The daffodils are out, spring is here. Hurrah, WELL DONE everyone, winter miles have been ticked off. Let’s hope Sunday rides are less about surviving hours of head winds, freezing temperatures, chewing salt and grit and more about sunglasses, shorts, T-shirts and ice cream stops.
So a little winter summary. Winter, a time to get in the training for the summer triathlon races. It appears everyone has an opinion on what training is best, what you should do, when and how much of it. What is the correct answer? Is there a correct answer? I doubt it. That is the great thing about sport; you can have several athletes, preparing for the same event, going about their preparation in different ways, to suit their needs, because as we know everyone is different. I have just finished reading "The Perfect Distance:Ovett and Coe:The Record Breaking Rivalry" and this exemplified the stark differences between the two in their approaches to their quest for the same goal. It's well worth a read.
During the winter, I have been asked, “So what training are you doing? What’s the secret?” I thought I would share my winter training with you using a little analogy.
Let’s compare training with fancy dress making. I do love a bit of fancy dress. Recently I attended a friends 30th Birthday party, the fancy dress theme “London Tube stops” I decided on High Barnet.
Step 1: Careful consideration and research
The London tube has 270 stops, plenty of choice. Just like planning your race calendar. Do you go for something like Marylebone, not so straight forward, needs some thought, is it possible to combine Bob Marley and a bone? In a way, a bit like a challenging race like Slateman Triathlon in North Wales with the notorious run up the Slateman quarry tracks, or do you go for something more straight forward? Like Wimbledon, tennis whites or Baker Street, apron and rolling pin. A bit like your local pool based sprint triathlon.
Image: Transport for London
Step 2: Sourcing the materials/ Skill acquisition
Having decided on the tube stop, High Barnet. The next step is sourcing the materials, I was thinking a Beehive wig, did Leeds market have one? No. So improvisation was key, some fabric and wire purchased from the market and I decided to make my own using existing household objects. Similar to skills acquisition in triathlon training. What skills do you need for your chosen race? What have you already got in your armory? What are your strengths and what are the weaknesses? What skills need sourcing? For me, I come from a running background, having been cross-country running since I was 13 years old; I have a fair few miles in my legs. Swimming is the skill I am attempting to acquire, as it’s the discipline I only started in 2012. I visited Coach Lou in Birmingham where we filmed and analysed my swim technique and have been using specific drills to improve throughout the winter.
Step 3: Laying the foundations.
Old bike helmet, layered up with plastic kitchen bowls and Tupperware were the foundations for my High Barnet fancy dress. I needed it to be sturdy, so it would cope with the dance floor. Just like requiring a sturdy body to cope with the rigors of Triathlon. Injuries, something that can happen but we all try and avoid. Gym work, strength and conditioning, mobility work has played a big part of my winter program in laying the foundations. This winter I have started Yoga and working with Sarah at The Movement Therapy Centre in Leeds to increase my mobility and range of motion. This has been crucial in building a body that can not only withstand the rigors of hours and hours of training, but to carry out the training effectively.
Step 4: Building the blocks a bit higher
I had the basics of the High Barnet established, it was sturdy and I had the initial layers, it was time to
add some height, it’s not Low Barnet but High Barnet after all! How high should it be? It is a balancing act, just like training, attempting to get the desired result, with out causing too much chaos. Training is all about balance, and as everyone says, consistency. Day after day, week after week, month after month, putting the work in, no heroics but following the plan, progressing step by step, making tweaks where necessary and focusing on making the end destination, that goal race in peak form.
Step 5: Getting more specific
With the High Barnet, as high as dance floor appropriate, I added the fabric. I am not sure how to compare this to one section in triathlon so I will share some of my Bike training with you. Coach Louise Barron is the brain behind my training. She thinks it up, explains it and I do it. This year my training started in October, following an end of season breather with a few weeks of mountain biking and casual riding. We started on the rollers, for pedal technique alongside big gear long hill reps out on the road, we then progress to shorter sharper hill efforts. Its tough getting warmed up in winter weather with traffic lights to contend with so I often warm up on the turbo, getting my heart rate in the right place, then pull leggings and winter jersey on, jump on the road bike and hit the hills reps outside. Now we are onto 2 turbo workouts a week, one consisting of short reps, one longer sweet spot efforts. That’s where we are now, last year; the more specific stage went onto doing TT work on a local 12mile road loop and weekly chain gang with the local Leeds cyclists/triathletes. So training follows a progressive pattern in blocks, getting more race specific as the season progresses. Refueling on OTE protein, post turbo workout, is just the ticket, especially when you have a train to catch shortly after the session that requires energy to dash across the train station.
Step 6: Trimming the edges
The fabric was on, now I just needed to trim the fabric so i could actually see! Hey presto the High Barnet was complete. In Triathlon, this is the final stage, race prep, or “the taper” as some call it. I personal prefer “race prep” as when I look at the training Coach Lou gives me, the diary is still pretty full. Less volume but still getting out in open water to do a few pre race day efforts, a few short sharp running efforts to keep the legs bouncy. Race prep is a very individual. For me it has been trial and error. I experimented with getting a quick swim or run in on race morning, as I find I need a fair bit of warming up to feel race ready. I personally prefer resting at the start of the week and then building into a race. It’s a very individual trimming process.
Some of the girls in their fancy dress outfits. Top efforts by everyone, achieved in very individual ways, just like training and race preparation.
That's it, winter is done, a lot of training is ticked off, a lot more to do but spring is here, and that meant last week was spent cycling with Alba Rosa cycle club, in Spain. A week with 24 guys who have smoother legs than me! I wrote an article titled "Fuelling a days training in Spain" for OTE, which can be found on their website here. It gives an insight into the fun I had sea swimming, cycling in the mountains and finishing the day with a run and how I fuel all this fun!
Which leads to me introduce you to the BigSuz Team. Over the winter i have been working hard in creating a team to help me accomplish my triathlon goals.
OTE: Are a nutrition company, based in Leeds and are providing me with race and training nutrition. I was introduced as an OTE fueled athlete on their website a few weeks ago, you can read it here.
Race Skin: Provide costum triathlon and cycle kit to clubs and individuals. Based in Yorkshire Raceskin are my Kit sponsors.Thanks Colin for getting me some new kit in time for the many miles we cycled in Spain.
The Movement Therapy: Set up by Sarah Pitts. The movement therapy centre is helping me with weekly mobility sessions run by Sarah, who has magic hands and is fast becoming known as the movement guru!
Always Aim High Events: Are supporting me with shoes and specific pieces of gear.
Team BigSuz is growing and it's great to have you all on board. I will be writing articles for OTE and Raceskin so keep an eye on their websites. If you want to join the team, get in touch as I am still looking for people to help fund the triathlon dreams.