Back to back Ironmans

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Ironman is a stupid enough way to spend a day at the best of times – so racing Zurich four weeks after my Fast-But-Not-Quite-Fast-Enough 9:05 at Austria was always going to be ‘interesting’ and the range of possible outcomes was rather wide – from a tiny chance of a better race than Austria to a far higher chance of it being calamitous. But as I wanted to be in Kona again this year, especially with James going for a once in a lifetime trip, it was a risk I just had to take. The physical response would take care of itself and my body would give me whatever it had on the day – I was fairly relaxed about that. I seemed to recover pretty well with 1.5 weeks super easy, 1.5 weeks of moderate training and then my normal race week. Swimming felt great, biking about normal and running was 50-50, as you’d expect. But I did two things differently – I didn’t go out drinking quite as enthusiastically as normal after an Ironman, and I did a lot of light and short swim and bike training in that first 10 days, which I’ve never done before. Keeping your body moving really does speed recovery. It hurts but it’s worth it.

What I was more concerned about was the mental side and how to deal with the voices that would be screaming ‘you raced one of these ridiculous races four weeks ago – you’re bound to be rubbish’ as soon as things got hard on the run – which they inevitably would as 1) it’s an Ironman – it always gets hard on the run; and 2) there’s no getting away from the fact that I did indeed race one four weeks before.

The course at Zurich is about 15 minutes slower than Austria and prior year results suggested a good performance (9:15-9:25) might be a podium in my age group – but they increased it to 65 Kona slots given it was the 20th anniversary. On the one hand this was great as it meant nine slots in my age group (vs. the paltry four at Austria), but on the flip side it was foolish to think other slot chasers hadn’t also then come flocking to make this a far more competitive race at the sharp end. Even so, I thought that anything under 9:30 would be very unlucky to miss out. To add to the fun and games, I did the trip with my mate Will Newbery who had missed out at Ironman France and was also slot hunting in the same age group. On paper we’re pretty similar with my 10-15 minute faster bike being cancelled out by his 10-15 minute faster run. But it would be friendly fire (despite the appalling pre-race banter) as there were plenty of slots for both of us, and it would be great to have a benchmark on the course. We also had Nico out in support as a roving reporter giving us age group placings on the course thanks to info from friends tracking online.

Zurich is a great course with a normal one lap lake swim and four lap town run but the jewel in the crown was an absolute belter of a bike leg. Two laps with 45k of pancake flat TT riding and 45k of hills with both long dragging 4-10% climbs and very steep, technical descents. 1700m climbing and the profile of the descents means it’s a slow course – whilst any goon can fly down the long, straight Austria descents (especially when wedged in a peloton), Zurich rewards risk takers, good bike handlers and good aerodynamics. When we drove the course with my friend Kai who lives in Zurich I was really excited as it suits my riding and didn’t look conducive to drafting groups forming.

Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich
Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich

Just as I had done at Austria, Will and I went on the front line of the rolling swim start with Alex Bradley (Team Freespeed’s new 21-year old sub-9 guy) – but I just wasn’t firing in the water, couldn’t hold Will’s feet and swum a disappointing 59 minutes (turns out it was near 4k, but even so I should be faster), with Nico telling me Will was two minutes up the road.

Thankfully my bike legs felt good from the off. I caught Alex at maybe 10k and encouraged him to come with me and then found Will at about 20k, who I absolutely didn’t encourage to come with me seeing as he has a 3:02 run in his locker. It took two 350w+ attacks (I was suitably impressed/concerned when Will came back at me after the first) but I managed to get away and then reached the hills with three strong looking riders - Alex had chosen not to come, which I thought boded well for his race. This group stayed together nicely in the hills but, as expected, fell apart back on the flats with most of them having ridden too hard and I set about getting as close to the front of the race as possible on the second lap seeing as I still felt great.

Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich
Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich

I was enjoying one of my best Ironman rides, loving the course (including hitting 89kmh on one of the descents – squeaky bum time!) and there was barely a soul out there. So I was, frankly, pretty pissed off to learn from Kai at 150k that there were maybe 20 age groupers ahead of me – I thought I’d be way higher up than that. So I knew then the slot-hunters had indeed turned out in numbers and this was going to be a harder day than hoped. At least this time I knew that everyone at the sharp end would be doing the run on tired legs as the bike course was both tough and better refereed than Austria. I came off the bike in 4:59, about what I was hoping and the poor swim was long forgotten.

Before the race I was expecting to be well in the mix at T2 and was hoping my run legs were something like Austria (3:15-3:20) so that a top-9 place and a slot would be safe – but that if I hadn’t recovered and they weren’t good then I was prepared to fight and scrap for the c.3:30 run that should see me grab one of the last slots.

I ran out of T2 feeling alright. Not great but not bad. Yet again I started running too fast with the first 4k at 3:05 marathon pace – I managed to slow myself down before my body did it for me and then my body gave me my pace for the day – which was about 4:45s (3:20 marathon pace). I reached the end of lap one of four in 47:30, and Nico told me I was 5th in AG after the bike – I was disappointed not to be higher, but was well into the top-9 so I had the buffer I needed, I was feeling great and a sensible run should be safe. Also, no sign of Will at the out and back section where you see anyone within eight minutes of you. Alex was four minutes back, looking good.

Only that didn’t last long. On lap two the gorilla threatened to jump on my back – I didn’t slow much but it just felt way harder than lap one. Just as this was happening Nico told me I had fallen to 9th in AG after lap one – despite running well. WTF?? Right then… cue the voices… cue the mental fight/negotiation. Now it was hot. Surely if I was struggling at an unsustainable feeling 4:45-50s now the second half would be a car crash? Surely easing off to a 3:30 marathon would be safe? Surely this can’t be another race with loads of age groupers running sub-3? Then I saw Will – he was eight minutes behind me. You know that comment earlier that there was plenty of space in the Kona slots for the both of us? At that moment I knew that most likely wasn’t the case. In my head I was racing Will for the last slot – and he the same. At eight minutes back with 24k to go my mental arithmetic told me it would be bloody close, and he was motoring. Lap two in 50:38.

The saving grace is now having the experience of dragging my way out of these bad patches. And somehow despite the voices being loud, I managed to do it again on lap three. Will had only closed the gap to six minutes at the turnaround – but Alex had gone as the end of his race was unravelling. Lap three in 50:16. And I was still in 9th. Mine to lose now. I’d also started running with the 3rd female pro, Michaela Herlbauer, who had been in the bike pack that caught me at Austria before running 2:59. How curious that after a proper bike ride she couldn’t run quite so fast…

The last lap was hard but it always felt like the wheels were just about still attached to the wagon, and trying to keep in front of Michaela’s bike lead out was a good mental distraction. Nico seemed to think I was safe from those behind me in 9th but you never know, so I turned myself inside out and dragged myself to the line for a final lap of 50:39 - a 3:21 marathon and 9:25 finish. It was a short wait for Will who arrived at the line totally spent at 9:30 – hugs and tears replaced words in acknowledging we had pushed eachother to the limit. I found out later he’d had a five-minute penalty on the bike. Without that it would have likely have been a sprint finish…

Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich
Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich
Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich
Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich

Scores on the doors: 34th overall out of 1600, 32nd male, 8th in M35-39 (I got someone in the last 5k) and 1st Brit. And most importantly Kona ticket stamped. Much like Austria I don’t think I could have got to the line any faster. Given I felt significantly worse than on the run at Austria (3:14), I’m delighted with keeping my body and head together for a 3:21 marathon. I suspect my slower run here was as much to do with a proper bike ride on a tough course (I spent the last 90 minutes at Austria twiddling my thumbs 12m off the back of a peloton) as having Austria in my legs. This time on a level playing field my slower run moved me up from 45th at T2 to 34th at the finish. It’s possibly my best Ironman to date given what had come before and the pressure I’d put on myself to deliver a Kona slot. I was hoping not to need to scrap for a slot, but I did and got it done.

