Monday, February 06, 2023

Road to Ironman with DEREK GARCIA, Nov. 12, 2010

| November 12, 2010 8:00 PM

In the months leading up to the ninth running of Ironman Coeur d'Alene on June 26, 2011, Derek Garcia will be writing a monthly column keeping the community updated on his journey as well as what the hundreds of athletes from the Inland Northwest are doing in preparation for the race.

Whether an athlete competed in Ironman Coeur d'Alene last year or is competing for the first time in 2011, November most likely means the beginning of some structured swim, bike and run.

In September and October many local triathletes stop structured training, but still continue in activities that help cross training for triathlon including, but not limited to: mountain biking, cyclocross, mountain climbing and trail running.

An athlete's experience determines what phase of the training cycle they are in right now, but the majority are in what is called base training. Lately I have been dabbling in mountain biking and while I climb quite well, the rumor is that I descend like an 8-year-old girl.

Structured training plans for an Ironman are often between 24-36 weeks long to adequately prepare athletes of the rigors of an Ironman race. That being said, some structured plans will formally begin this month. Unfortunately, in a climate like ours that means lots of riding on a bike indoors, running on the treadmill and endless laps in the pool.

I advise athletes to start their structured training at this point keeping the hours relatively low, around 6-10 hours a week. Getting too serious too early will inevitably cause burnout of motivation before the spring warmth burns off the snow.

November is also a good time for athletes to do a single sport focus and work on a weakness. I will begin some heavy- run training this month while my bike and swim hours will be considerably lower as I have determined running endurance to be my greatest limiter.

If athletes train properly during this early preseason base period the foundation will be laid for a successful season.

Traditional base training is done in relatively low heart rate zones and is focused on retraining the muscles to function properly. Fundamentals are overly exaggerated during this time as athletes work on becoming more efficient and/or stronger where they are weak.

Speed sessions are avoided at this point due to the stress that they cause on both the aerobic system as well as the muscular system, especially for beginner athletes. I encourage athletes to write out their goals for the season around this time to give them a motivation as the daylight hours will only get shorter.

Another thing to remember at this point is that it is impossible to maintain race fitness for 12 months out of the year. So during this phase it is important to be in weight management mode, but not be completely in tip- top shape.

If an athlete gets super fit in the next three months they likely will be in race shape by March, which means in June they will not be in peak condition to race up to their potential. I did this one particular year and I realized quickly that being a superstar in February causes you to be quite slow in June.

Because of the limited daylight hours, I often train during what I call “sleeping hours” from 5-7 a.m. and 8-10 p.m. so that I can relish the limited sunlight with my wife and two boys. I recommend this especially at this point because as training hours increase throughout the year it can become quite grueling for families if dad or mom is out training during every waking moment.

So if you see a triathlete this month try not to make any jokes about their winter weight as it may cause them to make many of the mistakes mentioned above. They are most likely in a state of lack of sleep and overall body soreness as the system starts to adapt to real training.

It is the start of a long journey toward the finish line on Sherman Avenue, but both are crucial to success and well worth the effort. Now if only I can get through Thanksgiving without eating my body weight in pumpkin pie.

Derek Garcia is a multisport coach at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, owns his own personal coaching business, Derek Garcia Multisports, and will also be on the start line at next year’s Ironman event. Contact Derek at

Recent Headlines