This is the first instalment of my 2019 triathlon training recap, where I intend to write a four weekly blog covering how the training has gone during that period. There is no set end date for this other than renaming to 2020 triathlon training if it runs into next year.
In 2019 I have four triathlons on the plan:
- May – Ironman 70.3 Mallorca
- June – Abersoch Olympic Triathlon
- July – Ironman UK
- September – Ironman Wales
My goal for 2019 is to just be better than in 2018. Last year I raced IRONMAN 70.3 STAFFORDSHIRE and IRONMAN UK although I say raced, I didn’t go flat out in either of them, 2018 was more about learning triathlon and seeing whether I can complete the middle and long distance triathlons. I would like to see PB’s on all three disciplines and overall time in both middle and long distance in 2019.
To help me achieve this goal I decided to seek the help of a triathlon coach. During the second half of 2018 I worked with a run coach culminating in me running a PB in the NEW YORK CITY MARATHON I really enjoyed working with a coach and I learned a great deal from this as well as benefiting from a better race experience. So I wanted to reap the same rewards in triathlon and turned to British Triathlon to help me find a local(ish) coach who could not only provide online coaching but also the 1:2:1 coaching I felt I needed in the swim department. I was put in touch with a coach called Stephen Greene who is based in Derbyshire. After doing some research online and a few chats with Steve, I decided to go for it. Steve is a Team GB Age Group triathlete as well as full time certified British Triathlon coach. I felt the Steve should have the knowledge and skills to guide me through training and maximise my potential.
I was asked what my ultimate goal was, I replied with a very ambitious goal of qualifying for both the 70.3 and Ironman World Championships. Being realistic I know this will not happen in 2019 but as with any goal you have to give yourself checkpoints to tick off as you make progress to that bigger end goal. My first checkpoints are to improve on 2018.
These are my first steps along that path, the first steps towards Kona Hawaii.
This blog will be longer than future posts as I had an initial testing day to assess all aspects of my technique and form, future posts will just be updates on the weeks training.
Initial Testing Day
One thing I was very keen on putting in place was a 1:2:1, face to face, in person, whatever you want to call it, working relationship with Steve. Last year I had an online relationship with my run coach, which at the time was what I wanted and could fit into my family life. Following on from that, one area I pin pointed as a potential improvement in 2019 could be my run technique, until now I had never ran with anyone watching and assessing how I run. The same was true about my cycling, although I felt I was a fairly decent and strong cyclist, but my swimming I felt could benefit massively from technique training.
Before putting any plans into place, Steve wanted me to spend four hours with him so that he could see and film me running, cycling and swimming. Then give me feedback and tips on quick wins or drills to improve my technique where needed. I told him beforehand that I felt my swimming would need a lot of work, cycling probably wouldn’t need much and running I felt I was ok given I had just ran a 3:17 marathon.
First up was running. I ran around the sports hall at a slow pace and fast pace all whilst being watched. Knowing that someone is watching you and potentially picking fault with your form and technique was nerve-racking and a little off putting at first. I did go into this with the mindset that any help is going to be for the good and I was willing to take any and all advice onboard and learn, nobody is perfect and even the best have to work on something.
After running around for 20 minutes and a chat with Steve, the general feedback was my form is pretty decent. I do land with my heal which I have seen on all of my race photos and I don’t really lift my knee very high, although, that gives me the perfect Ironman shuffle. By heel striking I am in effect putting my foot down, stopping and pulling my body over my foot rather than the natural landing and powering through in one motion, also by running with higher knees I could be pushing through with more power to drive me forward faster.
All good advice and not a complete disaster. I now have some drills I can build into my warm up and cool down runs to try and improve these areas going forward.
