Ironman 70.3 Training Update #1

Ironman 70.3 training update #1

Good morning, friends!

Did you have a great weekend? Mine was lovely and involved some cycling, swimming, running, and catching up with friends in Toronto over some delicious food and green juice at Fresh. I’ve said it plenty times before, but it’s a good job I don’t live in the Tdot because a large portion of my income would end up going to that restaurant. Never a disappointing trip.

In other news, several of you have been asking about training for Ironman 70.3 Muskoka in July. I figured a post to sum up what’s been going on so far was in order, so here it is!

Hiring a Coach

As I mentioned at the beginning of January, I decided to hire a coach to help me through my triathlon adventures this year. The primary reason for this was that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and wanted some expert guidance. Yes I can run, and last year there was a bit of cycling, but to be honest, I felt that some direction around the cycling and swimming portion of my training would be key to my success this year.

swim gear

The other big reason was because I am a very stubborn athlete. If it were up to me, I’d go hard and fast on every swim, bike and run. I could talk for hours about what periodization is and why it’s a good idea, but am ashamed to say that I’m certainly not the best example of putting the principle into practice. Last year I intended to run a few more races than I actually did in the fall, and this was because I’d already mentally checked out shortly after SeaWheeze in August. With no real fire inside or desire to race, I was secretly very excited to take an offseason.

The beauty of having a coach is that it’s their job to make sure peaking doesn’t happen too early. As I’m about to explain, my coach has completely transformed the way I train and I definitely wouldn’t structure my plan the same if it was purely up to me. As a result, I’d burn out early and would very likely not be in my prime come July!

2015 Vision Board - Eat Spin Run Repeat - Ironman 70.3 goal

The Workouts

While this is the first time I’ve ever worked one-on-one with a coach, it’s also the first time I’ve used heart rate as the training method of choice. Since mid-December, all workouts have been either Z1 (heart rate zone 1) or ZR (recovery). Based on a selection of my previous race times, my coach figured out what my zones are and that’s what we’ve used to gauge the effort level of each workout.

bike trainer setup with polar v800

How does Zone 1 heart rate training work?

At the moment, my ‘zone 1’ for cycling is between 119 and 130bpm, and for running it’s about 130-140bpm. If you’re thinking, ‘wow, that’s low‘, I thought the same thing. In the past I’ve just gone out for runs at one of two effort levels – what I’d call ‘moderately hard’ and ‘hard’ – without giving it much thought. As a result, I really only ran in 2 gears.  When doing my first zone 1 run, it truly drove me nuts how slow I had to go in order to keep my heart rate within the zone. So what’s the point of all this super slowness, you may ask? Isn’t it a known thing that in order to run fast, you have to train fast? Well, sort of.

What my coach explained to me was that in order to prepare for the 70.3 mile distance properly, we’d spend a good long time at the beginning working on developing my zone 1 on the bike and run. The idea is that over time I’ll (hopefully) become more efficient and need to run faster/cycle harder in order to still stay in Z1. Make sense? He can also look at my heart rate progressions throughout my workouts to see if I’m becoming more efficient, if I’m recovering properly, if I might be dehydrated etc.

Polar V800 - goal reached

My watch of choice for all of this was the Polar M400, but I recently upgraded to the Polar V800 because it’s intended for triathlon and has heaps of cool multisport features. One of the things that has driven me absolutely craaaaazy about other watches is that the numbers are nowhere near big enough to see while moving. Polar has an app called Flow (for your phone and desktop) which makes it really easy to customize screens to show the data you want to see for each sport, and the display is plenty big enough to see with a quick glance. The most recent thing that blew my mind was that the watch can detect what stroke I’m swimming. Maybe I’m just one of those simple minds pleased by simple things, but I still think it’s pretty cool. 😉

Training schedule

My first block of training was a build in volume over 3 weeks, and we’ve recently entered a new block that does the same. The low intensity is still something that’s hard to wrap my head around (it feels more like a shuffle than a run), but the volume sort of makes up for it. On most days there’s 2 of the 3 sports on the agenda, and my lower volume week that just finished totalled just under 11 hours. So while I’m not dripping sweat at the end of runs and rides these days, I’m viewing this as a great time to work on mental focus, to learn what Z1 feels like, and to find ways to stay entertained. Following a black line up and down a pool, sitting on a bike trainer and running on a treadmill can get pretty monotonous, but podcasts, fresh playlists, Netflix and a bit of TV have all been keeping my mind engaged.

