I followed a TrainerRoad Triathlon plan without changing a single workout. My race experience. (long post warning)

Ok, so I thought I would share, but we warned, it’s a long post. I thought it might be helpful for people who are starting any plan but are not sure if the volumes, the intensity or structure will set them up for success. When I started, I couldn’t find anyone who had fully committed to plan without adding, or adapting a plan. I wanted people who went full deep dive. No adjustments, no training groups, just an athlete going it completely alone, just ticking off the sessions. Ok, here we go.

When I started doing tris again after 4 years off, I was curious what would happen if I followed a tri plan exclusively. What would the results be if I dedicated myself to a structed plan written by a software company, What would happen if I did 99.8% of my rides indoor only, followed the run sessions, and swam twice a week. 1 final thing. My wife and I were having our first baby in the middle of all this, so I didn’t want to be ever far away from my pregnant wife/new family.

Ok, background first, this isn’t my first rodeo. Id previously competed in triathlons for 10 years as a FOP age grouper. I would train on average 18hrs a week across the year. Huge mileage but without any real structure. The just do heaps mentality, but I gave that all up for 4 years to bike racing. No swimming, no running, just a lot of kilometres per week cycling, but 2 snapped collarbones in 1 year from it all. The wife was happy for me to take up triathlon again.

My best IM time is a 9.24, but ive always had terrible half ironmans, so there was my challenge, can Trainerroad help me get through a HIM race after 4years off, plus a new baby. My goals were to simply enjoy myself, and not die on the run.

I used the Base /Build / Spec Half Ironman plans, all in mid volume. I thought I would share my biggest learnings from this whole experience.

Following the advice or Johnathon, Nate and Chad, I trained on erg mode kickr, gearing was 4th biggest tooth for high inertia training, and trained in my time trial position. I manually adjusted my FTP along the way when the longer threshold intervals started to feel easy, and worked through to end up only being 15 watts lower then my road bike position. These guys have helped me understand training with power better then any book could ever teach me.

Fuelling is super important to getting through each week, I fuel every workout, be it a gel, some lollies, a coffee, or full blown race nutrition and timing for those longer Saturday and Sundays sessions. Some weeks I got my daily nutrition wrong ( I was trying to loose a little weight) and it would always bite me a week or 2 later. These forced me to stop training to get my calories back on track.

Practise race day nutrition, gear, and pacing. There is no better way to learn. I rode only twice outdoors over a 4 month (the whole summer indoors) period to see my progress and test outside skills, gear and position.

Trainer ride are really hard – they will make you a better, stronger rider in way less time. My biggest week was 13hrs. That is 13hrs of absolute gold A grade training. No junk, no lights, no rolling, just pure focused training.

Learning to run again was hard. My body hurt, ankles, feet, arse….it hurt, and it felt slow. The run sessions have enough structure to make them fun, but I do recommend you get onto Jack Daniels VDOT and use them as pace guides for your intervals.

The hardest part was swimming – I didn’t have a squad, so I had to battle the public lanes, swim when I could, and just get by. I went up dropping my 400m times from 6min 40s to 6min per 400 at a 7 out of 10 effort level.

So results:

Swim - super comfortably, coming out in less the 30mins, not stressed, HR was low.

Ride – I did the hard stuff in training. I was comfortable on the road. I had to watch my effort, and control myself as I felt awesome – 220 NP or 75%FTP with a VI of 1.05 in a race that included 5 laps, a 1km hill climb each lap, and a course that had head winds, technical sections. I got off the bike feeling amazing. Also I will add I never rode 90km in training, so this was my longest ride in 4 months.

Run - had a plan to run 4.30min/km pace. I shot out of the at 4.20 pace and despite my best efforts to slow down, I ran comfortably a 4.22 pace the way to the end, finishing in my best half ironman run result ever. I crossed the line tired, but not hollow, strong, and not crawling.

For those who may be wondering, trust the process, really just focus on 1 session at a time, don’t think about anything else. I use training peaks and the PCM chart is bloody impressive the last 90 days. The Trainerroad crew really do put together a fantastic plan that I would use and trust for any event.

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Thanks for sharing and well done! :+1:

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Thanks for confirming what I already suspected. This will work.

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It absolutely will. The hardest part i found at the start was the internal voice was saying “this isnt enough, this isnt how you train to get fast”

Once i did those long Saturdays like Polar, holding 80-88% ftp i knew i was in good hands

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Appreciated reading this post.
Was wondering which race you did and your total time relative to others in your AG.

… would you have done anything different? Did you need more TSS that you felt was lacking?

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No probs.

