Coaching vs. Programs vs. a Book: How am I getting to Augusta?

First garden tomato

A community garden grown tomato a day keeps the training plan blues away. Really just a gratuitous picture of my first garden harvest.

Frankenbike and I made our triumphant return to DC right in time for summer to rear its sweaty, stinky head. I dealt with this by taking a week off of training, boozing it up, and calling it “recovery,” but I think I’ve stretched my limit of post race slacking and need to start getting down to business with this half IM training. I plan on subjecting my unsuspecting body to an easy run later tonight, but that isn’t really much of an idea for the long term. I need a training plan and I haven’t quite figured out how I want to acquire one. My Alcatraz training was not ideal. It was an odd distance so I tried to modify and follow a plan from Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide. After a few weeks of sort of mostly failing to follow workouts, my training became focused on just getting in a workout or two every day and trying to vary the effort (easy some days, hard others). I was never able to get in the ideal 8-9 workouts a week, but I was able to keep my weekly training hours up and increasing at a moderate rate. It wasn’t perfect and I did get awfully scared about a month out from Alcatraz that I was too untrained and too slow; however, I did enough to survive my goal race and not at any point feel like I was going to die or I needed to quit.

So with the hope of not repeating that particular move with the second half of the season, the question becomes what do I do for Augusta?

Book Training. A book training plan will be straightforward since the race is a standard distance and a more or less standard course (no cold water, no gigantic hills, no stairs or trail running like Alcatraz). I think I would be in decent shape for the race if I spent my summer simply focusing on volume and nothing else, and if there’s one thing that Tri Mag training guide really enjoys it’s volume.  The rub for me is that I find doing and sticking to my own training plan kind of hard. There’s a motivational/accountability aspect to it, but also a doubt that I’m not doing the right things at the right times for my specific athletic needs (because I am a special athletic snowflake, make no mistake). This is only my third year in the sport and I still feel like I’m learning new things every week about how to do it better. Using a book I’ve already purchased is the cheapest option for me, though. Cost: $0.

Individual Coaching. Another option that I keep toying with is to get a proper coach. A coach could hand me a training plan, could revise it when something happens or I get off track, and would have the knowledge of the sport and me to tailor the plan to my needs. Given that I’m often complaining that standard plans don’t take into account my glacial speeds and serious run weakness, this option is mighty tempting. There is also a built in motivational aspect, as I would feel very silly and disappointed in myself if someone gave me stuff to do and I didn’t do it. There are some obvious downsides. The time and effort it might take to find a coach that fits with me is daunting. Finding someone who is happy to coach a back of the packer who’s not in it for the Magical Weight Loss Journey™ might be hard. Also, mid-season is not the most ideal time to be trying to find a coach. Many folks will already have a full stable of athletes and won’t want to try to build a relationship with a new one this late in the game. Finally, there’s the cost consideration. I haven’t priced out anyone in particular, but I expect it will range from $100-200 a month. That’s doable, but ouch. Buying stuff really is the fourth sport of triathlon.

DC Tri Club’s Half Ironman Program. The third option is to take advantage of DC Tri Club’s Half-Ironman Program. It would have the benefit of someone else creating my training plan, but it wouldn’t be personalized to me. I participated in the New Triathlete Program and the Olympic Distance Program a few years ago and found the training plans to be pretty reasonable. In fact, compared to the book training, there are fewer double workouts, which I like. I would rather go out and do a 5 hour ride than do 2 workouts a day. (I know I need to get over it; I just haven’t yet figured out how.) The HIP does clinics throughout the season as well to help you prepare for your race. I enjoyed the NTP clinics a lot and would enjoy having more information on half IM specific strategies. Of course, the HIP is a five month program and I’m down to about 15 weeks before Augusta; I’d be missing the first few weeks of base training. That sucks. The cost, while less than a coach and pretty reasonable for what you get, is still not cheap. It’s $250 for the season.

If you have any advice, I’d love to hear it. I will continue to waffle through a few days of slackery workouts before a lack of knowing what to do each day will force me into something.

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