up having a pretty good race and hitting my goals, but I had no confidence going in. This time around, I know covering the distance isn’t a problem, even if I had to do it tomorrow.

So I’m expecting a PR this time. I do have a couple of doubts, but I’ve done my best to rationalize them away.

1.2 Mile Swim

This is no problem. An afterthought. I did a 40 minute swim last time, and I expect to go no slower than that this time. There’s a good chance I’ll go faster, but if I do it will only be by a couple of minutes…no real difference. I’ve done enough 1500+ meter open water swims since 2006 that I won’t be intimidated looking at the course itself. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.


I’m not sure I’ll be any faster here, but I doubt I’ll be much slower. No wetsuit to remove like last time, so that should save me 3 or 4 seconds. I will have to apply some sunscreen, so it’s probably a wash.

56 Mile Bike

Here’s where I feel confident in gaining the most time. Last time around I trained at around 18 mph on hilly courses and raced at 19 mph on a hilly course. These days, I’m training at ~ 20 mph in windy conditions on flat courses and will be racing on a flat (hopefully less windy) course; being 50 miles inland should help with the winds a little, right? Also, looking at my logs from 2006, it’s safe to say I was reasonably rested every time I went out on my bike, which wasn’t often. This time I’m already tired before I even get on the bike. My weight will be about 18 pounds below what it was last time as well.

I’m hoping for 21.5 mph. I have some test data here to back up my projection. Two years ago I did an Olympic distance race where I trained at just below 20 mph and raced at 22 mph. And this was on the coast, so winds were a factor. My weight was about where it will be on race day in May, but conditions weren’t as hot as I expect they will be then. Heat will be the big X factor here. If all goes well, I hope to pick up ~20 minutes here.


I can guarantee an improvement here. I don’t plan on actually sitting down and eating a sandwich this time. I’m going to go ahead and get back out on the course. I should pick up at least 2 minutes here.

13.1 Mile Run

I really have no idea what’s going to happen on the run, but I’m trying to convince myself it will go great. And this is where I have to trust the program. Last time around, my training paces were waaaaaaay faster–sub 9:00 miles. I expected to go under 2 hours, but I ended up running a 2:14. That tells me that, again, I was running rested during training and was not really prepared to run 13.1 tired. This time around I’m training on heart rate, much slower pace, but I’m hurting pretty bad at the end of my long runs. Last week I did 100 minutes (10.25 miles) and was really struggling at the end.

The difference is that, just like on the bike, I’m running tired all the time now. The paces I’m running at are much closer to my training paces for my first marathon. That’s encouraging, because I raced at a pace 45 seconds faster than I trained for that race. If I can even get 35 seconds faster per mile on race day, I’ll be at 9:10/mile, and that will bring me home at 2 hours.

I’m working on a strategy to handle all possible situations for this run. I’m breaking it down into two five milers and a 5k.

  • First five miles at 9:30/mile
  • Second five miles at 9:15/mile
  • 5k at 8:30/mile

Starting off at 9:30 shouldn’t be a problem. If I don’t have 9:15 in me for the second 5 miles, it will take some pressure off because there’s no way I’d be able to accelerate to 8:30s for the final 5k. I can back it down to the 9;30 pace and still make it under 2:05. That’s still a 9 minute improvement. Not optimal, but not bad either.

If I can make it through the second 5 miles according to the plan, I’m pretty sure I will be able to mentally push myself for that last 5k.

Goals–Good, Better, Best

I don’t see any way I’ll be over 5:44:59 if I actually finish. Anything can happen on race day (flat tires, temps over 95), and a DNF isn’t ever out of the realm of possibility for anything over 10k. But I can’t plan on things like that. If I beat 5:45:00 I’ll consider that to be “Good”. It’s still a PR.

I’d really like to hit 5:29:59. If I can pull a 2hr run and 20 mph on the bike it will come down to those couple of minutes on the swim and fast transitions. I’ll even give myself some buffer here….I’d be really happy with anything under 5:35:00. This is my “Better” goal.

If everything goes perfectly equipment wise, I have no serious injuries between now and then, weather cooperates, and my run really pans out, I think I have 5:14:59 in me. This would be “Best”.

Pretty cool photo of a “plus-sized” swimmer  George Blagden courtesy of UIC Digital Collections

Training For a 6 Hour Half-Ironman

NOTE (2.7.2014):  What you will find below is one strategy. I don’t think it’s the best strategy. In fact, three years after originally writing this, I don’t even think it’s a very good strategy.

This is not the way I currently train for 70.3s.  I’ve gained mucho experience and knowledge in the last three years, and you can read most of that in the articles listed here.

There are much more effective ways to train, even with time constraints. And I’ve realized that setting time goals for a 70.3 is maybe not the smartest thing to do, at least for me. A time range is reasonable, but race day is full of unexpected events and factors you can’t control. Read on, but at your own peril. 

Ok. I’ve noticed a lot of people are landing here looking for the answer to that one simple question…”What is the best way to train for a half iron distance race (70.3 miles) and finish in under six hours?”

I wrote a longer, more detailed post about one strategy to do this a while back. But if you’re looking for a simple (and logical) approach, I’m going to summarize it here. I’d advise going back and reading the whole post, which contains a little more detail. Keep in mind, I’m not a certified triathlon coach. I have absolutely no credentials other than the fact that I’ve actually done it while weighing over 200 lbs, eating higher quantity and lower quality of food than I should, and skipping a workout here and there.

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Here’s my strategy: Prioritize the race (and your training) in the order of time spent in the race itself. That means concentrate on bike first, then run, then swim.

The bike is going to be about half of the race, right? So make biking the main focus of your training. That means you are probably not going to get a PR for your half marathon during this race. So be it. If you wanted to PR a half marathon you’d be training for that exclusively anyway, right?

Running will probably benefit from having a really solid base before you start training for the race. Build that up in the off-season, and you can put the running portion of the training on auto-pilot. It probably isn’t necessary to rack up a ton of miles running, but it’s a good idea to be mentally prepared for 13.1 by making sure you still hit a long run every week, preferably on tired cycling legs. For me, I did that along with a 10% brick of my rides, and it worked out. Again, I was a long way from PRing the 1/2 marathon in my race, but I’d banked so many minutes on the bike that I had a huge cushion.

Swim–fuhgetaboutit. If you can swim the distance, you will be fine. No need to spend hours in the pool so you can shave off 3 minutes of swim time when you could spend those hours biking (or resting). If anything, spend your swim time in the open water so you are comfortable with it.

Keep in mind, the point here isn’t to “do your best” or “run the perfect race”. If you want to do that, you should hire a coach, measure everything you eat, take vitamins, etc. Not knocking anyone who wants to do that either, but that’s a different (and very worthy) goal than just trying to arrive at 5:59:59.

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