After eight weeks of training, I have come to the conclusion that the training plan I'm following is crap. I probably should have looked through the plan a little more or did a little more shopping around before choosing a plan, but I did not. Had I looked through the plan, I think it would be obvious that this is not the plan for me.
I've been using the plan "Preparing for a Half Ironman" from www.beginnertriathlete.com. Basically I have concluded that the guy who wrote it must come from a swimming background. I think his swim workouts are awesome. Unfortunately, I don't think he knows jack about running or biking. That may be a little harsh, but there is really no intensity in his bike or run workouts and I believe it has negatively affected my fitness this spring.
Most of the bike workouts in his plan are 60 minutes long. If I'm pushing myself, I can do a maximum of about 20 miles in 60 minutes. 20 mile rides are not going to get me in shape for a 56 mile bike race. Following this training plan, the maximum ride is 2.5 hours. Again, I don't think a couple of 2.5 hour rides are going to get me in good enough shape for the race.
For the run, there are NO track workouts. None. As a runner, I'm a big believer in speed work. I'm also a big believer in hill repeats. There are NO hill repeats in this training program. None. The course description for the race I'm doing specifically uses the words "CHALLENGING" and "HILLY". I think some hill training would be wise. I'll admit, the author of this training program does a great job of covering long runs. However, again, I'm not sure I'm a big believer of his approach. There are A LOT of 90 - 120 minute runs in his plan. Not counting the half marathon I did when I was 14 years old, I have never taken 2 hours to run 13.1 miles. Why do I need to do 2 hour training runs for a portion of the race that will (hopefully) not last anywhere near 2 hours?!
I decided earlier this year that my approach to the season would be to focus on my strengths (the bike and the run). This plan does the exact opposite of that. The main focus is on the swim. The swim only amounts to about 1/8 of the total time I expect it will take me to do a half-ironman race. I just don't see the benefit of focusing my efforts on the sport that will take the least amount of time. While I have seen progress with my swim using this program, I feel like my running and biking have diminished significantly over the last 8 weeks. It's time for change.
Enter Plan B.
I've decided to switch over to a Half Ironman training plan from www.trinewbies.com. For one, it fits my schedule better. I think part of my problem with the Beginner Triathlete program was that I struggled to stick to the plan as written. There are a lot of weeknights that require 2+ hours of workouts, not including the time it takes to drive to/from the pool, change into workout clothes, pump up bike tires, etc. My life simply doesn't accommodate spending that much time working out on a weeknight. In the end, I end up switching workouts around, skipping rest days, and doubling up workouts on the weekends. I get the workouts done each week, but skipping rest days isn't a smart thing to do. I'm basically putting myself at risk for injury or mental burn out.
The new plan seems to fit my life a little better. There aren't as many back-to-back workouts, so I can do the shorter workouts in the morning before work and then can do my second workout after work. That also allows me the freedom to catch a lot more group activities like the Run Club at my gym or any of the Birchwood rides. The new plan also designates longer workouts for the weekends when I typically have more free time. In my world, it simply makes more sense to have my 2-3 hour workouts on the weekends rather than on a weeknight.
I can work in a lot more quality workouts for the run and bike portions using the new plan too. The bike training is based on mileage rather than time which works better with my mindset. As a former runner, I always go off mileage. I know I need to cover 56 miles in the race, so I feel more confident pursuing that mileage rather than trying to figure out how long it will take me to go that distance and then training for that amount of time. I don't think one way is necessarily better than the other, but I am more comfortable training with the mileage approach.
Just in case anyone is looking for a half-ironman training plan, I thought I would highlight the pro's and con's of the one that I have worked with. Again, I'm not saying it's a bad plan, it's just not the right plan for me.
"Preparing for a Half Ironman" plan from www.beginnertriathlete.com PROS1. This plan has great swim workouts. Each week contains a speed day, a race-specific day and a long day. 2. The plan has a good variety of workouts and their order in the week. For example, some weeks the long day will be on Thursday and the next week it will be on Tuesday. Sometimes you will swim and ride on Monday and the next week you’ll be off on Monday. 3. Good use of rest/recovery days to optimize strength building. A rest day will be set the day before a hard day so you can prepare for an intense, long workout, or rest days will come after hard workouts to be used as recovery days.
CONS1. Lots of long hours on weekdays. Weekday workouts are instructed to be “back-to-back” and can last well over 2 hours, not including travel time to/from the pool, time to inflate bike tires, change into workout clothes, etc. You really need about three hours to complete those workouts. 2. Plan is hard to follow as written if you have a life outside of training. (See Con #1.) 3. Lots of rest days on Saturdays when I have more free time. I’d rather take a rest day on a weeknight than on a Saturday. 4. No speed workouts for running. Long runs are overly long. 5. Bike training is based on time and I’m not confident it is long enough to get me in shape for the race.
I am 8 weeks into my training and feel like I have a ton of work left to do to get in shape for this season. Hopefully the new training plan will help me gain a little more confidence in my fitness and come July 18th, I'll be ready to take on 70.3 miles!