So I signed up for my first half ironman - Now what??!?
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
Have you signed up for the race?
If you were able to confirm your registration, CONGRATULATIONS! In doing so, you show willingness to dedicate yourself to accomplishing a seemingly insurmountable goal over the next few months. It will take discipline, some creativity, and a ton of persistence to successfully tackle the event. It will be difficult but it definitely won’t be impossible. To help you prepare for the season ahead, let me give you another set of tips on what to do.
So I signed up, now what?...
1. Plan out your season well.
The race may be 10 months away, but you have to start preparing now! This is especially true for newbies who have just entered the sport. Don’t wait until your New Year’s resolution to start your journey. To make sure you’re 100% ready for the race, you need to plan out your season in such a way that you peak for the event.
This means you’ll start out with a Pre-season (3-4 months) which involves developing technique, coordination, functional strength, and durability. Next, you’ll proceed with the Base Period (3-4 months). In this phase, aerobic conditioning is the main priority, with some emphasis on specific strength and speed. This progresses to the Build Period (2-3 months) which shifts training focus to event-specific skills, power, and endurance. Think of it as constant rehearsal of the efforts, strategies, and scenarios you will encounter in Cebu. Finally, the Peak/Taper (2-3 weeks) unloads accumulated fatigue whilst keeping the body fit and strong. Think of it as sharpening the knife to make sure you slice through the race easily. Afterwards, a Recovery Period (1-2months, sometimes more) is recommended to ensure you’ve recovered from the wear and tear of training.
I highly recommend getting an experienced and competent coach who can guide you through this. “Practice what you preach,” is one of my favorite lines when it comes to coaching. He/she should have gone through “the ups and downs” of training/racing to be able to know its “ins and outs.” I firmly believe that knowledge and experience, fused together, are the best tools a coach can have.
2. Choose your B and C races.
It’s a given that Cebu is the A race. “All roads lead to Cebu” is a common mantra of mine during the course of the season. However, B and C races are just as important. These events help hone our skills, improve our strength/endurance, and widen our comfort zone. If one would like to prepare well for Cebu, I highly recommend these races as a build up for Cebu: Triman (Sprint, May), Regent 5150 (Olympic Distance, June), and Tri United 2 (Long distance, July). These races, increase in distance and are held roughly a month apart. This approach ensures that we progress gradually and peak at the right time.
3. Be Practical.
I’ve touched on this topic in the previous article but I wish to emphasize it again. One does not need very expensive gear to compete well in Triathlon. There’s this common misconception that cheap isn’t durable; hence, we should spend on expensive gear with the assumption that it will last long. This isn’t always the case. There are a lot of cheap parts that are bomb-proof. A lot of times, the more expensive options even turn out to be more delicate. Consider your budget first before you splurge on gear. You will need to spend on a lot of things: Goggles, Tri Suit, Swim Gear, Bike, Helmet, Tri shoes, Stationary Trainer, Cycling Computer, Wheels, Running shoes, Socks, Visors, etc. The list goes on and on. Again, it would help to seek the advice of veteran teammates or coaches who can help you select the equipment you really need. Always remember to select the gear that will give you the most “bang for your buck”.
Practicality does not only encompass expenses. You have to be practical with time and effort as well. Don’t get carried away with training; more is not always better. I’ve fallen victim to the volume black hole early in my career. I used to think that sheer mileage was the way to go. I learned to be more objective in my training if I’m not hitting my numbers, it probably means I’m too tired. It would be useless to try and force the issue. If the pen is empty, no amount of scribbling will work. Instead, assess the amount of time you have to train on a daily basis. Seek the help of a coach that can give you the proper workouts based on the amount of time you have. Try to save time by planning out your day properly and always remember that smart training beats hard training.
4. Know Your Numbers.
When I started my athletic career, I had this false idea that it was all about sucking it up. I thought that I run slowly because I choose to run slow. I used to believe that I could maintain a sprint for 10k if I only trained myself to shut out the pain. Soon enough, I found out that it’s not as simple as that.
Think of our bodies as engines, the way it performs is limited by a lot of things: efficiency, endurance, and speed (to name a few). Understanding how our body functions will help us assess our limiters and address them accordingly. I have been a staunch advocate of Lactate Threshold Testing because of the numerous benefits it provides. Not only does it tell you how you need to approach each training session (i.e. zone training, pacing etc.), it also tells each individual what kinds of workouts he/she needs. Whether it be aerobic base work, or anaerobic sprint training, lactate testing gives us a peek into what we need to do, and how we need to do it.
5. Respect the Distance.
The Ironman 70.3 is probably one of the hardest events you will do in your lifetime (except if you decide to race a full Ironman later on). Swimming 1.9km, cycling 90km, and running 21km by themselves, are already great athletic feats. Doing all of them in succession increases the difficulty tenfold. I’ve seen a lot of athletes suffer through this race, some cramp, others faint, quite a few quit. As much as we want to be respected as athletes, we need to respect the race even more. We need to dedicate ourselves to reaching our goals. The first few weeks of training are often the most difficult. Once you turn it into a lifestyle, things become a lot more manageable. Adjusting one’s schedule to accommodate training is the first step to success. Avoiding/limiting late night outs, vices (smoking, drinking, etc.), getting proper nutrition and enough sleep, all help us reach our goal. When the going gets tough remember the phrase “Ginusto mo yan”. And yes, this is what we want. Truth be told, racing triathlons is a journey, not a destination. Finishing the race is often short-lived and superficial; the benefits we get in terms of health, fitness, and positivity will last us a lifetime.