I finished 5th overall, 3rd in AG. I left a lot of time on the table, probably 5 or 6 mins in transitions alone. I used my giro empire shoes instead of tri shoes, I stuffed around with my tri suit. Being my first race back, I wanted to enjoy the day so didnt go full serious race mode, so didnt stress about that at all.

The AG winner was 4hr26, second was 4hr35 and I was 4hr.44

What would I change - start at the front swimming, change to tri shoes, tidy transitions up, maybe race at 78% FTP, but honestly, not much. Having 4 years out is a long time, and the biggest thing to improving is keeping consistent, I know my times will drop again. Ask me again in 4 years :slight_smile: hahaha.

I am going back into an Olympic Build plan again starting this week.

More TSS, yeah maybe. I dont know though. I found the TSS in the medium build to be enought for me with work, a new born, and recovery. I wouldnt wish anymore.

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Great info! Congrats on your performance and process!
What was your highest CTL(total and for each sport)?

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CTL for all 3 sports as of 8th January 2019 - 49
CTL for all sports as of 31st March 2019 - 82

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I love this post so don’t take this sarcastically, but it reminds me of the headline news articles that randomly pop up stating some new scientific or social breakthrough which was blindingly obvious all along like: “New study shows fresh vegetables are nutritious!!!”

Your post could be retitled: “Training intelligently leads to excellent results.”

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100% correct :laughing::laughing: In these days with so much info and plans, and friends doing this and that, I know how hard it is to back yourself in, stick to 1 method, and follow it right through.

Being an experienced athlete who would grind out big hours (because thats what the pros did) I looked at these plans and scoffed at how little training was involved and doubted if it can work. Im not saying its easy, because there were days I didnt want to ride indoors, I just wanted to ride outdoors, but when its a Saturday and you are completetly finished your 3hr workout at 10am, its a good feeling to be able to still use your weekends for proper Rest and Recovery

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Being an experienced athlete you should know better than to try and do what the pros do!

But yes, like life, training and improving isn’t that complicated, we (people) make it complicated.

Congrats! Great results! :+1:

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Hahaha so true. I said experienced, not smart :laughing: :laughing: :laughing:

I am really impressed with your dedication and results. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

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“Trust the process” - that’s on my whiteboard in front of my home trainer :slight_smile:

Thanks for a nice post !

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Ditto on Daniel’s plans for running. It’s quite a lot of work to build your own plan from his material, but it’s well worth it. I often feel that if someone could do to running structured training what TR has to cycling, it would be a golden product - and basing it on Daniel would be the wise choice.

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Lol, in other news: “Science Proves Water is Wet.”

Great work @jamiewallis and quite timely for myself. Whenever I feel like my training isn’t going as well as I expect or I see my other competitors doing a bunch of outside rides, I start to doubt TR and if strictly following my Base - Build - Specialty progression to 99% adherence is the best way to go. I just need to trust the TR process and you’ve provided another reason to do just that.

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Thanks for the writeup and the extra boost of confidence I need for following (at least the bike) TR plan. It’s great to see some fast results from using the plan. And it wasn’t too long at all!

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Great work! How’d you decide on targeting 75% of FTP? I thought that a typical recommended range was 75-85%, and given that your overall time is so fast, I’d have expected your ride to be at least into the middle of that range.

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I just used his pace zones for my intervals, and tempo workouts. I typed in my goal race time. The TR plans said either tempo, intervals or base run. The app really helped me with this. I also just went by feel a lot of time. Tempo was not always defined by pace, but just by how I felt. Sometimes I was faster then the Daniels method. I found the pace zones pretty spot on.

I wanted to have a great run, and ensure my first race back after so many years was enjoyable. The 75% was on the low end, but I have never felt so good on the bike before. I could have gone up…next race i will. I used an article of Training Peaks from Joe Friel about Age Group bike power for HIM distance. I think he even prescribes up to 88% FTP, but because I’ve never had a great run off the bike, I dialed it right down.

Happy to write something up, the results were really good considering I was almost a beginner at Tri’s again. Building run strength, swim strength from scratch again I was amazed at how well put together the plan was to support these other sports. Having the training weeks so well spaced out helped my body recover. Another learning point i learnt was don’t stress the small stuff.

I took a week off when the baby was born, I had to take a few days off because I was so tired from adjusting to life with a baby, returning to work. I didn’t try to back fill those sessions, I just moved on through.

I am confident that just by following another plan again (and keeping consistent) I will probably take another few minutes off again.

Some of these sessions are down right daunting. I found that at times I was like “2hr run…thats a lot!!”, or a ride for 2hrs at that much power with not a single recovery section - “im going to die”, but when you get through 1 of these sessions, the confidence it gives you for the race is encouraging

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Yes i agree. Switching that part off in my head was hard. Id see my friends clocking huge kms per week, but i wanted to follow this through. Just stay at it.