Coaching Project – Part 1

You may have read from my previous posts about how much I enjoy the coaching side of  triathlon. Whether that is coaching myself or other people. My teaching and leadership background probably helps with this as I feel I do (or I should) have a good understanding of what makes a good coach.

This year, I decided to take a further step and dedicate a little more time to helping others in their Tri exploits. It’s always difficult with this as I have my other roles – my work, family life, training and racing myself. There’s a lot to fit in! In a previous blog I introduced the athlete I was working with this year – Miia Amara. She is completely new to triathlon and one that approached me to help her.

I always think with newbies that the easiest thing to do is to basically to get them to train a little more consistently ensuring they swim, bike and run regularly, building up to a distance in which they will complete their event in. This isn’t difficult and there are guaranteed improvements until a plateau is usually reached. The real gains however, come from being a little more scientific and structured in the approach. Now what newbie is going to know this? Not many that’s for sure.

I agreed that I would help Miia on a more formative, in depth level. The only thing I asked from her was that she followed the structure and worked to the programme. I have been asked by others to do this before, although I have always been wary of it. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because it takes a lot of time planning, adjusting and spending time with athletes in testing and analysing data to track improvement. I suppose that is why seeking a coach is fairly expensive, and it takes a committed athlete to want to take that step. I needed an athlete that was willing to give commitment back in order for me to do it and not waste my time. At no point was any money exchanged! I don’t claim to be some amazing coach or possess badges. What I do have though is experience in doing it myself and a lot of knowledge on it. I read a lot on this subject and have applied many of the concepts on myself. It’s great to be able to transfer some of that knowledge to someone else.

How come Miia you may ask? Well I could see she was eager to really get involved and I had her base training for 8 weeks prior to really starting a proper tailored plan. I could see she was dedicated and agreed to help her. Let’s meet our athlete:

Miia Amara

Age: 44 (and she did allow me to display this 🙂

Nationality: Finnish

Work: Airline Attendant

Athletic Experience: New to triathlon although is a keen runner and is part of East End Road Runners.

The Baseline…How we Started…

As with all training plans, a clear bench mark of current fitness and form were needed as a starting point. I spent some time in the pool with Miia looking at her swim stroke and what we needed to do to improve it. We also completed a run test and a bike test a little later on. Miia also committed to purchasing a Turbo for home training and any necessary equipment for the pool. You see, I told you she was keen!

We started in November 2018 together and looked at spending around two months working on swim technique and building up some base miles to build her endurance engine for the bike and run. We also rode together most Sundays on our long rides.

I would be supporting her until her first Olympic Distance Triathlon in June and she would be taking on two events which I would also be participating in. These were the All Nations Sprint and Bananaman Olympic. Miia would be also going for the London Triathlon at the end of July. In terms of what were her ‘A’ or ‘B’ races were, we weren’t overly too stressed about identifying these. I knew if she followed the plan until June, she would be in fantastic shape to take on her first Olympic distance. I’ll say that again – her first Olympic distance race! She will learn a lot about herself in that race and use it to prep for the second Olympic distance in July. I would hope also that by then, Miia would know the workouts to continue in her lead up to that final event. We also had the bonus of the sprint race beforehand in May to get her used to some race conditions.

She is also aware that to keep peak fitness for that amount of time is very difficult. Rest and Recovery are key aspects of training and these have been built into the plan designed for her, but also after her second event in June before she builds up again for her final race.

Run Training

What was interesting was Miia had expressed and showed me a few of her runs she had completed recently. Here is one:

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Miia was surprised to hear that although she thought she was aerobically fit, and had the endurance in her legs, I thought differently. Yes, she can run long, although, if we look at the pace of the run for each mile segment, it slows down considerably as we go on and the heart rate is all over the place. There were no hills on this route. Generally the more miles she ran, the slower you got. Yes this will happen to all athletes eventually, but what I was trying to explain to her was that we want to try and reduce the amount by which each mile slows down and ensure we hold onto the pace a little longer. The aim was to make her run a lot more balanced both in pace and effort.

I introduced Miia to MAF run training. I like and use this for building base miles and training our cardiovascular system to become more efficient, thus putting out a greater output, and in this case we mean pace. In essence, training at this particular HR (for her 145bpm) allows her to become more efficient and so she ends up faster without too much stress. It takes time and Miia has found this one challenging, particularly keeping to the desired beats per minute. It’s also difficult to run with others on this so makes this training a little lonely. If you can stick with it though, it does pay dividends.

We also took some base PBs for different distances and set some goals around these. Here you can see her performance indicator chart with current PBs and Maffetone results:

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We agreed to make these PB times something as a goal in bringing them down over the course of the year. In-fact she has already done this for both 5K and half marathon and I will update further on these in a future post.

