First Triathlon of the 2017 Season

Nuffield Sprints.- Eaton Dorney Lake  21st May 2017

Key takeouts

  • Based at the 2012 Olympic rowing venue
  • A great race to participate as as season opener
  • Distance 750m Swim 20Km Bike and 5km run
  • Clean, clear and warm lake (18c)
  • Well marked swim course with buoys and finish markers
  • Cycle is fast but a little boring as its 5 laps around the lake
  • Crowds mostly around the transition areas
  • Head wind on 50% of bike, slows down you average speed.
  • Run is an out and back along the foot path
  • Run is dead flat and generally smooth surface
  • Sold out for 2 straight days means busy and popular event
  • Lots of first timers as well as elite and high level age group athletes
  • Well organised race but lacks a little atmosphere

IVBP8285Bike Transition DCIM100GOPROTT Bike Set upDCIM100GOPROSupporters at the start/finish DCIM100GOPROPerfect setting for the swim DCIM100GOPROFlat run course IMG_6053Bike check in MZGF5197Riding back to car after the finishIMG_6060Finishers medal to add to the collection


Open Water Skills: Drafting 



One difference between swimming and racing in open water vs swimming in a pool is that you’re often surrounded by other people (and clash into them) during your swim. Although this may make for a more physical swim, it also has it’s upsides. Positioning yourself correctly in relation to the swimmer ahead of you during a swim means you can benefit from sitting in their slipstream resulting in:.

  • Going faster than you could on swimming in isolation  or
  • Swimming at the same speed as usual but expending far less energy.

The benefit from drafting is so significant, it can save over one minute per 1500m. So if your swimming an Ironman distance swim of 3.8km you could be looking at a time saving of 3.5minutes.

There are two main types of drafting:

  1. Swimming directly behind a faster swimmer (the most common)
  2. Swimming to the side of a faster swimmer.

Drafting Directly behind a faster swimmer

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  • The aim is to position your self so you are directly behind the swimmer in front.
  • Be at least one arm length behind them so you don’t swim over the top of them.
  • Keep you extended arm as close to their feet as possible without touching, if you hit their feet you will slow them and yourself down.
  • Watch out for the wash they produce from kicking, it may cause you to swallow water when you try and breath, so adjust your breathing pattern accordingly.
  • Sight regularly, do not rely on the swimmer in front to be taking the correct route.
  • Stick behind the faster simmer for as long as possible, then use your conserved energy to pass them in the final part of the swim


Drafting to the side of a faster swimmer

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  • Position yourself either side of the faster swimmer in front of you.
  • Make sure your shoulder is adjacent to their hip
  • Breath towards the swimmer in front so you can keep an eye on where they are in relation to you. it will be is easier to breath the opposite side, however this will cause you to drift off their draft zone.
  • Sight regularly, do not rely on the swimmer in front to be taking the correct route.
  • Learn to adjust the rhythm of your stroke so your arms don’t clash.
  • You may touch swimmer in front from time to time, this is ok but too often will slow you both down.
  • Don’t swim on top of them as it will slow both of your swim speeds down.
  • It takes constant focus to ensure you don’t drift apart from the swimmer in front.
  • You should be able to feel the wake of the lead swimmer and notice the increase in speed (or decrease in energy)

Practice makes perfect.

  • Find a swim partner who is willing to let you practice drafting with and alternate being the lead swimmer.
  • Become comfortable with swimming in close proximity to another swimmer and understand how you need to adjust your stroke and breathing timing.
  • Practice both drafting potions and find which is most comfortable.
  • If you practice enough then on race day you’ll find yourself naturally entering a draft zone without the need to really think about it.
  • Being familiar with the feeling of drafting will help reduce anxiety on race day.

Day 1 of the Open Water Season

Saturday morning April 22nd 2017 is the first day the Tri2o swim centre is open for the 2017 season and it opened on a beautiful clear sunny morning. Air temp 10c water temp 14c

Despite it being the first day of the season the lake was pretty busy already with some people even braving the 14c water with out a wetsuit. I decided to play it safe and keep the wetsuit on.


The main change for my attire this year was I had sneaked a neoprene hat underneath my silicon hat to stop myself getting the classic ‘ice cream headache’ for the first lap. it was the best £9 investment. It stopped my head feeling the cold and even kept my hair completely dry for the swim.

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Once I was in the first 200m were pretty chilly and I did feel like 14c but as soon as I reached the first boy (2-3 mins later) the feeling of cold had subsided and it felt close to the perfect swimming temperature

The water was clear and clean and was like swimming in a mill pond and the blue sky only added to the enjoyment.


