Thursday, October 05, 2006

Need Your Advice

Thanks for all of your support. That's awesome. I'm definitely going to need it over the next 6 mos. I'm currently in the process of writing my goals for 2007 down and breaking them into steps (after seeing many of you do the same thing--great idea!). Obviously, my primary goal will be completing my first half-IM on March 31st. If all goes well, I may even contemplate doing a 2nd one later that summer (e.g. Vineman, late July, or Big Kahuna, Sept.). But first thing's first.

Now, I'm going to do a dangerous thing. I'm going to ask for your advice. Dangerous, b/c it's all too easy to be overwhelmed with advice. However, many of you have done a half-IM or longer. I need your help. I'm starting out and feel like I don't know what I'm doing. If you could give me some input on your experience in training for a longer-distance triathlon, I would really appreciate it!

Sketch of my plan:
1. Devise a training plan:
Currently, my first task is to write up a personalized training plan. I'm poring over other half-IM training plans and adjusting them to my physical/mental needs.
2. Recruit the help of others (i.e. Tri Club):
I've decided to forgo the expense of a tri coach and rely on the tri club since it's a fantastic resource. We have IM coaches that help first-timers as well as many members looking for others to train for the California 70.3. Plus, knowing my personality, I don't want to take myself too seriously. I like training in groups some and training solo some. Working with a coach everyday is something I'm not interested in (or can afford)....yet.
3. (goes with #2). Begin attending the tri club master's swim workouts. Duh!
4. Sign up for the Carlsbad 1/2 marathon (Jan. 21st) as a training race.
5. Find a half-century bike around that time to do as a training ride.
6. Plan rest days and down-time.
A long, type-A race in late March doesn't give me much wiggle room for an off-season. However, I need to figure out how to let my body recharge without losing fitness. Any suggestions as to how to do this would be greatly appreciated.
7. Have confidence in myself.
I think I'm ready. I did 2 Olympics this year. They were tough but 1 was in extremely hot weather, and I was dealing with low thyroid. Now, that I've fixed that, I'm feeling great. I'm uninjured and logging in a solid 8-10 hours a week without feeling trashed. Last weekend, I swam a mile in the cove on Friday (during rough conditions) and then did a 44-mile bike on Sunday. I felt tired later but not dead. I'm doing a half-marathon this Sunday (San Jose Rock 'N Roll), and I feel fit enough to have fun with it (not PR or anything). Moral of the story--I just need to put the pieces together.

If any of you have the time, could you please answer some questions below? I just want to use the blogging world and get some feedback.

1. What helped you most in training for a half-IM?
2. What training plan can you recommend?
3. What are some mistakes/traps to avoid?
4. How many hours a week did you train?
5. How much of a base did you have coming into the beginning of the training program (i.e. how long had you been racing; what was your longest race; number of hours/mileage before starting)?
6. How did you rest?
7. What kind of nutrition plan did you follow? (any of you out there with finicky stomachs?) How/what did you eat during the race?

You can comment on this post, or e-mail me (


Jodi said...

Hi Rachel!

Obviously I'm just training for my first as well, so take any of my advice with a grain of salt...

1. Make sure you take one full day of rest per week

2. Base building should be long and slow. Throw the tempo runs and track workouts out the window for a couple months

3. I've cleaned up my nutrition a ton! No processed foods and very little dairy (for my finicky stomach)

4. Consider a Training Peaks account. That software is an amazing tool for training and nutrition and you can get it for $10 per month

5. Buy "Going Long" by Friel and Byrne and "Sports Nutrtion for Endurance Athletes" by Ryan (I think)

That's all I have for now! We're in this one together



Bolder said...

1. What helped you most in training for a half-IM?

Unlike an Ironman, you can do the actually pieces of a 1/2 in training: 1.2mi swim (2112 yards), 56mi bike, and 13.1 mile run. Being able to do all the pieces in training gave me the confidence that I could assemble them at a certain pace on race day!