Zurich is a terrific course and race, made even better by racing with Will and having amazing support from Kai and Nico. Whilst it doesn’t quite have the support and impact of huge races like Austria or Frankfurt, with slick Swiss organisation and a tougher bike course it was certainly a fairer and more enjoyable race for me. The only negative is that Zurich is an astonishingly expensive place to visit - £35 for a burger and beer anyone?

Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich
Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich

Whilst my Hawaii slot was in the bag, the rolldown was a case of biting our fingernails to see if Will, who finished 11th(with 10th just one second ahead!), was going to be joining me. I know exactly what a horrible morning he had. Given the number of slot chasers who had so obviously turned out, it was doubtful… but I had a sneaky feeling that Madame Pele might be looking out for him given he passed on a slot last year and that he’s done his time. When the guy in 7th joined the guy in 4th in declining there were tears and hugs for the second time that weekend.

I’m not sure I’d recommend back to back Ironmans, but it was an amazing weekend and after 11 Ironmans I continue to learn more about myself and my body – I think the long, consistent winter’s prep with the Optima short course guys was the reason I was able to back up Austria so solidly. Time for a bit of a break before building up for Kona now. This time I go with expectations for myself and the pressure that brings.

It’s truly a stupid sport. But a magical one. We’re all hooked. Roll on October. Kona Baby.

Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich
Paul Burton, Ironman Zurich

Article by Paul Burton - the article first appeared here on optimaracingteam.com.

Ironman Austria 2016 - race report by Paul Burton

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Almost as soon as I had crossed the line at Kona last year then I knew my goal for Austria this year was sub-9. I’ve got some friends – freaks - for whom this is a walk in the park and many - let’s call them ‘normal’ people - for whom it’s ridiculous, which it clearly is given how few people achieve it and how stupid long distance triathlon is. But for me after a 9:34 on a slow day at Kona it felt pitched just right – hopefully achievable and certainly scary - so I’d stuck it up on my fridge in magnetic Scrabble letters in October 2015. Saying ‘yeah, I can see me running a 3:15 off a 4:45 bike and 54 minute swim’ is one thing – but I’ve experienced the hell hole of the second half of an Ironman marathon enough times to know that the reality is normally quite another. But then I still love training and the balance it gives other parts of my life and I’ve continued to improve this year after a long winter build under James’ guidance (and getting duffed up by the Optima juniors in the pool). Whilst it’s a big goal, it just felt like incremental improvement. So why the heck not?

Winter was great, and the first two months of my three-month build was even better before a couple of wobbles in the final month (sorry to the cleaning staff at Stockwell tube station) led to an amusing/stressful hokey-cokey decision as to whether to crack on with Austria or regroup for a race a few weeks later. I eventually chose to race and am sat here now I’m delighted that I did.

I’ve avoided Austria in the past as it’s really not the place to qualify for Kona, but having scratched that itch last year I chose Austria this year given its legendary reputation. Within 10 seconds of seeing the bright turquoise waters of Wörthersee at Klagenfurt on Wednesday I knew why – it’s stunning. And then Nico and I recce’d the bike course on Thursday and I was sold for a second time. God is clearly a fan of Ironman and he designed his own playground in Southern Austria. I loved that it was no drag strip course – rolling throughout with a couple of punchy climbs on the loops away from the lake with long, fast descents afterwards, including a 20k rocket back down into Klagenfurt at the end of each lap. Right up my street. It’s a fast course partly because of this profile but also because it’s way short at 176k (shhh, don’t tell anyone).

