Operation Sub-6: Half-ironman triathlon training

Here's my training schedule for July.  I know, it's so high-tech and very fancy, but it works for me.  The workouts I actually complete are all logged in Google Connect.

Here’s my training schedule for July. I know, it’s so high-tech and very fancy, but it works for me. The workouts I actually complete are all logged in Google Connect.

I’ve been meaning to write about this – and, well, a lot of things – for a while now, but it took an out-of-state vacation for me to finally find the time to sit down and put words to screen.  My life has been kind of hectic for the past month or so, as my responsibilities at work have increased AND my guardian ad litem case went to court, and that’s in addition to basic adulting and triathlon training. I’ve been handling it all pretty well, but it definitely means some things, like writing and housework, have fallen by the wayside. It’s a bummer, but until the astronomical sciences rearrange themselves to give us twenty-eight hours in a day instead of twenty-four, I just have to deal with it.

Anyways, at the beginning of the year, I set out three athletic goals for myself:  to qualify for the Boston Marathon, to ride a century on my bike, and to break six hours in a half-ironman distance triathlon.  I accomplished #1, and now I’m working on #2 and #3.  The second one is a post for another day – because ye gods, do I have a lot to say on the matter of turning myself into a cyclist – and so this post will focus on my third goal.

I’ve signed up for the Hutchinson Island Half, which will take place at the end of September on the east coast of Florida, just a little north of Palm Beach. It’s a flat course with an ocean swim, and it’s probably going to be approximately one billion degrees during the race, which means I should be well acclimated to those conditions by the time the race comes around.

I’m following a free program from Tri Newbies for this race.  I write down all of my workouts on the appropriate day on a big paper calendar, which makes life easy because then I just have to look at my calendar to know what I’m supposed to do that day.  It’s super low-tech, especially when you compare it to the fancy Garmin 920XT I wear on my wrist when I train, but it works for me.

Back at the beginning of the year, I set my goal as trying to finish in under six hours, which seemed both doable and ambitious – two qualities I like for my athletic goals. The first time I did a half-Ironman, I wasn’t really focused on time. I just wanted to make sure I could do the distance, and to experience what it was like to do something like run a half-marathon on wobbly legs that had just spent three-plus hours on a bike. Now that know what to expect, I’m focused on trying to get faster.  Going sub-6 will be a challenge, but I’m confident that I can do it.

Here’s what I’m doing for each of the three disciplines:

Swimming

I usually get in at least two swims a week. I do one swim on my own, usually drills with pull buoys and paddles and fins and what have you.  Right now I’m focused on two things: making my pull stronger and breathing to the left without swimming all cattywompus. I’m having better luck with the first task than the second one.

The second one is a master’s workout with my team.  There we mix up speed drills with endurance work while our coach Matt walks around on the deck yelling at us. (For the better part of two months, I couldn’t go in the water without hearing Matt’s voice in my head, yelling, “Constantine, get your arms out! ARMS OUT, CONSTANTINE!”)  These workouts kick my ass so hard, and yet I can’t get enough of them.  Plus I can’t deny that they’ve made me a lot faster.  I recently got bumped up to the fifth lane – the “tweener” one, between intermediate and advanced, which means I’m back to sucking again, but I don’t mind because I know that sucking is part of the journey to becoming good.

My racing team is now taking over the master’s swim program at that pool so Brian and I are both planning to join the master’s swim team when we come back from vacation. I’m sure I’ll pretty much permanently smell like chlorine once that happens, but oh well. #greenhairdontcare

Cycling

This has been the biggest challenge for me, mainly because I was so terrified of the clipless pedals, and specifically, that helpless feeling that comes when you tip over with your feet attached to said clipless pedals. But with time and repetition, I’ve come to really like using clipless pedals.

I don’t ride outside a ton though, just because it’s not practical with my work schedule, so I usually ride a couple of times during the week on my indoor trainer and then head outside for a long ride on the weekends.  I wasn’t getting a lot out of my trainer rides until I got cadence and speed sensors that communicate with my Garmin 920XT.  Now my indoor rides leave me drenched in sweat, whereas before I was usually just glistening at the end of my rides. (The trainer can be boring though, so I watch Netflix while I ride.  An hour-long tempo ride is a lot more tolerable when I can watch Parks and Recreation while I’m grinding out the miles.)

