Monday, August 17, 2009

Half-Ironman Race Plan for First Timer

Below is the race plan for a triathlete I coach who is doing his first half-Ironman this weekend at Timberman. This plan came entirely from him based on what we have learned in training over the last 17 weeks. Note his first goal to 'finish.' That's wise. He has been in the sport about one year and has done a few sprint- and Olympic-distance races. His run pacing chart may be just a bit aggressive in the latter few miles. But I like that he plans to start the run at a slow pace and then build into it. That mindset will hopefully keep him from going out too fast. We've set his bike power range on the low end. I believe he can ride at a higher level than 180w but given this is his first race at this distance it's best to be conservative, especially at the start of the ride. He'll be doing a second 70.3 race nine weeks after this one. We'll know a lot more about his capacity for work at this distance by then. And we'll do a better job of refining his plan.


Timberman Ironman 70.3 2009

• It’s simple: finish!
• Pace, moderate efforts at beginning of each leg
• Have fun and don’t worry about time
• Race your own race, don’t worry about other athletes (especially when they pass you)

Key For Success:
• Good pacing in each leg and no bonking
• Stay healthy, no upset stomach or cramps
• Don’t forget to refuel and hydrate

Race Week:
• In bed by 9:30 every night
• 15 minutes of stretching morning and night
• Visualize a strong finish before sleep each night
• Eat clean, avoid foods that upset stomach (lactose, mustard)
• Review race plan nightly

Day Prior:
• Rack the bike
• Drive the bike course
• Early to bed

Race Morning:
• 4:00AM: Wake up, Park gates open
• 4:15AM: Coffee and peanut butter & toast
• 4:30AM: Head to start
• 4:45AM: Head to transition
• 5:00 AM: Transition opens, body marking begins
• 5:15AM: Get body marked
• 5:30AM: Prepare transition
• 6:00AM: Warm up & stretch
• 7:00AM: Watch pro start
• 7:15AM: Apply body glide, HR belt, put on wetsuit
• 7:55AM: Wave 12 Start!

Swim – 1.2 miles

• 38 minutes (30 seconds / 25 meters)

Key for Success:
• Relax, avoid anxious thoughts
• Find a good consistent rhythm
• Sight frequently and avoid zigzags
• Breathe often to avoid hyper-ventilating

• Efficiency not effort
• Rhythm is king
• Sight, sight, sight


• 5 minutes

• Unzip wetsuit after water exit
• Remove wetsuit at transition
• Bike shoes on
• Sunscreen
• Helmet & sunglasses
• Quick hydration (add solid food/gel?)

Bike – 56 miles

• 3 hours (19 mph average)

Keys for Success:
• 180w on flat
• Pace, pace, pace – aim for negative split
• <240 on hills
• Hydrate with Gatorade Endurance
• Gels every 45 minutes (4 total)
• Be safe, avoid accidents
• HR<160

• Light legs and high cadence
• Aero is the way to go


• 5 minutes

• Rack bike
• Bike shoes off, socks and run shoes on
• Helmet off, visor on
• Wear race belt (or add to T1?)
• Quick hydration (add solid food/gel?)

Run – 13.1Miles

• 1 hour 45 minutes (8 minute / mile average)

Keys for Success:
• Follow Plan:
Mile 1 9:00
Mile 2 9:00
Mile 3 8:30
Mile 4 8:30
Mile 5 8:30
Mile 6 8:00
Mile 7 8:00
Mile 8 8:00
Mile 9 8:00
Mile 10 7:30
Mile 11 7:30
Mile 12 7:00
Mile 13 7:00
• Hydrate at every aid station
• Gel every 45 minutes (3 total)
• Focus on form: stand proud, slight lean forward, mid-foot strike
• Don’t over-do it on hills
• HR<169

• Stay in Proud form
• Light feet!
• Tight core

Planned Time: 5 hours 33 minutes

Post Race:
• Call Joe – we did it!
• Stretch & ice
• Nutrition
• Enjoy festivities


At August 18, 2009 6:57 AM , Blogger Kwizbee said...

Thanks for this Joel! Im looking at doing Timberman next year as my first HIM, this is a great help!

At August 18, 2009 7:01 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Kwizbee--You're welcome. Please call me Joe.

At August 18, 2009 7:19 AM , Anonymous karlijn moll said...

