Trainer Road Half Distance Triathlon Low Volume Plan Review


I have been a Trainer Road subscriber since January 2012. I use it in conjunction with my Computrainer and do most of my training in my basement. Trainer Road recently added a training plan for the half iron man distance. I decided to use this plan for my preparations for the Chattahoochee challenge in Columbus, GA that took place recently on 4/26/14. This would be my third year participating in this event so I would be able to compare the bike results with my prior attempts.

I found the training sessions to be challenging. The earlier sessions involve a good deal of work above FTP. Later sessions are more endurance around FTP. The plan covers 12 weeks and follows a 3 hard week 1 easy week format. Weekly volume ranges from 4 to 5 hours for the non rest weeks. The plan has a 3 week taper that i think is a little bit excessive. I went with a 2 week taper and could probably have done a 1 week taper.

The key issue is “did the plan improve my performance”. The answer is YES. My times for the biking leg of the 3 events were

  • 2012 – 2:46:38
  • 2013 – 2:59:27
  • 2014 – 2:40:01

The results from 2013 are out of norm due to the extreme cold on that day. The 2013 event started the swim at 40 degrees and the bike leg began at about 44 degrees. I took the time top do thoroughly, put on arm warmers, gloves, socks, and a wind vest. Even with that the first half of the ride was pretty miserable. The temperature at the end of my ride was about 56.

I think comparing 2012 to 2014 provides a pretty good comparison. I had trained “harder” for 2012 than 2014 but the results show 2014 was a better ride.

My Garmin died during the swim so I had to bike without any feedback on pace (don’t own a power meter). I had no idea of my speed or distance while riding. I went completely by perceived exertion and perceived heart rate. i have developed a pretty good sense of my heart rate while biking/running. I never got into that zone where my breathing gets labored/panting. I felt very controlled the whole time. The weather was a little warmer in 2014 that 2012. It was a good deal warmer during the run.

My event time was 5:24:42


Running – Train Fast or Train Slow?


If you read through my running pages you can see that I advocate a lot of zone 1 zone 2 run training. I have used it very successfully. Recently I thought I would try the alternative approach. I took coaching from a firm that believes in the Train fast in the off-season and then add far in the race season. I had stopped normal training after my late April half IM race. I did continue to train but at a reduced volume for the year. I had decided to go easy on myself and wait until I aged up to the 60-64 bracket in 2014 to work hard.

The result of the decision was that while I was in decent shape, I was nowhere near race shape. My training began 10/7 after I had completed a timed test in each of the disciplines. Did a 800 yard swim, a 15 mile time trial, and a 5K  run. My paces for training were dictated by the test results. In a period of one month, my next test results pegged my speeds at my previous best in race shape times. I thought this was great and was impressed. What happened next is not so exciting, 2 months of additional training yielded virtually no change. Additionally I was not enjoying my training as much.

Specifically what bothered me was my run training. Here are 2 shots of my training log. They cover the same period of days 2 years apart.Fast train run Train slow runNotice the huge difference in the amount of time spent running at slower paces in my prior run training. The research that I have read at PubMed indicates that the best training gains come from spending a majority of time at easy or Z1 type levels. Then a small portion 20% or less at fast hard levels Z5. The problem most age grouper have is they don’t go easy enough on the easy runs and then they don’t go hard enough on the hard runs. Instead they spend a lot of time at Z3 type levels. Z3 works, just not nearly as well as the easy/hard approach. Also spending a lot of time at Z3+ may make it harder to complete all of your workouts.

For me I was getting to the point where I did not look forward to the run training. Don’t get me wrong, I did it. I did not miss my other training so I must not have been going too hard. I felt that 2 months of training with no increase in results was enough time to determine if the approach was going to work for me. It seemed like the training was a great way to peak for a shorter event. I don’t know that it would be a good long term training strategy to trade volume for intensity.

I am going to go back to to a lot of Long Slow Distance training. LSD would look like this for me: My 5K pace is 7:15, a LSD run would be at 9:00 to 9:15 pace. Pace needs to be adjusted for the hilliness of the run. If run was hilly my pace would go to 9:30 to 9:45. A tempo run of 1 hour would be at 8 minute miles. An interval run would be a warmup then 4 x 1 mile @ 7:45 w/ 2 minute easy (9:30) between each mile then a cool down.