2. What training plan can you recommend?

I was most influenced by Friel/Byrne's "Going Long".

swim twice a week masters, bike twice a week with one spin class and one long slow ride, do track once a week and one long slow distance run

3. What are some mistakes/traps to avoid?

not doing long slow distances.

4. How many hours a week did you train?


5. How much of a base did you have coming into the beginning of the training program (i.e. how long had you been racing; what was your longest race; number of hours/mileage before starting)?


6. How did you rest?

Mondays and Fridays. Whenever I couldn't do the workouts, I would decrease the volume and intensity by half and still get it done.

7. What kind of nutrition plan did you follow? (any of you out there with finicky stomachs?) How/what did you eat during the race?

My nutrition plan was to use food as fuel from Chris Carmichael's "Eat right, Train right".

Gatorade Endurance with Carbo-Pro. PowerBar 4X sodium Gels and Succeed salt tablets. If you have a finicky stomach, I would recommend trying Carbo-Pro.

Good luck Rachel! Remember, 1/2 are easier than Olympics!!

IMmike said...

This may sound silly, but I'd suggest hiring a coach. I realize none of us want to spend the money but my coach is dirt cheap and I really recommend him. His plans make sense to me. He answers all of my questions quickly and I figure that the time I save worrying about myself is well worth the money.

Otherwise here is my advice:

1 - Group long rides. Makes the time more manageable.

2 - Umm. I'd say talk to John.

3 - Take a very long offseason. Then focus on base work. Avoid any and all intensity. (Depending upon your strength as a swimmer this may be a reason to avoid a masters group.)

4 - too many for someone in their first year. I was around 20 pretty much all the time in the spring. I was also fried all the time and have absolutely no motivation. You can respectably finish a half IM on 10-14 hours, no sweat.

5 - very little. I ran a marathon last fall.

6 - took 1 day completely off per week. my recovery weeks were normally around 4-5 hours per week.

7 - I used infinit during races. I am very happy with the product but I had major stomach problems during my IM.

Good luck.

Cliff said...


Done two 1/2 IM and here is my take on things.

1. Good question...i would say the long rides help me understand my own hydration and nutrition needs. Also help build me the mental i need for the long day. Lastly, it also build my base.

2. I self coach. Mike has a point about talking to a coach. I follow Going Long. Gordo recommend have a structure training week that works for u and repeat it over and over again. I have done that through the season. Same week just adjust the intenstiy/volume as i go. (note: for IM i am serious consider getting a coach, there must be some way to negotiate iwth my budget).

3. Going too hard on the bike for too long. Not learning to back off in training or in life when other life issues get in the way during heavy training.

I almost want to say forget about speed. Find your aerobic zone and work on that.

4. My goal for past season is to train for IM. So my weekly hours is between 15-20. Actual aerobic hours are closer to 12-17. If I only want to do HIM distance, I could train less.

5. Bike in 2004, about 7 hrs a week.
Did one tri in july '05, training 7-9 hours a week.
Did one marathon in oct '05, training about 10-12 hrs a week.

Notice how through the years i slowly step up the training hours. This is discover by accident.

6. Not do tri or exercise. Sleep. Enjoy simple life, coffee, movie, hang out with friends. On the rest week..really rest up.

7. I follow the same nutrition plan as i did for marathon. 2 gels every 30 min per hour. I use something call eload (and can add more sodium or less depend) and later switch to gatorade (i practice and race with this).

When I accidentally ingest too much or ride too hard, I learnt the feeling my body will response (want to burp up the content) and back off or drink more water to dilute the content.

Have confidence in your body and your ability to do the distance. At the same time, be very sensitive to your body and your mind. If your mind is feeling frustrated or stress, something ain't right. Be it too much training, not enoguh rest, too much work, not enough time with hubby. Find the prob and fix it. If ignore, it will bite u in the butt.

