The word periodization does not refer to sentence punctuation. It is a term that describes an overall, year-long plan for rest and recovery, base building, and training for athletic competition. The goal is keep the athlete fit and ready to compete at the appropriate times and free from injury.
As much as you might enjoy the training and racing, you can't do it all the time without burning out, suffering serious injury, or both. There's an excellent plan for matching your ambition with your capacity for achieving it. The idea is to break up your year into periods, thus the terminology. There are four periods:
December, January, and February. After a period of downtime, you begin building your base again. Your workouts have structure. You are following a training plan, adding strength with weights, and putting in more time in all three sports. You can use the beginner's training schedule from Chapter 11, replacing any hard workout with a longer but easier session in the same sport. You aren't trying to get race ready yet. Your goal in this period is to regain enough fitness to be able to move on to the next period.
March, April, and May. Now you add hard workouts such as tempo sets, intervals, and hill repeats. You show up at the track more often for speed work. Your goal is to build on the foundation, the base, you laid in the previous period to get into race condition. You cut back on the weight training but focus your hard workouts on certain drills depending on coming races, for example, more hill workouts when your next race will present that kind of challenge.
June, July, August, and September. This is the race season in most areas. You do less training during this period because the competition is keeping you in top condition. More important, you need time to recover from the races you have been doing. In race season, your weight training is cut back significantly. If you are new to the triathlon, limit yourself to two races per month and schedule at least one week a month for rest and recovery. All workouts during your rest week should be light. If you don't schedule some time for rest during the triathlon season, you risk burnout. No one can go hard week after week without a break. Even the pros back off regularly.
October and November. You don't have to take the full two months, but schedule four to six weeks of light, unstructured activity. You still run, swim, and ride, but always at low intensity. There are no hard workouts or any kind of structured activity. This is the period during which your body recovers from the training and racing you have put it through in the previous ten months. Don't listen to the demons inside telling you to throw off the shackles and get out there for a hard run. Your discipline will pay off with a better racing season next year.
During your rest period, use your training log and heart rate monitor to make sure you are sticking to your plan for taking it easy. The light workout schedule will leave you with some excess energy, which will tempt you to overdo it.
These periods are, of course, subject to change based on a variety of factors, including climate and the availability of certain races. If your racing season starts earlier, you should start building your base on a different schedule.
The details are less important than sticking to the plan. As long as you build in rest periods and schedule some time off at the end of the season, you can keep this going almost indefinitely.
In periodization, you train with the objective of hitting your peak at the same time that you toe the starting line in your next triathlon, and the one after that. Planned correctly and followed with discipline, periodization will help keep you in the game instead of sitting on the sidelines with an injury or simply burned out because you overdid it.
The Half Ironman
The Boston Marathon is the Mecca in the world of running. With an experienced runner, you need only say the word “Boston,” and you're understood. In triathlons, it's the Ironman Triathlon in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The magic word is “Kona.” Both races are more or less exclusive; most participants have to qualify.
Just as marathons have made themselves more accessible to runners without “Boston ability,” triathlon organizers have attached the Ironman cachet to a race that is doable for a wider variety of athletes. If you have the fitness plus the time and the will to train for it, you can probably complete a Half Ironman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile ride, 13.1-mile run).
The question you have to ask yourself is, “When?”
The answer depends on where you are right now. If you have just completed a sprint triathlon and that's the extent of your experience, the Half Ironman should be a project you plan to work on for at least a year.
In the next twelve months, get some more triathlons under your belt, increasing the distance to at least Olympic range. Train for and run a couple of half marathons, and adopt a serious program to get your body ready for the event. The Half Ironman is possible for anyone determined enough to put in the work, but it's not a lark.
I want to experience the Half Ironman but I don't have the time to train adequately in all three sports. Do I have any options?
Consider signing up for a Half Ironman on a relay team. Most people can find the time to train for one of the sports, and the team aspect increases the fun.
Say you have just completed a sprint triathlon that took you an hour and forty-five minutes. Compare that to what you will probably face in your first Half Ironman even if you train well and feel prepared:
Your 1.2-mile swim will take forty-five minutes, possibly longer.
The 56-mile bicycle ride will keep you in the saddle at least three to three and a half hours.
You will be tired after all that riding when you start the half marathon, so covering the final 13.1 miles of your race will probably take at least two and a half hours.
You could be looking at five hours or more on the Half Ironman course. If the weather presents additional obstacles, the Half Ironman could very well be the longest day you ever spent completing a sporting event.
So what will it take to get ready for a Half Ironman? Finding the time to train adequately will surely be at least as challenging, if not more so, than the race itself.
For a Half Ironman, you will have to do some four-hour bike rides, and your runs and swims will be proportionately longer. You should plan to set aside ten to twelve hours a week to train for your half triathlon. Granted, the demands are not as oppressive as if you were training for a full Ironman — think bike rides of 100 miles, seven hours long — but it's a lot for a person with a job and family.
These cautions are not intended to discourage you from reaching higher in your athletic goals, and if you have experience at greater distances, you are in a much better position to move up more rapidly. Go-slow caveats aside, there are positives to consider about the Half Ironman. For starters, it is much less intense than the full Ironman and its daunting challenges. There will be a confidence factor at the start of the Half Iron-man you might not feel in a full Ironman, no matter how diligently you prepared. Because you know you can do it, you will be more relaxed and you won't worry about going slow in spots, and your first one is definitely a just-get-to-the-finish race.
No Need for Speed
The Half Ironman is a good race for people who aren't very fast, and it's sufficiently challenging that completing the journey will be very satisfying. Most Half Ironman races are open to everyone, and there are enough of them on the calendar that you should not have great difficulty finding one that suits you and provides the time to get ready.
A training schedule for a Half Ironman is beyond the scope of this book, but there are many excellent, and free, training resources on the Internet. Many race organizers offer training programs on the same website where you register for the event.