Click the link for Erin's Beginner Triathlon Clinic power point presentation
Download the PDF file for my presentation from June 20, 2018 on the Tribella Super Sprint and Sprint Triathlon
I've raced Boulder in 2014 and 2017 and have spectated the remainder of the years. While the bike course changes every year (and now the run course has changed) the thematic elements from 2015 forward have generally remained the same. Here's my thoughts on training for Ironman Boulder (at least in it's present form in 2018....)
For those who live at lower elevation, you'll mostly feel the affects in the swim, since that's when you're most oxygen deprived. I like having my athletes do breath control workouts in the pool to help get used to not having as much oxygen as you'd prefer. A good set is for a warm up or cool down and do a 200 or 300 where you breathe every 3 strokes / 5 strokes / 7 strokes etc per 50 yards. I'm also a big proponent of breathing every 2 strokes during normal swimming because I like oxygen.
Being that the race is so early in the season, many of us won’t have the opportunity to get in an OWS prior to race day. Most OWS venues in Colorado aren't open until mid-May, and even then, they're bone-chilling. Aim for at least 2 OWS at the full 2.4 mile distance so you can get reacquainted with sighting, wearing your wetsuit, and swimming without a black line beneath you.
The Boulder course changes every year but generally (except for the first year) the course sticks to Boulder County Roads. This means many rollers and thematic elements. Generally, northbound roads are rollers with a net elevation increase (southbound is the opposite), westbound roads are moderate climbs (and the way the course is set us, the western legs are usually around 4 miles long). Eastbound roads are the reverse with nice downhill stretches to give you a bit of a break. Overall, you don't head in any direction for very long (30 minutes tops) which means you get a nice break in terrain, wind, and scenery. For 2018, the main bike challenges are the hill at St Vrain right before 36 (it's "attention getting") and the slog up Hygiene.
To train for this, if you live in Denver, go and ride the course at least once, just so you're familiar with it. If you're not lucky enough to live in Denver, incorporate some 30 minute harder sustained efforts (maybe 30 min harder / 15 min easier / 30 min pace / 30 min harder) to mimic the terrain changes you'll experience in Boulder.
For your shorter rides (1 to 1.5 hours) do some small (less than 5 min) harder intervals (suggest something like 3-4 repeats of 2 min 80% / 2 min 90% / 2 min recovery) to mimic the hills and to help get that power going under a full peak month training fatigue load. This will help prepare your legs (and your mind) for those rollers on race day during the second loop.
And of course, there's my advice of "ride your bike until you don't want to ride anymore and then ride some more anyways". I usually have my athletes do at least one weekend with 2 bigger back to back rides. This accomplishes two things: really good aerobic conditioning without too much toll on your body and a whole lot of mental training. Getting on that bike the second day is HARD but it will set you up mentally for success on race day for when things are hard.
On paper, the run course doesn't look too bad. There aren't many large hills, it looks mostly flat. What looks flat actually had a bunch of small underpasses (which means some ups and downs) and a net elevation increase from the eastern side of the course to the western side of the course. This means you have an uphill course to the finish line, when you're most tired. You actually do this uphill slog twice... the second time is definitely harder than the first time.
To best prepare for the run, I recommend mimicking the run course as much as possible. For starters, the run course is mostly pavement, so if your body can tolerate it, run on pavement for training. Seek out terrain that is similar to the run course - slight rollers and a long (4-6 miles) gradual uphill at the end of your runs. Doing this will really help to prepare your legs and your mind for the run course challenges.
Run volume is super individual so I won't really give advice on that (hire a coach!) but if you are finding that you're legs are having a hard time with the volume, breaking your runs up into 2 segments on the same day is a good way to approach things. Do the bulk of the run in the morning and save 3-5 miles for before dinner (and make sure you eat and get some rest between runs). This will help prevent the form breakdown that most experience at the end of those long IM training days while still allowing for volume loading.
Ironman St George 70.3 is notorious for it’s hills and for it’s unpredictability. The weather is always a huge unknown, and more race days have had challenging weather than perfect weather. But the hills…. Oh, those hills. Here are some of my tips for how to train for success on this course.
Being that the race is so early in the season, many of us won’t have the opportunity to get in an OWS prior to heading to Utah. If you’re lucky enough to get in some OWS, do it! If not, longer swim session (2,500 yards, 2-3 times a week) will get you to the start line. Once you get to St George, make sure you head out to Sand Hollow to get in a practice swim. This will give you an opportunity to remember what it feels like to wrestle on a wetsuit (and to swim in it), to get a feel for the cold water, and to shake out any pre-race nerves. Definitely swim out to the island, climb on the rocks and then jump off into the water (but safely!) to burn off some of those pre-race jitters.
This bike course is legendary for its long climbs and beautiful scenery. The whole course is loaded with rolling hills but the real challenge comes at mile 40 – Snow Canyon. This is a LONG climb and it will really test your mental game and your leg endurance as you make your way to the top of the canyon. To train for this, do a few (or more) rides with LONG climbs. In Denver, we’re lucky to have several canyons to ride up (Deer Creek and Left Hand are both good ones). Long sustained climbs (20 min or longer) loaded at the end of your ride will help replicate the fatigue loading that you’ll experience on race day.
