Week 2: Defining Your Intensity

Photo: Getty Images

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Welcome to Week 2

This week we’ll take what you learned the previous week from your baseline tests and transfer that into your workouts. You’ll start paying attention to how the workouts feel to your body. It’s important to dial in what easy, medium, and hard workouts feel like to you, so you can translate that to race day without relying on your gadgets.

If you’re just joining us: Be sure to start at the beginning! Go back to the course intro so you’re prepared and have the foundation for the 10-week training program.

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Week 2 Key Sessions

Remember, the key sessions of the week are sessions that are the most important. If you’re going to trim a workout or skip a session because you’re swamped with work or life, these are not the ones to skip! Of course, you should try to do all the workouts, but we want you to know which are key ones. When it comes to the intricacies of training intensity, duration, and specific format, check out (or set up) the detailed calendar in Today’s Plan (directly access the plan here) or the downloadable training calendar PDF.

  • Long run (70 minutes as a run/walk)
  • Long ride (3 hours, easy)
  • Zone 3 intensity introduction ride (Wednesday)
  • Key swims, lots of pulling this week, watch the shoulder stress (paddle choice should be smaller and conservative)
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Lesson of the Week: Dialing In Your Intensity

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Why Intensity Matters

  • Time on course
    10 Weeks to Your Best 70.3 Intensity Matters
    Photo: Alton Richardson
  • The faster you are, the shorter your time on course, so the closer to your threshold you can be. In other words, if you plan on going fast, you’ll have to go hard.
  • Subsequently, the longer you’ll be on the course, the lower your intensity has to be.
  • Think of it like a sprinter versus a marathoner. The sprinter is going to go all-out for a short amount of time, whereas the marathoner will have less intensity but can sustain that intensity for hours.
  • Get your pacing right and you’ll maximize your performance. Get it wrong, and you’ll either bonk or go home wishing you pushed harder.

Of course your pace will also be dictated by factors outside of your control such as:

  1. A hilly vs. a flat course
  2. Race-day temperature
  3. Race-day humidity
  4. Wind speed and direction
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Terms Explained

Heart Rate

10 Weeks to Your Best 70.3 terms
Photo: Alton Richardson
  • Heart rate is an input metric that tells you how hard your body is working to produce the effort and output you’re getting. That’s why heart rate generally correlates with intensity, though at times it may not. The body can fluctuate based on the load it’s under, and heart rate, relative to the pace or output you get, gives you a good idea of how tired your body might be for what it’s producing in pace and power.

Rate of Perceived Exertion

  • The rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is the effort that you feel as you produce an output of intensity. At times this may be fast and easy, and at times you may feel very sluggish and slow.
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Find Your Thresholds

To help figure out your base intensities and zones, you’ll need to plug your results from Week 1 into your training platform (like Today’s Plan, which is free to all Outside+ members like you) or use our zone charts to calculate them yourself.

Swim Intensity

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Swim Base Pace

  • Remember that the pace you determined from your test results last week is your base pace for a 100-yard swim. So if the workout calls for a 200-yard or 50-yard swim at base pace, then you would double or halve your pace respectively. In other words, if your base pace is 1:30, then you’d aim for a 3:00 pace for the 200y, or a 45-second pace for the 50y.

Swim RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion)

  • While RPE isn’t the most reliable metric to train off of, pay attention to how you feel at given intensities. That’ll help you better gauge your output without relying solely on digital devices.

Swim Heart Rate

  • If you want to use heart rate as your main metric, just determine what your heart rate is for a given set and pace. Then compare your heart rate against that pace moving forward. If your heart rate is getting lower for the same pace, or your pace is improving at the same heart rate, then you’re improving.

Focus on Technique

Swimming is a technique-driven sport, so paying attention to how you swim is crucial. You can go all-out, with a high RPE and heart rate, but have a slow pace if you don’t have good technique.

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Bike Intensity

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Once you have your zones identified for the bike, the next step is to figure out what that means for you moving forward. Part of what that means will depend on how long you plan on being in the saddle.

Bike Power

If power is your main metric for determining your zones, here are some general guidelines to help figure out where you’ll likely be.

Estimated Time In Saddle Estimated Intensity Zone
3.5 hours or more High Zone 2
2:40 - 3:30 Middle Zone 3
2.5 hours or less Low Zone 4

Bike Heart Rate

If heart rate is your main metric for determining your zones, it’s a bit trickier to figure out where you should be. That’s because heart rate varies greatly by athlete and factors outside your control (like course terrain, climate, etc.).

You’ll likely fall in Zone 2 (if you’re on course longer) or Zone 3 (if you’re on course shorter).

Bike RPE

If you’re using RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) to gauge from, you’ll likely be at about a 5-6 out of 10 if you’re planning to be on the course for a longer time, or you may be about 7.5-8 if you’re on the course for a shorter time.

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Run Intensity

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Figuring out your race intensity for the run is much harder than for the swim or bike because it’s later in the race. Whether or not you followed your intensity and nutrition plan during the first two disciplines will play a big role in your intensity level for the run. Plus, your body will already be fatigued regardless of your plan.

Run Pace

If you’ve run a recent half-marathon and are happy with your times, you can help base your 70.3 pace off of that. However, doing so only works if you correctly paced your swim and bike and it’s generally the same race conditions and terrain. If all that holds true, you could expect your 70.3 run pace to be within 5-10% of your half-marathon pace.

If you haven’t run a recent half-marathon or weren’t happy with it, then realize that running off a 56-mile bike ride and 1.2-mile swim, means you’re not running fresh, like you would be at the start of a half marathon. So take the pace you might plan to run in an open half marathon, and add about 10% to that time. That should give you a realistic goal of what a race pace in a 70.3 run might be. If that still seems too hard, adjust to 15-20% slower.

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