Swimming

By her own admission, Miia had expressed that she needed lots of work around swimming. Initial pool tests and swim analysis did show me that she was correct in her own assessment. Like most triathletes, swim is an area of weakness and we had work to do here.  The results of her first 400m time trial are shown here:

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After spending time in the pool with her, highlighting some flaws in the stroke and showing the drills to correct these, I developed a swim plan for her to follow for 8 weeks or so with the drills built in to develop the areas of weakness. You can’t break too much apart in your swim. Little and often is best for improvement as it is one of those technical sports that has lots to think about. Trying to work on two or three things to improve on is usually too much for our brains to cope with! This swim plan mainly focused on the leg end and getting that kick going from the hip and not her knee. She took to the drills really well and got practising them and we took another test before her official triathlon training started at the beginning of February. This was her plan:

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On the 12th January we retested again and here are the results:

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So what do we already notice? Yes a massive improvement already just through improving technique! There is very little in this plan that develops swim fitness and so it is pleasing to see with a little bit of work on technique, we have already seen a big improvement. I expect her to continue on the technique side of things and also work on building some specific swim fitness now. We will retest again at the end of the base period in the plan.

Biking

Miia also undertook the FTP test for the bike to mainly give me the base line of what her current output is, and what she produces both in power and heart rate. I wanted to give her the personal heart rate zones and ensure she was aware of training correctly within these zones and necessary workouts to follow. I must say I was impressed with her on the bike. I worried at first in terms of pace on our endurance rides and whether she would keep up, although she is very comfortable on a bike and took to this like a duck to water! She is STRONG! It was clear that her bike leg is the strongest and strength out of the three disciplines. This is good considering the majority of the race is spent on the bike! I wouldn’t hesitate going on any long ride with Miia.

First FTP Test

Other Considerations:

Miia’s working pattern had to be accommodated here and this usually results in her working either two or three days each week. The working days are pure rest days. There is absolute no way any workouts can be fitted in due to the nature of her job. The plan has been designed to make the most of her time and it averages at around 6 or so hours a week for the base period. Potential athletes are always looking for plans to follow for something in the lead up to an event. I myself have done this in the past. The problem is that they are so generic and do not take into account prior fitness, baseline and are usually not fit for purpose for that particular athlete. No plan should be the same for everyone! Here is a snapshot of Miia’s first week:

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The key to all this though is enjoyment! Hopefully I have taken away all the thinking, scientific aspects and her worrying whether she is doing the right thing. I want her to enjoy her journey into triathlon and continue it long after this. Enjoyment is the number one goal! Performance will come along for the ride also.

I’ve split this blog into three posts, although it may end up being four by the end depending on the reporting and my time management. This of course being the introductory piece and setting the story or scene – whatever you want to call it. I will then write a second to give the updates and tracking of performance (probably after our initial 8 week base period), and either a final piece on the outcomes, although this may be in two parts in which I hope Miia will add a few comments herself about her experience.

It’s a slightly different take on my usual blogs and I do look for content that is both interesting and different. I hope you enjoy this mini-series as much as Miia enjoys her journey into triathlon! I will of course update on my performance and blog the race reports as usual.

Until next time…tail winds to you all!

I leave you with our route for the last easy endurance ride we did. it was blooming freezing although Miia took a 3rd and 4th on two Strava segments! Do give us a follow on Strava!

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A new year…a new me???

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I suppose the way to start my January blog post is to wish you all a Happy New Year, although it seems that line is running a little thin lately! Anyway, HNY all!

If 2019 is going to be anything like 2018, then we have another busy year ahead – both in life and in racing. I thought it was about time to update on the blog considering there were lots of things from the last post that needed tying up and updating on. So if you didn’t read the last blog post, I suggest this would be a good time as a lot of what I write about will be adding to this.

Injury and Base Training

I proceeded with the last two months working on my base fitness. This has mainly been on the bike, and for good reason. I’m also back in the pool after my lengthy shoulder issue. It’s been rehabbing really well and the injection was the best thing to give the physio the kickstart it needed. I was hesitant having this done but I think the guided ultrasound hit the spot exactly.

I’m more or less swimming 2k in one session at the moment and have built this up over the last few months. It means I can now begin a proper swim programme in which I will build the distance and speed again. The shoulder is ready and I am going to continue the physio exercises along with other training to ensure the strength and more importantly the flexibility is developed. I have since been discharged and after a long rehab process, it’s pleasing to see the efforts and medical intervention pay off. Long live the NHS!

I mentioned above about my bike base training but not much on the run side. This is something I don’t want to overly dwell on…another injury maybe? Well, in a word – yes. It’s a strange one, as apart from last season and the shoulder, my body held up pretty well. My foot issue all started in Italy when running – Plantar Fasciitis actually. All I am going to say is I think I’m more or less through it. It is the dreaded of all running injuries, and resting, stretching, rolling the foot and supporting it has made me now get to a position where I have completed 10 runs without issue. Just when one injury started to improve, something else broke down! Frustrating to say the least. I’m currently up to 45mins and just back in time for the actual Ironman training plan.

DATA ANALYSIS

So overall I’m really happy that I’m ready to swim properly now and the bike endurance base is also good. I think there has been around 35 Zone 2 endurance rides since the last blog and have been keeping track of the fitness in training peaks. I’ve upgraded my subscription to this for the detailed analysis and especially now I using the power meter on the bike.  My base rides will continue for another 8 weeks into proper Ironman training, along with developing the muscular force/strength in my legs. These are bread and butter workouts for triathletes and those which I have neglected in the past. Why you may ask? Well they put a lot of strain on your legs in general and injury risk is high especially for a bike workout. I simply haven’t been in the position to do them before, either coming back from injury or not having the time to fit them into the programme.

