Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Training Plan Refocused

As I looked ahead at the final eight weeks of my Off Season training program, I became concerned about how ready I would be for the more intense preparation for a 70.3 race this summer. While I have one Half Marathon, Three Tri’s and a couple of shorter foot races planned between now and then, make no mistake – the 70.3 is the focus of my year. I don’t know about it being my best performance, but it is, in my mind, my ‘A’ race.

For some background, let me digress a moment and talk a little bit about how I develop my training plans. Like many of you, I peruse the internet for free plans. I’ve had a lot of luck on Trinewbies and Beginner Triathlete as well as cruising some of the chat boards to pick up ideas from my peers. I also got a lot of good information from the book Heart Rate Training which I’ve mentioned before on this blog.

Most of the 70.3 plans I found were 20 weeks long and that suits me. It’s also serendipitous that my 20 weeks leading up to my race begin the week after I’m in Hawaii which means I can focus a little more on enjoying my vacation. In any case, even with such fortunate coincidences, I obviously need to tweak things a little bit. No generic plan is going to anticipate my desire to run the Horsetooth Half Marathon in April or the BolderBoulder in May. Likewise, I’ll be involved in other races and open-water swimming events between now and the big race. It gets more detailed as I want to customize which days are my resting days, etc.

I also prefer to not to run on back-to-back days if at all possible. In fact, I generally don’t like to repeat a workout or strength training session on consecutive days. While a lot of plans recognize this, a surprising number do not. But when you’re in your 40’s, you have to face the reality that running generally means the need to have some recovery from all of that pounding!

What results is a plan that is built on one of the free plans (or more specifically a combination of plans) but which has also been highly customized to suit my own needs. Even then, that is subject to some evolution as I start making progress against it. (By the way, I don’t bother with purchased plans. I’m not convinced they are worth the money.)

Which brings me to where I am now. With the exception of a short interlude to train up for the Rock Canyon Half Marathon in early December, I’ve been treating my off-season time as a chance to take it easier while still staying in reasonably good shape. And from October through the end of the year, I think that made sense. However, as I look at the next couple of months, I have to start thinking about how I will be positioned for the resumption of the season.

Therefore, I have made a few changes:

1) I’ve increased the distance on my various workouts so that I will be at or near the distances of the 70.3 event by the end of March. These are strictly endurance distances so the focus is merely on being able to do them without any concern about how long that takes.

2) I’ve added a significant amount of interval training to the bike and run on the 70.3 plan. Continuing to increase the distance of my long rides and runs is, of course, important, but so is stressing myself so that I’ll be stronger for the demands of several hours on the road either riding or running. The interval refers to the time I need between bursts to recover my heart rate back down to Z1. For example, I’ll run a mile at pace that I know would be far too difficult to maintain over 13.1 miles, but then spend five minutes recovering before repeating. The same applies to the bike and I’ll gradually increase both the speed and the number of repeats. I may also apply something similar to the swim, though I’m feeling pretty good about my swimming ability.

3) I’ve removed the bricks. That’s right – no bricks. I’ve done some reading on this subject and I’ve noted that in several plans that they aren’t there. Bricks were a great way for me to psychologically prepare for triathlons before I had done any and I think they still have some value if you’re focused on Sprint and Olympic distances. However, I don’t think they’re as helpful for the 70.3 event. Still present are two-a-day workouts and some of those may end up being a lot like bricks with just a little bit longer between events.

More than anything else, I’ve found that it helps to think of a training plan as a living document. That means changes may come in the future which will make it a different plan than it is today. That’s fine. However, if my experiences last year taught me anything, this ought to be a fairly good picture of how I’ll be spending the better part of 2012!

One note on the countdown timers: I would have preferred something a little more colorful, but these actually countdown to the minute of the actual event. As I officially register for events, I’ll add the timer so expect to see more pretty soon.

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