Training for the Ocshner 70.3 Half Ironman
For the average person, achieving 10,000 steps in a day is an accomplishment, but for two local triathletes, completing a total distance of 70.3 miles under six hours in the upcoming Oschner 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon is the ultimate goal.
“The Half Ironman consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run,” Rebecca King, 35-year-old professional coach and swimming instructor at the UNO Lakefront Arena and East Jefferson Wellness Center, said. “I train mostly higher quantity workouts, meaning distance, due to the effort required to finish this exhausting race. It takes countless hours of training to condition the body to endure these extreme competitions.”
As a trainer and a motivator, King realizes the commitment involved in this type of endurance event. “Training for all three sports can be complicated when you factor in work schedule and weather conditions,” King admitted. “I know the work that needs to be done. I have always tried to beat my previous race time and never give up!”
Between working 48-64 hours a week at my job, a newborn baby and the rest of my family’s needs, balancing a strict training plan takes on its own art form.
The challenge of juggling the work schedule and the workouts is also tough for Joshua Heigle, a 28-year-old nurse and new member of the Black and Gold Tri Team. “My training plan is designed to fit my life’s schedule... Between working 48-64 hours a week at my job, a newborn baby and the rest of my family’s needs, balancing a strict training plan takes on its own art form.”
For Heigle, his morning routine during the week consist of swimming or running before work, so the evenings can be spent with his family on his non-cycling days. “I also try to include my family in my workouts. The kids love to ride their bikes while I run. Even my two-year-old son loves his seat on the back of my mountain bike when I do a low-intensity ride once a week,” Heigle, who has lost 51 pounds since he started training and finished his first triathlon in May 2015, said.
“Since I started my Ironman journey, I have gone from weighing 236 pounds down to 185 pounds in less than a year,” Heigle said. “I use my training as a relief from the negativities that life brings sometimes.”
Heigle attributes his healthy weight loss during this past year to the combination of intensive training and a proper diet. Initially, he used the My Fitness Pal app to track his caloric intake and incorporated more fruits and vegetables in his daily meals. Now, he periodically meets with a dietician for minor adjustments with nutrition and calorie requirements.
“I aim to take in 10-20 grams of protein directly after each workout,” Heigle said in regards to his current training regimen. “Now that the volumes and intensities are much higher, I focus more on taking in calories during workouts, primarily carbohydrates. I went from a habit of skipping breakfast every morning to craving between 800-1000 calories before 10 a.m.”
In addition to the importance of dieting and nutrition while training for the Half Ironman, athletes must be careful about overtraining and the increased risk of injury with the extensive workouts. “I like variety,” King, who primarily swims on her own, and trains on the bike or runs with her group, BNG Tri Team, said. “Change has worked for me and made me very successful in completing many half and full Ironman Triathlons.”
King has been a dedicated swimmer and highly accomplished athlete competing in the water for most of her life, which began when she was 4-years-old as a summer league swimmer with the Cut Off Youth Center Hurricanes Swim Club. “When I was 4-years-old, I was diagnosed with severe dyslexia,” King said. “So, my mother signed me up for swim lessons where I found something I could focus… I loved the water!”
Gifted with skill and confidence, King, throughout her younger competitive years, successfully finished thousands of swim meets, leading up to the national level. In more recent years, she has completed seven Olympic distance, five 140.6 Ironman Triathlons, 15 70.3 Ironman Triathlons, over 15 marathons, more than 20 half-marathons and five ultra-marathons.
I use my training as a relief from the negativities that life brings sometimes.
“I feel like I was born an athlete,” King said. “This amazing life started as a timid, fragile 4-year-old, but as I got older, I knew my home was in the pool and then, I went to the streets biking and running for hours.”
King stated that she feels fortunate since she only endured two reconstructive shoulder surgeries at an early age of 14 and 21-years-old. “With proper therapy and training smart,” King advised, “also, moderation, listening to your body and cross-training, I have been able to continue competing and enjoy the risky ride of being an endurance athlete. We all know that running has the highest impact out of the three sports. This is where the days of quality training come into play.”
Most triathletes competing in the Oschner 70.3 Ironman Triathlon scheduled for April 17 are approximately six months into their training regimen. “There is a culture of endurance athletes,” Bill Burke, President of Premier Event Management and Race Director for the eighth annual 70.3 Oschner Ironman, said. “They started registering in September 2015 for this event and have already been training. This is a physical, mental and financial commitment. These athletes plan their entire vacations around the event and they bring their families, friends and support teams to do something like this. No doubt, New Orleans is one of the best stops on the circuit.”
The Ironman 70.3 series of races culminates each year with the World Championship for the sport of Ironman. Burke indicated that the Oschner event will draw more than 2,000 athletes from 47 states and 33 countries and offer a prize purse of $30,000. The competition begins at Southshore Harbor with the 1.2 mile swim, followed by the 56 mile bike ride along Chef Menteur Highway heading toward Venetian Isle, and finishing with the 13.1 mile run along the lakefront ending up back at Southshore Harbor.
For the 70.3 Ironman, Heigle hopes to finish the race under six hours, anticipating three hours for the bike ride, two hours for the run and less than one hour for the swim segment, including the transitions between each mode of activity. “This is pretty intense “ Heigle said, after working a night shift on Saturday, then fitting in a 9.1 mile run and nap on Sunday before returning to work. “Today was supposed to be a 14-mile run but I could only do 9.1 miles after work. You give up a lot of sleep for the training, but my main driving force is the ability to do something positive that most people view as insane or too much work.”
Want to know what it's like to train for an Ironman? Below is a sample of one of Josh Heigle's weekly workouts.
Morning: Run 5 miles - Main set 2x1600y at 1 mile race pace
Evening: Swim 2,000y - Warm up 300y, 4x150y (100y fast, 50y easy- 20 second rest), 3x200y (50y pull, 50y easy, 50y kick, 50y easy- 20 second rest), 500y cool down
Bike 1hr 10 min- Main set 6x3min sprints
Morning: Run 55 min- 5 min warm up, 3x15min progressions, 5min cool down
Evening: Swim 1,800y (PM)- Warm up 200y, 2x150y (100y fast, 50y easy- 20 second rest), 5x200y (50y pull, 50y easy, 50y kick, 50y easy- 20 second rest), 300y cool down
Optional workout: Bike 1hr easy
Brick Workout: Bike 3hr main set 3x20 min at power intervals 210watts, followed by a 15 min run.
Long Run 14 miles- Heart Rate Zone 2