I completed 3 laps in 45minutes which is a record for day 1 of the season (historically its been too cold to do more than one)

Skills I practiced in my session:

  • Acclimatisation to cold water (pre entry)
  • Shallow water entry (diving)
  • Flushing the wetsuit to keep warm
  • Siting to the buoy
  • Turning around the buoy
  • Long efficient stroke
  • Catch drills to improve stroke length
  • Speed work as approaching the buoy
  • Bilateral breathing to help swimming in a straight line


Now the first session of the season is complete and the temperature is comfortable enough to train, its time to focus on fitness and skills, I will be posting some sessions on the website or get in touch if you’re interested in some coached sessions.

Planning Your Own Training Camp

When it’s cold outside and it’s the middle of winter the chance’s are you’re not massively inspired to be training. It’s likely to also be the off season so there’s also little to no racing to motivate you to train.

During this period It’s easy to fall off the training wagon and let your fitness regress. Resting is ok and recovery is important, but there is always the danger your fitness drops too low and may impact your ability to train and race fast in your future season.

The problem with loosing fitness over winter isn’t that you won’t ever get it back, it’s more that your might not have the time to get it back to cope with the level of training you want to do once the season finally begins.

A great solution for this and one I have been using for many years is to attend a pre season training camp (preferably but not essential) in a warm weather location.

Detaching yourself from your daily obligations and spending 1-2 weeks exclusively focusing on your fitness (without having bad weather as an excuse) creates a great platform to kick start your fitness and  begin to build a foundation for the coming season.

To make a training camp a success

  • Choose an objective
    • Pick an objective for the camp as this will dictate the area or country you go to and the facilities you need to have close by.
    • e.g If you want to increase your swim volume and train consistency then having a pool near by is more essential than being in a warm climate. However if you also want to build ocean swimming skills and confidence then you want to pick a location that is by the sea and has a warmer climate.
  • Book your trip
    • Locations with access to good facilities get booked quickly especially during the pre season month’s. So either book way in advance or join onto a training camp that is already established or organised in the area (normally you will pay a premium for this vs one self coached)
  • Plan your daily regime
    • Ask yourself how many hours are you currently training? and how much can your increase this by over a couple of weeks without burning yourself out. If you’re not training regularly then the focus should be on improving consistency rather than massively increasing the volume. But if you have been training constantly over winter then the focus of the camp could be in increasing your training volume
    • How many sessions are you planning to do in a day? When is the optimal time of day to have each training session? and are the training facilities available at these times? if you are doing multiple sessions in a day you should have access near by to food and your bedroom to aid your recovery between sessions.
  • Plan your individual sessions
    • Every session should have a focus, take advantage of the new environment and do sessions which you may not normally have the time for or normally have access to the facilities.
    • Having a purpose and objective for each session should build and contributes to your larger objective for the camp. It also ensures you get the most out of your time while you’re there.
  • Track your progress
    • Record your fitness levels at the start of the camp and monitor your performance throughout the camp. You will get more tired as the camp goes on so won’t necessarily see uplifts fitness until sometime after the camp has finished. Once the body has fully recovered.
  • Maintain the momentum
    • It’s great to have the time to focus on your fitness. If you don’t continue to build on this fitness once you return home then you will quickly lose the benefits of training your camp.

Below is an example of a recent pre season training camp at club La Santa in Lanzarote.

Club La Santa facilities include:

  • 3x 50m Swimming Pools
  • Sheltered sea water lagoon
  • Free Bike hire and miles of mountainous roads
  • Coastal running path and off-road trails
  • Athletic Track
  • Outdoor and Indoor Gym
  • Shops/ Restaurants/ Accommodation on site

Objective 1: To train swim,bike, run consistently over two weeks and gradually build steady state aerobic fitness. To establish a strong endurance foundation for the start of the 2017 triathlon season.

Objective 2: To swim consistently and build aerobic endurance in the pool focusing on stroke efficiency.

Training sessions: 


A running injury meant it didn’t go exactly to plan but the lack of running was compensated with some additional swims and more focus on recovery.

Some images from the camp:

Olympic Pool at Club La Santa

Riding the Lava Fields 

Exiting Tianjo 

Defending back into La Santa

Drink Stop at the National Park

Ocean Swimming Training in the Atlantic

End of a swimming training session in the sun

Climbing out of La santa through the town of Soo

Training Camp’s don’t have to be abroad as long as you don’t rely on escaping bad weather like me. But the more detached you can be from your every day life the more focused you can be on the camp.


