Testimonial: Creighton Kelly & the Augusta 70.3 Half Ironman

Testimonial of SH//FT

Written by Creighton Kelly.

About a year ago, I was completely freaked out. After signing up for a 70.3 Ironman event back in February, there was no clear line of sight for a training plan to get me to September successfully. Signing up was easy enough. Talk a little smack with my college buddies, add in a couple of beers, enter a credit card number, and just like that I was signed up for Augusta 70.3. The rest is the challenge.

My attempts to cobble together my own version of cross-training and traditional long slow distance methodologies created too many conflicting programming variations that wouldn’t serve me well in the long run and could possibly lead to injury. I was trying to adapt the Power Speed Endurance programming and just didn’t follow the rhythm or the methodology behind the training. I attended a Shift seminar and that helped clear things up, however, I wasn’t still confident that I could stick to the training plan and adapt to it as I needed. Not only that, I have no real background in any one discipline of a triathlon, much less the understanding of how to do all three in a meaningful way. I wanted to have fun in the 70.3 and didn’t want to just suffer my way through it.

I’m the prime demographic for Ironman events. A husband and father of three boys, in my mid 40s trying to knock off a few bucket list items, and a busy corporate professional. Between family, work, and travel I have about 8 to 10 hours a week to commit to training and I needed flexibility to adjust as needed. Press the lack of knowledge in the three disciplines together with my lifestyle, and it was difficult to see how to get to the finish line efficiently. So I did something I never expected to do, I hired a coach.

Hiring a coach was probably one of the most interesting and worthwhile things I could have done. It was interesting because my coach is fully committed to SH//FT and also the technique work required to make it through the training while minimizing injury, both short and long term. With the SH//FT methodology, my training would incorporate strength and endurance training, which was important to me for my return to my normal CF class after the 70.3.

When one commits to an event the distance of an Ironman 70.3, unless you have been through it, you don’t know the amount of commitment and discipline required to train properly. You use all 8–10 hours in multiple daily sessions throughout the training period. During that training, you need someone to help with support around the sessions. You need someone to help you understand why you are doing certain cycles in the programming, and someone to keep you grounded and guided towards the greater goal.

During the training cycle, my coach, Jeff Ford, asked me to sign up for a sprint and an Olympic distance triathlon. After the sprint, I had improved my time a couple of minutes. My expectations were much greater than that. I sat down with Jeff to review the performance and talk through my expectations. As my frustrations were flowing, Jeff asked me point-blank, are we training for a sprint or for a 70.3? Humbled, I recomposed myself and let my coach find the positives in my performance that I was ignoring due to my own ego. The fact of the matter was, my performance was much better considering the change to a pose running technique, my overall bike time, and improved swim technique. If it weren’t for Jeff, I most likely would have stopped my training and looked for an out, or prolonged my return to training while I sulked in my own dirty diaper. I took coach’s guidance and jumped back into training.

Using Shift, you find yourself in the middle of two different training programs, and you get a few stares and questions in a result. The people in my box fully supported me and often inquired about my training and when the next event would occur. They also poked a little fun when I was standing in a corner working on technique. It’s hard for anyone to ignore someone running in place for minutes on end. People were interested and asked a lot of questions because they saw the intensity based training combined with strength, and technique at work. Still, I was questioned about why anyone would want to go the long distances in an endurance event and never touch a barbell, in a good spirited way. “You are going to swim how far? Ride a bike, how far? Run how far?” was a common set of questions followed by, “Why”?

My endurance friends thought I was crazy to change my running technique and to move away from long, slow distance training, which they typically incorporated into their programming. They still supported me and gave me the proper ribbing when it was needed, but I found it difficult to pair my programming with theirs. A couple of friends jumped in with me on long rides and swims where they could, and that was greatly appreciated.

During all of my training, there was this thing called life. My work was requiring that I travel once or twice a month for multiple days or a week at a time. There were also family vacations, sports events, and moments with my family that I couldn’t miss. Jeff adapted and flexed the programming based on those events and changes to the schedule.

The other key part of my training was how he could adjust the training to how I felt. Making the shift to a lot more running and sitting on a bike took had an effect on my adaptation to training. We fought through challenges with my hip mobility and a previous back injury by tailoring the programming to how I was moving. Still, we stayed within the 8–10 hours.
A typical week looked something like this.

Monday: Mobility and Strength training a.m. / Technique work and Endurance training p.m (Swim).

Tuesday: Mobility and Strength training a.m. / Technique work and Endurance training p.m (Run or Bike).

Wednesday: Train with the CF class. This was a move by Jeff to keep me sane and connected to my CF Community. / Endurance Training where I could fit it in.

Thursday: Mobility for 1-hour and rest day. I can’t tell you how important mobility is to training for an endurance event. I’m actually shocked at how endurance athletes warm up, cool down, and mobilize pre- and post-workouts, because they don’t. The activity is a warm-up.

Friday: Strength and Endurance back to back sessions.

Saturday: Longer swim or run intervals paired with longer bike intervals.

Sunday: Rest day, mobility, hang with the family, go barefoot as much as possible.
Each session was typically an hour long, with Saturday sessions ranging from 1 to 3 hours based on the timing of the programming.

Going back to the events that we planned as part of my training. A month after the sprint triathlon, I participated in an Olympic distance triathlon. The results of that event is where I started to truly commit to the Shift methodology. My swim time was faster, partly due to swimming in a river. My bike time was 3 miles per hour faster, and my run time for a 10K was the exact same pace as the 5k of the sprint. The results were revealing. Two months away from the main event, and my motivation to finish the training with a strong effort and get through the 70.3 was the best it had been.

September came and I was ready for Augusta. My training was locked in, and my confidence was at a high level given my training and events over the two months in the lead up. Instead of providing a blow-by-blow of the event, I’ll give you a recap of the results via the text I sent Jeff during the week after IM Augusta 70.3.

The text read:

“One of the many things that have impressed me the past week. The fact that you could dial in a race time based on the quality over quantity training methodology. I was completely within a 6:15 to 6:30 range. Take out a pit stop for a GI issue and a little better fueling on the run, and I’m closer to 6:20 (my actual time was 6:27).

I never swam more than 600m intervals, never ran more than 10 miles, and never rode more than 35 miles. Trusting the methodology is hard. I never had any doubts in my ability to finish the event (1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike, and a half-marathon). Most likely I just had the same mental fight that everyone else was having in such a grueling event. There’s a lot more that I’m still processing. Pose running etc. I will get those thoughts down later.”

It’s important to keep in mind that I have no proficiency in any of these events, translated I’m not fast at any of them and have never trained one above a recreational level. My training over the past 6 years has been CF focused. My personal desire to train for a 70.3 with no real background in the three disciplines, a crazy life schedule, and wanting to keep my strength numbers maintained using the Power Speed Endurance methodology was a success. I couldn’t have had more fun.

Shift works. Give it a try.