Just as master’s swimming has made me a lot stronger as a swimmer, the indoor trainer rides have made me a lot faster as a cyclist. As fun as it is to ride outside, it’s hard to really work on speed when you have to deal with cars, other cyclists, runners, little kids, people walking their dogs on retractable leashes, suicidal squirrels, etc. etc.

I have other things to say on the matter of cycling, but I’ll save that for the post about training for my century ride, which is also happening now.

Running

I haven’t done much different with my running, aside from just being consistent with it and throwing in some tempo work and some interval work every couple of weeks. Even though the weather is exactly what you would expect for the state known as America’s Wang, it doesn’t seem to be slowing me down much. I ran a 5K early in the summer and finished in my second-fastest time ever (which was good enough for first female overall and fourth runner overall).  I ran my fastest-ever mile – 6:10 – at the beginning of July.  I’m excited to see what happens when the temperatures drop into the 60s. Maybe I’ll finally set a new PR in the 5K.  That thing has been hanging around since 2012, and I’m ready for it to fall.

Probably the most important thing I’ve done for my run fitness is working hard on the bike.  One of the hardest lessons I learned when I first started triathlon was that being a decent runner didn’t mean shit if I was weak on the bike. I’d put all this effort into riding my bike, and then I’d go out on my run and my legs would be totally trashed. Getting stronger on the bike means my legs have more energy left in them when I hit the run, and I can turn out the kind of run splits I expected to be capable of running when I first started triathlon.

This all seems like a lot, and I guess it kind of is, but I’m pretty lucky in that this doesn’t feel like work to me. I like most of my training, and the parts I don’t like (*ahem* indoor trainer *ahem*), I find ways to make enjoyable. And really, even the parts that are hard are still not all that bad. In many ways, training is the easiest part of my day.  My job requires me to be hyper-focused, detail-oriented and on top of my game all day long.  My guardian ad litem work requires a substantial emotional investment that can sometimes leave me feeling a bit flattened.  With training, I can leave all that behind and focus on what I’m thinking and feeling in that exact moment.  In fact, I find the more responsibility I take on in my day to day life, the more I depend on being able to get my sweat on at least once a day.

Here’s the other thing: I’m starting to think seriously about my potential as a runner and a triathlete. Qualifying for Boston really planted a seed of curiosity in my mind, and now I wonder what else I’m capable of. So now there’s also this element of “what if?” that’s in the back of my mind, and I’m really interested in finding out the answer.  I don’t really like talking about this too much, because it makes me feel kind of funny, but it’s something I think about, and definitely a big motivator for me right now.  I know that someday I will reach an age when I will plateau and then start to slow down, so I’m trying to enjoy this while it lasts.

Do you have any big races coming up?  How’s your training going?

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14 responses to “Operation Sub-6: Half-ironman triathlon training

  1. I can’t wait to see how you do!
    On Sunday, I completed my second century. Last year, I completed the same event. It was tough. I hurt a lot, especially from miles 30 to 63. Then, somehow, the pain sort of faded and I made it through despite a bad storm at mile 80.
    This year, over the same course, the ride was almost easy. I can’t believe I’m typing that (was so nervous before the ride), but there it is. I worked hard, had wobbly legs after a particularly tough hill, but I never got into a dark mental place. I held back a little to ride with the group I was in (completely worth it), so I know I have a lot more to give. Point is: you may surprise yourself. I’ve found the 100-mile rides are a lot easier than marathons, and you’re a kick-ass marathoner.

    • Thanks, dude! And congratulations on your second century! I appreciate hearing your experience with both rides. (And yikes, having a 30-plus mile rough stretch sounds pretty tough – you rock for pushing through that.) I’m sure my first one will be tough but hopefully the fact that the course is generally pretty flat will make things a bit easier.

  2. Thanks for writing about your training. I really enjoy reading about it because it tells the backstory of what goes on before the race.

