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Ironman, Training

Designing A Training Plan

I am training for an Ironman (or I will be starting in a few weeks). Problem is, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

Triathlon training plans are much harder to come by than those for marathons or other running events — particularly Iron-distance races. And the challenge is that you have to hit such high volumes in three separate sports for so long (six months or so) that it’s much more complex than what you would do for 26.2 training. So you have two options: use a collection of books to design your own plan or hire a coach/purchase a professionally-designed plan.

I’ve had Joe Friel’s Triathlete’s Training Bible for awhile, and I recently read it from cover to cover. It’s a great book and definitely something every triathlete should own,  but when it comes down to it, it’s not quite enough for designing a detailed Ironman plan.

I learned a lot about periodization — progressive cycles of training that build up to your goal race — and managed to get as far as weekly volume and types of workouts (speed, endurance) up to THE BIG DAY. But where I’m struggling is with the specific daily grind. What do I do each time I go swim? How do I incorporate yoga or strength? And how do I work around my other races, particularly Boston?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am super super organized and a lover of all things planned and color-coded, but even this may be beyond my abilities. Especially because this is my first Ironman. I have very little experience with high volume training — let’s be honest, a lot of my marathon/70.3 success was luck and sheer physical exertion that doesn’t even begin to touch 140.6 levels — careful nutrition plans or working around a full-time job. The majority of my training has been either coached or based on how I feel/what I want to eat or do.

So I can do a few things to solve this problem. First, I can go to Barnes&Noble, clean out their supply of training books and use that combined knowledge to build my own detailed plan. Or I can pay someone else to do it for me. The High Cloud Dream Team in theory will get some help with this, but if I need it now I can join DC Tri’s Ironman Training Program, which uses a professional coach, logs workouts in Training Peaks software and includes clinics, workouts and counseling on all aspects of Ironman prep. The only downside is the $300 price tag.

Winging it is not an option. Mostly because of the sheer physical challenge of the event, but also because I’m investing a lot of energy, time and money in performance this season (for example, new bike, new equipment, major races, lots of hours logged).

It’s also my first Iron-distance event. If I was a veteran, I would feel more comfortable doing this on my own. And the support and camaraderie I would get from the group training program would really help me stay motivated when I don’t want to go out for a 10-hour day.

It sounds like I’ve already made up my mind,  but this is where I need your opinion. What would you do? And if you have Ironman experience, how did you train for your first? Would a coach have helped your performance?



4 thoughts on “Designing A Training Plan

  1. It sounds like you’re leaning towards a coach? I’ve laid out my own training plans for things, always, but I’ve also never done an IM, so maybe my comment is totally useless. I’ve recently learned that it’s much easier to stay motivated when training with a group, so I’d definitely recommend that, especially for the kind of high volume training that goes into an IM.

    Posted by katie | February 15, 2011, 2:12 PM
  2. I caved and got a coach for my IM training. I have full confidence in my ability to train for endurance events, but an Ironman is a tricky beast that I don’t want to mess with!

    Posted by Emily | February 15, 2011, 6:24 PM
  3. I would have gone for the coach/group too, both for the direction and camaraderie. I usually justify spending the $ on something like that by breaking it out over X number of months and thinking about how easy it would be to not spend that on other things. I’m excited for you!

    Posted by amy | February 16, 2011, 9:18 AM
  4. Without any hesitation. Get a coach! I spent a couple of years self coaching, doing all the courses (Personal training etc), but nothing beats having a coach. In the 12 months of having a coach plan my sessions, I’ve come further than any of my friends who are self coaching, with more support, encouragement and assistance. (especially when things go wrong, and they do! :-))

    Posted by slongden | February 19, 2011, 4:55 AM

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