125 days: The next 18 weeks

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Just over 18 weeks away! Raised so far: $5,947! Want to increase this total? Chip in a few bucks to one of our causes here, or find out how you can get involved by pinging me on Facebook or by dropping me a note.

Suzanne and Tawnya are on the march! Follow along as they trek the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, “The Way of St James” – a 500 mile pilgrimage starting in southern France and across northern Spain. They’ve posted several updates during the first week of their journey.

Please sign up for the Kyle’s Special Heart 5K/10K! June 8 in Rainier, WA! Details and registration information are here – please help out my cousin and his wife as their newborn son Kyle fights with the fury of a thousand ninja babies to heal from his congenital heart issues. More information about Kyle and his fight can be found on their blog. I won’t be able to make it – I have the Redondo Beach Triathlon that same weekend – but I will be there in spirit!

The Next 18 Weeks

In case you missed it, last Friday I highlighted the race reports of professional triathlete Trevor Wurtele – he has three video race reports from 70.3 events this year that, in my opinion, are each nothing short of 80 seconds of pure magic.

As much as I love his race reports (seriously, go watch them… if you’ve ever tried to write or describe a race, you will appreciate his effort), that isn’t the reason why I bring up this particular blog entry. At the end of that post I briefly mentioned that my 18-week training plan to prepare for Ironman Lake Tahoe has been drafted, and that TODAY is the day it starts.

Why 18 weeks? Through trial and error over the years I’ve found out a few things about myself:

  • If I am working with a solid base level of fitness, I can pretty much get into racing shape in about two months time and perform respectably – last year I went from a good performance in the Napa 70.3 (5:11:41) in May to a fast result at Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens (4:47:16) in July. Training for Napa was haphazard and done by “feel”, so I had a decent level of starting fitness, but two months of very focused training made that leap possible… but I am certain I could have been faster/stronger with a little more time and sustained focused effort.
  • Of course, this next race is a full Ironman distance – 140.6 miles – so two months might not be quite enough…
  • I’ve tried longer training programs in the 22-week range for marathons and found that I was completely burned out come race day
  • In those 22-week training cycles I had found that I really didn’t have significant performance gains between weeks 18 and 22.
  • How do I know all of this? Since late 2004 I’ve captured all of my training data via GPS devices and downloaded the results to SportTracks (and now I additionally use Strava). I can diligently monitor and analyze my training metrics and track my incremental progress on a daily/weekly/monthly/annual basis.

So, how did I go about putting together this particular 18-week program? In the past I’ve had great success using Matt Lieto’s half Ironman training program on Trifuel – it is greatly responsible for my improved performance between Napa and Lake Stevens last year. Most plans like these assume your weekend is devoted to time-consuming volume work (logging the big miles), while the weekdays tend to be less of a time burden with a focus on speed work (intervals, that tend to have shorter duration).

My weekly schedule is a bit odd, so any plan I found needed to be flexible enough to modify without much difficult. In particular, my daily commute is 2+ hours round trip if I drive, and a whopping 4+ hours if I use public transit. I tend to work from home on Wednesday (and often an extra day or two most weeks), so that lack of commute time is “free” training time and I can plan for heavier volume on those days. As the daylight hours grow, I can also bring my bike up on the train in the morning and ride back at night (or vice-versa… or even round trip!).

I’ve been a subscriber to Triathlete magazine for a few years now and I keep the back issues on the shelf as reference material for these very instances. I found a 20-week program in the January 2011 issue (you can find it online here) that I modified to 18 weeks. What I particularly liked about this plan is how it structurally resembled Matt Lieto’s 70.3 plan that I enjoyed – each exercise about 3 times a week, rest day on Monday, and extra brick work (running after a bike ride) added on top. Best of all: this plan was free (lots of sites will sell you training plans for $90 to $150 or more). I used this as the starting point and modified the sequence of activities within the week to fit my work and race schedules.

The basics of this plan:

  • Incremental build-up of intensity and duration over the 18 weeks with a three week taper.
  • Every fourth week is a recovery week (lower volume and intensity).
  • Monday: rest day
  • Tuesday: recovery run
  • Wednesday: Swim (intervals), Bike (intervals and tempo), and starting at about week 7 easy brick workouts (short runs after the bike)
  • Thursday: Run (interval and tempo)
  • Friday: Swim (intervals), easy Bike
  • Saturday: Swim (distance), Run (distance)
  • Sunday: Bike (distance), with more difficult brick workouts starting in week 7.

Roughly I start this week with about 84 miles in the plan, at about 6+ hours (lots of triathletes measure training not in miles, but in hours of time)… and in Week 15 peaks at 193 miles (about 15+ hours) – that is the week I celebrate my 40th birthday (happy birthday to me?).

My first impression is that this program starts off too light… but as I look at it in more detail, it feels about right…

The best part: I’m already one day into this plan and am right on target.

Yep! It’s a rest day!

Every day I track my progress in SportTracks (with Strava supplements), and maintain the summary results in my Excel spreadsheet.

A snippet of the spreadsheet I use to capture high-level details of the training plan. Essentially what activities are scheduled for each day - the detailed results and metrics are captured in my training log software SportTracks.

A snippet of the spreadsheet I use to capture high-level details of the training plan. Essentially the activities that are scheduled for each day – the detailed results and metrics are captured in my training log software SportTracks.

For the next 18 weeks, Monday will be a training report day – I’ll report back on how I’m doing against this plan. Since I don’t have results, yet, I’ll give you some insight into my training plan for this first week (m = meters, mi = miles, min = minutes, sec = seconds):

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Easy 5mi run
  • Wednesday: Swim 1200m with 10 x 25m intervals; Bike 40min with 10 x 20sec intervals
  • Thursday: Run 45min with 8 x 100m intervals
  • Friday: Swim 1200m with 6 x 100m intervals; easy 45min Bike
  • Saturday: Swim 1500m; Run 8mi
  • Sunday: Bike 35mi

Yep, aside from a race & recovery week in Week 3, this is by far and away the easiest week in my training plan. Boy, this is going to be fun! And boy is this going to hurt…

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