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Part 2 of 3 IRONMAN 70.3 series: Breaking The 7 and 6-Hour Barriers

If you are looking to just complete an IRONMAN 70.3 without a time target, read my first article: Part 1 of 3 IRONMAN 70.3 series: Turning impossible to IMpossible- Guide to completing your first IRONMAN 70.3.

The fundamental principles covered in that article are also applicable for triathletes who are aiming to complete the race within in 7 or 6 hours. 

 

My assumption for this target group is that you:

  1. Already have one to three years in the sport of consistent, injury-free training.
  2. Have completed two to three 70.3’s and two to three shorter distance triathlon events.

 

Worldwide average timings for IRONMAN 70.3 

Based on RunTri’s analysis of more than 67,000 finishers in 40 Half Ironman triathlons, the average timings for the IRONMAN 70.3 are 45 minutes for Swim (1.9km), 3 hours for Bike (90km), and 2 hrs 15 mins for the Run (21.1km). That gives a total time of 6 hours. 

 

Source: RunTri.com

 

Here is a breakdown of the half ironman finishing times according to gender and age groups. 

 

Source: RunTri.com
Source: RunTri.com

 

Guide to breaking The 7 and 6-Hour Barriers

1. Setting a Time Budget 

If this is your second plus year of solid training, let’s set some weekly time budgets for healthy preparation for the target distance.

For a 70.3 distance, you should be training 12-15 hours a week, and 15 – 20 hours if you are looking to be on the podium or world champs qualifier. Note that no amount of volume of training will make a difference if your body is not conditioned for the demands of the race.

 

2. Nailing your Power-To-Weight Ratio

What does power-to-weight ratio mean? 

It is a formula used to determine your strength compared to your weight. Power-to-weight ratio is calculated by dividing your body weight in kilograms (1 kg = 2.2 lbs) into average watts for a given range.

You power-to-weight ratio matters because it a great predictor of your performance, especially in cycling and running. The higher your power-to-weight ratio, the faster you will go.

To achieve your goal of completing the IRONMAN in a faster timing, your weight matters especially for cycling up hills and running. Focusing on a gradual weight reduction during your base phase of training is crucial. Achieving an ideal race weight can only happen with smart decisions, discipline and hard work. Work with a Coach to learn how to train in the correct strength and endurance zones to improve fuel efficiency, and focus on Nutrition to encourage weight loss. 

 

3. Pace judgement 

Assuming you have prepared well for your event, the biggest barrier to overcome is poor pace judgement. Athletes tend to get over excited and ambitious on the bike because of the hype of the race or they are feeling physically strong.

However, poor pacing and not following the pace that you have trained for will eventually lead to your downfall on the run leg. You may be capable of 2 hours 30 mins on the bike, but there is no point in that if you follow this up with a 3-hours long half marathon.

This is where experience, realistic pacing and patience plays a critical role in determining your success in achieving a sub-6 timing. A Coach will be able to advice for not only your build up sessions, but also your race week and race day plans. 

 

4. Race simulation

Real-life race simulations leading up to the event in similar terrain and heat conditions are very important for preparing yourself for what to expect. This is no longer a strength and endurance phase, but a dress rehearsal for the big show.

Contrary to popular belief, simulations don’t have to be performed over full distances. 

“Remember that your body understands time and effort, it does not understand what a kilometre is.”

 

 

Such a simulation should be in full racing attire (your trisuit, with optional wetsuit for instance), equipment for the race and transition, and nutrition.

 

READ more:  What you need to know before cycling on roads

An example of a race simulation practice is as follows:

Swim: 40-50 mins open water

T1 Transition practise

Bike: 10 mins steady effort followed by 3 sets x 45 mins at race pace (measured by HR (Heart Rate) or FTP (Functional Threshold Power)) with 6 mins steady between

T2 transition practise

Run: 5 mins steady effort, followed by 40 mins at race pace. End off the run with 10 mins steady, and 5 mins easy effort

 

5. Optimising your Nutrition

Learn and practice what works for you, including calculating your individual sweat profile (this can be tested) to know how much water you need to consume during your event to prevent a risk of dehydration. 

 

 

6. The Run leg: You will never outrun your strength 

Let me bust a common myth here: Track work isn’t necessary for the age-group athlete to achieve a faster timing for your run. 

Let me explain. Although running drills incorporated into our regular runs should be part of what we do to improve running efficiency, going to the track weekly and running 4.30 min/km efforts will have no bearing for your run pace on race day.

What should you be doing instead? Run on tired legs, in the heat, that’s what we do in Asia every race so this needs to be a part of our training. Every time we get off the bike, finish your training with a run, even if it is only a short 15 to 20 mins session.

 

Aside from that, long steady runs on trails such as Macritchie or similar terrain will pay huge dividends in your race day strength. 1 x Macritchie run is equivalent to 2 x East Coast Park runs in terms of soft tissue strength, strength endurance and gains. It is best that most of your base work is performed on trails and at a much slower pace than your target pace as this helps to build up your fuel efficiency.

 

 

As you inch closer to race day, do 5, 10 or 20km runs around your target pace on tired legs (i.e. train normally the day before or after your bike session) would be good run-specific rehearsals. When you are prepared to do race simulations, include bricks with 1 to 2km effort repeats at your target race pace with 1 min easy effort in between sets. Having structure and discipline in your training will prepare your body more effectively for the race.

 

 

Sample formula for breaking the 7 and 6-hour barriers

Under 7 hours:

Swim:  47 min 30 sec ( 2:30 /100m ave)

Transition 1: 5 mins

Bike: 3 hours 27 min (average speed: 26 km/h)

Transition 2: 5 mins

Run: 2 hrs 27 mins (7 min/km pace)

Total time: 6 hrs 51 mins 

 

Under 6 hours:

Swim: 40 min (2:06/100m ave)

Transition 1: 4 mins

Bike: 3 hours (average speed: 30km/h)

Transition 2: 4 mins

Run: 2 hrs 6 mins (6min/km pace)

Total time: 5 hrs 56mins 

 

Conclusion

The sub-7-hour and sub-6-hour goals require the right application to the work needed. There is no such thing as a bad race, provided you learn from your mistakes. While the race is still fresh in your mind, write down what has worked for you and what needs work. You will only improve if you reflect and act upon your weaknesses.

Michael Lyons

Author: Michael Lyons

Michael is an ITU Level 2 Coach, Co-owner of TriEdge, and CEO of recovery systems. He is also a race commentator for Cycling and Triathlon races.
He has training and recovery tips & tricks from his 53 years of bike riding. He has done more than 100 Ironman races and 6000 hours of athlete coaching including the use of active compression technology.
He loves to connect and bring the endurance community together.
#bringonthegains

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