Paul Burton IM Austria (3)
Paul Burton, IM Austria (4)

Race day was set to be fast. The temperature had been over 30 in the days before, but was a bit cooler with a max of about 27, the water was just cool enough for it to be wetsuit legal (but not for the pros), and there was rain forecast in the afternoon. ‘If not now, when?’

I’m really not a fan of the rolling swim starts Ironman have introduced this year. Firstly, it means you’ve no idea if someone by your side in the race is actually ahead or behind you. Secondly, as a strong swimmer and someone who trains for and relishes the chaos of 3,000 people aiming for the same buoy it feels unfair to remove one of the biggest fear factors of racing. If you want easy, take up Zumba. But it is what it is, and rather than try to second guess whether it would be faster to start further back and work through the field on the swim and bike, I chose to go on the front row with Nico and Tony Cullen (who was also aiming for a sub-9 and finished 1 minute behind me at South Africa last year) to get out front and stay out front all day.

Which for four and a half hours is what happened. I felt strong and hit the first half of the swim hard, jumping on feet where I could and loving the final 1km down the narrow canal. Seeing I’d swum 55:50 was a bit disappointing but you never know how long swim courses are. I knew I’d swum well, very few people were around and I could hear Paul Kaye on the mic saying that ‘here are your first age groupers’. Job done.

Paul Burton, IM Austria

Out on the road I was amongst the first on the course as it was mainly pros around me (they started 10 mins before us). I say ‘pros’ but if this really is their profession I might suggest they get a new one – especially given most of them were trying to check the rear stitching pattern on the shorts of the guys around them. A couple of age groupers came past, including Tony at about 75k on the main descent at a pace I didn’t quite fancy (60k later than he passed me at South Africa last year, so I was pleased to hold him off for so long – he really does know how to ride a push bike) and was enjoying my solo ride. Paul Kaye shouted that I was about 10th age grouper at halfway and at 230-235w I was bang on target power, right on 37kmh / 4:45 pace and most importantly everything felt easy enough.

[Warning… Beginning of a rant]. Then things changed a bit, and my ability to dictate my own race went out the window. A pack I saw behind me at the 90k turnaround caught me at 116k. 24 people big, maximum gap about 4m. The only legal place in that rabble was 12m off the back or off the front. Three times I overtook them all and went off the front only to be chased back and swarmed. So I retired to 12m off the back and accepted that in the final hour of the ride my pace would be set for me, other than a petulant attack alongside a Dutch chap in the final 15 minutes to get a small gap at T2.

I don’t think this situation impacted my race time – but these guys (and girl) were cheating, saving their legs and at least 10 of them hopped off and ran sub-3 hour marathons into Kona slots, podiums and prize money. With everyone’s national flag on their race number, it’s safe to say those it was the only time since Friday I’ve been pleased about Brexit – Austria and Spain being the countries I’d most like to extradite Nigel Farage to. I didn’t see a single referee motorbike. Not one. Given that group was about 25th to 50th overall at that point, including male and female pros and most of the fast age groupers other than about 10 up the road, it’s a total farce. [Rant over].

I hit T2 after a bike of 4:49 and left to see 5hr 51 race time on the clock. My pre-race sub-9 plan was a 3:15 marathon off a 4:45 bike. Given I’d lost a few minutes to the plan, that 3:15 would be a 9:06 finish time, which would be a 24 minute PB. But it wasn’t what I was there for. Decision time… except there wasn’t one really.

I have a pet hate for motivational quotes that get pasted all over social media, with triathletes being particularly guilty parties. However, there is a caveat for Steve Prefontaine quotes. They’re allowed and should be actively promoted. The night before the race I stuck a particular Pre quote up on Facebook: ‘Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for the great.

Paul Burton, IM Austria (5)

I did this for just this situation – having stuck that rubbish up on Facebook I had to roll the dice should the situation arise and deal with the consequences.

