Getting with the programme

Today is technically the first day of the new programme. The training plan is from the same place as the Olympic: 220 Triathlon. Here’s the link. It’s for the Half Ironman up in the Ards Peninsula at the end of September.

I found the last one worked out reasonably well, and to be honest, I have nothing to compare it against, so it could have been great, or it could have been pony. The real variable in all these programmes is the athlete. What most of us need a plan for is to tell us to get out there and train. After that, the bulk of these plans all fall into the same category. You build base endurance in the first month, tweak this in the second, then add some interval/speed work in the last month. At the end of each month you have a taper to allow for recovery.

Essentially, you are getting a free plan off the internet, so what do you expect? It has no idea of your level of fitness, so cannot adjust. That’s up to us, the person with the plan. So if you have one of these, don’t be afraid to tweak them as required. If there are some gems of wisdom to be gleaned from all of these plans, then it would be to make sure you REST when you are supposed to. Don’t try and play catch up either. If you miss a session, it’s gone. Don’t bust a gut the next day on a run, for example. You’ll just end up tearing a hamstring.

The other issue with these plans is that many of them are designed to catch people just like me. People without coaches, or even clubs. People with jobs and families. People with moderate levels of fitness. But in fairness if you read the small print somewhere, it will probably point out that the programme assumes you can do some basic things, such as swim 1.5km, for example. Or ride your bike for 90 minutes. But once you step into the realms of middle distance triathlon, you have to expect some level of detail. This plan I have printed out (and laminated too; now there’s a statement!) references Critical Swim Speed and Functional Threshold Pace. These relate to your lactate thresholds, and as the plan neatly states: ‘Any good coach can calculate your CSS for you.’

I wonder how many triathletes go to this level of detail? Not talking about the pros here, but the average athlete. Perhaps a club triathlete would have access to these. Most of us instinctively know our comfortable training pace, whether that’s running, on the bike, or swimming. These are generically covered in off-the-shelf training plans as ‘Zones’. If you don’t have a coach then these signposts tell you how hard to train. Clearly if you potter along at your comfortable training pace all the time, you will never improve. You may have good cardio fitness, and reasonable endurance, but you will stay at the same level. And if that’s ok, well, that’s ok.

Assuming we do all this nonsense to improve both our levels of fitness and hopefully our finish times, you may as well put the work in. And to rob that business phrase from BT (who probably robbed it from someone else), work smarter, not harder.

There is a logic to working out some of the finer detail. There is a balance to be struck out there for sure. Just because you don’t have a fancy-pants tri bike or state of the art wetsuit doesn’t mean you can’t train properly. If you’re like me and you have limited time on your hands but would still like to acquit yourself on the course (and avoid the nightmare of a DNF), then try and tease out that fine line. Ireland’s great footballing hero, Roy Keane, is famous for saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. Which would appear to be a variation on something Benjamin Franklin said. But I don’t trust the internet anymore, not where quotes are concerned. Check out the oft-misquoted one attributed to Voltaire if you have time on your hands (i.e when you’re not out training!)

It could be a still from a mediaeval monk murder mystery. But that's a cowled Roy Keane, in pensive mood. Preparing not to fail...
It could be a still from a mediaeval monk murder mystery. But that’s a cowled Roy Keane, in pensive mood. Preparing not to fail…

Roy’s quote is deeply irritating. Maybe it’s more irritating coming from Roy, in a Cork accent? Hard to say. I wouldn’t offer that opinion directly to the great man himself, lest I get a prawn sandwich in the face for my troubles. But as with all rather trite aphorisms, it’s as welcome as a pebble in your runner at the start of a 10k. And of course, the real irritation is that there is an unavoidable truth in it. If you don’t put the work in, you will be found out. Especially on a long course like a middle-distance triathlon.

In other news, I did another Park Run on Saturday. It was very warm, and we all sweated buckets. Still managed 21:53 which is my best time this year. I would love to sneak in under 21 minutes one day but that’s unlikely, not least with the plans for middle and long-distance triathlons this and next year. But as a piece of speed work, and a signpost to pace, I guess you could do worse. Off out for a swim now. The programme starts here.

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