Not this year though! As this was the year I really wanted to concentrate more on the bike, I’m in a position to do them and have a reasonable base to begin them. They basically consist of short big gear reps. While this will make you breathe hard by the end, its prime purpose is to train your leg muscles not your heart and lungs, so you shouldn’t feel that you are gasping or struggling to catch your breath. I will complete around 6 weeks of this before tackling the FTP workouts.

Fitness Testing

Testing base fitness is important to ensure all the training parameters are set correctly – these being Heart Rate and Power. I completed the 400m time trail swim test last week and was pleased to swim it in 7min 2 secs. Not too bad considering the lack of swimming. I also completed the bike FTP test and it was pleasing to see that even just base training for 8 weeks raised my power and thresholds.

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If you look at the graph above you can see the stable aspect from about half way. This is the actual test after the initial warm up and cool down at the end. Results show improvements all round.

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Without having a true accurate picture of your fitness, it is hard to set workouts and create a plan that builds upon these. I haven’t tested my run for obvious reasons. I will continue to MAF run at the moment for around 8 weeks. There is a half marathon in 6 weeks time I’m entered for as well as the Big Half. The latter race will be used to really test the run fitness. Up to then I will continue to build my endurance and use the fist half marathon as a training run.

TRAINING PLAN

So I am now into my Ironman training plan – one that has been developed myself with the help and guidance obviously from all my reading, experience, fitness tests and data analysis. Here’s a snapshot of week 1:

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There are of course particular swim and bike workouts that go with these. The run volume at this early point is a little on the low side, although this is to ease my foot back in. As you can see, I’m a keen believer in strength and conditioning and always try and build this in at least once a week. I’ve written my first 4 weeks and will complete around 20 weeks until the Outlaw race. I have worked out my periodisation blocks which look like this:

4 week base 1 / 4 week base 2 / 4 week build 1 / 4 week build 2 / 2 week peak / 1 week taper/ 1 week taper + race week

This should see me in reasonable shape for the Outlaw and then I will rest and take a small break before racing over the summer (mainly Olympic Distance) and building again towards Ironman Vichy.

Coaching

Last year I helped out a few people and in particular Jacqueline Fernandez for swimming. You can read about her guest blog here. This year I have taken on one newbie to triathlon who requested help – Miia Amara. I am going to create a separate blog on this  as I have been working closely with her in preparing her for three triathlons this year. Look out for this in a future post. As mentioned before, this is something I really enjoy doing, although I always limit myself in how many people I help due to the time commitment and expectation from both ends.

French House

Oh and if you didn’t know, we are proud owners of our French property now and spent a lovely new year there. The future training venue will be developed.. 🙂

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Training, Power Meters and Updates…What more do you want?

Greetings.

I know! Two months since my last post. Well, here’s the update some of you have asked for…

I believe the last post mentioned something along the lines of writing about how I will use a power meter and what it would mean to my training. Well, ok I’ll do a little bit on that – but only a little. I don’t want to bore you all. What I would like to do is give you a rounded update of everything that is going on training and fitness wise, but also life in general and of course, the power meter bit. So, let’s get on!

Training

So what’s the fitness like? What am I doing? When do I start the training?

Questions questions questions. After a great summer and a recent trip to Italy, life has been good. I’ve recently celebrated my fortieth birthday and have entered a new age group in triathlon. Although I’m older and supposedly more decrepit as people keeping telling me, my results should automatically improve in my age group as I’m no longer competing against whipper-snappers and the age group is a little smaller! That’s not to say the 40-44 age group isn’t competitive – believe me, it is!

 

Over the summer and up to now I have just been keeping active. Nothing really structured at all training wise. I have since visited the Doctor to try and sort the shoulder issue I’ve been struggling with all season. This resulted in a referral to a sports clinic and has been a bit of nightmare to be honest. The last race of the season saw me take on the 2 mile Serpentine swim to complete the London Classics. That is the last time I swam – back at the end of September. I do really miss swimming although I had to commit to getting the shoulder sorted, and that meant stopping the swims for a while.

Without going into too much detail, I’ve just had my second ultrasound two days ago after 8 weeks of physio, which has resulted in a guided steroid injection. This is the price you pay for racing over a season on an injured shoulder! So I’m hoping to return to the pool in December. When that will be exactly who knows?

Injuries are annoying and something as I’m getting older I’m noticing more and more. Sometimes it isn’t about how fit you can get, but what fitness you can achieve without getting injured. The more I train, the more I understand my body and what it can cope with. For me it is no more about planning a 12 or 16 week programme and following it to a tee.  Yes I try to do that, although I adjust my plan on the fly and no longer worry if it isn’t followed exactly. Triathlon is hard on the body. A strong body that uses everything is one that is difficult to keep tuned. Listening and understanding it is key.

My reading around coaching and methodology continues and this is one thing I love doing. Comparing, evaluating, assessing and reflecting on my own performance and improvement are all possible through reading. It allows me to pass on knowledge also to my budding triathlete friends, especially where I have used and tried methods myself. A lot of my reading has been around the use of a power meter to improve my bike performance next year.

