Ask the Coach: Racing During Half Ironman Training

author : Ali Winslow
comments : 0

Is it realistic to race a sprint and Olympic distance race within 2-3 weeks of one another to gauge my progress before tackling the half Ironman?

Member Question from fifetriguy

"I am 9 weeks into a 16 week sprint program. At the end of the program I hope to find a low key try-a-tri race or simulate my own to give me pointers on what I should be concentrating on for my next training block and for next year. My target next year is a half Ironman sometime in Aug - Sep 2010. Is it realistic to race a sprint and Olympic distance race within 2-3 weeks of one another (16 or so weeks prior to the first HIM) to gauge my progress before tackling the HIM?"


Answer from Ali Winslow

D3 Multisport Coach

Assuming that you are a novice triathlete, it is a good idea to get some racing in prior to tackling a big race like a half Ironman. At the end of your 16 week program, you should have a target race not only to gauge your progress, but also so that you have a focus during your training. During your training period, you should be learning different aspects of training for all three sports, including pacing, the preparatory work, recovery and nutrition. Without knowing your background specifically, I would say that a 16 week program should be adequate for a first race and then post race you need to dissect not only your race, but your training for that race. You need to write-up a race report for yourself - go over all parts of that race:

  1. Did you make a plan for the race and each event?

  2. Did you follow that plan?

  3. Did you feel that you went too hard or too easy?

  4. Did you follow a race nutrition plan, and if so, did it go well or did you have any problems?

  5. How did you feel after the race?

  6. Were you prepared for the race?

After a transition period from the race, start planning for the following year. As you have made the decision to target a half Ironman for the following year, you will need to make a periodized plan to incorporate long distance training, intensity training, recovery and nutrition. Along with that you need to put in some smaller races in order to get more experience and put your training to practice. At the same time, you want to make sure that you aren't racing too much or too close together, as that will take it's toll on your body. By planning carefully, you can target a few races leading up to your "A" half Ironman race.

Do's and Don'ts

  1. Create a systematic training plan that includes proper progressions of distance and intensity for the swim, bike and run.

  2. Find a few sprint races and 1-2 Olympic distance races leading up to your "A" race.

  3. Do not race every weekend. You will need time to do longer distance training and not necessarily all at race intensity.

  4. Choose your races so that they make sense with your training and intensity block- start with 1-2 sprint races, gauge your training and combine the races with some longer distance training.

  5. Don't race more than 1-2 Olympic distance races unless you have a long training period. Your climate dictates your racing season- here in New England we begin racing in late May and end in early October. That doesn't leave too much time for spreading out races.

  6. Do practice race nutrition.

  7. Do choose races that are well known, established and have a good reputation. There's nothing worse than gearing up for a race, to have it poorly organized or in rough conditions.

  8. Do plan to have a short race at least 2 weeks prior to your HIM. Make it a low key sprint race- this will give you time to recover and also make adjustments as necessary.

  9. Don't race the week prior to your  "A" race. You will need a longer time to recover and prepare.


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date: September 22, 2009

Ali Winslow