Member Question: New Triathlete and the Half Ironman

author : Amy Kuitse
comments : 3

"I just finished the NYC marathon on Sunday and I think I'm going to venture into triathlons. I am doing an Olympic distance (Philly Tri) on June 27. I want to do a 70.3 next year as well. Is this recommended?  Any advice on time between Olympic and 70.3?"

First, CONGRATULATIONS on your NYC finish!  You already know how to handle an endurance race and this will help you in dealing with the overall distance of the 70.3 you want to compete in.  I am going to give you two different responses to your question regarding the Olympic and the 70.3. 

First is to say not to be in a hurry to take on a 70.3 or the half Ironman distance next year if you feel that you are “forcing” the volume of training you need to do to prepare so you have a safe and positive experience.  In addition you do not want to find yourself injured or exhausted by the training.  We know you have a running background with your completion of the marathon.  Based on how your questions are phrased about "venturing into triathlons" it sounds like you have little background in swimming and biking.  If this is the case this means learning to swim, gaining efficiency with your stroke, learning open water swimming, and learning the confidence and comfort in open water in a race situation.  The open water swim in a race is very different than open water swims with friends at the lake and why your comfort in the water is so important.  My feeling is the more time and opportunities we have in smaller races, in training over a period of time, the safer we are and more confident we feel.  This leads to a more positive experience.

Regarding the bike we can look at this in much the same way.  The more opportunities we have to train, participate in shorter races, and gradually build our volumes, the greater our comfort will be on the bike too.  This time allows us to build strength, power, and endurance to go longer, push bigger gears, and have a better experience running off the bike.  With these things said I am not trying to discourage your participation in the 70.3, but rather encourage you to sit down and create a list of “positives for 2010, more positives for 2011” to help you think this through.  The 70.3 series and other ½ IM distances are going to be around for along time.  A year of experience under your belt in 2010 may help lead you into a better 70.3 experience.  It will help in avoiding injuries, burnout, and have you coming back for more.

Now, let’s look at the second part of my answer with going ahead and doing the 70.3.  First we know you have running background to support this part of the triathlon.  This will likely help you with the endurance portion of the run in getting to the finish line.  With the swim I would recommend getting to the pool as soon as possible and gradually work on increasing your time and yardage in the pool.  If possible, I would highly recommend taking some swim lessons or looking into a masters swim program.  It would be very helpful to have someone look at your swim stroke and make recommendations on things to work on to improve your stroke and swim efficiency.  As the weather changes and the lakes warm-up I would also recommend weekly open water swims.

This same line of thought goes along with getting you ready on the bike.  Initially easy spinning, gradual increases of time on the bike, look into spinning classes, and look for a local triathlon team.  Here you will likely find people of all levels who are training for various distances. One thing you can be certain of is that amongst triathletes there seems to be a lot of sharing and willingness to help others get into the sport.  Here you will find a wealth of information and help!  Another important aspect of the bike is having the right size frame and fitting.  The fit of your bike will be a key in running off.  This is where your local tri shop or bike shop can be helpful to you.

Last, but not least is a good solid training plan that will have you ready for the starting line on race day.  Here on BT we have a number of different plans to choose from for the half Ironman as well as the Olympic distances.  There are a number of different ways you could approach choosing a plan(s).  This will be determined by your fitness, time you have available to train and the timing of your races.  I would recommend putting the half Ironman as late into your season as possible so you give yourself time for the training volume to increase gradually.  In addition maybe add another sprint or Olympic distance race to your schedule for more racing experience.  Your training plan will provide you with the structure and gradual increases in volume needed for race day.

I would recommend a minimum of four weeks between the half Ironman and the Olympic so you can have a good five days of recovery coming out of the Olympic and then still have a couple of good weekends to get a long ride and run in and then have 10-14 days of taper leading into the half Ironman.  At 14 days out you could put in your last long ride and run off workout in and go into the taper.

Now, it’s time to get you started as you look ahead to 2010.  Take the time to make a list and give some thought for the training to complete the 1/2IM distance.  Remember, the races will be there for a long time and also know that BT is going to be here for a long time too.  The plans and help are available to you now as well as in 2011.  We want you to have a safe and positive experience regardless of when you take on the challenge of the distance.  Keep us posted on your decision and let us know if you have other questions as you go.

All the best...Amy

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date: December 11, 2009

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Amy Kuitse