Power Meter Training

I’ll try and keep the geeky and technical stuff simple. You may be thinking ‘what the bleeding hell is a power meter?’ There are different types – pedals, cranks and hubs are a few. Too technical already right? Here’s a picture:

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Power meters are a great way to train incredibly accurately and also allow you to measure your performance and pace a race perfectly. All professional cyclists and triathletes use them. It’s how Chris Froome measures his effort so well on a long mountain climb.

You may remember me saying that my performance is lacking on the bike and I want to put some serious effort into improving it over the coming months. So at the back end of August I purchased a power meter – a german brand by Power2max. It’s a crank based system and cost me just over 600 Euros. Power meters are not cheap by any means, but I felt this was a good investment in comparison to hiring a coach. It will also mean I probably run a lot better and not burn too many matches on the bike!

The idea is that I carry out a simple test on the bike and work out my power zones and then train them resulting in improved performance. You can do this with heart rate to a certain degree although it isn’t as accurate and instant. It isn’t hampered by feeling, illness and conditions. It’s also important to regularly test and adjust the zones with increasing  fitness. I will also look to practice race like conditions with it in the new year on the road. And this is why I love triathlon – there really are lots of things to think about and you can make it as simple or as complex as you want to.

At some point I certainly want to take my coaching badges. I’m in the teaching profession anyway and know that leading groups and activities is second nature. I’d love to be able to apply this to triathlon and in that arena. Something for the future for sure, although I have no idea when!

Where am I in my training cycle?

Base training has begun for the bike and run. This is the process of building the aerobic endurance system. This will last for around two and half months. I’m not starting from complete scratch, although I do want to have great engine before I tackle the specific power meter workouts on the bike. I have developed my triathlon plan now for the first 6 weeks and will begin proper specific triathlon training at the end of January. This will lead me into the Outlaw Half in decent shape. I’m looking to do exactly the same for swimming (when I eventually get back in the pool) and running. This will be the longest time out I have had from the pool so it will be interesting to see what shape swim wise I will be in. I know in previous breaks (although no longer than about 4 weeks) it hasn’t taken too long to recover the endurance and my race pace. I hope this will be the case again.

Winter always includes some sort of strength training programme that I follow also. This is slightly hampered with the shoulder so I’m having to do what I can and work around that. It means 2 or 3 strength specific sessions every week. It is also important for injury prevention, something I’m really keen on!

Other News:

Oh and our French house purchase completes in December so I shall definitely be looking to do an April training camp out there next year. There’s a few projects to do involving a gym kit out and the separate house renovation. We will take our time with these.  I take on Ironman 70.3 Vichy in France next year so will base ourselves here for a few weeks in summer. The journey to Vichy is about 3 hours away and an event I’m really looking forward to taking on.

So that is it. Updates complete. I will try and publish again in December with some analysis of fitness. Tracking workouts and collecting the data is important to reviewing current and improving fitness. The geek in me likes this bit so it’ll be good to share my understanding on it. Until then…enjoy the on-coming winter – my least favourite season, Urgh!

 

Season End and Planning for Next Year…

Firstly – apologies on the short break and lack of posts over the last two months. I’ve been incredibly busy with work and then enjoying some family time. This is the post that for me closes my season. In September I hear you say! It’s the post in which I will review my year and look to 2018-19.  It’s been a great year, and one that I look back on and know I achieved and improved in a number of ways in each discipline. There was a lot of racing and so many achievements. So here goes…

 

Where do I begin with looking back? Many ask why I look at August/September as my season end. Well to me, it’s simple. My season calendar works with my lifestyle and work life. August is the time for family and holiday, and I usually ease down at that point of the year. I lose fitness and eat and drink lots! What are holidays for? It’s been a great summer with two family holidays and a new house purchase in France. More on this in another post, but here’s a sneak peak:

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One thing I that I make sure I do when not in training and racing mode, is to not completely stop. By this, I mean I usually still swim, bike and run, but in a much less structured way. No tracking of miles, no looking at pace but just doing it to enjoy it and not lose too much fitness. I feel it’s important to keep the body moving which is why I do it. Cyprus involved some very hot short runs and rides on a road bike rental. Also a little swimming, but nothing too strenuous. I still actually have one more more event to do in a few weeks – Swim Serpentine. I will be tackling the 2 mile distance in order to secure the London Classics medal so I’m not completely done!

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So what are the achievements this year?

Well it is probably much simpler to look at the three individual disciplines.

Swimming:

My times continue to fall and PBs were set at various distances – not by much but small improvements. . I haven’t focused on the swim at all this year but continued to maintain where I was. I have swam a lot less than normal and feel it isn’t a limiter for me so have put less work into it. I’ve certainly enjoyed helping others in this area this year. It makes me appreciate how far I’ve come in this discipline. I certainly realise that I would probably need to swim at least three times a week if I am going to get any more performance out. For a 3/4% rise, the time invested isn’t worth it.