Let your friends and love ones know which period u will be training and adjust your social life/work accordingly or vice versa. I have a few arguments with my friends b/c i ignore them. It brought me a lot of mental frustration during training.

Now I will tell my friends..i won't come out during these few weeks b/c i am training heavy.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

1. What helped you most in training for a half-IM?

Training the actual distances or longer, especially on the bike and run.

2. What training plan can you recommend?

I'm afraid I didn't really follow a formal plan. But I did core work 4-5 days per week, one long run and one long ride each week, at least one shorter run and ride during the week, and 2-3 swim sessions per week.

3. What are some mistakes/traps to avoid?

Work on your transitions. If the swim is likely to be wetsuit-legal, practice getting out of that thing fast. If it's not going to be wetsuit-legal, make extra-sure you practice swimming in the conditions you'll encounter, or as close as you can get.

In fact, the best thing I did was train for anticipated conditions. I did several runs of 13+ miles during the heat of the day to mimic conditions I would encounter by the time I got off the bike. It saved me a lot of trouble out there. You could tell the ones who only practiced their runs in the relative cool of early morning, because they couldn't handle mid-day temps.

So do your best to get a sense of what to expect, and mimic those conditions in training to the extent possible.

4. How many hours a week did you train?

Ten. But I could've done it on less.

5. How much of a base did you have coming into the beginning of the training program.

I had been running long for three years and riding long for two. I had done one marathon, lots of half-marathons, a sprint tri, and lots and lots of long rides.

6. How did you rest?

I took one day completely off each week.

7. What kind of nutrition plan did you follow?

Just my usual sensible diet, on a day to day basis. I'm not particularly sensitive, so I can eat anything. I didn't do anything special on race day, except stay on top of the electrolytes, since it was pretty hot out.

Fizzgig said...

Wow...good luck! This will be a huge accomplishment!

Zoo said...

can't be much help on the swim or run portion but if you need help with the bike I'd be more than happy to help even though you probalby know just as much :P Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

1. What helped you most in training for a half-IM?
This sounds crazy but I completed my first HIM cold turkey. Granted I had 3 years experience competing in triathlons but mainly did sprints and one or two Olympic distance races. I pretty much raced to train. Most I ever did on the bike was 20-30 miles and it wasn’t that often. Swimming is my strength so I didn’t have any concerns there. Olympic and Half distances are uber intimidating at first but you can muscle through a HIM. It might be painful but you can do it. A full Ironman on the other hand is a different story.

2. What training plan can you recommend?
Find a coach! You’ve already got a plug for my coach (John Hirsch). I had 3 years of triathlon race experience but needed someone to frame the bigger picture for me. John was a huge help and also was there to answer a lot of my questions. Oh, and did I ever have a lot of questions… still do!

3. What are some mistakes/traps to avoid?
Listen to your body. As an athlete you want to push yourself but there are limits. Listen, be vigilant, and tell your coach what’s going on. Life and work stress can have a huge impact on overall mental state and if you are pushing the physical limits you it can take you out. My coach keeps warning me about putting my bike up on eBay. Hasn’t happened yet and I don’t want to get to that point!

4. How many hours a week did you train?
6-14 hours depending on the training cycle. Post Ironman I’ve been training 6-8 hours/week. Keep in mind last year this time I did my first Half Ironman. This year I will have completed 1 Full IM, 4 Half, 1 Olympic, and over a dozen sprints. 6-8 hours seems to be what I need to prepare for my last Half in November (Yea 70.3 worlds!!!)

5. How much of a base did you have coming into the beginning of the training program (i.e. how long had you been racing; what was your longest race; number of hours/mileage before starting)?
Almost nothing. The best suggestion Coach John made (although it didn’t seem so at the time) was to take some time off. Clear your mind of everything triathlon. Enjoy your other life. Base workouts (LSD), weight training, etc… should all be calculated in with your goal in mind.

