Ok but really. Let's talk training. I may have casually mentioned, like maybe I let it slip once or twice, that this fall I was planning on completing my first half Iron distance triathlon. Ring any bells? Well, friends, I'm all paid up and registered and now I'm just biding my time until October 17.
Yeah, right! I wish. Training leaves no rest for the weary, to be sure. So today I wanted to talk about what my training will look like over the next 4 months, and what led me to choose this particular plan. But first, let's back it up. Way, way up. Back to the first training plan I ever followed, down the path that took me from no-way-never-ever runner to half-Ironman hopeful.
First ever training plan: Couch 2 5kIt's probably no surprise that even now I'm a stickler for a training plan, since that's how I was first introduced to running. I had never, and I mean never run in my lifetime before I decided to give running a shot just over 4 years ago, and I think a big reason I had held off for so long (besides my asthma, that is) is that I just didn't know where or how to start. I was interested in maybe eventually running a 5k - 3.1 miles - but how? I had never run any distance measurable in miles; it wasn't like I could go out and run a mile and start working my way up to 3 times that. I needed the structure and the challenging but achievable steps that the Couch 2 5k program provided. The premise of C25k is simple: use predetermined walk/run intervals that start with more walking than running, and end up 9 weeks later with you running for 30 minutes straight. It worked beautifully work me, but as someone who had never run before, I couldn't have come up with that strategy on my own.
First 10k training plan: Bridge 2 10k
After I graduated from Couch 2 5k (which took me something like 3 months, after which I still wasn't able to run a 5k in 30 minutes, just so you know), I set my sights on a 10k. Actually, I signed up for a 10k well before I had even finished C25k, and the 10k race was only 3 weeks after my first 5k. B210k is essentially an extension of C25k, but I'll be honest: I didn't get through the whole program. I made it maybe halfway through, then fell off with my training a bit, but went through with the race anyway. I had never run more than almost 4 miles before my first 10k but, shockingly, I made it to mile 4, 5, 6, and all the way to the finish line of my first 10k without stopping once. I can't fully contribute my success in that race to the B210k program since I didn't actually finish it, but I absolutely have the principles I learned from C25k + B210k to than for getting me across the finish line just 6 months after taking my first running steps.
First half marathon training plan: Hal Higdon Novice 1
After my first 10k, I was on a roll. I signed up for my first half marathon about 8 weeks after that race, and I had exactly 3 months to train. Since I had never even come close to half marathon mileage, I knew I needed to find a plan to get me to the finish line. A quick Google search led me to Hal Higdon, who would become my main man for the next 3+ years of training. Since I had no experience with the half marathon whatsoever, I decided to go with the Novice 1 plan. The plan calls for runs on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, but since I physically wasn't comfortable running 3 days straight or for 4 days/week total, I cut out the Wednesday runs (which were only 2-3 miles anyway). In retrospect, it may have helped my endurance to keep in those Wednesday runs, but it also may have hurt since I was really injury-prone in those days even with a light 3 runs/week schedule. It's hard to say, since my first half really didn't go all that well (I followed the training plan about 85% of the time, but I still didn't feel like my endurance was where it should have been), and afterward I ended up with a stress reaction in my shins that kept me from running for 8 weeks. It's honestly a miracle I stuck with it after that. A year later I followed Hal's Novice 2 plan with much more success (to the tune of 30 minutes) at my second half marathon. I've used my own variations on his plans for most of half marathons and have run my way from a 2:42 half to a 1:49, so something must be working!
First marathon training plan: Hal Higdon Novice 2
For my first marathon, I went back to HH without even a second thought. I was comfortable with the demands and structure of his plans since I had used them for a few half marathons, and I figured if it wasn't broke, why fix it? About 6 months before my marathon, when I first decided to run it, I was coming back from an injury and wanted to form a really good base before I got into serious marathon training. I started off using his 30-week Novice Supreme plan for several weeks to build up mileage before switching gears to the 18-week Novice 2 marathon plan. I added in some of my own modifications (e.g. adjusting the plan to include a 20-miler and 22-miler rather than just one 20-miler before the big day), but otherwise I never, ever deviated from the plan. And I had just about the best first marathon I ever could have hoped for to show for it. I've used the Novice 2 plan again (with just the one 20-miler) for 2 subsequent marathons and took 32 minutes off my time in just over a year.
First half Ironman training plan: David Glover 18-Week Novice-Intermediate
One thing all my previous training plans have had in common, regardless of distance or intensity: they've all been free. This is where my current plan deviates from the norm. I've never followed a strict triathlon training program before, I've just taken bits and pieces from some and put them together until they made a plan I felt would be successful for my race. I tried to do that with this one, but I just couldn't get to a place where I felt really confident that all the workouts I had scheduled would lead me to a successful race. Correctly balancing 3 different sports is a juggling act and, for my longest race thus far, I just didn't feel like I could come up with a training plan on my own that would be adequate. I looked at several free ones but there were so many options I was overwhelmed. I didn't find any I really loved, so off to Training Peaks I went. I had already heard a lot of good things about their workout tracking and analysis so I had been thinking about giving the site a try anyway, and then I found out that they also offer training plans. I hooked up with someone from their support team to try to figure out the best plan for me. I wrote a rather lengthy email explaining my history, my strengths and weaknesses in each discipline, the amount of time I'd be willing to commit to training, and my race goals.
They quickly got back to me and recommended I check out David Glover's plans. They even suggested I email him personally with all of the same information I had sent them so that he would be able to give me the best guidance on choosing my plan. I got a lengthy, enthusiastic reply from David a few hours later recommending his Novice/Intermediate plan. He explained that I'd have access to a members-only forum on his website with all kinds of Q&A, that he'd switch me over to a more intense plan free of charge if I felt like the Novice one was too easy, and that he'd be available via email to answer any questions I had.
Honestly, I was completely sold once I read the last part. I have a tendency to overanalyze and freak out over whether or not I'm doing the right things, so having access to the coach who made the plan, who can help calm my fears and guide me in the right direction? That peace of mind alone was worth the cost of the plan. I'm in Week 4 now and, so far, I absolutely love it. I've always made spreadsheets for my training plans, that I know what workout I have coming up this week (or next week, or 10 weeks from now, whatever), but with Training Peaks, I don't have to do that anymore (I don't have to...I still made my own spreadsheet because that's the kind of person I am, just so we're clear). The minute I purchased the plan, the site loaded all of my workouts into my account. I can make notes after I've completed them, or move them around if I need to reschedule some of them. The best part is that Training Peaks syncs up with Garmin Connect, which is where all of my swims/bikes/runs get uploaded to via my watch, so my training calendar automatically updates whenever I complete a workout! At the beginning of the week, each workout is gray. As I complete them, they turn green (or red, if I don't...and I haven't figured out yet what yellow means?). And it keeps a running total of all my activities for the week. Seriously, it couldn't be simpler.
I was hesitant to pay for a training plan, but after 4 years of using free ones and still having no idea where to turn or what to do for my first 70.3, I didn't know what else to do. I don't expect to make this a habit, but I did want to do everything possible to make my first HIM a success. I'm leaving this one to the professional.