Friday, September 16, 2011

Triathlon Training - By Me

So I follow a bunch of blogs from various triathletes ranging from pro to age groupers, though I am by far the least experienced and slowest. The one thing I always wished I knew was how these people were training. I did read a great blog entry once about reading how other people train. It went something like this: When you're reading about someone else's races or training keep in mind that you are not them. And while some guy may run 10 miles at a pace you can't hold for one mile you should not feel bad about that. Train your own way, and try to pick up some tips from wherever you can.

So here's how I trained this year.

My weekly schedule was pretty much set.
MondaySwim am (2,800 - 3,600 yards). Bike pm (18 - 35 miles)
TuesdayShort run  pm (3 miles)
WednesdaySwim am (2,800 - 3,600 yards). Long run (7 miles) or focused bike workout (e.g., hills, tempo, intervals)
ThursdayBike pm (18 - 35 miles)
FridaySwim am (2,800 - 3,600 yards)
SaturdayBike run brick. (Bike 20-50 miles, run 3-7 miles - don't rest much between bike and run)

For my swim training I joined a masters swimming program ( it's a great group. The coach has lots of experience both coaching and swimming, and he has done a great job nurturing this group. I had been a part of this group with my wife about four years ago, and while the group has definitely grown in that time, it is also neat to see that there are lots of people still there. It's a testament to the quality of the group.

From a training perspective, joining a good group provides many things. First a good coach can put together some really great workouts. They will do distance sets, sprint sets and sort of "resting days." A good coach will also pay attention to your stroke, and help you tweak your stroke on the fly. And since I come back three times a week they can keep seeing it and keep reminding me. Swimming with a larger group gives me motivation to get better, to train better so I can be better. I would definitely recommend people find a masters group no matter what their skill level.

I don't really do any open water swims, mainly because the lakes are cold, and I haven't been able to find many local people to swim with. Since swimming is my strong point I don't worry about it. Many people do try to get in some open water swims though.

Prior to this summer my bike training consisted of just going out and biking. I'd maybe throw in the occasional interval workout with .25 mile fast, .75 mile soft pedaling. The main problem with that was that I was almost always training alone, and never went much further than 10 miles.

So this summer I found a bike group to ride with ( again, it's a great group to be a part of. There are about 100 members and at any given day there are anywhere between 20 and 50 riders split up among five groups. The groups range in speed anywhere from 13 mph average to 20+ so there's a place for anyone. The group really gave me a variety of things, they knew the local  routes that are bike friendly, they knew how to string together a 20 mile ride on the fly, they knew how to turn an easy ride into a challenging ride, and because the skill range is so large they were always pushing me.

While riding in a group is totally different than riding in a triathlon (drafting for one) simply being in the group on a regular basis makes you a better rider. You can watch good riders, people can offer up tips, you get experience riding close to other riders which really helps with your bike handling.

The one thing this bike group doesn't offer is any sort of speed work. It's really just go out and bike as hard as you want for a bunch of miles. So I tried to augment those two weekly rides with another mid-week ride where I would toss in some hill repeats or speed work. In theory this would work great, the reality was that it didn't work out that well. I did it a few times, but in the end I just didn't stick to it.

So two years ago when all of this started I couldn't run a mile. So I did couch to 5k. The following summer I worked on shorter runs and tried to throw in tempo and interval runs in. I mainly did that because I still was having trouble running three miles straight, so instead of just running out of steam on a three miles I wanted to have a different excuse (e.g., I didn't run the whole time because I was really hitting the intervals hard.)

After that summer my wife and sister got me signed up for a couple of half marathons. Over the course of that training I (obviously) got my mileage way up over 3 miles. I was also peppering in some speed work, because I had set some goals to get faster than I was. This training was instrumental toward me being a better runner, I dropped my run times almost a minute per mile, and now a three mile run is an easy run, and I do six or seven miles without really putting too much thought into it.

Things that could use more focus
  • Bike speed work and hills. Whenever anyone talks about building speed (bike, running, swimming) intervals is where it's at. I've also read that if you're running short on time and can't put together two hours for mileage that a shorter hill workout is a great substitute.
  • Running - I need to work on speed (more intervals) and form. I know I have a slight heel strike, and I would not be surprised to find out there's something else I could tweak. It's not uncommon (in my life) for someone to comment on my running, and not as in that 'you look great' way :)
  • Transitions - I literally have never practiced a transition. I pay attention to articles and what other people suggest. But I think it's coming down to trying some new techniques and just practicing.
The one thing that I am really missing from my training this summer is a good group of triathletes to hook up with. I got supremely spoiled while in FL because I was able to hook up with an excellent group of people ( It is a fantastic group of people covering a wide variety of skill levels from total newbies (like I was) to top age-group finishers and iron distance veterans. I knew it was a good group when I found it, but I really miss that now that I'm in MN. I'm hoping to connect with a few more people close to where I live, it's just that one extra thing that I could use.

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