Training for Tuesday: I went and bought me a training plan today that costed a lot of money today


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 5k
It'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.


  1. It would appear that the yellow means that you did too much? That's the only sense I can make out of it :) And good for you for shelling out the cash for the training plan. I know it's so hard to do that these days when so much is free on the internet, but sometimes you do get what you pay for! Besides, think of it as paying a little bit now to avoid all the costs (financial, physical, mental) of an injury later. You're gonna rock this!!

  2. Aside from c25k I know nothing about training plans, but feel so much more informed now-- in case I ever need a bigger plan :) I'm the same way with things when it comes to spending money and worrying I'll regret it and wish I'd gone with something else, so it's so awesome that you knew you could switch plans if you decided one wasn't right for you. It's so cool that it syncs up with your Garmin & keeps track of everything so nicely.

  3. That's awesome! I really like the calendar layout and how it makes a note of whether or not you've done the workout. Every additional motivator helps!

  4. I think if I was doing this big a race, I would shell out the money as well - it just seems worth it because it's such a huge day and possibly the most demanding thing you've ever done, and you want to be in good hands! it sounds like a great plan and having access to the coach and that handy little red/green/yellow system sure looks helpful!

  5. Awesome! You are a rockstar. I have always kind of wanted to hire a coach or trainer or get a plan or something, but I'm just way too cheap for that. But for an Ironman, totally worth it, I say. Wishing you all the running luck for your training!

  6. First of all congrats for officially signing up and being all pa up! You got this! Next I agree with Kristen, if I was doing an Ironman or any race of this magnitude, heck yes I would pay for a training plan. I wouldn't know where to start and I think structure for these races is key. You will rock this!

  7. I'm considering paying for a training plan for the runDisney Glass Slipper Challenge because I don't want to hurt myself during training. But for all my runs before, I never really followed a plan, even when I signed up for them on RunKeeper (I can't let the man hold me down! lol). It's such a tough decision.

    I'm doing the Ramblin' Rose Sprint Tri in August and I'm hoping it's not a gateway to longer tris. Lord knows running races is expensive enough, adding tri's to that? My wallet is already weeping.

    Good luck!!!

  8. This is one of the most helpful posts ever! Thank you so much for sharing all your training plans with us! I am on Week 4 of C25k and I love it so far!

  9. I will never lose respect for the way you C25K'd your way to Ironman! You're doing the right thing investing in something you're confident with!

  10. I loved C25K and I strongly believe in having plans that gradually build you up. I never through I would be running for 20 minute at a time yet along more than just a minute haha! So the power of a plan is great! With that being said, I don't think I will ever do a running plan past 5k. No thanks lol. I have strong admiration for you for doing as much as you do!!! It is incredible and you should be proud.

  11. I love that your training plan has colors! Lots of green: good week. I am a total spreadsheet-training-plan nerd, but I felt the same way going into my first full as you did with this tri. It's bigger than me and I need help. I'm sure I could have done it without paying for training, but I feel so much more confident knowing that I'm following a "real" plan versus one I just sort of made up. Except today, because I think I did something to my knee when running intervals...but that's neither here nor there.

  12. I think it's really clear that you made the right choice here. I'm so excited for you and so happy you found a plan that fits your needs and helps you feel confident in your training! I meant to follow a HH plan for half marathon #1, and I sort of did, until life was all "LOL no you don't" in the last 2-3 weeks. I'm following an adapted (adapted the same way yours was, to add that 22-miler, which you already know because you were with me when I changed it on my spreadsheet) HH Novice 2 marathon plan and I think it looks really good and will work well for me. I think. Knock on wood. Also it's just occurred to me that I'll run a marathon before racing a 10k. Weird.

    Also, even though I didn't technically use C25k, the method works. Period. And I will say that until I'm blue in the face. I never, ever ran, though I wanted to, because I knew I couldn't. Even C25k was terribly intimidating to me because I couldn't run ONE mile, let alone ever get near 3. I needed the trainer friend who could guide me through the intervals to see that it DOES work. It takes time and it is a process, but it will happen when you commit. So much love for C25k-esque training plans.

  13. that looks great-I have never paid for a training plan before but have been debating it as I think a coach or a paid plan could help me with speedwork for sure

  14. I'm going to be really interested to see if you end up thinking this training plan was worth the money! Just like you, I've done the free ones... And didn't follow them. After this baby makes his/her exit, I want to start to race again, and would love a good training plan to prep me for another half for 2016!

  15. I love that you shared training plans that worked for you because I think the "where do I start?!" question is a major problem for a lot of people. I have C25K but I never follow through with it. The farthest I ever made it was to week 3. I want to continue with it, but I think I need to pick up somewhere in week 2.