Coaching

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

Ironman South Africa - Coach's race report

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I’ve been consistently helping athletes qualify for Kona since 2002 and have been in awe of the Big Island since coming into triathlon in the 90’s. I wanted to share my Ironman South Africa race report with you from a coach's perspective.

Kona to me is a magical/ sacred place, a place of dreams that only a few ever qualify to go. BUT… even though I’ve had opportunities to go out to Hawaii with athletes, I have always sworn never to step foot onto the Big Island unless I qualified to be there myself… and that was my target in South Africa…

The race:

This is my second year of doing Ironman South Africa and I think this was maybe my 11th Ironman altogether. Only once have I ever set myself a target in an Ironman and that was in 2006 at Ironman Austria where I wanted to go under 10 hours. I remember getting off the bike feeling a whole world of pressure (and thinking how the hell do the pros race this distance?!) and this weakness putting me in a bit of a wobble on the run. I did get my head together and eventually came home in 9.59.26… I know!!!

As a coach I have never had the inclination to totally dedicate myself to the selfish training required to go fast at Ironman. I am far too passionate about the athletes I work with improving their performance. However, South Africa sits at a good time of year for me as a coach. We have just come out of winter training, we have done some great bike work on training camp and I can squeeze in my key run sessions without disrupting what I need to do as a coach.

I also want to make sure the structure of the training plans I write for Ironman athletes are sound and the progression and overload allow them to hit optimum performance in their race. Even from last year to this year I made some significant changes to the bike workouts that have improved the overall Ironman training plan structure.

A quick overview of my race:

Great few days pre race in South Africa, some of the friendliest people I have come across in the world. Feeling great had a couple of massages on race week for a tight neck (after a battle with a few waves in the ocean!), but this seemed to loosen one thing and tighten another. The day before the race I woke up and literally could not run, the pain in my back was so severe (I had a vertebrae out around my thoracic spine). After about an hour of gentle movement/stretching it seemed to pop back in and I could do my pre event warm ups… phew!!!

Race day:

Swim: I’m not a fan of rolling starts. It’s not triathlon and it’s not Ironman (I think ITU have a lot of work to do here for elite racing but not for age groupers). Mentally and physically dealing with that pressure and hard start is part of the race, especially for those hoping to qualify for Kona. Possibly think about setting off age-group waves so you are always in a race.

To be honest I got a little disorientated and maybe dropped about 4–5mins… but felt strong and took a deep breath and looked forward to the picnic to come.

18th in AG.

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Bike: I know there are lots of schools of thought out there but to me a power meter is a no-brainer in Ironman. It baffles me why people ride up inclines at 300–500w and think they can run off that. Every hill I came to I had women, big men and whomever else coming past me like I was standing still. I kept my power about 15–30w higher than I wanted to on the flat (and 100% no lactate build up) but these little speedies flew past. Even paced with no/limited power spikes is the only way to ride an Ironman bike.

Ironman biking to me is about dialing into the numbers (220w for me), with a smooth pedal stroke (80 rpm for me) and then having a picnic every 20mins (shot block, carb drink and water) and enjoying the beautiful scenery that South Africa affords you.

For sure on the final lap the old ‘nether regions’ are a little distressed and the legs are tried, but again the power meter allows you confidence that you are in the right place.

6th in AG off the bike.

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The business end:

Running felt good off the bike (and a flipping relief to take pressure off down there!), however a couple of km’s down the road a weak point hit and I kicked in my first weak point plan (WPP)… counting and holding best form. I could feel I had lost rhythm and was not moving very well.

Now these moments for most people can be quite traumatic. In my job coaching people we talk through these moments all the time, whether young children taking their first steps into the endurance world or Olympians fighting to stay in contact at the pointy end of our sport. They know my feeling on the mental side and to me its 80% of what we do. So during my weak points, if I capitulate, it’s like a barrister losing their first big case in the high court… when they really should win, no pressure coach!

The reason they are called weak points is because you don’t feel strong, you are not frequenting the fight side of the cognitive fight & flight response… you want to step out of the arena, you want to pull the blanket over your shoulders and turn over for the nightmare to end.

