An athlete has chosen their A races for the season: an early season Olympic at the end of March, a marathon four weeks later and a sprint in mid July. The Olympic distance triathlon and the marathon will be the first attempt for this athlete and advice is needed on how to properly structure training in preparation for two very different events in close proximity to one another.
Coach Leigh’s solution:
Since the majority of this season’s goals fall early within the year and are quite close together, I am going to concentrate on the march Olympic distance triathlon and the April marathon. Given only the parameters stated above and not using any other information such as work and family life, previous injuries, background sports or previous seasons’ results, I would suggest the 12 week Basic Olympic plan (for either HR or RPE, depending on the athlete’s preference and equipment) for the late March Olympic distance race, with the caveat that starting in week four, they add 20% onto the long run to start building their run endurance. For example, week four has the long run on Sunday of 75 minutes. I would have the athlete add 15 minutes to that run for a total of 90 minutes.
After the Olympic race, I would have a three to five days of rest with a medium run the following weekend and then repeat the two weeks previous to the race (weeks ten and eleven on the plan) with 20% added onto two runs each week (one long and one medium) with the last long run (10 miles or more) being two weeks to 10 days out of the marathon. Ten days to a week before the race, the athlete should do a medium run of up to 90 minutes and then bring all runs under an hour for the week leading up to the race.
I would also emphasize to the athlete that the shorter runs of 20-45 minutes are crucial for success in a marathon so close to a shorter, more intense event. While the athlete will most likely not have a long run of over 20 miles, the consistency of the shorter, faster runs throughout the week will have a great impact than a single long run, if done consistently throughout the twelve weeks before the triathlon and in the four weeks after the triathlon leading up to the marathon. If the athlete consistently runs the three to four proscribed runs before the triathlon and is consistent with the cycling and swim training, there should be no reason why said athlete would be unable to finish the marathon, provided that attention is paid to nutrition for the 26.2 miles.
While the athlete may get apprehensive about not having a full 26 mile training run in their plan, it is important to remember that the average marathoner is not swimming and biking in addition to their run training. It’s this additional training that will increase the cardiovascular fitness and mental toughness needed for almost back to back races.