Running:

Seven 10K races, 2 half marathons and my debut full marathon. My times on all distances have come down particularly over the half marathon distance where an 18min PB happened earlier in the year. My London Marathon run was hampered by injury and I was so pleased to manage a 3:53 even missing 6 weeks of running and only managing to run again two weeks out from it. I had an initial goal of sub 4 and somehow managed to do it. This has certainly left some unanswered questions for me at this distance. What time could I really run when fit and fully healthy? I think my next marathon will likely be Berlin (if I get in) in 2019. That’s the plan anyway…unless London rears its head with some unexpected place.

I do have one goal outstanding which is probably what I will work to over the winter, and that is going sub 20min for 5k. I know I can do this, although you can’t train for everything right? The two 5Ks I have completed have been in the 20 to 21min range. What is pleasing is I can pretty much hold this pace even in a triathlon which shows my improvement and strength over the shorter distance and when transitioning from biking to running. I don’t think the same can be said for the half iron distance. The half marathon times are no-where near the PB time. They don’t need to be and are not likely to be either. What is clear though, is that I need to bring them closer together and it is certainly an area to focus on.

Triathlon:

Every race I did this year involved me posting a new personal course or distance best. There were 4 triathlons and two of these were new courses, one being a half ironman – the Grafman. You can read about that event here. I didn’t quite get my 5 triathlons in this year and it’s always a tough decision to do one in September after holidays. It really is a bit of a slog when unfit!

So What Now?

Reflection is important as it allows you to analyse things that have gone well and aspects of training that have worked. Running has certainly been the highlight this year, although I’ve come to realise that my bike performance has stunted a little. This for me is the one area where I know lots of time gains can be made in future events if I put the work in over the winter. Cycling is going to be a huge focus for me over the next 6 months.

I intend to keep running at the same level and repeating the process I took this year. I believe I have more to come, meaning faster times. One thing the marathon training gave me was a superb base run fitness and I intend to build that again, although without the injury this time round. And on the injury…use them all as a process of learning. Not warming up properly for a race and then trying to run it as fast as possible is not good practice. A school boy error really, but one where the weather was so awful prior to it that it completely put me off. Lessons are learnt. Faced with that again I certainly would change my race plan or incorporate a warm up – somehow!

Coaching

I did contemplate the option of receiving some professional coaching although decided against it. I believe I understand enough of this process, read enough manuals by some of the top coaches, and follow a lot of what the they prescribe. I don’t claim to be a coach or as good as a top professional, although I can certainly put together a training programme based on the understanding of my body, performance and limiters. I love learning about the sport all the time and feel that coaching myself is part of the enjoyment I get. It is probably why I enjoyed helping others this year also. I continue to read and learn and during the summer reading involved me ploughing through this:

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Why? 

Well the theory behind improving my bike performance has been completed. I have taken the step in purchasing a power meter so that I can train more effectively and pace my efforts accordingly. Slightly cheaper than hiring a coach and now just to put the theory into practice. I will write a future post on my understanding of this and how I intend to train with it next month.

Strength and Training Specifically for Triathlon

This part of the season also allows me to deal with an underlying injury niggle – one of which I been suffering with for the last 7 months and that is with my shoulder. Not a major issue or one that has stopped me competing as it is manageable, although it does need some consideration as it hurts after every swim and sometimes during. There’s definitely limitations in what I can lift also.

I usually strength train every autumn, however this year I intend to increase the length of weeks I do this as well as ensuring I keep some maintenance during the specific triathlon training. It tends to drop off a little when structured triathlon training begins as getting all the major sessions in can become hectic with real life!

One other thing I noticed when looking back at my training last year was the lack of specific triathlon sessions. Certainly brick running was difficult as coming back from the groin injury meant me reducing the load and running only when I really needed to. The double load of a brick is dicey. Running on tired legs is risky and I definetly do not bounce back like I used to.

What are the plans for next year?

I want to race a lot more next season and return to doing two half ironmans. When I say race a lot more – I mean triathlon only. I’m going to do less of the smaller events such as the runs. I’m looking at potentially 6 races and this will include my first overseas triathlon in France whereby I will go to Ironman Vichy 70.3. This does open up a big question for me as this will be taking place at the end of August – yes…the time when I wind down and become unfit. I have somehow got to maintain that fitness over the summer holidays which will not be easy. It will probably mean starting my specific triathlon training a little later in the new year, having a mid season shorter break and then ramping up the training again. So here is my provisional race calendar:

Fix events sprint – Season opener at Dorney lake. (May)

Outlaw half – (May)

Windsor Triathlon Olympic – June

Bananaman Triathlon Olympic – June

London Triathlon Olympic – July

Ironman Vichy – August

I will certainly race a lot less with the running and don’t intend to do a marathon again unless there is some miracle of me getting into London. And even if I do, the goal will be to train as normal for triathlon. The pure focus next year is triathlon and making a massive improvement over the half distance. It’s about pushing myself next year and training has already started now. I’m into week 3 of my base schedule (mainly focusing on strength) and it’s nice to be back, even though it has been a bit of a slog. Do follow me on Strava @ https://www.strava.com/athletes/mansfield_danny

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So there you have it…it’s only taken me two weeks to write this! Next update – Using a power meter! Stay tuned and happy training, racing and enjoying life!

Guest Blog 3 – Jacqueline Fernandez

Welcome to the regular readers and those who may be viewing the blog for the first time. This week sees the continuation of the guest blogs where I invite other friends, athletes and club associates the chance to share their experiences and challenges within the realms of sport.