I walk all aid stations and make the runs between as rhythmical and economical as possible. The next aid station I walked, I took on the coke/water, and I picked up the run again still no rhythm, still no fight, still applying my WPP. This time I’m also tapping into my 2nd WPP, the training I have done… 6 x 5k reps, 20 x 800m, 30k tempo… I’m thinking about the young guys in my team - I want them to be able to look at their coach as someone who has suffered like he asks them to suffer and come up with the answers as he asks them to… A few more km’s of suffering… I don’t wear a GPS or look at my watch. I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know I’m running slower than I want to… the job is now 100% mental. I dropped from 6th in AG to maybe 16 -18th.

In South Africa, the crowds start to pitch their tents on the roadside a couple of days before. They have their braai’s going, beers in hand, but what’s quite weird is they seem to get the sport… After about 8km and out the other side of an aid station, I found some reaction when I asked my legs to lift the pace, the supporters seemed to get this and they encouraged it… It was not easy, but I seemed to be finding a little rhythm again.

Entering ‘no man's land’ (the middle of an event or mid way on a run) I used my 3rd WPP, by looking around and appreciating all the different types of people that do this sport, big, small, fat, thin, black, white blah blah… all suffering to some degree or another and getting energy form our united suffering. If I catch an eye of a fellow athlete, a wry smile or look to say ‘come on, we can do this’ or a quick chat (which always gives me a massive boost) before they drop me or the other way round. The one thing I missed in this event is finding another runner with the same rhythm as me to run with, I find this is always a massive benefit.

The final few laps I was feeling stronger and stronger, I had come out of the bad patch, I had battled the demons and now I need to collect on a few lost km’s earlier in the run. I’m still walking the aid stations; even with a few km’s to go the wheels can come off. But I felt strong, rhythmical and tapping into good form.

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It transpires that I was in about 12th going into the final lap of the run but the guys around me were all just within a few minutes of each other. As I crossed the line I was 6th in AG, however due to the rolling start another athlete came in a few mins later that moved me down to 7th in the age group.

As I’m now in the 45–49 age category, I knew we would have about 10 slots as one of the biggest age groups so was almost certainly heading to Kona. Nevertheless after seeing the Facebook messages from the guys in the team, I could see I had been very close to messing this up. Phew… Kona baby!!!

There is a little apprehension though, as there is the small matter of preparing an athlete for the Rio Olympics when I would normally be kicking off my Ironman preparation – but we’ll worry about that later! For now, job done. Aloha!

February Training Camp in Spain

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On the first two training camps I went on when I got into triathlon properly in 2010/2011 - both times I was delighted to hit 30 hours of training – smashing out bike miles and quadrupling my weekly swim mileage, unable to lift my fork at dinner each evening – that’s if I could even keep my eyes open. Whilst that was fun, it’s not really a great use of annual leave when you get back home needing a holiday, and then you need two weeks’ rest to get over the chronic fatigue! ‘Typical age grouper behaviour’ as James would say. Things are a little different now that James has shown me the light. The week in Spain with a couple of the Optima full time athletes in February was just what I needed to give my training a pick up when the days are short and cold at home. Whilst my Ironman this year isn’t until June, and my training block for that not starting until April, February is ideal timing for a week away, during our low volume, strength and skills phase of winter training.

Triathlon Training Camp, James Beckinsale

So what do we do on camp with Optima? I normally do three sessions in each discipline per week and on camp those key sessions and their progression don’t really change other than the long easy bike maybe being a touch. The additional volume is all in extra easy sessions in each sport – recovery/technique swims, café rides and beach running (although those of us not quite at peak efficiency don’t find the sand completely easy!).

Whilst I still have moments where my ego/chimp wants to be doing more – taking advantage of the mountains, blue sky and clear roads – the result of the week is always spot on. Swimming daily sends me home with some feel for the water and enthusiasm to get in the water more regularly, and being in an environment with great food – and plenty of it – plus the ability to get 12 hours sleep a day means you go home well rested despite the bigger than normal week, and ready to nail the next phase of the training block.

By Paul Burton - twitter.com/Pablo_Burt