Whilst I hope this isn’t the case, I may never be coming out of T2 for the opportunity of a sub-9 again. For the second time in the race, whether I liked it or not, my pace was being set for me. 3:09 marathon for a sub-9. With a previous Ironman marathon PB of 3:27 what could possibly go wrong? Well – we all know an awful lot could go wrong from here. But hey ho. On the positive side of things, my legs felt great running through transition, it was still raining so taking the edge off the heat, and I knew the course was 400m short, so it was ‘just’ 4:30km pace required. And I was angry – which isn’t unhelpful.

Despite needing a faster than expected marathon, I was still telling myself to hold back at the start. But despite this I ran the first 5km in 21:30, or bang on 3hr marathon pace. Hmm. This is either my best day ever and I’ve just turned into Mirinda Carfrae (who was just up the road – pretty cool), or I’m running headfirst into problems later. As ever reality struck and the early pace slowed – but only to 4:30-4:35 pace. And importantly I was hungry and working through my gels ahead of plan. Needing, wanting and being able to process the calories was a great sign – I’ve never actually had that before. Hang about Pabs – this really might be on. The only downer was seeing Nico (definitely not in race kit) cheering me on with Luzelle outside our apartment on the run course at 3km. I processed that he shouldn’t be there, but couldn’t muster up the question as to why he was. On the way back into town at 10km he told me he’d felt way below par early in the race and decided to stop – been there and it’s a very wise decision. Such a shame as he was in the best shape I’ve ever seen him. Ironman Wales watch out.

Anyhow – I didn’t have time to sympathise. Halfway in 1:34, bang on 4:30 average pace. Awesome – but things were beginning to slip and I was about to start a long, hard negotiation with the central governor. Time to engage the ‘Weak Point Plan(s)’ and break out the emergency Gu Espresso Love gels. I went through my armoury of plans but the legs just weren’t quite playing ball. By 25k I’d slipped to 4:40s, and then further to 4:50s and a 5:04 at 30k. Balls. This could be curtains, and I knew the sub-9 had gone (and most likely any sniff of a Kona slot with it) – the battle was hanging tough at 5:00s and keeping this under 9:10 which would be a huge PB and you never know – those in front of me might crack and a Kona slot might come back at me (‘they always crack!’)

Two things kept me going in the final 10km. Firstly it was the oldest of my Weak Point Plans – bullying and abusing myself. ‘Any **** can run 10k’, and then ‘any **** can run 5k’ and so on to the end. It works for me. The second was knowing that at the 17k turnaround I had been only 4 minutes behind Tony, who I thought was my competition for first Brit. At South Africa I had caught him on the run with 2km to go and now I was going hunting. As I got closer and closer to the 36km turnaround without seeing him ahead, past the point we’d crossed on lap one, the more excited I got… until I reached the turnaround without having seen him. Was he way ahead? Had I passed him? Had he DNF’d? I had no idea, but the chase had got me running back in the 4:50s and then the 4:40s and now with 5km to go it was time to empty the fumes in the tank and make up places, including a final one in the finish chute. It was a shame to miss Paul Kaye on the line following a failed red carpet dance move ruptured his cruciate ligament (‘hop, hop, hop’ as they say in Austria, PK) – but in truth I was tunnel-visioned, had little clue what was going on and broke the tape at 9:05:40 and a 3:14:51 marathon.

Paul IM Austria 1
Paul IM Austria2

Scores on the doors: 45th overall out of 2,900, 43rd male, 30th age grouper, 13th in M35 (megalolz) and 2nd Brit to Tony’s stunning 8:57. And really pleasingly a 1:40 second half of the marathon despite having gone out hard and rolled the dice, and a 25 minute Ironman PB. I went for the great, it didn’t quite stick, but I have no regrets and am delighted with every part of my performance as I couldn’t have got myself to the finish line quicker. The 4 Kona slots in my age group went down to 7th, in a rather rapid 8:55. Hats off to those guys all running sub-3 marathons. Well, the ones that had done it off a proper bike ride, that is.