6. How did you rest?
Restless. First few cycles I didn’t know what to do with myself. Trust your coach and save your energy for when it really counts! This is where having other hobbies is a good thing, otherwise you end up watching lots of TV which isn’t a bad thing either.

7. What kind of nutrition plan did you follow? (any of you out there with finicky stomachs?) How/what did you eat during the race?
Rule #1, when you race, do exactly as you do to train. LSD bike rides it’s not as important because you are just building a base. Bring whatever food you think you will enjoy because trust me when you get closer to the race the taste of power bars and clif bars gets old.

I’m just now starting to work on the every day diet but always tried to eat consistent, balanced meals. Eat more often, snack when possible, don’t stuff yourself too often because your body can’t process it all.

You are going to do great! Have a blast and enjoy! Good luck!

Paul said...


Talk to Craig Z. He's the Tri Club coach for this distance. He has a training plan for this race. I would start with that and then have a discussion with him on how to customize it. You can contact him directly. His email and number is on the tri site. Best of luck to you. The 1/2 IM is a truly fun distance.



JeffM said...

This is great Rachel, learning a lot from the comments.

qcmier said...

Well, I never trained specifically for a half IM, but did my first as a training day for a full IM. And for whatever reason, my methods are just a bit off the norm. So...

1 - Get a good sense of what you want to accomplish overall, over a few weeks, and during each workout. Don't go out and do junk miles just to get in a workout.

2 - I went with a coach, but had a lot of my own input. Maybe some folks in your tri club have something to share. Perhaps the best part was that we were flexible throughout the season. We also had some blocks of training that we went through, like base building, lactate threshold, speed, etc. Don't get locked into a cookie cutter plan and follow it verbatum.

3 - Don't ignore the feedback from your body.

4 - Well I would definitely scale back for a half. I was consistently around 15 and up to 25. This included several hours in the weight room. I had a rough estimate for the number of training hours for a 4 week stretch, put most of the hours in the first 3 weeks, and then cut it back about 50% on the 4th week. I ramped up the training hours as the season progressed.

5 - I have been racing on and off since '99, but I only have 1 Olympic distance tri under my belt. I did not believe my inexperience with racing long course hindered my training, because I felt I had a good sense of what I needed to do for my training.

6 - Build in a mandatory 1 day off from training per week. I chose Friday so that I could go into the big volume weekend days a little fresher. Mondays then would be active recovery with no running but a good swim. Also periodize your training. Build for a few weeks, rest a week. etc. See my #4.

7 - That is something for you to experiment with. At the lower intensity on the bike, I could handle pretty much any food. Yes I packed a ham sandwich, pretzels, Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie (did you know the big ones carry 300+ calories!!), more cookies, some fruits. However on the run, I couldn't handle solids. I went solid food only on the bike, gel only on the run. So even after an IM, I can still eat Clif bars, and gels because I am not totally sick of that stuff. I think I consumed only 8 gels during my IM. By the way, especially with the gel, try to find something that you absolutely love. I use Carb-Boom gel. Oh and I shyed away from dairy products the night before and day of the race.

I would be happy to give you my feedback if you have more questions. Feel free to email me. By the way, I believe you have a very good handle on your training.

RunBubbaRun said...

1. What helped you most in training for a half-IM?

The best thing is to have a plan, I used a book, no coach, but find a training plan you can handle, tweak it out also so that it fits your lifstyle. But definetly due the distance in half IM, some 60 mile rides, 13.1 mile runs, and some 2000 meter swims. it will give you the confidence to know you have done the distance.

2. What training plan can you recommend?

I read as many training plan I could and used them as guides, Gale bernhardt has some, VeloPress has some, I used their IM training book as my guide. Actually a cheap way to find books is at the local library. Great resources. cheap too, free. TRi groups and training groups in general are a great form of free resource. ASk questions from everybody and see whatworks best for you.