I introduce to you Jacqueline Fernandez (Jecks), who on Sunday took on her first triathlon (Bananaman) as part of a series of challenges she is undertaking throughout this year, including a hike to Everest base camp. I have been working with Jecks over the last 6 weeks or so in providing advice and helping her to swim better. This is her recount on what I see as a very successful first triathlon. Incredibly apprehensive to begin with  in which I assured her that she would love it – AND SHE DID! Jecks has certainly listened and practiced, especially with swimming, her dreaded discipline. I was very impressed at how quickly she has improved. I hope you enjoy this wonderful recount and at the end I’ll give you a short update on my performance. A big shout also goes out to @Hazpicss from Instagram, a Sports Photographer, who captured some of the wonderful shots. Over to you Jecks…

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Where do I begin? Firstly, what an honour to be asked to be a guest blogger! I’m Jacqueline, and I recently heard the term “girls who tri”- that is me! Trying new experiences, aiming for 30 fitness challenges this year to celebrate my 30th birthday.

Challenge 20 was a big one – my first ever triathlon at Human Race events. I only signed up for this triathlon a month beforehand as Coach Danny recommended to do a tri as practise for London tri in August (Challenge 25).

Honestly, I am not a strong swimmer, I struggle with cycling (I recently cried during a group cycle!) and I have only been a runner for over a year and a half, so taking on a triathlon was going to be very difficult for me. Sarah, a fellow club member, recommended connecting with Danny as he is an expert in this field and has done so many. Forming a tri group with Han, Danny, Nick and Sarah has been incredible helpful for me, especially as a newbie.

Training

Just about a month ago Danny took me for an open water swimming session. I can say it now- I was AWFUL! Even though I can swim, I was tired very easily and I was kicking frantically! At that point, I was concerned whether I would be able to do this tri! Danny created a training plan after a pool session, aiming for: 1. Better swim fitness 2. Improving continuous swimming. I put a lot of effort into reaching those two goals (I got slightly carried away, over training which was leading to a shoulder niggle and was told by Danny to only swim twice a week!!). I LOVED having a training plan, using different equipment and doing drills (my favourite drill so far is working on my extension).

Doing the other challenges helped training for the cycling and running parts. I am currently training for Ride 100, so I was already learning about my bike and getting used to cycling. Challenge 17 was my very first duathlon, and my god, I was dreadful. My legs felt like jelly on the second run and I came last but I did it!! My worry was putting everything I learnt, all together. I questioned, can I swim, cycle and then run? Well, I was about to see!

The Big Event

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Nervous was an understatement, but I really learnt the value of having a coach that day. Danny was doing the Whole Banana distance which was fab because I got to see him in action! I set up my bike early and was hydrating constantly because it was super hot! He walked me through transitions and I watched the earlier waves to see what transitions were liked (this really helped me! Lots of people shouting: “Move! Get out the way!”). I watched Danny do his swim and cycle. His swim looked effortless and very relaxed so I had in mind that I would NOT panic and swim as if I was in the training pool.

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Danny exiting his swim and deciding to swim without a wetsuit

My wave started at 1:30pm (bang in the middle of the crazy heat) and I introduced myself to some of the women with most never having done a tri before (thank God!). We got into the water and were briefed quickly. There was an option of not wearing a wetsuit but the buoyancy of the wetsuit helped with my nerves so I decided to swim in my wetsuit (tip: do not put on the wetsuit early in BOILING WEATHER!!!!!).

To my surprise – I loved the swim. I didn’t stay right at the back as planned but in the middle where I felt comfortable. I swam keeping an eye on the person’s feet in front of me. I didn’t stop nor did I need to breast stroke – I was ECSTATIC! My only issue was not sighting enough so I nearly missed the exit (I need to go to Specsavers!!!). Note to self: do not rely on people in front of you because I learnt, you can overtake them or they may end up at the side of you, so sighting is key.

Because the swim went so well, I had lots of energy for transition 1 and getting on my bike. Getting my wetsuit off wasn’t as hard, but getting into my socks and trainers without patiently drying my feet first were frustrating! I’m not normally a confident cyclist, but the buzz of the event got me excited and two laps went by fast! BUT THEN… I was so ‘in the moment’ I got confused on how many laps I needed to do. I stopped to ask an event member TWICE stating that I have seen this part of the lap twice, ‘should I carry on?’ I guess because there were so many waves, I wasn’t very clear and they both told me to keep going. I knew I did a 3rd lap because no one in my wave was near me and one woman who was far behind was now in front of me! I was very frustrated with myself but I carried on and did the third lap as fast as possible (tip: start your watch so you know can check distance instead of count laps!!). I got off my bike and knew I was nearly there. The sun was blazing and my legs felt like jelly, especially because I knew I did an extra lap. It’s probably my slowest 2.5k run but I did finished strong! I had done itttttt!! I, Jacqueline Fernandez, actually completed my first triathlon, and loved it! I am determined to do that event next year so I can correct my mistake!

