For the second year in a row I'm doing an early-season 1/2-Ironman race. Last year I decided to do two 1/2-IM races, one early in the season, and the other late. The plan started well, with a pretty solid 5:09 at the Kinetic 1/2 in May, but I crashed and burned (figuratively) at the Patriot's 1/2 in September -- though I can chalk that up to some external factors, like a very hot day and a summer of training interruptions and stress.
This year the plan is to do Kinetic 1/2 again this Saturday, and continue on into my IM training with a longer race in the bag. A fair amount's been going on since my last race at the Rumpus in Bumpass. Ironman training has "officially" started (it said so on my training plan!), I've gotten a wheel with a PowerTap, and I've become a slave to my heart rate monitor.
HR zone training has been the most significant of these. Everything on my training calendar for the last 3+ weeks has seemed to have been at Z1 or Z2 -- real extensive endurance stuff. It's not always easy to do, especially when you go to a group ride and watch everyone ride into the distance while you soft-pedal up the hills. But I can accept it as a totally necessary component of the training I have to do if I'm going to make the journey I've committed to for myself worthwhile. There just aren't any shortcuts to doing this right...
As for Saturday? I'm looking forward to the race. The weather looks excellent, and I've wrangled accommodations with a group of other triathletes about 10 minutes from the race site. No long drive in the morning for me! I feel like my fitness is improving, and I've gotten a few good long rides in the bag. And if this morning's run is any indication the HR training is starting to pay off -- I was running easy and at a nice pace with my HR comfortably in Z1.
We'll see what the weekend brings!