Getting Fast is a Slow Process
by Alex Thompson
What does it take to be a fast age grouper? Let’s define fast as a Kona slot. To put that definition of "fast" into perspective, on a fair course that's around 9:30 for male age-groupers between their late 20s and early 40s. Typical splits work out to a combined time of five minutes for both transitions, a 60-minute swim, a 5:10 bike and a 3:15 run. That is fast.
How good do you have to be to do that? For swimming I’d say you need the ability to just about hold a 3k swim set together off a base of 1:40 per 100m on any typical training day. For the bike, 240 watts is a fair wattage -- while a fast course would mean a faster time, it also means a faster time for everyone else. However, there are age-groupers running well off of significantly higher bike wattage splits; I know, I’ve seen the data! For someone to expect to run 3:15, 7-minute/mile pace shouldn’t feel fast and in training, brick and long runs should consistently be very close to that mark. These speeds are impressive.
These sample numbers should be sobering. Getting fast is not easy.
So how much training do you have to do to hit those speeds? If you haven't hit them yet, come up with what you feel is a prudent number of training hours and then add a few more to the weekly total. Then multiply that weekly total by years. Expect to be in it for the long haul.
With Kona coming up soon, now is the time of year when many people start thinking, "I'm going to go for Kona next year." For those people, I'd like to issue caution. If I was working full time and had family commitments, I would not force the development. In my experience, the people who think that if they make sacrifices and dedicate themselves they could qualify next season will most likely take two years to hit that qualification speed. There is a lot more sacrifice from squeezing in those extra three hours a week for not much return on fitness. There is only so much you can do in one season; dialing it back and spending more time with the family will make for a smoother journey. Be in it for the duration, enjoy the journey, and if you feel like you're pushing yourself too much, you probably are.
Kona isn’t going anywhere, so don’t worry if it takes longer than you originally planned.
Alex has been a triathlete since 2005 and has competed several ironman and ultra distances races. He is currently working towards making the transition from age group athlete into the pro ranks. He has been working closely with Alan Couzens for the last two years to achieve his goal. You can follow Alex's progress through his blog, TriOnTrack.