Just about everyday I receive an email from an athlete who is seeking advice or guidance in some facet, for some sport. Many times it is about training, but sometimes they are looking for a mental recharge and guidance on how to do find the inner desire, but normally the questions are general and they seek advice.
I got an email today from an athlete, and I thought this would be a great venue to share my thoughts on their question with everyone.
"I am training for a half ironman and i want to know what you think is the most beneficial cycling workout one could do. If its a long ride how hard should i go or tempo ride or intervals. What workouts have given you success at the half ironman distance? Thanks a lot
Thanks for the email, Kile. I'll do my best to give you the guidance you're looking for. I wish I could tell you exactly what workouts are perfect and will result in undeniable success, but that's just not the case with training or coaching. Each athlete is so different.
It's very tough to answer because I do not know anything about your athletic history to really know and understand your strengths and weaknesses. I'm also not aware of your goals, and the risk which must be taken in training to accomplish those. If you're trying to win your age-group and grab a rare Kona slot at a half, more risk is required, which could result in injury if not tailored more specifically to you.
Even if I gave you a list of key workouts for a half, you might not give yourself enough recovery between workouts to accomplish them with success, or may not have the fitness required to accomplish them, especially if your goal is just to finish or place modestly. This doesn't even take into account the demands of the race course, (elevation, wind, temperature, etc), and the strategies you might employ whether your strength is the swim, bike or run.
However, I can tell you that if you research the race and its demands on you, relative to the goals you have set for yourself at the event, then you will just need to structure your training to meet those demands. For example, we know you will probably be between 2.5 and 3 hours, if you're like most athletes, and therefore you need to be prepared to do a steady state effort of 2.5 to 3 hours in length.
If all you're doing are group rides of 2-3 hours in length where you sit in a pack and/or attack off the front, then you're probably not preparing for the specific demands of a half-ironman.
So what do I suggest? If you had the time, I would suggest preparing the early part of the season for technical improvements in your cycling, (pedal stroke, high cadence work, position, etc), basic aerobic endurance, and then begin to move more specifically to the demands of the half-ironman, assuming it is your A-priority race for the season. This would be done with probably shorter intervals at first, with modest rest periods, moving to longer interval sessions, with possibly less rest periods as well. Once in awhile, and if time permits, I would include some longer steady-state rides as well.
It definitely requires a lot of knowledge about the athlete for the coach to successfully do their job. This is why communication with your coach is important if you have one, and the reason why people hire coaches.
Best of luck Kile, and I hope the general strategy I've laid out helps you accomplish your goals!