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The Half Ironman (IM), AKA 70.3, distance is popular because it’s a great half day workout not requiring extensive life altering sacrifices. The event market is flooded with races of this distance; many with hilly bike courses. Training for a hilly bike course requires routes similar or more difficult than race day routes. Respecting the course profile by training on race course like routes is absolutely the right thing to do. However, too many athletes make the mistake of heading to the hills too soon. Too often athletes get discourage and abandon hills altogether for more entertaining group rides. Here is a suggested approach to gradually adapting hill courses into your next Half IM program.

  Half IM requires approximately 13 weeks of focused training broken down into 3 Cycles follows:

  • Cycle 1 = Weeks 1 – 4 (First 3 build, last week Active Rest) 
  • Cycle 2 = Weeks 5 – 8 (First 3 build, last week Active Rest) 
  • Cycle 3 = Weeks 9 – 12 (First 3 build, last week Taper) 
  • Week 13 = Taper

A balanced approach to improving the long ride includes a good mix of hills, flats, rollers, speed, short, and long riding. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the “Long” (typically weekend) ride for each week. The below chart outlines long ride workouts.

  WEEK 1 WEEK 2 WEEK 3 WEEK 4
CYCLE 1 40 Mile Flat Bike + 4 Mile Run 40 Mile Hilly Bike + 4 Mile Run 40 Mile Flat Bike + 4 Mile Run 40 Mile Flat Easy Bike, No Run
CYCLE 2 50 Mile Hilly Bike + 5 Mile Run 50 Mile Flat Bike + 5 Mile Run 50 Mile Hilly Bike + 5 Mile Run 40 Mile Flat Easy Bike, No Run
CYCLE 3 60 Mile Hilly Bike + 6 Mile Run 60 Mile Hilly Bike + 6 Mile Run 60 Mile Hilly Bike + 6 Mile Run 40 Mile Flat Easy Bike, No Run

 

Flat does not mean easy. Start with a 5 – 10 minute warm up followed by 10, 15, or 20 minute intervals of 85% (or more) of Maximum Heart Rate (MHR). Take 5-10 minute breaks in between by slowing down but don’t allow your heart rate to drop below 50% MHR during breaks. Coupled with 2 mid weeks mid bike workouts and strength training, you should see significant improvements in both your climbing ability as well as your flat average speed on flats.

One final note. Cycle 1 long ride hilly rides should include 80% or more of the elevation expected during the race, Cycle 2 90%-100%, and Cycle 3 100% or more.

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