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For anyone who wants to do their first triathlon, here’s my advice:

  1. Get a coach / mentor, someone who has a wealth of knowledge on all 3 sports and understands your current ability and what your aims are. Danny has been a massive help!
  2. Get a training plan and stick it to as much as possible. Danny has embedded it into me that training is about consistency, so get each disciple in (also do not overtrain!)
  3. Get to the venue early and walk transitions (“you must count your racks”) and laying out your stuff in the correct order helps (“before anything, put on your helmet when you’ve entered transition for the bike section”)
  4. Have all the equipment (I didn’t bring a pump so Danny pointed out after I completed it, what was I going to do if I did get a flat!?! Oops!!!)
  5. Go at your own pace – there’s lots happening in a tri – lots of waves, lots of movement in transitions and it’s easy to get carried away in the moment (as I did, doing an extra lap!).

I am now officially excited for my London triathlon and look forward to training for it!

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What’s next?

Well I am impressed with doing 20 challenges so far:

  1. NYD 10km
  2. Benfleet 15 miles
  3. Virtual Race the distance Half marathon
  4. Run Through chase the moon 10km
  5. Accelerator Run Series 5km race
  6. Roding Valley half
  7. London Big Half
  8. . 10km in Rio, Brazil
  9. London Landmarks half marathon
  10. Boston UK Half marathon
  11. . 50 miles a month virtual run
  12. . Peckham 10km
  13. Runthrough Crystal palace 10km
  14. Hackney Half Marathon
  15. Westminster Mile
  16. Dagenham 88 5miles
  17. Go Tri Duathlon (Run – Cycle – Run)
  18. . East End Road Runners 5K Elvis race
  19. Orion’s Fell Run
  20. My 1st Triathlon

 I have 10 more challenges to go including London Tri, Ride 100 and Base Camp Everest!

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jecks30for30

 I would really love to train for more triathlons next year!!

Thanks Jecks for a great blog! I hope you all enjoyed that. If you wondering about how I got on, well I did alright considering the heat. Jecks mentioned that I took on the whole banana – 800m swim, 31k bike and 7.5K run. I had the 20th fastest swim of the day and loved experiencing the triathlon swim without a wetsuit. Let’s just say it was the quickest transition from swim to bike I’ve ever done! I averaged just shy of 20mph to complete the bike leg in around and hour and then the run in about 35mins, which was hampered by a terrible stitch on the third lap. A result of 31st overall and 8th in my age group so I can’t complain.

Again thanks to Jecks for the Blog post and the videos of me below.

 

Windsor Triathlon 2018 – The A Race!

It had a arrived – the A race! This would be the second time of completing the Windsor triathlon and this is one of my favourites. I have only completed it once – two years ago and you’d think I’d have done it more often. The trouble is that this race always clashes with many others taking place on this particular weekend, so it has been alternated with these. I like to experience as many different races as possible although I was pleased to return here.

Pre Race:

Training had been consistent and I had put in two decent weeks post Grafman 70.3 averaging around 11/12 hours. My previous effort at Windsor resulted in a 2:50:56, so any time better than that is an improvement. My goal was to go sub 2:40 – could I do it? There were three areas to particularly focus on:

SWIM WELL            QUICKER TRANSITIONS           BIKE / RUN CONSISTENTLY

Why these you may ask? Well although I swam well at the Grafman 70.3, I do not believe I have been transferring my pool swim times into open water consistently this year. The Windsor Tri swim is always quite fast, especially with the current in your favour for two thirds of it. Transitions have also been slow this year so I wanted to ensure I was a little quicker when going through these. Visualisation is a tool I like to use when I have to think carefully through key parts of my race. I find it extremely helpful at running through the process of key sections, and in this case the swim to bike transition. Transition is a long one at Windsor, so it was important to view previous times to see what I could make up. Remove the wetsuit a little quicker and run a little faster. Simple. The bike/run consistency means biking well with a faster average than my previous visit and running well off the bike to ensure a sub 50min 10k. We will analyse these in detail later on.

Saturday Pre-Race Racking

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This is one thing I really enjoy about Windsor in that we can rack the bike the day before. It does mean staying at Windsor over the weekend as it is too far from me, although the family come along and we make a weekend of it. Windsor is a lovely place also so a great place for weekend away. We managed to find a little railway cottage to stay in this time very close to the event village. Our morning consisted of a lovely boat ride along the Thames, followed by a spot of lunch before I attended registration and put the bike in.

There was one slight problem revealed at registration. The bike course had been added to by around 3-4k due to road works. There’s not a lot I can do about that meaning it would somehow impact into the PB attempt.

I was fairly happy with my position in transition. I was bang in the middle of my rack so it was easy to find and all exit and entry points were noted. I cannot stress how important this is to do for new triathletes! There is nothing worse then not being able to find your bike in transition – trust me it happened to me (briefly) in a race in my earlier days.

Once racked, I managed to nab a couple of whipped protein bites. I like these. High in protein, not typically dense as usual from whey protein and a good recovery snack I find.

Pre Race – Morning

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What is that they say about a red sky?

