How to Train for Flat/Hilly 70.3s


I’m currently using the mid-volume half distance training plan. I’m signed up for a half on a very flat bike course (Eagleman). I was just wondering if there are any workouts I should incorporate into my training to help me perform at my best on a flat course? Are there certain workouts that are geared more for flat or hilly races?


Toward the tail end of my training for a flat 70.3 last season I made a key workout that was 10 min warmup - then 5x20 min at 83% FTP (goal power) on 5 min recovery - finish with 40 min aerobic (70% or so) then spindown 5-10 min, follow with a 15 min run at goal pace. I did that a few times about four to six weeks out. When I could hit all the pacing, I knew I was dialed in. Did it on the road and on the trainer.

Hilly, flat… doesn’t matter much. Pick a target power for your climbs, should be within 10% or so of your goal power overall. You shouldn’t be doing a bunch of VO2 intervals or sustained time at threshold on climbs in a 70.3. Use your gears and keep the power under control so you can run.

You can find good workouts in Tempo and 2-3 hr range to simulate race efforts. Polar Bear is basically a 2 hr 70.3 race sim. If you can get through that on a trainer, you’re good for the race. Spruce Knob +2 and +3, Round Bald +3 and +2, Whiteside -2 is good.

Or check out Half Triathlon build and specialty. 60-90 min Sweet spot work is good. VO2 can be good in a build phase… lots of options.


@nash031 hit the nail on the head here.
Stealing this comment on training for flat vs hilly Triathlons straight from Chad himself:

Even if a triathlon course is littered with hills, including very steep pitches from time to time, it’s seldom advantageous to employ a “kill the hill” pacing pattern where a rider attacks the climbs and tries to recover on the descents. This type of pacing approach exacts a heavy muscular toll that will likely affect the latter half of the bike leg and the entirety of the half or full marathon that follows. When ridden in this manner, the level of effort variability a rider sees across such a stochastic bike leg will lead to a more rapid depletion of intramuscular glycogen stores (sugar stored in the muscle itself), higher levels of exhaustion in the less aerobic muscle fibers (higher-power muscle tissue), and even decreased neuromuscular efficiency (how well your brain communicates with the working muscles) due to unnecessarily excessive muscle stress.

As a result, you sap your muscles of fuel meaning you have to ingest more in-race sugar which greatly increases the odds of gastric distress and requires higher fluid intake since digestion pulls water to the gut leaving less of it available for cooling via sweating and makes your blood more viscous requiring more heart beats per minute to deliver thicker, slower-moving blood to your working muscles. You also unnecessarily deplete the onboard fuel stores of the muscle fibers that you’ll very probably need during later stages of the bike leg and all throughout the run leg. And those muscle fibers that are still fueled and available will function less efficiently as the late-race fatigue rises and rises. But fret not, because this is all very preventable via a more sensible pacing strategy based on intensity and/or power output. Keying in on one or both of these metrics sees half-distance triathletes hover somewhere near .70-.85 IF while full-distance competitors commonly aim for something in the .65-.80 IF range. Paced very steadily, this will see riders sustaining between 70-85% FTP and 65-80% FTP, respectively. In both cases, it’s in a triathlete’s best interest to limit his or her power variability and keep things as close to this narrow range as possible, even on the hills.

But because it’s so easy to get hung up on the terrain, many triathletes see a hilly course profile and feel underprepared if they haven’t been putting in time on similar grades outdoors. And while this form of outdoor training can indeed be beneficial and highly event-specific, the steady resistance administered by just about any indoor trainer (smart or otherwise) is a very close approximation to the type of unrelenting muscle tension experienced on a climb. So training indoors actually lends itself exceptionally well to both flat and hilly time trials which are basically what a triathlon’s bike leg amounts to.So it all really comes down to pacing and it’s oh so likely that athletes who suffer on the hills - even if it doesn’t hamper their run afterward - are pushing too hard of a pace due to the relatively low speeds on those climbs. It can be very challenging to move slowly during a race, and consequently, far too many riders find themselves goaded into unrealistically powerful climbs as a result of this misinformed perception.

Avoid this by acknowledging that your power output (or intensity factor) is an entirely more useful metric than speed when it comes to measuring the stress placed on your muscles. Regardless of the grade, power can often be held rather steady (assuming you have the proper gearing and employ a reasonably quick cadence) while speed can vary widely. So hilly or not, long efforts on the bike are best treated as steady-state affairs lest the bike leg becomes increasingly miserable and the post-ride run pays an even heftier price. Steady-state proficiency is the aim of both the Half Distance and Full Distance Triathlon specialty plans.


@nash031 has some great advice :slight_smile: Power is power.

I’ve raced Eagleman two times, it’s a great race!

Make sure that you’re on top of your heat adaptation, it’s almost always a really hot and humid race.


Unfortunately, I am not as learned a man as Coach @chad in most regards with respect to coaching. While i’m aspiring and studying for my USAC entry level coaching cert, my lessons are from the school of hard triathlon knocks where I’ve gotten it wrong in at least three hilly tris, two of which were key races (Florida 70.3 in 2006 with rollers trying for worlds; age group Nationals) and experienced exactly what Chad talked about: GI distress from overloading sugar intake to compensate; dead legs for nothing on the run; getting to the point where Coke was needed just to be able to walk, let alone run at the end.

Over the years, I’ve started to get it right and my times have come down precipitously on both the bike and run legs thanks to proper pacing. Yeah, I’ve watched a few folks blaze past me up the climbs, but I invariably see them again!


thanks, all. this is really helpful.

I’m signed up for both Eagleman and LP half’s, so I will definitely focus on keeping staying at a consistent power for both races.