3 Key Workouts to Help you Transition from Short Course to Long Course Racing

Athlete with a finisher medal
January 8, 2017

Mike Ricci



There comes a time in every triathletes racing when they start to get curious about going longer distances. The curiosity to train for the longer distances becomes a stronger pull. If you think you might be ready to make the move from Olympic distance racing to long course racing, consider the following workouts to help you shake things up and test your determination! When looking to move up in distance, keep in mind the two main changes are going to be the pace of the your workouts and your nutritional plan. Since you'll be going twice as long on the bike, know that instead of racing at Zone 4 HR on the bike or Zone 4 power (90% of threshold or higher), you'll want to ratchet down the intensity to Zone 2 and 3 on the bike and Zone 2 and 3 power ranges or about 80-85% of threshold. In terms of nutrition, instead of planning for a 2-3 hour event, you will be planning for a 4.5 to 6+ hour event, and that is a major difference.

The plus side is that the swim distance doesn't change much, so those workouts can remain relatively similar. The only change I would make is to make certain you have one, straight, long swim each week. This can be something between 2,000 and 3,000 yards. Swim this in tempo effort at the same effort / pace as you would like to swim in your Half Ironman race.

Bike / Run workouts for HIM distance:

1. Simple yet effective:

2.5 hour ride, with the first two hours at Zone 2 HR and / or 70-75% of threshold power. The final 30 minutes should be at HIM HR and power (Zone 2 and up to 85% of threshold power.)

Run off the bike: 30 minutes at 30‚ a mile slower than HIM goal pace.

2. Getting in the range:

3 hour ride with 3 25 minutes at HIM watts. After warm up, ride 25 minutes in Zone 3 HR / up to 85% of threshold power. Recovery is 10‚ easy. Do this 3x total. Easy spin to the finish and right to the bike.

Run off the bike: 1 hour with first 10‚ easy, then 40‚ at HIM goal pace, and 10‚ cool down.

3. Bulls-eye!

This is THE workout to do 3 weeks out from your goal HIM race (this is a 3 hour bike workout):

20 warmup, then 3 40 at 80-85% of threshold power (Zone 3 HR). Recovery is 10 at IM watts and HR (72% of threshold and Zone 2 HR). Easy coo down and right to the run.

Run off the bike: Easy 2 miles at Zone 2 HR, then 2√ó3 miles at goal HIM pace, with 1 mile easy in between, then an easy 1 mile cool down (This run should be 10 total miles and should take you about 75-105 minutes total, depending on fitness level).

These workouts are pretty basic, however, quite effective. We aren't throwing in any intensity over Half Iron effort, so that should make them easy to complete and recover from. Taking a long term approach to your training means being consistent on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Know this: going too hard, too early and too often can lead to missing too many workouts due to fatigue and injury. Follow the workouts above and stay consistent with your training so you can have a great transition to the half iron distance.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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