As Carly and I head into the stretch run before our first Half Ironman together down in New Orleans on April 22, 2012, I've received many questions from people curious about what it is like getting ready for a Half Ironman. The race itself involves a 1.2 mile swim, then a 56 mile bike, and a finale of running a half marathon (13.1 miles). For myself, my training has been a mixture of programs I've come across over the years. My wife Carly has been following a modified version of the Triathlon Dominator program by Ben Greenfield. Carly will be the first to tell you how obsessed I am with following Ben Greenfield and all of his fitness/triathlon advice but the guy knows his stuff and brings up lots of ideas that make you re-think nutrition and racing.
With Carly also being an active CrossFitter, her initial question (and a question from many others) has been "How would I mix training for a Half Ironman with CrossFit?" With normal training programs, you usually don't have time to optimally do both but Ben Greenfield's plan is heavily focused on interval and strength work which requires only about 8 hours a week to train for the Half Ironman. For those wondering, that is a fairly minimal amount of hours to train for a Half Ironman distance. There's definitely time left to do strength workouts via CrossFit and Ben Greenfield also provided a great post on how to combine the two. These are some of the same philosophies I followed a couple of years ago when I was doing some CrossFit and started to get into triathlon racing. There's also CrossFit Endurance which is an off-shoot of CrossFit developed by Brian MacKenzie geared toward endurance athletes as well but I'm still not sure if it is optimal for athletes looking to "compete" for time (ie elite age groupers) as opposed to just being able to "complete" an event. Ben Greenfield actually does a pretty good interview with Brian MacKenzie asking the same questions in this podcast. For Ben Greenfield's recommendation on combining CrossFit with Endurance/Triathlon training, the full article can be found over at this link but here's the 5 Fundamental Guidelines to keep in mind when combining CrossFit and Endurance/Triathlon training. The one piece of advice that I would add that was beneficial for me was to be a week behind with the WODs so that you know what the workouts entail and you can plan your training schedule accordingly. On one hand, you lose the surprise element of what the WOD is but the gains in time management/maximizing the "key" workouts (running for marathons, running/biking/swimming for triathlon) more than make up for it.
The solution is simple. You just need to modify both Crossfit and your triathlon or endurance training routine. Here is how to do it:
Step 1: If you decide to do Crossfit, immediately make a mental and physical commitment to adjusting your run frequency to no more 3x/week. You will receive any run-specific anaerobic and strength training necessary from the type of sprinting and running you will encounter while engaged in working out at your Crossfit gym or doing the WOD’s on the Crossfit website. Your other remaining runs for the week should be: 1) a single long endurance run, preferably spaced at least 48 hours after the toughest Crossfit workout of the week; 2) two easy recovery runs that focus primarily on cadence, footwork, and running form.
Step 2: If a Crossfit workout is “pull-intensive”, that is, if the workout includes lat and bicep soreness-inducing amounts of deadlifts, pull-ups and rowing machine, modify your swim workouts for the next 48 hours to be either A) switching to easy recovery bike rides or B) purely aerobic swims with an emphasis on drills and skills.
Step 3: Track your recovery status like crazy. Using a tool such as Restwise, or something as simple as your morning resting heart rate, track any alterations in your recovery status that suggest you could be moving towards the brink of overtraining. When this occurs, skip the next two Crossfit workouts, and switch any swim, bike, or run workouts to be aerobic only – nothing above anaerobic or lactate threshold. For the Crossfit workouts that you skipped, it’s OK to do a simple core routine, but no “just go easy” modifications of Crossfit workouts.
Step 4: If you decide to do Crossfit year round, then do zero, zada, zilch Crossfit during any race weeks, and only do a maximum of two Crossfit routines for the week before race week.
Step 5: Primarily if you are a marathoner, Half-Ironman, or Ironman triathlete, completely and totally skip your Crossfit workout for 48 hours after any breakthrough endurance training sessions, including workouts like 5 hour bricks, 3-4x 5K’s, 18 mile runs, tempo century bike rides, or any other workout that *may* be mostly aerobic, but is still highly carbohydrate depleting or affects hormonal status significantly.(excerpted from "How To Combine CrossFit With Endurance or Triathlon Training and Not Mess Up Your Body")