If you want to look at my base period plan just drop me an email at adamscook (at) gmail. I recently got a custom 8 week plan following my TNA-inspired base plan and it has been great; I highly recommend it. I would suggest if funding is limited to run one or two base periods since you’re new to structured training, then spend your money on maybe two custom plans 16 weeks or so out from your trip. If you have just a little more money, I would also suggest the nutrition plan with Rebecca Dent which is great and includes 4 weeks of email correspondence that is basically coaching and really sets you up for success if you don’t have a nutrition background.
I have done a lab test and I think it’s great, but it is expensive and I think you can use the prescribed UA fitness tests and get close enough. However, if you do have 100 to spend, I would suggest it because it’s also just a cool experience if you’re becoming a fitness nerd.
If you haven’t done much structured training, I wouldn’t worry about ME for a few months at least, just base aerobic training and strength.
The biggest supplements for me are fish oils (two caps taken on days where i don’t eat fish) and a casein protein shake at night right before bed. Otherwise I will have a whey protein shake with oats and peanut butter or some kind of variation after high intensity workouts for recovery.
As far as Z1/2, I live on the east coast and do most of mine as running on rolling terrain. As often as possible I try to get into the ‘mountains’ for a weighted hike, but that’s maybe once a month, sometimes twice.