Off Season Training: Speedy Half-Marathon

By Sam

IMWI was in September. Ironman Boulder training starts in January. This leaves 3 solid months for my “off-season”.


Well, first and foremost – I re-read all 7 Harry Potter books. Because that’s how I roll. Number two, I signed up for a January half-marathon – the Carlsbad Half Marathon in San Diego.

My goal for Ironman Boulder is to cut 27 minutes off of my IMWI marathon time, which is to say run a 3:10 marathon. The rule of thumb I have heard is that the marathon in an Ironman is about 30 minutes slower than your open marathon time. This was approximately correct for Wisconsin. I thought my fitness was in the 3:00 to 3:05 range and I finished in 3:37, 32-37 minutes slower than my open marathon time…so 30 minutes feels right.

If my goal is 3:10 for Boulder, I should be trying to get my fitness into the 2:40 range. Just to be clear, for me that is FAST! I’m not sure how realistic it is to get to this level of fitness in 7-8 months, but I might as well try. Instead of training for a full-marathon (I thought this would be asking for an injury) I decided to try for a half-marathon. This would give me an opportunity to focus on speed, while only requiring 5-6 hours of training a week (including bike trainer time). Baller.

Side note – I love tables. So here is a table:

Half-Mary Mary
Current 1:28* 3:05
January Goal 1:20 2:47*
January Goal – Pie in the Sky 1:18 2:42*
August 2015 Goal 1:16* 2:40

*Estimated based on Runner World’s Race Time Predictor

Table interpretation – I’m aiming for a 1:18 to 1:20 half-marathon. I think this would provide a good base for the beginning of my Ironman training. Even better, New York City Marathon qualifying times for my age group have changed to 1:21.


Training Plan – Hal Higdon’s Advanced Half Marathon

Speed Work Paces

  • 400 repeats – 1:15
  • 800 repeats – 2:40
  • Pacers – 6:00/mile
  • Tempo Runs – max out at 5:40/mile

Road Trip Running

Driving through Iowa? Need to run? Try the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail (another link here). We stopped in Haxley (just a few minutes off of I-35, north of Des Moines) on the drive from Colorado to Minnesota and did a 50 minute run on this trail. It was great! Crushed limestone. Flat as a pancake.

Same situation? Zumbrota/Pine Island/Rochester Minnesota area? Try the Douglas State Trail. No crushed limestone here, unfortunately, but it is definitely flat.


  1. Hi Sam, hi Danielle! The interesting thing about trying to improve yur time is figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t. My times are improving in the past two years, after stagnating for a few years before that, but I’m not sure why. Most strangely, my 5k times have improved by several minutes, without doing ANY 5k speed work! So one thing I’m planning on doing this next year is signing up for a race series and running lots of 5k, gonna see if faster better 5ks translate into better half and marathon times for me. Fun to read about your running and Ironman adventures….one of the cool things about running is that we both can enjoy the same sport, even though we enjoy it at VERY different levels!


    1. We have both looked into race series in the past but didn’t end up doing them for one reason or another. You’ll have to let us know if you end up enjoying it! And how if affects your marathon training, most importantly!


  2. […] S – Carlsbad Half-Marathon […]


  3. […] Actual Race Heading into the day my goal was to run a 1:20. In order to get there, my plan was to run the first two miles around 6:10, then knock it down to […]


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