Marathon Training Tips for Non Runners

A marathon is 20 miles of pain and 6.1 miles of reality

Long distance running is hard. It’s hard to technically do well, It’s hard work, it’s hard impact on your joints and muscles, it hard to train for as it takes so much time, it’s hard mentally to stay focused for such a duration at a high intensity. Essentially it’s just a hard sport.

But because it’s hard it’s also fun and rewarding and that is why it attracts so many people each year and motivates them to sign up for a marathon or half marathon, especially as these events are on everyone’s ‘athletic bucket list’.

The major concern of signing up for such grueling events is that most people really don’t have the athletic background to run the race well.  I’ve heard a phrase used  ‘the marathon is the worlds most participated running race, yet it the is the worlds most under trained.’ which indicates most people who turn up at the start line aren’t properly prepared to take on the distance.

To put into context its popularity, more people run the London marathon in one day, than the number of people who compete in an official 10,000m (10Km) race in a whole year. that means it’s more than likely people are turning up to the start of a 26mile course not only as their first marathon but possibly their first running/endurance event ever.

This is not to say people shouldn’t participate in these event’s its more to say they should be aware of their athletic experience and prepare for the race according to their ability and not what training program they found online.

If the goal is to train and complete your first half or full marathon below are some methods you can adopt to ensure your make the correct physical and anatomical adaption without running the risk of burning out or injury.

  1. Start training as early as possible– Your success is dictated by how big of a foundation you can lay before you begin race specific training. If you can have an entire winter slowly building up your ability to run steady distance’s, it will pay dividends when the spring comes and you start some faster more intense runs as you will have a solid endurance base. If you’re really new to running I would recommend a season training for and racing shorter races like 5-10Km so you can get used to a) regular training and b) learn what a running race feels like, before you jump into the longer distance events. This season would also lay a fantastic foundation before you start doing long runs that are multiple hours in length.
  2. Don’t run too often- Although instinct is to run every or most day’s. In order to avoid overtraining and burnout you would be better off focusing on 3 really specific good runs that help you prepare. (Long run, Hills runs, Tempo runs). Then use the other days to continue building your endurance and aerobic fitness but not through running. This could mean swimming, rowing or cycling.It would preferable be non weight-bearing as this way you can recover from the impact of the runs but still continue to progress your aerobic capacity.
  3. Don’t inflate your goals If it’s your first marathon your goal should be to finish (it’s that tough). Once your training gets underway and you begin to see progress in your fitness, it is easy to inflate your goals. i.e. a goal of finishing a marathon soon becomes running it in sub 4 hours. This is not only an error as it can take your focus off what was initially important (to finish) it can possible make you try to run faster than your ability and ruin the whole race.
  4. Your weekly long run is the most important session. If your training on a regular basis then you will no doubt be progressing your aerobic endurance. However once a week you should be doing a ‘slow’ (slower than race pace) steady (no changes in speed) long (building up to 75% of race distance) run. This long run serves two purposes. 1) its is a good barometer to see how long you are comfortable running for long periods of time and how you are progressing as your training develops. 2) It prepares you to be comfortable on your feet moving at a failry high intensity for the duration or close to the duration of the race.
  5. Time on feet in training is more important than distance. You shouldn’t be aiming to run a marathon in training, however if you think the marathon is going to take 4 or 4.5 hours you should definitely prepare yourself to be on your feet for this amount of time. This is because it is too taxing on the body trying to complete a marathon length training run and will take weeks to recover from. However a low intensity training run of the same duration (can include breaks and walks) would not break you down as much but would have a positive training effect and be a great confidence boost. For example you may run 75% of the distance in your target race time as your longest run.
  6. Make your tempo run’s fast and your long runs slow– Most people run their easy  runs too fast and their hard runs too slow and just end up running all the time at a moderate pace which won’t develop or progress them. To get the most out of your sessions focus the race pace training runs (tempo runs) on quality rather than quantity and spend progressivly longer at these higher speeds. Then focus the long steady runs on acheiveing volume goals (quantity) and worry less about the pace (quality).
  7. Train your gut for race day nutrition If your planning on fuelling your race with gels and sports drinks (or some of your race) then you have to be prepared to have up to 3x gels per hour, which could mean upwards of 12 gels over the course. This isn’t an optimum way to get nutrition normally but for race days you should stick to the simplest method that your body can handle. If using gels is the case then you need to train your gut to withstand this amount of sugar and electrolytes, other wise you run the risk of stomach cramps or digestion issues during the race. The weekly long run is the perfect time to trial your nutrition strategy and adjust the amount of sports gels and drinks you take on based on trial and error.