The takeaways are almost entirely positive: - Austria is an incredible course with epic support that everyone should do at some point - I’m undoubtedly capable of sub-9 and I don’t think it’s going to take me the 5 attempts that qualifying for Kona took - I now have proof that the 3 to 4 months of consistent training leading into a race are more important than any of the final 3 or 4 weeks and that you can handle a mishap or two in those weeks – so I’ll chill out about it more next time it happens - My Ironman run is now as good as my swim and bike - Strength of mind and heart are just as, if not more, important than fitness - Don’t put limits on yourself – you’re almost certainly better than you think - I’m still learning loads and improving – after 9 years in triathlon and now 10 Ironmans - Your coach is almost always right - There’s no way I’m stopping this game yet And one negative: - Assuming you can’t change cultural behaviour, unless Ironman begins to referee Austria properly, don’t go there as a pro or fast age grouper and expect a fair race.

As part of my final couple of weeks’ wobble I entered Ironman Switzerland as a back-up plan in case I didn’t make the Austria start line. Whilst Kona qualification was never the main goal this year, I’ve had major pangs of jealousy since a number of friends have qualified, including the boss, James. So I’ve decided to experiment and see what kind of performance I can string together 4 weeks after another Ironman – so I’ll be lining up at Switzerland gunning for a Kona slot – a long term goal is a great performance on the Big Island and that requires as much experience of the race as possible. This performance showed me the benefit of a long winter’s build up to a race, and I often feel really good a month after an Ironman (sometimes quite bad too…) so it’ll be fun to see what the human body can do. It’s almost time to taper again…

Massive thanks as ever to my training buddies at Black Line London and Optima Racing Team, to all my friends in the sport, particularly Charlie, Tim and Sam who helped talk me into racing Austria with confidence in those last couple of weeks and most of all to James who has helped me believe and then achieve things I never thought possible.

By Paul Burton.

This race report originally appeared here on www.optimaracingteam.com.

Hollie Llanelli Race Report

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British Triathlon are currently making a few changes to try to develop the way our youth and junior athletes race and are selected to race in Europe. One area that has been developed in the gateway events, this gives the best young athletes in the country a chance to show where they are and if good enough, to then race in Europe. Llanelli in Wales was the first of super series races in 2016 and Hollie Hindley has given her thoughts on her race.

Llanelli Race report

For me this was my first big triathlon of the season and I was excited to see how I could perform. The event was in (sunny for once) Wales where I had competed the previous year so I knew what to expect from the course. I had just received a new wetsuit from Zone 3 and a new tri-suit from Kiwami so I was looking forward to testing out the new kit. This coupled with the fact that I had recently been having a good few weeks in training and racing I was enthusiastic and full of nervous energy.

The swim course had changed slightly with the addition of a beach start and consisted of 2 laps where you had to come out after the first lap much like the set up seen in ITU races which added to the excitement. Anticipating a better swim than usual, as I had been swimming well in the week and I hoped I had improved from last season, I wasn't too happy with my swim coming out around mid pack. I could see I was around the normal swimmers I come out with so I would have liked to come out a bit further ahead. This was not the case for my teammate Archie as he led the swim the whole way and came out with a 4 second lead which was a massive improvement to his 33rd out the water last year!  Despite the swim I was in a focused mindset so I put it to the back of my head, a slick transition in my new wetsuit and I knew I had to have a strong bike to catch some girls up the road.

Almost immediately a group of about 3 of us formed, we worked together for a while and dropped a few girls from the swim. Throughout the bike we caught lots of riders to form a group of about 12 by lap 4, with one more lap to go. The course was quite technical with 3 dead turns per lap, which I made sure I positioned myself at the front of the group for which worked to my advantage, as the corners were fairly dodgy in the pack. I felt strong on the bike, felt I had rode well and by the end of the bike there were just 6 girls up the road, which put me in a good position for the run.

