A Half-Ironman is technically known by the Ironman World Championships as the "Ironman 70.3," after the total combined distance of the event. Whereas a novice athlete can complete a sprint or even an Olympic distance triathlon with only a couple months of training, Half-Ironman distances (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run) have maximum time limits that make them appropriate only for experienced triathletes and endurance racers [source: Ironman.com].
Athletes planning to attempt a Half-Ironman should keep a couple things in mind:
- Upgrade your equipment. If you haven't already, now is the time to invest in a triathlon suit. If you've been slogging through the bike rides on your old mountain bike, trade up to a triathlon bike. Also, buy a new pair of well-fitted, adequately cushioned running shoes.
- Be prepared to do the time. Proper training for a Half-Ironman starts at 15 hours per week and escalates to 25 to 30 hours. Treat your training like a part-time job.
- Find some friends. These distances are brutal alone. Join a running club or a bike club so that you can do key workouts in the company of others with similar goals.
Triathlete John Mora confesses that the Half-Ironman distance is his favorite: "It is demanding enough in both training and execution to give you a real feeling of accomplishment and happy exhaustion at the finish line, while not completely dominating your life the way the full Ironman distance might do."
In fact, the training formula for a Half-Ironman works much the same way as all triathlon training; the key differences are the intensity of the training and the addition of more bricks. Plan to train for at least four to five months. Run training for a Half-Ironman should start with 6-mile (10-kilometer) distances and escalate to 10 to 13.1 miles (16.1 to 21.1 kilometers), with brick workouts every other week or so. Long runs should mix a few miles at an easy pace with a few miles at a tempo pace, and maintenance runs should include intervals, hill training and tempo runs as well as easy runs.
Hungry for an even bigger challenge? The Ironman distance is the ultimate test of endurance. The next section is all about run training for Ironman distance triathlons.