Next up was cycling, we went out on the bikes for a ride around Staffordshire, again being watched but feeling a little better about it now I was on the bike. Similar to the run analysis I was asked to ride slow and fast, in the lowest gear and then in top gear. I had only been out on the bike twice since Ironman UK in July so when asked to give 100% effort in the highest gear it felt damn tough, after the second effort I had to get off the bike, I was nearly throwing up. Bike fitness clearly needs working on, although at this stage, I had the flu a few weeks before which I used as my excuse, I think he saw straight through that though. Next up I had to follow him at half effort and he would accelerate four times going from 5 – 9 in effort. He told me to see how long I can keep up with him. I thought that I am fairly decent on the bike so should be able to keep up. Each time he accelerated I dropped back initially before holding that gap once I got up to speed. My reaction to his moves were slow and I didn’t have that burst of power to answer it. Another good learning point. I have never raced on the bike so knowing how to answer a move and how to put in a big sudden burst of power is something I have not done and will be really good to learn.
All in all, the bike was a good session, the main points were I lift my heels too much when peddling, I need to keep my foot flat and use my calves to power through the stroke. Other than that he suggested I raise the hight of my seat to give me more power potential too. I have never had a bike fit done, it has always been at what felt comfortable rather than most efficient, so the seat is going up by 15mm to start with.
So this is the biggie, the area I knew I could really improve my technique. I only got back into swimming in August 2017 after 25 years out of the pool and to make matters worse, the stroke I used to be good at in school, Back Stroke, is banned and actually the sign of distress in open water swimming. That sums up where my swimming is at. Over the lat 12 months my front crawl has improved from not being able to use arms and legs in sync and keeping my head out of the water to swimming confidently in the pool and lakes and completing the 2.4 mile Ironman UK swim.
Steve had me swimming lengths whilst he filmed me from above, in front, behind and under water. This was exactly what I wanted and knew this would be a massive benefit come race day in May.
It turns out that my technique is not the complete disaster I thought it would be. I had managed to teach myself some good points from my YouTube learning during winter/spring 2018.
Areas to improve on are mainly, I do not pull through using the full stroke, at the moment I am using around 30% – 40% of my potential power during the pull. Obvious benefits from building on that are a faster more efficient stroke. I need to keep my hand flat and facing backwards throughout the stroke as well as a higher elbow. My left arm crosses the centre line as seen in the second photo below and also waves in an S shape during the pull.
I have been given a number of drills and skuls to work on in the pool and slowly bring my technique into a better place. I was really pleased to have been given this feedback and direction, hopefully over time these drills will pull through into my fast paced swims and become second nature which should mean I get out of the water quicker and closer to the front in future races.
Week 1 – 10th – 16th December
Not too much on the mileage and tempo front this week, the goal from these sessions was to build a baseline and gather heart rate, pace, cadence and power data to build more personalised sessions in the future. I am also using these early weeks to rest the achilles which had been aching ever since Ironman Staffordshire in June.
Two swims, three bike and three runs. My first proper swim and bike sessions since early July and it felt like it too, but thats good, its the baseline and platform to build on. The running did feel really slow after the fast paced training I had done for New York but again, this is week one, although with the Tokyo marathon 11 weeks away I felt like I should be smashing out a 2 hour long run but realistically, 16 miles is a good starting point with the achilles getting stronger by the day and still getting over the flu from November. My VO2Max score on my Garmin (I know!! it’s not that accurate) is down 5 over the last 3 weeks and 10 from the high going into Ironman UK. The drop of 5 is down to the flu but the drop of the other 5 since July is the culmination of the ongoing Achilles niggle and two lots of calf cramping during races.
I added in an extra run at the Wilmslow Parkrun to meet up with my mate and have a run together. Nothing too taxing was the plan and it was really cold so I ended up running at 20:02, only 16 seconds off a Parkrun PB and whilst not 100%. That gave me some fuel to try for a sub 20 Parkrun and maybe push for a PB later in the year.
- Swim – 5,249yrds, 2hr 3mins
- Bike – 74.7miles, 3hr 41mins
- Run – 16.3miles, 2hr 18mins
Week 2 – 17th – 23rd December
Following a similar line to last week, we were data gathering again with one swim, three rides and four runs. We did put in a longer ride and some more efforts at higher power and pace but still keeping in mind, its week 2.
