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Five half Ironman training secrets that will save your race

Posted Apr 24 2010 7:00am

The Half Ironman, or 70.3, is a tough race. It is a combination of speed and endurance. Logistically, it can be tough to decide how fast to swim, how to fuel, how quickly to rush through transition, how to run, and when to make the final kick. In this article you're going to learn five half Ironman training secrets that will keep you from making costly mistakes and save your race.

1) The Swim Isn't Much Longer Than Olympic Distance.

An Olympic distance run is 10K, while a Half Ironman Swim is double that at 20K. An Olympic distance bike is 40K, and a Half Ironman bike is more than twice that distance. But an Olympic distance swim is 1.5K, while a Half Ironman swim is only 1.9K - not even close to twice as long! What does this mean for you? If you're used to doing Olympic distance triathlons, close your eyes and picture yourself swimming only an extra 400m. Can you sustain your Olympic distance pace for an extra 400M? Try it in your Half Ironman training. By going that fast, you'll come out of the water early and be in a better position on the bike.

2) Load Up Your Bike In Transition.

A good Ironman transition time, by the time you get through the changing tents, get your bags, and weave through transition, is often 3-5 minutes. On the other hand, with proper Half Ironman training you should be able to have all your fuel for the entire bike ride on your bike and ready to rumble, allowing you to run straight from the water to your bike, stopping only briefly to grab your helmet and shoes. No need to hesitate in Half Ironman transition - you'll save valuable time.

Photo-1 3) Overfuel on the Bike.

In your Half Ironman training, practice taking in slightly more calories that you're accustomed to on the bike. The trick is to get enough fuel and water on board to get you through "minimally fueling" for the Half Ironman run. We coach most males to take 350-400 calories per hour on the bike, and females 300-350. To eliminate gastrointestinal distress, stop fueling about 10-15 minutes to your run transition, and then fuel with only 100-200 calories per hour on the run - grabbing a gel or chunk of banana only a couple times.

4) Try A Walk-Run Protocol.

While a marthon or Ironman could use longer walking periods, a 20:1 ratio of walking to running can work very well in a Half Ironman. Practice this technique in your Half Ironman training, and you'll find that the walk period allows your core to briefly cool and for you to grab a bit of fuel or water without choking. Walk quickly, and return to running at your previous pace. In the race, your ratio will likely be running three miles very quickly, then slowing to a walk for 60 seconds.

5) Go Hard the Final 10K. In your Half Ironman training, include a few progression runs in which you run an aerobic, controlled 10K, then "turn on the afterburners" and run hard through the second 10K, gradually building to maximum pace. This should be your strategy in most Half Ironman events. Mentally, telling your brain to pull that fast running trigger at the halfway point can reap huge benefits for you. Going out of transition too hard, on the other hand, can leave you blowing up by anywhere from the 5K to 8 mile mark.

The Half Ironman is tricky, but by utilizing the proper strategies, you can have a great race, go for a PR, and have a smile on your face at the finish line. For more tips just like this, along with some free triathlon training videos and insider Q&A phone calls with the authors of this article, check out the Rock Star Triathlete Academy at

Whoisben Ben Greenfield is the Renaissance man of the sport of triathlon.

He's a fast triathlete, a coach, a personal trainer, and much more more.

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