Vega cycling kit

To sum up the workouts part, I’ve (for the first time) released total control and am trusting the process and my coach. (Type A personalities be like “WHHHHAAAAAT!?!?!”) If this was strictly run coaching, my stubbornness would probably emerge again and I might not be so compliant. Of course, we’re in regular contact talking about how I’m feeling, and he’ll adjust my workout schedule if needed. Initially, I was hesitant about having someone else dictate my training because I’m so used to being the boss of my body. But strangely and surprisingly, I’m 100% ok with it. Fewer decisions on my part means I can focus on other things and not have to worry about whether or not I’ll be ready on race day.


Of course, nutrition is an imperative part of athletic performance no matter what the A-race or end goal is. When we initially talked about nutrition, many of the day-to-day principles my coach asked me to follow fell in line with exactly what I was already doing – eating clean, staying hydrated, and focusing on lots of nutrient-dense foods. Eating while cycling and running however, was a different story.

Eating on the go

In the past, I’ve been really lazy about fuelling during long workouts and races. I don’t normally carry anything during a half marathon and to be honest, stopping for water is also something I’ll rarely do. (Insert monkey-covering-eyes emoji here – I truly am terrible about this!) But had I decided to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon last fall, my plan was going to be to train with gels and water leading up to the race, and carry one with me on the day of to see if there’d be a boost in performance. That didn’t happen, but it’s experimentation time again.

vega sugar-free pre-workout energizer

For now, we’re working on getting my gut accustomed to taking in a specific ratio of sugars, sodium and fluid. Before every workout I drink Vega sugar-free pre-workout energizer, and as the name implies, there’s no sugar in there – it just makes me feel awesome and ready to rock, and the ingredients are clean. Then for workouts that are an hour or less, it’s been mostly water, Nuun electrolyte tabs or Vega electrolyte hydrator(Since I’ve only been training inside lately and at a low intensity, loss of fluids hasn’t been much of an issue. Water is my usual go-to for these shorter workouts.) However, because these are products are calorie-free, they won’t cut it for long sessions.

vega electrolyte hydrator and recovery accelerator

That leads to the 60/90min+ rides and runs. Again, since intensity has been so low it’s not like my body physically NEEDS calories, but the point of taking them in is to make sure my stomach will respond ok. During a race or a hard workout, there’s a whole lot of stress happening inside of us and that makes being able to predict how the digestive system will react quite difficult. So by priming mine early, the chances of GI issues happening on race day are more limited. The long-distance recommendation was Ironman PowerBar Perform, which I can’t say tastes delicious but it’s palatable enough. There are other products with similar amounts of sugars (in various forms) and sodium, but I opted for this one because it’s what’s most likely to be on the course on race day.

As for solids, we’re not quite there yet as far as testing goes. The plan is to see if I can get by on a few gels and possibly some solids left in the transition areas, but there’s plenty of time to figure things out between now and July. I’m currently reading Feed Zone Portables (highly recommended) and am hoping to try some of the whole food recipe ideas on my longer training rides.

Feedzone Portables - 75 all-new portable food recipes for cyclists, runners, triathletes, mountain bikers, climbers, hikers, and backpackers
Feedzone Portables – 75 all-new portable food recipes for cyclists, runners, triathletes, mountain bikers, climbers, hikers, and backpackers

Post-run eats

In general, my hunger level hasn’t changed much. If anything, it might even be down a bit relative to the endless months of high-intensity training I put myself through last year. The foods on my plate are still the same, but I’ve been more intuitive and better at listening to true hunger signals. I’ve also been extra diligent about getting plenty of nutrient-dense foods in shortly after finishing up each workout. These typically consist of veggie-packed omelettes or smoothies and some fruit on the side. (Oh and in case you missed them, I’ve recently posted a bunch of new smoothie recipes made with the new and amazingly improved Vega One. Here’s some of the latest:

Blackberry Ginger Smoothie
Blackberry Ginger Smoothie
Sour Green Apple Smoothie
Sour Green Apple Smoothie
Mandarin Chai Smoothie - Eat Spin Run Repeat
Mandarin Chai Smoothie

So what’s next?

Well, plenty of exciting things, actually! In addition to ramping up the volume some more (which I’m really looking forward to) I’m off to Las Vegas at the end of February for a mini training camp. I jumped at the chance to be able to ride my bike on a real road instead of a trainer, and am really looking forward to geeking out and learning all sorts about triathlon from my coach during the trip. With this adventure and the earlier escape from the cold to Bahrain in December, I’m feeling like a pretty lucky girl these days!

