Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Marathon meets Ironman

I just did one of my A races last Sunday, the Honolulu Tinman. More on that later. My next A race is the Honolulu Marathon, Sunday, December 14. That gives me twenty weeks to prepare, which is just right for a marathon training plan.

About a year ago I read Matt Fitzgerald's book "The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition: A Cutting-Edge Plan to Fuel Your Body Beyond the Wall." Besides being a contender for the title of world's longest book title, this book is a thorough presentation on how to eat for optimal endurance running results. Fitzgerald includes training plans for marathons and half-marathons, at three levels, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I followed his intermediate (Level 2) plan to prepare for the Hapalu Half Marathon this past spring and had good results, so I thought about using his twenty week marathon plan to prepare for the upcoming marathon.

The problem I encountered was the amount of running this plan required. While training for the half marathon I hardly had any time for other activities. Now that I have invested so much time into learning to swim, and considering how much I need to improve, giving up on biking and swimming from now through the end of the year was not a happy thought.

Training Peaks has a really cool feature called the Virtual Coach. It pretty much automates the pencil and paper training plan development process laid out in Joe Friel's book, "The Triathlete's Training Bible," Part IV. I played around with it a bit to get a feel for what it was going to suggest, and, same as Fitzgerald, it had me running and nothing else.

Somewhere along the way I read an article on Training Peaks about training loads for Ironman events, and how important it was to not run too much. The author recommended spending more time on the bike, because the bike builds endurance that transfers well to running while significantly reducing the risk of training related injuries. Since I am committed to continued triathlon training with the goal of doing the Honu Half Ironman in 2016 (gotta get better at the swim!!), I decided that this was a "What have you got to lose?" opportunity to try an experiment. Blend triathlon training with marathon training. Focus weekday workouts on running skills, do a long run on Saturday after a Friday rest day so the legs are fresh, then do a long bike on Sunday. The long runs should be much less than what a pure marathon training plan calls for, and the bike rides should be predominantly a comfortable zone 2 pace. Because I am nowhere near Ironman capacity the goal I set was to end at the recommended volume for half Ironman, with a roughly 5% per week increase over twenty weeks, but with the periodization recommended by Friel.

I will go into this plan in more detail in future posts. For now, I am in what Friel calls Transition, a week of light activity, preferably not directly related to triathlon. Monday I had a massage, Tuesday I did my weekly weight session, then for a change of pace I went to yoga after work with my wife and co-author Pattie. I ran this morning, but really slow and only for thirty minutes. Transition is weird in much the same way as taper, except in taper mode you fret a lot about the challenges that lay ahead, whereas in transition you can relax and appreciate a job well done.

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