    I’m using RLRF to train for my first marathon, which is Wineglass. I like the plan a lot. I’m not doing any of the cross-training. I should do something, but I don’t feel like it. The running 3 days a week makes me happy without feeling anxious about exercise.

    Good luck with the rest of your training!

    • I’ve seen your blog posts about using RLRF but I’m so behind on my blog reading that I haven’t had a chance to look at all of them. I’m glad you like it, and I hope it works out for you. I like that all three of the runs are really tough and targeted. It helped me feel strong and fast.

      Also, Wineglass! That race looks beeeeautiful. So lucky!

      • You’re not missing much by not reading the training posts. Training’s going well. I have it up so I can look back on them and if anyone else who’s contemplating RLRF would find it interesting/useful.

        Wineglass is beautiful. The fall colors will be there. I loved running through the countryside. It is quiet, so if people need crowd support, it’s not the race for them. I did the half a couple years ago and I haven’t stopped raving about the race.

  3. Between training, work, and everything else, I’m glad you found time to write this post. I can relate to so much of it. Your goals sound similar to what I might strive for, but I’m still a few steps behind. 🙂 Qualifying for Boston is up first for me. I’ve only done one marathon and getting that BQ time hadn’t ever popped out as a big goal, but I realized that my training pace would have me qualifying by 10 minutes, so hopefully I have enough leeway to pull it off.

    I am anxiously awaiting your post about trying to turn yourself into a cyclist. I’m still not there. I’ve still been too much of a wimp to try clipless pedals because I’m so awkward on the bike as it is. I haven’t convinced myself that I’m ready for the inevitable wipeouts as I learn. I’m content with riding inside most of the time while I watch TV. Like you said, it would be nice to ride outside, but it’s not always the best option for me. A local metropark is the only place I can ride uninterrupted and without worrying too much about getting run over. When I’m already crunched for time, that extra drive to and from the park isn’t always ideal. Glad to hear I’m not alone in doing a lot of the riding inside.

    I’ve done a couple of Olympic races now, and I’ve debated whether I’ll want to try a half eventually. I love following your journey to see how you’ve done it, and how you’re improving as you go. It’s awesome to hear that you’re motivated by your potential as both a runner and triathlete. It sounds like your training and races have been solid, and I’m excited to see what you can do!

    • Yeah, a lot of people I know – and even a lot of pros – do most of their riding inside. It’s definitely a good way to train if you are interested in cycling/triathlon but don’t have access to safe roads or don’t feel comfortable riding outside for whatever reason. I’m a big fan of it.

      I’m fortunate enough to live a half-mile away from a 40-mile paved recreational trail, which is where I do most of my outdoor riding. In fact, the proximity to that trail was one of our requirements when we bought a house a few years ago. I know a lot of people don’t have that as an option though.

      When is your marathon?

      • Wow, a 40-mile paved trail so close sounds awesome. When we bought our place, one of the perks was that it was right by a rail-to-trail. I wasn’t a runner/triathlete at the time, and little did I know how much I’d end up using it. The surface isn’t good for a road bike, but I run there all the time.

        The marathon is October 4th – Twin Cities. I’m hoping all of this training in the heat will lead to feeling fast in cooler fall air.

  4. this is awesome. You inspire me so much!!!! Your seed of possibility as an athlete is super real, and I’m stoked to see you going for it!

  5. Thank you for sharing this – It’s awesome to see what your training schedule is like. I did my second century earlier this summer and it is an awesome goal so GO FOR IT.

  6. ah, the what if question! I swear that fuels all my training. Such hope! Also, I’m using a big paper calendar on the advice of a friend now too. I use Training Peaks to log everything, but the ability to erase and see things at a glance is perfect. Keep at it!!

    • The “what if” question has become really persistent now that I’m starting to see that I have the potential to be pretty good at these sports!

      The big paper calendar makes me laugh but I love it. It’s so practical. I don’t have to screw around with my computer. Glad to see I’m not the only one on board with a paper calendar.

  7. Pingback: Training for my first century | Fit and Feminist·

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