Not really knowing what to expect from the run I went off at a steady pace out of transition and a few girls came past me. However once I had found a nice rhythm I was able to pass them again. Looking back now I don’t feel I truly pushed myself out of my comfort zone on the run so this is something I know I need to work on in my next races. I was gradually gaining on one runner who I managed to pass about 100m before the end.

I broke away slightly but seemed to slow down a bit so she managed to stay on my heels which led to me being pipped to the finish line in a sprint finish. I came home in 8th place, which secured me a place in Kitzbuhel Junior European Cup!

Overall I was happy with my performance and enjoyed the day racing and supporting many of my teammates from Optima Racing Team and the London Academy who all finished in very respectable positions.

 

Juniors

Jess-22nd

Archie-6th, Jake-11th, Aurel-27th.

Youth

Freya, Alice-8th, Issy-11th, Jenny-17th.

Greg-5th, Reef-7th, Zak-10th, Abel-18th, Michael-22nd.

 

Pre-Hab for Triathletes

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Do you like being injured? Do you look after the little things as well as you could? Massage, nutrition, sleep, relaxation, balanced lifestyle etc?

One of the key areas outside of training & sleeping to enhanced performance for me is something called ‘Pre-Hab’.

What is Pre-Hab?

Pre-Hab (Pre Habilitation or doing things to prevent injury) is often low down the list of priorities for most people trying to balance training with the rest of their lives.

This is normal; we have jobs, families, and lives and are simultaneously trying to get better at three disciplines (and transitions). However, as a coach one of the most difficult scenarios I come across is the athlete struggling mentally due to long-term and sometimes short-term injuries.

Numbers

One of the biggest problem areas for triathletes is the lower limb; calves, shins, Achilles and feet. Why?

Because our lower limbs are the only weight bearing area we have in triathlon (ignoring saddle sores for Ironman athletes!). A 75kg athlete will have 13,500kg (180 steps per min x 75kg) coming down through their legs every minute, so if it takes them 40mins to run 10km that’s 540,000kg going through the lower limbs. The numbers get significantly bigger over the Ironman marathon, of course.

SSC

Some of the body’s natural counters to this force coming down through your limbs are the fascia, muscle, tendons and ligaments throughout the body. These amazing structures provide elasticity to our running and will generate nearly half the energy required to provide your next foot strike. This is called the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) and you will see this in action with most elite runners/ triathletes.

Running well

https://www.jamesbeckinsale.co.uk/2011/02/23/the-secret-to-performance-running-2/

Progression and overload

One of the other key training principals for lowering injury rates is the correct progression and overload used throughout the year. For example if you are new to running and you chose to go out and run every day for the first month due to your new found love of running, it’s highly likely you will get injured. At the other end of the spectrum, if you are an elite athlete and you decide to take your running from 100kms per week up to 130kms per week without progressing slowly with around 10% increments per week, again guess what?

Running surface

The type of running surface can also make a massive difference to the lower limb injury rate of athletes. I don’t know how many runners I have spoken to who swear by the cross-country season ‘strengthening’ their running for the summer. I agree with this, however not only does it strengthen them, it also enhances their proprioception (your sense of where you are in the world) and balance as they struggle in the mud, up and down hills and through wood/ forests etc. Importantly keeping them off hard running tracks, roads and paths and on softer fields and grass areas.

If you can get to it sand is also a great surface to run on

https://www.jamesbeckinsale.co.uk/2016/02/29/sand-running-why/

Clodhoppers

The type of training shoe can also increase your risk of injury not only through turning an ankle if you are wearing thick/ cushioned trainers (clodhoppers!), but this type of training shoe also lowers your feeling for the ground and reduces your proprioception. If you run well, some more natural shoes or light racing flats will enhance your feel for the ground and improve your running.

Importantly, they are not overly cushioned so don’t allow you to slam your heel into the ground when you run. Heel striking sends masses of force through your bones, not through the ligament, tendons, fascia and muscles as it naturally should.