3. What are some mistakes/traps to avoid?

Not paying attention to your nutrtion and definetly do a brick workout at least once a week in your plan.

4. How many hours a week did you train?

For my IM training, I trained from 10 to 18 hours, some people train more or even less. But do a 3 to 1 or 2 to 1 workout, (ie 3 weeks build 1 week easy)

5. How much of a base did you have coming into the beginning of the training program (i.e. how long had you been racing; what was your longest race; number of hours/mileage before starting)?

I did build up from a sprint and olympic but did half IM's my second year, building up to IM in my 3rd year.

6. How did you rest?

Take at least one day off, I took Friday off this year. Active recovery seemed to work for me sometimes on those days but take at least one day off completely if you can.

7. What kind of nutrition plan did you follow? (any of you out there with finicky stomachs?) How/what did you eat during the race?

The best thing is to experiment, everybody is different, I used accelrade and cliff bloks on the bike and endurance gatorade on the run. But see what works best for you. Carbo-Pro is the best, you can use it with anything.

Good luck. You will do great. I will be reading.

Barb said...

I've found these comments very interesting and informative. Especially since I'm trying to decide whether to do a 1/2 IM this year.

Triteacher said...

1. What helped you most in training for a half-IM?

I did my first like qcmier did - as preparation for a full IM. That being said, I printed off my IM training plan from Beginner and just replaced the scheduled workouts with the race. I did not race the HIM I did, but rather used it to simulate my pace, build my confidence, and try out my nutrition for the full IM.

My biggest learning curve in all the training I did last season came in the areas of nutrition and pacing myself. You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again because it’s invaluable: try your nutrition out during training sessions. I tweaked my nutrition all season long and learned what worked for me and what didn’t. I agree with the other person who said, find a gel you love. For me, it was Chocolate Outrage GU.

Pacing: Use a heart rate monitor. I never could have paced myself for that distance without having an objective tool like my HRM.

2. What training plan can you recommend?
I was very happy with the one I printed for IM distance from Beginner Triathlete. And it was the right price! (Free)

3. What are some mistakes/traps to avoid?
Drinking too much on the bike. I learned that I needed to stop my intake about ½ hour prior to getting off of the bike, or I really sloshed and cramped on the run. I applied this principle during IM and it worked for me.

4. How many hours a week did you train? 5. How much of a base did you have coming into the beginning of the training program (i.e. how long had you been racing; what was your longest race; number of hours/mileage before starting)?
September of 2005 - I was at about 4 hours/week and had just signed up for IM Wisconsin 2006. I started building my base, adding 10% per week, with stepbacks every 4th week until I was at 8-10 hrs/wk.
April ‘06 - I started my official IM plan for my IM in September.
June ’06 - Did my HIM. In the four weeks leading up to the HIM, my hours were…13.9, 15.8, 8.5, 11.1 (latter is race week and includes race.) If this had been an A race for me, I probably would have tapered more. As it was, I did the race at just a bit more than a training pace and felt fine.

6. How did you rest?
Without a doubt, take 1 full day of rest a week. And more if you need to recover. I used my HRM to help me decide if I was overtraining and made a pact that I would listen to it!

7. What kind of nutrition plan did you follow? (any of you out there with finicky stomachs?) How/what did you eat during the race?
My stomach is ironclad, so I had no issues with nausea. However, I did need to adjust for the sideache on the run because of too much nutrition on the bike. Here’s my revised plan:
Hr 1 = Clif bar, 20 oz. Gatorade
Hr 2 = Clif bar, 20 oz. Gatorade
Hr 3 = 2 Gels, 10 oz. Gatorade
Hr 1 = ½ Gade, Gel
Early in Hr 2 = ½ Gade, ¼ Clif, Gel

I never had a problem with taking Gatorade with my foods as some people have, so on everything but my IM, I simplified and just used Gatorade instead of having to store and carry water as well.

Good luck and happy training!