When I started thinking about competing in long distance triathlon the biggest concern I had was whether I could handle the amount of training required. I was used to putting in 20+ hour training weeks at the peak of Olympic distance training, and the general idea was with a longer race comes a higher training load. I was in incredible shape putting in this kind of volume, but it consumed my entire life. There’s no way I could physically or mentally add more training time. To maximize training effect for longer distance racing, I’ve had to step back and completely reassess the way I train.
Luckily I’ve learned longer distance racing does not have to mean more training. At least not from ITU to 70.3. I’ve noticed this especially in the pool. In ITU, the swim is paramount because if you miss the lead bike pack there is almost no way to make up the deficit later on. I used to swim 6 days per week with double days at least twice a week while training for ITU. Since the swim increase from ITU to 70.3 is so minimal (less than 400 meters longer), I decided to start by swimming only 3 times per week. What amazes me is after 2 months of training this way, my threshold swim speed is roughly 90% of what it was when I was swimming much more. I never thought I could get so close to peak shape off half the swim volume. This has given me more time to focus on the bike and run.
The bike leg is the most time consuming part of a 70.3 race. The top pros spend just over 2 hours of their day on the bike. Traditional training for this discipline would include long hours on the bike in the time trial position. I simply don’t have time to ride 3 or 4 hours on a regular basis so I’ve taken steps to optimize the time I do have. I teach a computrainer class 3 times a week where I can pack a large amount of intensity into an hour or two ride. This intensity carries the same training effect as longer workouts at a lower intensity. I also do one weekly workout where I spend an hour to ninety minutes at goal 70.3 pace in the aero position. Once the weather improves, I plan to get outside more to work on aerodynamics on the bike
Since running is most natural to me, it has been the easiest transition. In training for shorter distances, I was used to a lot of intensity. A typical workout would be something like 12*400 starting at 70 seconds per repeat and descending throughout. I intend to do similar workouts as I get closer to race day, but for now I am focusing on much longer intervals and tempo runs. I’ve always believed a half-marathon is a race that suits strength based runners, so the tempo runs should be the best bang for my buck in the early season.
All in all, I believe I have a solid initial approach to tackling longer distance triathlon. I’ve found that trusting in your training approach is a crucial piece of the puzzle mentally, and I feel good with where I’m at so far. I have much to learn, however, and I’m sure I’ll hit some bumps along the way. I just have to take them in stride.