I'm a Dutch triathlete and doing my first half Ironman in Koln in 3 weeks. This plan is so nice to read. My main goal is to finish, just like your pupil. Reading this makes me so exited for my own race. Thanks so much.

grtz Karlijn
Utrecht, Netherlands

At August 18, 2009 7:46 AM , Blogger Aaron said...

This is, as usual, very useful content. Thanks Joe!

At August 18, 2009 12:10 PM , Blogger FiddleKase said...

Perfect timing for me as I race my first middle distance in Ireland on Sunday - Eireman.

Same goals and similiar race times (2 hours for the run). Have been going to bed early and getting up early in prep. Thumbs up to me!!

Printing big and leaving copies around for the week.

At August 18, 2009 12:16 PM , Blogger FiddleKase said...

Perfect timing for me as I race my first middle distance in Ireland on Sunday - Eireman.

Same goals and similiar race times (2 hours for the run). Have been going to bed early and getting up early in prep. Thumbs up to me!!

Printing big and leaving copies around for the week.

At August 18, 2009 2:47 PM , Blogger mikebdot said...

I just finished my first Olympic distance event this past weekend in Indianapolis and now I can't stop thinking about the potential to do a half next year! This literally gave me goosebumps thinking that "I can do THAT!". If I could just get my left foot to not hurt every time I get close enough in my training to actually run 13.1 miles!

Thanks, Joe. Your blog has been a great read this whole season.

At August 18, 2009 4:42 PM , Anonymous Dave Kellermanns said...


Thanks so much. An IM newbie needs every help he / she can get. I registered for Oceanside 70.3 next year and will train during the Boulder Winter :-). This will give me a good plan to follow - now I just need to change the times / pace.

Thanks again


At August 19, 2009 6:58 AM , Blogger Mike said...

where did you come up with 180 watts?

is a a percentage of FTP? just curious as to where this number comes from.

thank you

At August 19, 2009 8:01 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Mike--180w is 75% of his FTP (240). This is around the low end of what someone ought to be able to do for a sub-3 hour bike split. We've confirmed that 180 is about right with his longer rides made up of intervals or steady state rides. Given this is his first HIM we're being conservative.

At August 20, 2009 10:21 PM , OpenID runnerforchrist said...

Nice post and very informative!

Adding you in my blogroll. God bless.

At August 24, 2009 11:00 AM , Anonymous Bill Mulligan said...

Was he happy with his finish?

At August 24, 2009 1:50 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Bill--Yes, he was. Did 5:11. Very good time even though he wasn't focused on that. Had another one in a few weeks.

At August 25, 2009 10:57 AM , Blogger triblog carol said...

Thanks for sharing this. Awesome!

How does this athlete's target heart rates for the bike and run translate to zones? HR<160 on bike and <169 on run . (For me, that would be Zone 3 on bike and Zone 4-5a on run.)

At August 25, 2009 3:22 PM , Blogger Ryan Denner said...


what do you consider "high cadence"? Why not go "lower", like in the 70's?



At August 25, 2009 5:41 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Ryan D--In a nutshell, lower cadence is uneconomical.

At August 27, 2009 5:17 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Carol--Basically those HRs are just below his LTHRs. they mean he would not go anaerobic on hills. Otherwise he would be mostly in HR 3.

At September 3, 2009 11:25 AM , Anonymous James Richardson said...

That was good to read, I'm doing my first 70.3 next weekend, any tips for solid food on the bike. Would potato wedges be a good choice?

At September 3, 2009 12:41 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

James R--I've known people to successfully use potato during a race. It's certainly high in starch. but I think they should be cooked first to break down the cell walls to make the nutrients a bit more accessible.

At February 6, 2010 9:51 PM , Blogger Brooke said...

Thanks!! I am currently training with a group for a half iron in September. I have only done sprint and olympic, so I feel as though my goals are very similar. Thanks!!

At February 26, 2010 4:41 PM , Blogger jayfb said...

Joe, I've recently read that stretching causes muscles to relax, and in turn reduces force and power output for more than an hour afterward. And therefore better to stretch after a ride then before. Have you seen studies before that supports this theory?

At February 28, 2010 6:12 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

jayfb--Yes, I've see research tha suggests pre-stretching reduces stregth. Thee is also researh suggesting that very flexible joints are less economical than tight joints for running.


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