Weak signals

Weak signals are things like that tight calf you had the other day after your run, but you didn’t think it was bad enough to stop and it felt ok the next day so you didn’t get it treated… sound familiar?

MET’s

Muscle Energy Techniques describes a broad class of manual therapy techniques directed at improving musculoskeletal function or joint function, and improving pain. These are simple techniques that can be applied by a therapist/ physio or can be done as self treatment or by a coach/ parent.

https://www.jamesbeckinsale.co.uk/2016/05/13/release-tight-calfs-triathletes-coaches-parents/

Rolling

Foam rollers are a great addition to your pre-hab routine, but in my opinion the effect is not as specific as using the MET’s especially on the calf area. Moreover, I feel very uneasy when I see athletes rolling up and down a muscle because we know that veins have valves to stop back flow of blood and this rolling back and forth could cause damage to the valve.

Stop stretching (so much)

It was always my routine years ago; back from a run, spend 20mins stretching and not just regular stretching but ‘developmental’ stretching i.e. taking the muscle group to its fullest range and holding the stretch for 30 seconds+. This form of stretching can take functionality/ elasticity away from the muscles. Therefore if you run again the next day or more importantly if you do static stretching pre-event/ workout this could lead to muscle damage or injury as you start to run.

I am not saying DON’T do stretching but it needs to be strategically placed into your training week and 100% doing more ballistic movements pre event/ workout will help lower your risk of injury.

Flushing

I have been working with flushing since the early 2000’s and there are two key benefits to flushing.

  1. It gently puts the muscle fibers under tension for four to six seconds around three times, to ensure they are elongated and re-aligned (muscle soreness arising from micro tears).
  2. Putting the circulatory system, for that particular muscle group, say hamstrings, through vasoconstriction/ vasodilation. The thinking behind this is to increase the blood flow into that specific muscle group, thus increasing healing properties (new blood).

Importantly flushing is all done while walking back to your car/ home after a hard session and so you are never static/ still getting cold in winter or reducing your time to post-event fuelling.

https://www.jamesbeckinsale.co.uk/run-triathlon-training-videos/

Happy training

Archie's first junior European race 2016

For me the first race of the season was Quarteira Junior European Cup in Portugal.  After a long, hard and successful period of winter training with only minor blips on the way (hernia operation) my excitement for the first race was pretty much explosive. Although excitement for racing and the nerves that comes with that can be great it can also be negative. I have found in the past, it can cause me to overthink things and get way too worked up too early. To combat this we focused on keeping this excitement under control and positive! We created a trigger (a pinch) to initiate a simple form of meditation and relaxation where I would clear my mind so it was just blank/ centered on my breathing. With the hope that when I arrived in Portugal with all the external excitements that European racing brings I would be able to stay calm and conserve my excitement/adrenaline for the start line.

During winter training we had been working on high-end speed, creating a stressful environment, and then settling down for race pace over longer reps. The improvements I had made on my swim in training showed in the race and I was very pleased with how the first leg went. I was around 5th/6th to the first buoy and then came out of the water 11th, securing me a place in the 2nd pack!

The bike was fast and sketchy (lots for crashes earlier in the girls race) as we were a big group but we managed to catch the 6 riders out front on the last lap and came into T2 as one big pack! I was positioned badly going into T2 and after trouble finding my transition area (doughnut) and putting my shoes on, pretty much the rest of my pack were already 200m up the road when I got onto the run.

For me the run was the most disappointing part of the race, as soon as it started I felt like I was in no-man's-land, my headspace wasn’t good and despite many mental tricks (weak point plans) I failed to sort it out. This caused my form to deteriorate and therefore a slow run time and disappointing finish.

I really enjoyed being out in Portugal and loved racing in the sun for once. Despite a slightly disappointing finish I'm pleased with how the race went overall and am all the more motivated to attack that final leg and race to the level I know I can.