If you don’t have many chances to ride outside or if you live in a flat area, then you’ll rely on the trainer to replicate those climbs. You’ll want to do some longer trainer rides (2-3 hours) that include several 20 min efforts at 80-85% FTP of threshold HR. These will be super hard, but you’ll be thankful on race day that your legs and mind are ready.
Everyone talks about the bike course, but for me, the real test was the run. The half marathon includes almost 1,200 feet of elevation gain… after climbing 3500 ft on the bike. Your legs will be tired, but if you train for it, you’ll manage pretty well. Hill repeats are good, however doing approximately 1,000 (or more) of climbing over the course of your long runs will really set you up for success. I also recommend running in the heat of the day will help you acclimate to the heat that radiates off of the completely exposed run course.
Ironman St George 70.3 is arguably the hardest 70.3 in North America but also one of the most beautiful. Here's what to expect for the swim, bike, and, run and some race logistics. Both the bike and the run are challenging in terms of terrain, but the real trick is the weather. Rarely has there been "perfect" race weather - plan on pretty much anything happening when you're packing for the race. It has been cold and rainy, it has been hot, and it's almost always windy. Focus on what you can control and plan for the weather and you'll be ok!
With two transitions, logistics are a bit more complicated than most races. My advice: get there early and stay calm. The bus shuttle system to get you to the reservoir is pretty well organized but you might also be waiting in line for a small while to catch your bus. Take this time to make sure you've eaten all of your breakfast, crack some nervous jokes, and do some pre-race visualization.
The water is on the cold side (upper 50's to lower 60's) but the water quality is great. Make sure you get in the water before the race starts and get your wetsuit completely wet. That will help alleviate any shock from the cold water and give you a chance to make sure your wetsuit and goggles are good to go.
The water is so clear you can see ripples in the sand on the bottom as you get close to shore. Sighting and navigation is fairly easy, as the course swims around a rock island. Just focus on good drafting and pacing and you'll be set up for a good start to your race.
The bike is where the work begins. It's HARD but incredibly beautiful.**TIP** If the weather is cold/rainy, pack a trash bag in your transition bag and put it under your jersey (on your front side only, from collar bone to your waist). This will act as a wind blocker and it will keep your core warm. It's also super easy to ditch at an aid station for when you finally warm up. Arm warmers from cheap knee high socks (with the toes cut out of them) are also a budget friendly and easy to ditch item if you feel like you need a little additional warmth. Utah has very low humidity, so you'll dry out pretty quickly, which means you should warm up relatively soon into the bike. Also, make sure that you are drinking enough - with the low humidity your sweat evaporates almost immediately.
Be prepared for the climb leaving Sand Hollow, it is definitely an "attention-getter". You likely will be chilled from the swim, your heart rate will be elevated, and you won't have your bike legs under you yet. Just spin those legs and let that hill be a chance to warm up. The middle section of the course is full of rolling hills and goes along open roads, through neighborhoods, and is a generally scenic and pleasant tour of the area. Then at mile 40 - that's where the real work and test of your mettle begins as you enter Snow Canyon. This section of the course can be intimidating, especially since you can see the line of cyclists ahead of you as you enter the canyon, all inching their way up to the top of the canyon at mile 45. This section is where you really need to stick to your plan. Stay on target for your effort, cadence, heart rate, power and do NOT be a hero and go hard at the beginning. Most of the canyon is at a fairly consistent grade (a doable grind) and just before you get to the top, there's a steep section. That steep part is just minutes (as in less than 3) long. You can ABSOLUTELY red line for 3 minutes, so hang tough and get up that hill. Once you crest the top of the canyon, you are rewarded with miles and miles of sweeeeet downhill. Don't be afraid of going into your aerobars on the descents either - the shoulders are wide and the road conditions are great to really zoom down the hill. Use that section to ensure that your hydration and nutrition are on point so you're set up for a good run when you get to T2.
Everyone talks about how hard the bike course is.... very few talk about how hard the run course is. The St George run course is as hard, if not harder than the bike. The run has approximately 1,200 feet of elevation gain. That's a lot for a 70.3. And the run is fully exposed, making things pretty warm as the sun radiates off of those pretty red rocks. If you are heat sensitive (or train in an area where you don't have a chance to acclimate to the heat), wearing cooling sleeves is a great idea. Making sure you stay hydrated and put ice anywhere that ice will go will also help you out.
The nice thing about the run course is that it's an out and back, so you only have to run things once. The not so nice thing about the run course is that you run up a pretty decent hill into a saddle with a slight downhill, only to turn around and re-trace your steps. Meaning, you've got to climb your way out of that saddle before you get to enjoy that downhill to the finish. Again, keep to your targets, keep eating and drinking, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other to get you to the finish.