Olympic Triathlon Training: Part 1, Decision Time

So I decided I think I’m going for it. I’m making the jump from sprint to olympic. This time a lot of thought went into the decision and I’m going to be starting a series here on my progress tips and tricks I’ve learned in previous years and my training program as I progress.  It’s funny though this is as different as possible, but there are also some similarities when I decided to do my first sprint. This post covers choosing points to drop out or scale back on training and advice on how to pick a training plan.

Rewind to three years ago, I was injured and out for July and the first week or so of August, actually I was on crutches for most of July. But not in the traditional athlete sense, I mean 7 stitches in my foot injured. My fiancé hit me, by accident, with a 1/4 scale gas powered remote control race car. I’d like to say I handled it like a trooper but… it was my first time with stitches and well I cried louder than the injured children in the ER. But the crutches I handled like a trooper, I even sewed Hello Kitty pouches for carrying tea in mason jars. I had a lot of free time, I watched all of the seasons of the airplane repo show and watched the weeds grow in my garden from my office. A lot of bits were coming out of my scar and it really hurt for over a month.

Don’t I look like I’m 5 weeks out from a triathlon, RC tank ad sailboat

Once I could ride and run again it was the end of September and I drove by a road sign for motorists warning of a triathlon the next weekend. I was missing training for a big event and I signed up for a sprint 6 days before the event! I mean I was a life guard, single track racer and somewhat regular runner at the time, and it’s called a sprint, how hard can it be. I bought new goggles and a swim cap, slipped on a suit and loaded up my mountain bike on race day. I didn’t even break 2 hours, 2:08 actually but it was a lot of fun and I was desperate to improve my time.

That Christmas Honey bought me a light used TREK road bike and I was off to improve my time on the hilly course. That summer I retrieved flipped RC boats as needed, mountain biked when I felt like it and ran with similar discipline. I even took the road bike out half a dozen times but never got used to the drops. But I got out there twice a week for an hour or more and almost broke the hour and a half mark 1:38 to be exact, I didn’t wear a wet suit or ride the drops but I managed to improve my time by 30 minuets.

Year three, I decided to train but when I went looking for a free plan they were absolutely nutty! I know that sprints are absolutely terrible named but 8 workouts over 6 days, come on it is just a sprint after all. All of the training plans seemed to be geared to elites who probably weren’t doing the sprint anyway! By now I knew that triathletes can generally take themselves too seriously never have I seen so many $5000 bikes and waterproof Garmins than at the racks of an event but really? Age-up references, race weight conversations and 1000’s of dollars of kit are pretty standard at triathlons but seldom if ever present during a road or even bike race. I also knew that about 1/2 of people that actually place will do so on a pretty cheap road bike without areo bars. So I made my own plan. Five days a weeks seemed reasonable which to normal people meant 5 workouts. I’m super busy in the summer and most of runs and some of my rides were snuck in after dark even in the long summer days. And you know what on an admittedly less hilly course and wearing a shorty wetsuit I pulled off a  1:21 and came 4th in my age group, the biggest one just over 30 year old females. With my cheap used road bike, no bars, tri suit, pedal clips or fancy kit.

And let me assure you I am not fast! When I run road races I train for and aim for the middle of the pack, and that’s where I end up, median, middle and average in my age group.

Fast forward to this year I’m injured again, runner’s knee this time due to sitting for December. It got cold and I got dramatic and so I sat for virtually all of the month until on a few warm days I got up and rand 13 k and 9 k back to back, and right after that my runner’s knee was back with a vengeance. I walked home crying with my sister’s dog on our Christmas Day run. But I took it easy all winter did the physio exercises at least 3 dozen times. Now I’m handling 6k every second day with  minimal discomfort and a much bigger brace. Paying constant attention to this injury over the last few years had made me realize it’s now or never, or put less dramatically it will be slightly easier now. It always my left side stemming from bursitis I developed after being hit by a car at low speed impact between my hip and a car.