Trainer Road review (using with a Computrainer) Part 1


I have been using the Trainer Road subscription bike training program for about a year now. I am very pleased with the program. How well it works depends on how hard you work. In terms of setting up and doing your workouts, it is hard to imagine anything that would be easier to use.  The program is delivered via a browser so you will need an active internet connection to use it. Let’s take a look at the program.

Career info1Once you have created your account at Trainer Road and start riding you will be able to review your career with the program. Career gives you a complete record of all of your activity/rides in the program. In the screen shot here you can see my account. It lists my current estimated FTP, how may rides I have performed, and the distribution of the work by intensity level. As you can see the program tracks both the TSS score and intensity factors for you rides and aggregates them on this dashboard. Most of my rides are in the 80-90% of FTP range with a TSS score of 60-80. As you can also see my average ride is 1.1 hours.

Below this information summary is an career snapshot of your all time workout bests by various time durations. The information is updated over time and each time a new milestone is hit it adds to the chart. For example, at the top of the chart the current power level for a 5 second intervaCareer personal recordsl is 434 watts and it was set on 5/24/12. Looking at the graph you can see that the power level for that interval started out at 355 on 1/21/12. I stopped doing the higher intensity road type of workouts and did only rides that suit a triathlon FTP approach. Those number are reflected at the bottom end of the chart and the lower graph. Since I prefer to do 70.3 events I want to maximize my long duration power. My 1 hour FTP went from 190 on 1/23/12 to 202 on 9/16/12. The 2 hour number on that date was 197. In fact these are not max FTP numbers as I was just doing a training ride of 2.5 hours and did not do a test, but the increase over time let’s me know that I am getting stronger at longer durations. In fact I rarely test, I just move up the FTP when it is obvious from the ease I complete a workout that I have  gotten stronger.

Below this area is a listing of every ride you have performed during your Trainer Road career. Any ride can be clicked on and the ride statistics will appear. Letapp shot of commpleted rides take a look at a ride summary. Last night I did a portion of a 90 minute ride (I did 58 minutes due to time constraints).  As you can see the ride was a series of intervals. The 6 minute intervals were followed by a 2 minute rest interval. The top line is a summary of the complete ride, below each interval appears with the stats for that portion of the ride. The target power, your actual power, heart rate, cadence, intensity, TSS, and NP it’s all there. The yellow line in the bar graph is the actual performance. The red line is the heart rate. If you are a training information junkie, it’s all here for your enjoyment.

To be continued in my next post.


Computrainer, FTP increase, Trainer Road


I have noticed that I get quite a few hits from people looking for info on these 3 topics. I have searched for the same things. Previously I owned a fluid trainer. About 3 years ago I scored a used Computrainer off of Craigslist for $600. This is by far my best training investment. Unlike fluid trainer by perceived exertion, the power measurement provided by the Computrainer allows you to really dial in your training.

I started this year with a ftp around 227, 6 weeks later hit 238 and ended the season at 245. That is about an 8% increase. I did this by riding inside my basement using the Trainerroad.com ride plans. Basically a week went Tuesday 60-90, Thursday 60-90,  Sunday 2:30. Every ride had at least 30 minutes at 90%+ of FTP.  This program allowed me to ride the 56 miles of Augusta 70.3 at a 20.8 mph average.

I think that I will try to boost the FTP to 265 (8%) by next March. I plan of using the trainerroad intermediate build plan followed by the advanced build  plan. All of my rides are going to be inside for safety, accuracy & convenience. Come back in March 2013 and we will see if my plan worked.


Is it Working?


Each year I point to the late September Augusta 703 as my A race. After the first attempt I managed to injure myself each year while bike training and caused me to miss the event or to DNF (2010). This year I may survive to race (hope I didn’t jinx things). Just to be safe the rest of my bike training will be indoors.

