Eye on the prize. The 3 biggest mistakes made in planning a triathlon season

Ironman, Periodization, Training, Triathlon -

Eye on the prize. The 3 biggest mistakes made in planning a triathlon season

As we are half way through the Asia racing season it is important to have a think about the plans for the back half of 2018 and to lay the plans to enable you to have the best chance of success possible. Here are the three key factors to planning a successful Ironman, Triathlon, Marathon or sports buildup.
  1. Races too far apart or awkwardly spaced
We often run into this problem with our athletes who are racing half Ironman (70.3) or Challange events. Logically they want to give themselves 6-8 weeks between each race however this time period is difficult as it is not long enough for a new complete buildup but too long for a rolling speed and taper phase, especially if they have already just come off a speed phase.
The ideal space between back to back races will depend on the length but in general here is a breakdown:
  • 10km and Olympic distance triathlon - weekly or 2 week gap
  • Half marathon or Ironman - is 2-3 weeks
  • Ironman and Marathon 3 to 4 weeks
How many races can be backed up really depends on the experience of the athlete. For athletes who have had one or two years in the sport  a general rule is 2-3 races before having a full recovery phase and starting a new buildup.
2.  Not focusing on a specific distance
One of the things that will trip athletes up will be too much variation in their target distances. For example there is a very big change in training and mindset in those looking to perform at their best at Olympic Distance (OD) or Standard Distance triathlons against Ironman. From a coaching perspective there may be sound logic to asking an athlete to race an OD one or two weeks before IM however the expectation should be set that the training is entirely different and you are unlikely to perform well at the OD event.
If athletes are racing long events such as 1/2 IM and full IM it is highly unlikely they should consider racing a quality OD in the same season post the major race. This is because the specific speed-work required to run a quality 10km won’t be needed for the IM events where strength is the primary focus.   
3. Not focusing on a specific sport
Triathlon by nature is a multisport endeavour and there are athletes who seem to want to do it all in a season. Firstly run a marathon this week followed by Ironman in two weeks and an adventure race after that. If the goal is to simply finish or be mediocre at the events this can make for a fun season, however if you are in the pursuit of excellence or gradual improvement over time,  focusing on a single sport and give the attention it requires is essential.
There is a caveat, which is for a seasoned triathlete a specifically focused training 'block' may be ideal to make a huge jump in the next season/ major buildup.    This may mean focusing attention on 3-6 months on a single sport.  Note in this time you will not be trying to improve your 'triathlon times' rather you will be learning the specific skills or laying the key foundation of one of the tree components.   For example to bring your cycling to the next level a bike riding block may include 3-6months of: Multi-day stage tours, criterion racing, hill climbing and time trial specific events.   The key to unlocking success is the plan around training blocks and having the patience and focus to bring one leg of your triathlon trio up at a time.

1 comment

  • Barry

    Very sound advice here – the key is in the planning which involves a trusting coach/ athlete relationship

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