3 Triathlon Training Tools Eileen Uses to Deal With Setbacks in Her Quest for a Half-Ironman
Eileen W. is no stranger to setbacks, including with her triathlon training.
At 67 years old, she’s had a series of injuries and a significant surgery in the past three years.
Yet last year, she decided to tackle a half-Ironman distance triathlon as a challenge to herself.
And again, during a recent training run, Eileen fell on some ice and broke a bone in her hand.
The cast is going to limit her time in the pool, obviously, but we’re starting Plan D (or maybe it’s Plan G at this point) and making adjustments.
“If you think this is going to slow me down you’re mistaken. It’s actually going to speed me up. A blessing in disguise,” Eileen says.
Three ways we adjusted her triathlon training for a 70.3 Half-Ironman
- When we couldn’t do heavy deadlifts, we worked on stabilizer muscles, core, and power
- When she broke her hand, we spent more time building the volume of running and riding.
- And Eileen keeps a positive, can-do attitude about her everyday workouts.
Triathlon training always involved setbacks — and adjustments
No matter what we’re training for, there are going to be setbacks: illness, injury, family issues, etc.
Paul Simon’s song Gumboots sticks in my head: “breakdowns come and breakdowns go, so. What are you going to do about it? That’s what I’d like to know.”
Part of the value of having a coach is that we can adjust the training, figure out how to take advantage of the changes and turn them into a positive.
Eileen’s initial training last summer was derailed by a significant surgery that now limits her capacity to do deadlifts or squats.
So we adjusted her strength training to still lift heavy weights as possible.
We do a lot of core strengthening, more balance and stabilizing work, and more mobility work with as much weight as we can.
Eileen set a serious stretch goal
Last fall, Eileen asked me about her goal of the Half-Ironman challenge.
We talked through the challenges of a half-Ironman triathlon training, and that she would have to be open to doing a shorter distance if she was not able to manage the distance.
In the last few years, she’s done sprint triathlons and up to a half-marathon.
She knew all the challenges and wanted to go ahead with the training.
Given her injuries and the surgery, we built up her volume slowly and conservatively.
And her WKO5 and Training Peaks Performance Management Charts were all improving.
Triathlon training is all about a balanced schedule
Our schedule had been three days a week of swimming (one lesson and one group swim workout plus an endurance day); two days of running (one long endurance, one tempo workout); two days of riding (one long endurance, one interval); and two days a week of strength training.
Several of these days include two workouts. The endurance training always goes first, then strength.
We are focusing on building endurance fitness and capacity, just adding as much volume as possible.
We don’t need to do really intensive interval work.
Eileen also does easy yoga twice a week as recovery, and she has one day a week full rest.
We use the HRV4Training as a guide to monitor her recovery.
Every four weeks or so, we would do short mini-tests to measure progress, including a 100-yard swim, and an eight-minute run and bike.
No swimming, so we ramp up running and riding
Since we can’t get in the pool now for the next four weeks, we’re going to ramp up the volume of her running and cycling to build overall training stress for her half-Ironman triathlon training.
We’re in the midst of winter in Wisconsin so outside time is limited.
Doing really long rides on the indoor trainer is tedious, so we’re building out tempo and sweet spot intervals to increase overall volume and improve cardiovascular endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
One day a week is still a long session, but with the tempo intervals to break up the monotony.
One day a week is short intervals, and one is the tempo intervals.
Running is kryptonite that is becoming oxygen
And we’re doing a lot of running.
“Running is my kryptonite but that’s about to change. I started running when I was about 58 years old. Since day one I was slow. A part of me was afraid to push too hard because I was afraid of a heart attack. At the end of last year my mother had heart surgery. That was the catalyst for me to talk to my doctor. After blood work, chest x ray, heart CT scan, and stress test all came back normal, I now know that I am at very low risk of heart disease. Now I need to work on the muscle between my ears. And nutrition — I need to work on my nutrition.”
For her triathlon training plan, we’re continuing to build up the long day of running, regardless of pace. As long as she’s moving forward and not walking, we’re making progress.
And even if Eileen has to walk a little, it’s okay. She’s getting a little further each day.
The goal is to make the three-mile run feel easy when it used to feel terrible!
We’re doing one long run, one easy shorter run, and one interval session.
Every workout in the triathlon training plan is an opportunity
Running is Eileen’s big challenge.
Since she picked up running much later in life, her body doesn’t move as effectively or efficiently as she’d like it to.
“Not every workout goes according to plan, but that doesn’t mean I’m quitting.”
Eileen is working on staying positive for every workout.
That means she’s keeping her eye on the big prize of Grand Rapids, but each workout contributes to the process.
Setbacks are just opportunities for growth.
Nutrition is the final piece of the puzzle for triathlon training
Finally, we’re working on nutrition.
Eileen has two goals: First, eat more protein consistently throughout the day to increase her total intake.
Second, improve the quality of the food she eats.
To fuel the increased volume of training over the next two months, Eileen is going to need to eat more than she’s used to, and if she eats daily hot pockets, it’s going to slow her down.
(She’ll read this, and hopefully not throw anything at me!)
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Paul Warloski is a:
- USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
- RRCA Running Coach
- Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
- RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
- Certified Personal Trainer