Too Fast and Too Long

When your setting a time objective for an upcoming endurance race or setting a target for an event in the season there are two questions you need to ask you self

  1. Can you ride/run/swim as fast as you need to go to achieve this time in the event?
  2. Can your ride/run/swim for as long as you need during this event?

Too many people turn up at a race and either expect their body to suddenly be able to:

  • Race at a speed faster than they have never raced at or
  • Expect their body’s to endure a longer duration than they have ever endured before.
  • Worse they ask their body to do both.

In order to be successful in achieving your target time you need to prepare your body accordingly.

  • Set sessions where you build up to race speed and then extend the amount of time you can handle racing at this speed
  • Set sessions that are slower than your race pace but are longer in duration (not necessary in distance) this could be broken up over a day and split into chunks.

This way when you turn up on race day your body know’s it can go as fast as it needs to go and is at least prepared to go for as long as you need to go.

Cycling: Focus Sessions


Climbing is an integral part of cycling, unless you live somewhere dead flat then the gradient is what forces you out of a comfortable aerobic effort into a threshold or anaerobic zone. The ability to familiarise the body with this change in effort and learn how to manage the pace and exertion is paramount if you want to continue after the climb with out it taking too much energy out of you.


Cadence is important for improving  efficiency and for the body to learn how to generate high levels of torques without to much strain. The ability to manage your cadence will also help you manage changes in gradient and terrain and keep good momentum throughout the race.

Long steady rides

Long steady rides are the bread and butter of cycling. They are the foundation of your fitness and not only help you develop the endurance to complete long races, they also build endurance base that will enable you to recovery quicker and support a high volume of training. These generally are kept at a steady effort/HR throughout but over time increase in volume or duration.

Working at just below the effort that you begin to accumulate lactate, over time increases the point at which lactate accumulates. this means you can hold a higher intensity for a longer period before you begin to fatigue.

How to Plan Your First Ironman Triathlon: Part 1

Part 1 of this post will cover planning your first Ironman triathlon from:

  1. What is an Ironman?
  2. Am I fit enough?
  3. Which race should I do?
  4. How long will it take to prepare?

What is an Ironman?

First thing you need to understand is what is an Ironman and what specifically will it take to complete. An Ironman is a Long Distance form of a Triathlon. It begins with an Open water swim of 3.8Km a Bike of 180Km and finally a whole marathon run of 42.2km. To put into perspective the duration of the race I have broken each leg down below:

Source: RunTri

  • Average Swim time: 1hr 16mins
  • Average Bike time: 6hrs 25mins
  • Average Run time: 4hrs 54mins
  • Total: 12hrs 35mins

The current world record for the Ironman distance is 7hrs 41mins set by Jan Frodeno in 2016. One this to note is most Ironman events have a cut off time of 0f 15-17 hours.

Now you know the distance required to complete and the duration spend on each discipline, you can understand what level of fitness you will need to attain in order to complete the challenge.

Am I fit enough?

If this is your first Ironman distance event your only goal should be to complete it, regardless of your ability. It is easy to get carried away with past experience and of  elevated fitness levels during your training and begin to change your ambitions. This is known as goal inflation and should be avoided at all costs. When you set out to ‘complete’ the race it is a massive achievement, but it is easy to see others who are aiming for SubX time or to qualify for a championships, or to beat their training buddy. Swallow your ego and ignore others peoples goals. Concentrate on finishing and this should remain your exclusive goal.

Now its time to understand your current fitness levels and determine the gap between your fitness now and the fitness required to complete the race. some good ways to understand where you currently are, if your new to triathlons it would be wise to spend at least a season or two building up to the olympic distance, not only is this a safer way to do it but by learning the basics in a shorter race it will make an ironman much more enjoyable as you can focus on the performance rather than the basics of a triathlon such as pacing,transitions,competition environment and managing your fuel.

  • Fastest time for a recent triathlon (olympic or half)
  • Longest time spent cycling in training
  • Longest cycle event completed and duration it took
  • Longest continuous open water or pool swim
  • Longest run and what was your average speed.

The general guide for knowing if you are at Ironman fitness, surprisingly is not being able to run a marathon or to ride for 10 hours straight, it is much more race specific than that. If you have gradually built up your training to a level where you can complete 75% of the the total race distance in one day. Then this is a good barometer of success. That doesn’t mean it has to be non stop but that day may look like this:

  • Wake up snack or light breakfast
  • Open water swim 3Km continuous
  • Change, rest and have a snack or breakfast
  • Cycle 135Km or 5hrs
  • Change, rest, lunch
  • Run (run/walk) 30Km or a maximum of 2.5hrs
  • Recover, refuel and sleep

The above test day (brick workout) is a very long day but what it does is prepare your body to be exercising for an extremely long period of time, without the benefit of having some additional rest between disciplines and being able to fuel more appropriately. This is also is a safer way to push your limits than doing for example a half Ironman, which will put your body under increased stress and take longer to recover from.

