Help! My Training Plan Was Just T-Boned By LIFE

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Help! My Training Plan Was Just T-Boned By LIFE

A few months ago, you looked at your training plan and you were excited. Maybe you wrote it yourself or got it online or from a coach, but it appeared to be the perfect plan to nail that important, early season race. You started to execute the plan, nailing those beginning workouts.  Then, (hear a loud crunch, crash, shatter sound).

I recently raced the Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga triathlon. Since it was in May, I needed to jump into a fairly serious training plan for February, March and April. Sure, I had a few items on the calendar that I knew I needed to plan for during those months, but it seemed that the plan would be fairly easy to pull off time-wise.

I completely underestimated a number of these activities, responsibilities and trips and when they hit, it felt like an 18-wheeler T-boning my training. Crushed it. Destroyed it. Totaled it. Junkyard here I come.

Here are just a few examples of what T-boned my training:

  1. Getting a puppy. About 30 years ago we got a puppy. A smart border collie who picked up potty training quickly. No problem, right? Yes, she chewed the legs of our kitchen chairs, pulled the wallpaper off the kitchen walls, etc. but those were faded memories in the deep recesses of my mind. “Get a puppy,” they said. “They’re so cute,” they said. “You’ll love him immediately,” they said. They didn’t say that potty training is not for the faint of heart. 2:30 a.m. in the backyard, in the rain, whispering over and over, “go potty…go potty…go potty.” Good sleep was down the drain for weeks on end. (Yes, I love him…now.)
  • Having an estate sale for my mom. Another total underestimation. I figured we’d toss a few price tags on some furniture, open the doors and presto, the house is cleared out. Wrong. So wrong. How foolish. Clearing out a house after my folks had lived there 47 years and then getting it ready to put on the market? Yes, again, I had no idea the man-hours that this project would demand. Many workouts were missed.
  • Going to Central America. Most of the time was spent standing and teaching or sitting and eating. Long, 12–14-hour days. Easily, another eight days or so with no workouts.
  • Bringing back a lower G.I. “bug” from Central America. He hitched a ride north and didn’t even have a visa, or, a covid test! That wiped out the week after my return so, yet another week was lost.
  • Weather. You could say this shouldn’t be an excuse, but we had a cool/cold/wet/cloudy/very windy Spring. It killed my motivation. I think I suffer from seasonal depression disorder, and it got me down. More missed workouts because, I just didn’t feel it. That’s on me.
  • My diet. This one is totally on me! If I’d dropped those last few pounds, I’d have gotten second at Chattanooga not third. After racing for almost five and a half hours, I missed second by eight seconds! Every five lbs. over ideal race weight equals 10 seconds per mile. So, that’s over two minutes during the 13-mile run.

All this and more made up “life” for me from February through April. I re-wrote my training plan more times than I can count. So, here are a few things to do or think about when “life happens” to the point of it smashing your training plan.

First, deal with the frustration, disappointment and the negative thoughts about the upcoming race. Yes, feel that stuff for a bit, then put it behind you and move on.

Second, adjust your goals for the race. Typically, we race up to our training standard. At times, we can race beyond our training and we surprise ourselves or, maybe blow up badly before hitting the finish line. What to do? Mentally, I had to adjust my goal from going for an age-group win, to just doing my best that day, based on the training I DID get in. Whatever happened, happened.

Third, adjust your race plan/strategy. Back it off just a bit on the swim and bike so you’re set up for a decent run. Take the run out easier than originally planned and see how you feel. Respect that final 25% of the race!

Fourth, make sure you nail your hydration and nutrition. No room for error here. If there is, it’s on you (and me). I’ve now nailed what works for me in a 70.3 when it comes to the nutritional component, so I was at least confident about that.

Fifth and finally, remember to have fun. Relax. DO think about your technique. Do concentrate! Swim form – is it technically sound? Cycling – are you paying attention to getting good pressure 360 degrees of your stroke. Running – lean slightly forward from the ankles, drive the arms and the legs should keep up. Think about what you’re doing, but at the finish line, be sure to be able to say, “That was fun.”

(Regarding good technique, in a 70.3, the time difference on the bike between 20 m.p.h. and 20.5 m.p.h. is four minutes. 20.5 to 21.5 is eight minutes. When I concentrate on my technique, I watch my speed jump by a half-mile per hour with no more preserved effort. Again, that’s four minutes right there.)

So, after that horrific crash when real life collides with your training plan, decide what you’re going to do on race day. I decided to dig deep and try to race “beyond” the training I did get in. I took 11 minutes off my time from last year, but man it hurt and was I ever sore for a few days! 

Life balance is hard to achieve. Being OK with getting in 60-70% of your original training plan, is hard, but it is what it is, as they say.

Though my training plan got T-boned, I still had a good race and made my first every Ironman sanctioned race podium. That’s where years of training and racing are helpful. So, hang in there, train as much as you can, but realize life will happen and yes, you’ll underestimate some stuff that comes at you. Deal with it. Stay focused. Make the workouts you can do really count. Then, just do the best you can. 99.something % of us are not pros but are busy adults with a lot of life responsibilities. Those come first, right? Keep the main things in life, the main things and you’ll do just fine. 

Lincoln Murdoch
Lincoln Murdoch
As an accomplished endurance athlete, Lincoln has been competing in running events for 40 years and racing in triathlons for 25 years. He is a 3x USAT National Champion, 14x USAT All-American and 3x ITU World Championships Top-Ten finisher. Lincoln is passionate about helping athletes meet their goals through books, online resources, coaching and motivational speaking. You can learn more at
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