Planning for a major endeavor is, for some people, something to be dreaded. Something terrifying and unpleasant, a chore. Others relish it, diving into the minutiae and the organizational frenzy with a gusto. I fall somewhere in the middle. Planning is a lot of work. Plans never work out the way you envision them. But I believe that having any kind of plan is better than not planning at all. This week I want to talk about my strategies for planning an Ironman schedule, how I go about it, and how I came to this particular method.

When I did my first Ironman, I didn’t really know anything about how to train. I’d been a dancer for a long time, and I understood the need for a disciplined approach to training. What I did not appreciate was the fundamental similarities between rehearsing for a performance and training for an endurance race. The foundational training for triathlon – swim, bike, run – is much like the regular studio work that any dancer has as the foundation of their technique. You have class every day, or near enough, and you probably have several different kinds of classes, depending on what your personal passions are. In those classes, you work hard, but you don’t push yourself to exhaustion. You focus on technique, you try to drive an kind of memory of sequence and musicality into your fascia, so that when the time comes for you to perform, you can engage skill at a subconscious level . Great performances look easy, no matter how much hard work is going on. In rehearsing for a particular event, however, you have to push harder to get things done in a limited time frame. The choreographer might be pushing the limits of your skill, and you have to focus intensely on getting things exactly right as soon as possible. The goal, in a lot of ways, is to get ready for performance before you step on stage, or go into the audition, or enter the competition. Your intensity is very sharp in the four-to-eight weeks before the event.

When I started, I was lucky – I had a good friend who coached me personally, and he has been doing triathlons since he was in high school. If you want to take up endurance sports, there are a lot of good resources out there, and the internet makes it very easy to find them. Joe Friel’s blog is a great place to start – https://joefriel.typepad.com– he is a venerated source of wisdom in the triathlon community. There are links there for a bunch of other coaches and tons of useful information. You could do a lot worse than to pay for a pre-fabricated training plan to get you to your first race. For me, I know enough to work backwards, and get a sense of what I need to be doing. I’ll still consult with my coach, and get feedback, but mostly I’ll be doing this on my own. It starts with knowing what the final goal is:

October 3, 2015 – Race Day! On this day, I need to be able to race 140.6 miles – swim 2.4, bike 112, and Run 26.2 miles. Everything builds to this!

Swim: 0h59m – Very ambitious for me – I swam 1h8m at Wisconsin in 2009, and 1h12m at Couer D’Alene in 2011. But I want to go sub-one hour! That means a steady pace of 1:32 / 100 meters. Right now, I’m more like 2:02, so lots of work.

Bike: 5h 45m – I should be able to do this, or maybe a little faster. That’s a 19.5 mph average; I have been a bit slower than that in the past, but I think this is doable!

Run: 3h45m – This would be my fastest IM marathon time by 20 minutes, and my third-fastest marathon time, so again, a big ask. 8m35s per mile for the whole run gets me there.

GOAL FINISH: 10h 40m – This gives me 10 minutes for the two transitions, and would by a PR by 28 minutes.

January: Build 1 – Run fitness

January: The plan here is to develop my speed and distance. I ran a half-marathon in November, so I have a decent base to build from but being sick for two full weeks in December has set me back. This will be the month to tell the tale of the Marathon – if can get/stay healthy, and do some 15 – 18 mile runs, I’ll go for the full 26 in February. But if it seems to suck, or if I am feeling like I am pushing it too hard, I’ll back off. I’ll aim to run every day in January, which will help. I’ll find a local 10k, and challenge my son to a race – he is running 7 minute miles with his high school track team now, but can he run 6 miles at that pace? I don’t know, we will find out! January is also the month the bike comes out of the garage and onto the trainer in my attic. I’ll start easy, 15 minutes at a time, and build to some 30 minute and 45 minute workouts. Mostly focusing on form, doing some drills, getting my RPM up to 100. For the swim, I’ll be training with the DCTC masters group at least twice a week, as well as getting in morning workouts. 4x a week in the water and ~7500 meters per week being the goal.

Any questions or thoughts about this plan? I don’t think its entirely half-baked, but hey, I’m open to the possibility that I could improve it! Please comment below!

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