Up and early at 6:00 with the usually pre-race porridge breakfast. I made my way over to transition to set everything up. I was going with three gels for the whole race and a 1L salt solution hydration drink. I figured this would be enough for an olympic distance race. I would consume a banana also about 20 mins before the swim. The swim start is a short walk from transition so you need to leave time to get there. It was also good to see the pros and elites racing beforehand and a certain Emma Pallant bossing the field! The weather wasn’t great with a slight drizzle and fairly chilly, although actually it turned out to be fairly decent race conditions.

The Swim

I was actually the last wave out at Windsor and now compete in the 40-44 age group. I knew I needed a consistent swim and decided to start towards the front of the pack to get away from most of the mayhem. My swim in 2016 resulted in a 26.27. This year I took slightly longer at 27:48. I did swim slightly longer this year as well when looking at the stats but the swim was pretty much bang on. I felt really good in the water and swam through a lot of the wave that started ahead of me. I always enjoy the swim in the Thames and was pleased at the effort. It really is noticeable when you reach the turn point at Eton Bridge in Windsor and then swim into the current. Who put the brakes on? I wasn’t expecting anything different and overall I was happy with the outcome from the swim.

Transition 1 – Swim to Bike

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Grey tracks above are the transition runs

Ok – so you know this was one of the areas to make some time up in. If you have never completed Windsor Triathlon, one thing to note – how long transition is! It is a fair run from the swim (around 150m) to your bike and that depends on where you are racked. You then have another 300m or so to bike mount point. So was I quicker? Well yes, but by not much. In fact a whole 6 secs! A 6 minute transition is long by any means! Running in cleats for that distance is not quick. I still need to master the shoes attached to bike trick! There’s always something to learn in triathlon.

The Bike 

 

6mins 28secs! Not how long it took me to ride the course, but the added time to my ride due to the course additions because of the road works. On the face of it, I rode well. Much better than 2016 where I average 17.6mph and did the 25 miles in 1hr 23min. The modified course meant me cycling and additional 2.3 miles, which may not seem a lot, and it isn’t, although when your aiming for a course PB, this matters hugely. So you see, it took me an extra 6min 28secs to ride those 2.3 miles. I also completed the bike in 1hr 26min averaging 18.9mph so it would have meant a 1:19 for the 25 miles.

The course was fairly uneventful and the roads were poor in places. I was worried towards the end something was loose on the bike as I was rattling all over the place. Luckily it was just my canister which had unscrewed from the holder. I was pleased to get back to transition in one piece! This transition was fairly swift – 2016 = 3:24  2018 = 2:38.

The Run

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If there is any part of the race I am most happy with then it is the run. To be able to run well off the bike is under estimated in triathlon. You can’t just expect to run a normal 5k/10k time or whatever distance you are covering as per normal in triathlon without training this aspect. There is a distinct feeling you get in your legs as you begin running and you have to expect and accept the fatigued feeling. The thing is, if you train for this then you can run well and this is where the all important brick sessions come in. One thing that really stood out was the amount of triathletes that hadn’t done this. It was very obvious! If you can run well, particularly in longer distances, then huge amounts of time can be made up on someone. I felt good on the run, but did have to overcome initial cramp in my hamstring. You can see me grabbing it below as I left transition. Luckily this was temporary, and it is common from where you utilise muscles differently. After a mile or so it had completely gone thankfully.

I ran fairly consistently over the 10k managing an average pace of around 7:50 miles meaning a 47.11 10K finish time. I was really pleased with this considering the run had some hills to consider and in particular the one up to the castle. The course is also different now to back in 2016, so again comparing it and considering PB efforts was difficult. Back in 2016 I run the older course, which I believe was slightly easier, in 51:29 so a really good improvement.

                                         2016                                                          2018

So what were the overall times? Were PBs achieved? 

2018 resulted in me going quicker – but not by much. 2016 results in a 2:50:56 and this year I came home in 2:49. What we need to consider here is the course difference in the bike and run. As mentioned, the bike was 2.3 miles longer and the run route has changed which I believe is slightly tougher. So considering all this, I still managed to be a little faster over a longer course. If we work out the additions on course in time (6 min 28s) then you are looking at a time of around 2hr 42min. Not quite the sub 2:40 I was looking for, although I feel I’m being slightly hard on myself here. Was I disappointed? Well actually yeah I was stupidly.

I look at my data each year and analyse things and can clearly see I’m improving year on year. The question I’m starting to ask myself though is how much more can I improve especially as I get older? The desire to be faster is growing! I also know where I can improve – the question is whether I want to invest in the time and possibly the money to do it. The improvements are simple:

  • Working on my bike leg even more particularly with some FTP power improvements and using a power meter.
  • Continue the improvements in my running as I am sure I can eek out more.
  • Move my swim training to the advanced fink level.
  • Consider being professionally coached.

You see – all this takes time and money! We shall see what this means in the near future no doubt. I’m planning a future blog post on this.

I have one more triathlon booked in for the end of June. This is more of a fun event for me as I take on the Bananaman Lidl at Dorney which I have never done. I go to it with no targets, no preconceptions and just to enjoy it. I will be taking a few other EERR members who will be using it to do their first triathlon in preparation for the London Triathlon in August. I will mainly help these and support them through it.

I hope to get in one other late season event – possibly September time although my condition will be questionable after my summer holidays!

Thanks for reading and please comment, like and share.