I’ve been thinking about it since last fall pretty carefully and unlike some of the bigger challenges I’ve faced in the past I have some defined points where I will drop out and slow down. I think knowing when to pull back and to pull out is just as important as deciding to commit and train for a race. This could mean a variety of things to different people. It could mean your performance at work is suffering or that your missing too much time with your family. But there are more subtle things you should look out for too maybe your getting too obsessive about your training, is it starting to dominate all of your thoughts? To a certain extent training for a big race means you will have to compromise in other aspects of your life and you will think about your program more than you ever thought possible. But if you keep it vague you probably won’t recognize the warning signs. So my specific points for this year are not enjoying time on my bike, which is usually my favourite of activities. When it comes to the knee, or left leg situation really, at the first sign of increased pain I will transition more of my training to the bike and if it hurts there, I will have to stop. But receiving warning signs doesn’t necessarily mean a full stop. It can mean switching to a more reasonable plan or revising your time goals and training at a lower intensity.


This summer I earned the late shift trophy for earning a substantial amount of nike fuel between 10 pm and 1 am a few times and knew it was time to talk to Richard about prioritizing my training. In the summer I work with him and a roofing job and rain in the forecast means dawn until dusk then a dinner out with everyone as a token of his recognition. I wan’t getting out for my 11 km runs until at least 9:30 or getting home until about 11. Dragging me out of bed and onto a roof at 7:30 am was getting harder for Richard to do as well. Of course he totally understood and started asking me what’s your run tonight? If it wasn’t mission critical we packed up early if it was, I took off and did my run when the temperature was most ideal and picked up dinner for the crew. At the time it irritated me that he couldn’t get that every day but Tuesday I had a run, but looking back now I realize he was constantly checking in.

I also think that you can usually see the likely suspects coming if you think about it. But I also don’t think that we consider that when we choose a plan. I put a lot of thought into deciding the time was right to tackle the half. I used a plan, now unavailable, that was built into the old version of nike+ running app without a whole lot of thought. About half of the cross training days became rest days and I’m sure that contributed to my injured state now. It was awesome that my phone reminded me to run but I would have liked to know that rational behind what I was doing and why.

I plan on participating in a triathlon of have done before that usually takes place past the middle of September or finding one close to that date. So that means a 12 week training program starts about June 15 when my teaching commitments are winding down. This spring I’ve registered for two 10k’s including the free one I found when I prepared my post on planning a race season. My 5 miler that was supposed to be a month ago is happening this weekend so my base should be good by then. But finding a training program that suits me has been pretty much impossible. Running plans tend to range from beginner to advanced and as such there is more choice when picking. As I went looking for a plan to follow most of them were nothing more than a 1 page chart which typically includes 8 workouts over 6 days and 1 rest day.

I’m not a mom, I’m busy but I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule during training season and everyone in my house is happier when I get my run in. That aside I don’t have time to do that plan and if I do, I worry I either won’t have anything in my tank on race day or worse I’ll be injured. I’m pretty damn sure that by week 8 it won’t be fun anymore.

Triathletes in general seem to take themselves more seriously than runners or even bikers and more of them at least pretend they are in it to win it. You’ll often hear runners say,”have a great run,” to one another before the race at a triathlon it’s about being at race weight or aging up a class. I also see double the number of bikes over $5000 at a sprint rack than a downhill bike race. I think this carries over into the training plans for multipart events. While runners train to finish or beat their last time it seems triathletes  are at least training to win. Two years ago I created my own reasonable plan for my sprint. It worked well for me and it felt a lot more reasonable than anything I found online. I used the same plan last year and focused a bit more on speed work for the 8 week duration. A few friends of mine have done sprints, acquaintances really, and I had added a few notes over time that I thought that they would find helpful.

This year I adapted and expanded it to the olympic distance and 12 weeks. I’m confident that I will be able to finish and finish strong, with the plan that I have devised. I’m also pretty sure I’ll be able to fit in the 5 workouts a week I’ll definitely get a new PR. When I realized how much time I was putting into the schedule and typing out the rational for that schedule, plus the notes I had previously about tips, tricks and rules. With what turned out to be a lot more work it was a pretty comprehensive guide to finishing an olympic distance triathlon while maintianing a realistic shedule. If your interested in joining me on this journey you can check it out here!

Wat has your experience been with triathlon training any tips as I up my game?


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