Spurred on by a half decent Parkrun last week, I joined Jonny at the local Congleton Parkrun and we were going to go for it and see what we have. Congleton is flatter but more of a trail path than tarmac. Jonny paced me around and kept shouting at me to keep up and go faster with the challenge of pushing him and kicking on over the last quarter mile. 19:02 and a new Parkrun PB and still not 100%, room for more improvement there but the flu effects are clearing up and the achilles is starting to feel stronger and less pain when running.
- Swim – 2,078yrds, 55mins
- Bike – 99.6miles, 4hr 53mins
- Run – 23.9miles, 3hr 27mins
Week 3 – 24th – 30th December
Christmas week was a quieter week on the training front with one swim, one bike and four runs. The focus is more on the run side of things in the early stages of the triathlon journey. I have Tokyo and Manchester marathons to run in March & April so we are slowly building the miles up towards those, working on strength and speed work for now. Each run I have been incorporating the new drills into my warm up and cool down. Drills like high knee jumps, fast feet, strides, double bunny hops and squat jumpers. All adding to the power of my run and encouraging me to push harder with the arms and legs to drive me forward. Over these short face paced runs this will start to see an impact and bring down 5k & 10k times as well as pulling through into the longer runs.
Friday lunch time I had sprint intervals, 10 reps of 1 minute bursts flat out at 5:40 pace followed by 2 minute recover at 7:50 pace. Saturday was another all in Parkrun although this time managing at 19:32, down on last week but still my 2nd fastest Parkrun. Then Sunday was the third tough speed session in a row with hill sprints.
- Swim – 2,187yrds, 43mins
- Bike – 28miles, 1hr 42mins
- Run – 27.8miles, 3hr 41mins
Week 4 – 31st December – 6th January
Into the new year and my first fairly big week at 10 hours. I am sure in a few months time a 10 hour week will feel like a week off but for now it was a big one.
I finished 2018 off with a short interval session on the bike, 5 lots of 3 mins at 9RPE. I began 2019 the same way as I brought in 2018 with a Parkrun double. This was down on the plan as a rest day but I sold the Parkrun double idea to Steve as I would take them easy. I was half right, Congleton I ran flat out again, hoping to beat my 2018 time to show improvement year on year since 2017 but came home in 19:35, slower again then the second Parkrun at Crewe I took steady and wanted to practice pacing so aimed for a 21min 5k and ran 21:01.
I swam Wednesday and Thursday with varying paces although the difference between my max effort and easy effort is non existent, it seems when I push hard my technique goes out of the window and I don’t actually go any faster but when I slow down and concentrate I swim quicker. Steve did say that the more I work on technique the more it will become second nature but it could take anywhere up to 15-20 weeks for the improvements to pull into my fast pace swims.
Saturday again, Parkrun. This time running at The Wammy in Newcastle which has more hills than Congleton but is ran on tarmac. I lined up in my usual place about 10 from the front, I never like to go at the front because I know most people are faster and I don’t want to be that guy who gets in the way. After about 1/4 mile I was in 6th place in a group of four with the front two disappearing down the road. I haven’t really “raced” in the front group since my cross country days running for Staffordshire in school, so I decided to have some fun and use some race tactics and try to brake those around me. I ran on the back for a little while, put in some surges to see who would go with me and ended up dropping the pack and running in free air. I did worry then that the pack would come back on me but I decided to turn my attention to the two down the road. Second place was about 20 seconds ahead and first place looked a good 30 seconds away. I chased down second, making lots of noise to make him believe I was right on his tail. He looked back a few times and I knew I had him at that point. I decided to pass him and see if he could go with me with one mile to go, I just bolted and went after the leader catching him with every stride, I just ran out of road in the end finishing 6 seconds off and pulling out 24 seconds on the guy I passed 1 mile back. Finishing up with a 18:25, another new Parkrun PB and highest ever Parkrun finish. I REALLY loved that run, racing at the front and pushing past what my mind was telling me was too much. Still 19 seconds off my 5k PB time but an improvement of 1:41 on what was my Parkrun PB 3 weeks ago.
- Swim – 5,167yrds, 2hr 0mins
- Bike – 74.2miles, 3hr 43mins
- Run – 33miles, 4hr 5mins