Now you have two key bench marks to work from

  1. Your current fitness level

  2. Your desired fitness level (pre race day)

The next step is to build a plan backward from point 2 to understand how long this will take to achieve.

Which race should I do?

Planning which Ironman event to do needs to be a key consideration before you start your planning. You may dream of doing it in an exotic location or picking one which is right on your doorstep. but with the enormity of the challenge in mind there are a lot of factors to consider:

  • Budget– Pick and event you can comfortably afford (remember it is likely to be a weekend trip) it takes pressure off if the worst happens and you can’t make the event.
  • Access for Supports– Having supporters in the crowd is the best part of the race, make sure its a venue where they can come to see you race
  • Climate– If you train in a cool climate, don’t pick an event where you run the risk of heat exhaustion, pick one as close to training climate as possible
  • Terrain– Know your strengths. If your a weak cyclist find a course with the fastest bike route (note: not always the flattest)
  • Ocean or Lake Swim– If you’ve never swam in the ocean it may be wise to pick a calmer lake swim
  • Popularity– Some iconic locations are great events to do, but don’t let the hype make you pick a course not suited to you.
  • Branded or Unbranded– Unbranded ‘Ironman’ events are significantly cheaper and often just as well organised. If you want the bragging rights of the brand then prioritise that. If you just want to finish the distance save the cash and go unbranded.
  • Time– Depending on how early/late in the season the race is will dictate how much time you have to train but also how much of your season/summer will be spent preparing for the race.
  • Location– Flying you bike abroad is expensive and stressful as is being in a foreign country, unless your comfortable with the added stress pick a race more local.

How long will it take to prepare?

Once you have picked a race/event you know what date you need to be in peak condition for.  Below is a guide as to where you need to be fitness wise in the build up to the event.

  • Race Day: Fit, Rested, Energised and Injury free
  • 2 -4 weeks out from race day: Your peak volume training should be completed and you are now at your ‘fittest’ state. The challenge between now and race day is to maintain as much of that fitness while gradually reducing training load to ensure you are resting and recovering fully. This means by race day you will be slightly less fit but significantly more recovered.
  • 4 weeks out: Peaked your  total training volume and have completed your largest brick session of 75% of race distance completed in one day.
  • 8 weeks out:  Built your training volume up to a point that you have completed 50% of race distance in one day
  • 12 weeks out: Built your training volume up to a point that you have  completed 30-40% of race distance in one day.
  • 16 weeks out: Built a solid foundation pre season where you can cycle/run at a slow steady rate for multiple hours ( approx 1.5-3hrs) and swim a broken aerobic session for up to an hour.

16 weeks is a long training cycle and getting into ironman condition in this amount of time is dependant on how much time you spent building a base in the preseason/winter season prior.

As a rule; the longer the base (steady aerobic conditioning) the more successful you will be.

Part 2 coming soon…..


Cold Weather Winter Training

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment.

This could never be more true. Today was the first time this year I jumped onto the bike and felt the wind chill my extremities and longed for a swift warm up to get my blood pumping and my internal radiator started.

When your feeling low on motivation because the sky is grey and the ground is wet or its dark outside and theirs a frost in the air its time to review what equipment and clothing you have to support you in your training and protect you from the elements. Weather your Running,Walking, Cycling here are some suggestions below to keep you safe and warm in the winter months.

  • Breathable Beanie/Skull Cap
  •  Wind Breaker /Rain Jacket
  • Gillet
  • Thermal Gloves
  • Multiple Layers are better than one thick one
  • Leggings/Leg Warmers
  • Head Torch/Bike Lights/ Torch
  • Buff (like a scarf)
  • Multiple Socks or Thick Socks
  • Toes or Shoe covers (waterproof)
  • Clear Eye wear
  • Ear Warmers
  • Waterproof trainers
  • Fluorescent Jacket/Gillet/Vest
  • Bright Rucksack cover
  • Reflectors
  • Mobile Phone

This is not exhaustive, but if your wandering why you never want to get out and train in the winter and you aren’t owning some of the above. It may be time to recheck your equipment and update to relevant climate. Be safe.

Comment below any other ideas on winter must have equipment.