So tell me…

  • Are you currently or have you ever worked with a coach? What was your experience like?
  • If you’re training for a big fitness-related endeavour this year, what is it? How’s your training been going so far?
  • Vegas friends: Anything in particular that I MUST see while there?

26 thoughts on “Ironman 70.3 Training Update #1

  1. I am SO PROUD of you. You are going to have the best season ever – you have been working so hard and deserve ALL THE SUCCESS.

    You know how much I love my new coach. 🙂 I would say the biggest things I am training for this year is Transrockies 120 miler and Boston.

  2. I’ve never had a coach, no. I just donkey my way through training cycles. Nothing on the go for this year as I’m still nursing the baby, but maybe things will change later on. I keep my mileage up “just in case” a race pops up.

  3. This post was fascinating. I really hope you continue to update us on your training. I don’t plan on doing any races but am eyeing some long rides in the future. Maybe a cycling camping trip? I think what I don’t want to do and what I absolutely must do is put in long hours on the bike to get used to doing it.

    1. Aw thanks Lauren! I think a cycling trip sounds like a ton of fun! Admittedly the first time I saw a 2.5 hour ride on my training schedule I was like “WHAT?!” but it’s amazing how fast you adapt. I actually don’t mind them now because they give me plenty of time to learn while listening to podcasts, and to sort a bunch of stuff out in my head. Just be sure to get yourself some good cycling shorts and a proper bike fit, and you’ll be golden! 🙂

  4. It is great to know that your training is going so well! Trusting the training is a big, big part and I am sure that when the intensity starts pumping it will feel even greater. 😉 Riding in Vegas sounds amazing. I can’t wait for the recap!

  5. I work with a coach like you which is awesome because it takes out all of the guesswork. I trust my coach especially because her main type of coaching is for triathletes. It sounds like you have an awesome plan in place including nutrition. Nutrition is one are that I feel I tend to fail at at times so reading your plan is helpful I can’t wait to follow your journey. I’ll be doing my first 70.3 at the Timberman in August!

    1. It definitely helps if you can find someone who specializes, hey? I love learning about the nutrition side of training for endurance sports and seem to do fine with the pre and post workout nutrition – but the ‘during’ part is definitely where I want someone telling me what to do. Sort of like the whole periodization thing for intensity, I know what I should be doing but putting it into practice is a different story! I’ll make sure to keep these updates coming and am looking forward to hearing how your training goes as we both get closer to our big races!

  6. This is all so fascinating to me! I would not call myself a runner or biker per se, but I do enjoy them doing them both from time to time…I find your training so interesting. I hope that your training leads to great things, what a fin adventure!

  7. we use HR training too! it’s great for the bike and I’m so pumped for you! you’re doing great. James used a lot of the vega when we was in Colorado and loved it!

  8. Great work! I know that Z1 can be tough to understand and adjust to, but it is essential in long distance triathlon. You are going to have a great season.

  9. Ummmm WAIT – you went to Fresh without me?!?! I’ll let it slide just this once because I was away for the weekend! 😉

    You are rocking your training and I am SO excited for you. Your Vegas training is going to be an amazing experience. I’ve never been but hoping to go later this year.

    I love having a coach. Phaedra has been pushing me in a way that I know I wouldn’t push myself. As a result, I’ve gotten faster and a lot more confident! I’m really starting to get excited my my marathon just ONE MONTH away!!

    Also – I couldn’t help but notice your use of (insert monkey covering eyes emoji here) – I literally JUST used that in last night’s post!! #GREATMINDS

    1. Ahghhhhhh I know! It didn’t feel right without you but we will obvs just have to go again soon. I’m so excited to hear how you do in Phoenix this year. You’ve been working so hard and as you said, Phaedra has helped you to gain some serious speed! PS. I totally thought the same thing when I read your post this morning. #allthemonkeys!

  10. Have never used a coach, but am signed up for my first tri in September and considering it. Any recommendations or where/how did you find your coach?

    1. Hi Carrie! Great question. I was lucky enough to find mine through a friend who is a pro triathlete, but there are lots of ways to connect with tri coaches. You can do a search on (they have a coach directory and a search tool here), as well as lots of helpful articles about what to look for in a coach, based on what your goals are. Ironman also has a coaching certification program, and you can find certified coaches here. Lastly, it would be worth looking into triathlon clubs in your local area, especially if you feel you’d be more motivated/held accountable by a coach and/or group that you train with in person – even if just occasionally. Had I not found my coach through my friend, I would have probably gone that route next. Good luck!

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