RUNNING – I started a strong run focus July of 2011. I peaked at 170 miles in the month of March 2012. As I began to ramp up my biking I have reduced my running to an average of 30 miles a week or so. An ideal week goes 8,4,8,4,0,12,0 for 36 miles. I hope/believe that this volume will allow me to maintain all of the run fitness/speed I built up. I am adding a little bit of tempo work in one of the 8 mile runs, but everything else is LSD.

BIKING: In January & February I only did about 2 rides a week. Moved up to 3 in April, and then moved to four in June. Nearly all of these rides have been indoors on my Computrainer using Trainerroad.com. During this period my FTP went from 217 to 238. I have not retested but I think I may be around 250 watts now. A good week goes 0,1hr, 0, 1:15, 0, 1:30; 2:45. I had ridden outside for the past 5 Sundays and built that up to 4 hours and 68 miles. In the interest off safety I am going to stay indoors on the Computrainer but use a TrainerRoad file that goes 2:45 and gets me a training stress score of around 150, which is as much or more than I was getting from the 4 hour rides. It is nearly at race pace for a 70.3.

SWIMMING: Ok I admit it my swimming is strictly in maintenance mode. I swim 2 times a week for only 2000 yards or less. I focus on a 15×100 set with 10 seconds rest between interval. Try to keep all intervals within 2 second or each other. Generally hold about 1:40. This is about all the swimming I can fit in after the running & biking. Since Augusta is a downriver swim I think I will be OK.

OBJECTIVE- The last time I did Augusta a placed 10th in my age group. I want to hit top 5. I hope to shave 1:30 to 2 minutes off the bike, 2 minutes off transitions, 17 minutes off the run, swim the same. If I can do these things I would trim about 22 minutes off of 5:31 which would get me to 5:09. In the past this would have generally been a top 5 time.

I will let you know how things work out after 9/30/12. Up until then I only have an Olympic on 9/2.


Tri the Parks Indian Springs race results 6/23/12


Race conditions were very nice. About 70 degrees and clear at 7am. Race attendance was about 370. Swim was 600 meters clockwise in clear warm (80 degree) water. Tried to swim at a comfortable controlled pace with bilateral swimming. That did not work, ended up doing a good deal of right side only breathing. Did manage to keep my heart rate and effort under control. Took it easy up the hill from the water to T-1.

Biked easy out of the park and turned up the hill. I was out of the pursuits when I decided to downshift from the big ring. Right hand on the bar, left on the pursuit about to shift when the heel of my left hand slipped off the pursuit. Voila, quick weight shift results in me hitting the deck with my left arm extended in the classic “swim on your side” pose. Only going about 10 MPH and since the impact was spread down the entire side of my body no significant damage was done. A little blood on the elbow and the knee. The bar tape on that side is ragged. Picked up the bike took inventory and everything seemed OK. Hardest part was clipping back in and getting started going uphill.  The rest of the ride went well, the crash probably cost me about 2 minutes.

Run was just as hilly as I remember. I am happy to report that I was only passed by about 6 or 7 runners and I actually passed 1 or 2. Very happy when the run was finished.


My time would have been 2nd in the 40+ Clydesdale division and 3rd in the under 40 Clydesdale division. Very happy to get the gold.


Training revision based on observation


On 3/30 I indicated that I was going to decrease my run frequency from 6 days to 4 days but still get in 30+ miles a week. Also proposed to go to 4 bikes a week. Here is what I found. It is physically harder for me to run 4 days a week than 6. I can’t explain it, bit it feels like continuous use suits me better.  I am still only going 30-35 miles a week but I have spread it over 6-7 days. I have cut my long run down and now do 3 – 8 mile runs and then fill in 2 to 4 mile runs. This easing on the run is allowing me to push the bike portion of training a little harder.

Speaking of bike training I have found that rides near ftp limit are OK. If I did a ride that has a series of intervals at 115% I will have problems doing my next workout in 2 days. The really high intensity stuff demands too much recovery and causes my overall training to suffer. I need to be careful picking my rides!

In July I plan to bring back my long run (up to 15 miles) on alternating weekends. The other weekend will be a 3-4 hour bike ride outside.

What works for me may not work for you. Just pay attention to your workouts and recoveries and discover your best fit.