Monthly Archives: March 2013

20 Weeks to IMUK

When you set out your ‘A race’ of the season you tend to work backwards. So I hear anyway – I’ve never had an ‘A race’ – but in the case of IMUK 2013 I do. 4th August 2013 to be exact and this is now exactly 20 weeks away.

I have spent the winter really working hard on my base fitness, just getting time in the pool, miles in the saddle and a gradual return to running and upping the mileage on the knees. However, the last 5 week training plan has become slightly more tailored to refining that base fitness and working towards making me more triathlon specific fit. Mapping the progress has been half the fun. I’ve logged it all in my Training Log, but below I’ll try and go into a bit more detail of what each of these session has consisted of.

First of all, my week has had to some consistency. I like routine and to know what days I am doing what. It means I can balance my life outside of training and I also associate my days with my training. This is how my week has looked for the last 5 weeks, and I’ve have not missed a single session. My coach Paul is fantastic at putting together realistic plans that work for my ability, my work and also to keep her happy!

Monday – Run

Tuesday – Endurance Swim

Wednesday – Turbo Interval Session

Thursday – Run

Friday – Speed Swim & Turbo Build Session

Saturday – Long Ride

Sunday – REST

This all adds up to around 10 hours per week of training.


My endurance session on Tuesdays are tough. I work my butt off in 400m drills, which originally clocked in at 7min 40sec per 400m. By the 5th week of this plan, I was hitting these same 400m sets in 7min 10sec.

My speed work on a Friday varies between 50m, 100m and 200m drill sets. Again these have shown big increases in improvement and beast you all the same over 2, 500m. The marriage of these two swim sessions is obviously working if I am improving by 30 seconds in the space of 5 weeks. When I did my first sprint triathlon in August 2011, I swam the 400m leg in 9min 12sec, then again in 2012 in 8min 37sec. In less that a year I have taken a massive chunk of time off my short distance swimming.


I put a  lot of focus on my bike session as that is where I will be spending most of my day in early August! IMUK is one of the hilliest bike routes on the Ironman Calendar, and arguably the most difficult in Europe, so I need to give this leg the respect it deserves. My long rides at the weekend are an over hilly 4 hour trip from Manchester to Derbyshire covering 60 miles. This is essentially just bike time. In the recent temperatures and winds across those hills, there is no room for heroes so It’s just hardening the ass for more of the same and also a good chance to test nutrition.

bux route

My turbo session are where the real hard graft can pay dividends. I work of various interval sessions over a 90min period – 10min, 5min, 2min & 1min respectively, each within a specific range of perceived effort on the Borg Scale. Aside from the training benefits of the turbo sessions, its a good chance to tinker with your bike fit, rehearse transition and catch up on Paris-Nice! Physio-Coach Paul Savage has recently uploaded a video on his website of how to get the best from your turbo session.


My return to running has been a real confidence booster. Having worked back up literally from scratch to be now running distances that are more familiar to me is a great relief. My Monday runs involve negative splits, usually around 3 x 8min mile and then 3 x 7min mile. On Thursday I’ll do a slightly longer run, trying to stay around 7min 30sec per mile. Before and after each run I have an inbuilt habit of foam rolling and yoga stretching to keep the injury wolves from the door. There is no getting away from it, I have to do it. It’s part of the running and cycling days whereby a good 15 minutes spent on the roller is no hardship, followed by a series of specific stretches and planks to keep a happy & hard core!

That’s just the last 5 weeks. As we hit the 20 week countdown, I’ll be incorporating more brick sessions and some really specific turbo session to really hammer those legs! That will cover the next 4 weeks.


MTB vs Road – Same Same But Different

I’ve always loved my mountain biking and it has traditionally had a good transfer of skills from my motocross riding days. It’s a similar riding position, handling technique and also a similar gauge of limits. But can the mountain biking also hep out with my cycle training for triathlon?

It’s Ace!
Firstly, I love it. It breaks the monotony of road cycling, especially in the recent winter months. Mountain biking is all year round, and it takes some heavy conditions to put me off hitting the hills, unlike a side wind and rainy day on the asphalt or an afternoon on the turbo trainer. With a couple of mates involved its a good laugh too, where there is no traffic to be aware of so you can chat away at a slower pace.

Its still training!
At the end of the day it is a form of cycling, so there will be similar muscle groups being pulled apart, but in a different workout. An hour on the road bike is not usually as knackering as 20 minutes on the mountain bike. The short sharp climbs mixed with the long slog fire roads are a great mix of anaerobic and aerobic punch that negotiate the roots and rocks that crop up on the MTB.
I’m lucky enough to have reasonable access to Cannock Chase – 2hr on a train – which is a purpose built trail centre. I ride here regularly and can track any progress I’m making, safe in the knowledge of a well maintained course and some familiar sections to test myself against. A 2 lap run of Cannock (about 28 miles) will hurt just as much as a 70 mile road ride I can assure you!


Improved Bike Skills:
The roots and gravel and tree stumps and hills are often not the same each run. The MTB can naturally improve your bike handling skills, with quicker reaction times and the ability to change direction quickly and efficiently. You need to look far enough ahead in MTB to see whats coming up, but keep a short sight of the branches in your face at the same time. Wherever you look, you end up, so in terms of road riding, a pot hole or an absent minded Sunday driver means your reaction times and general bike handling skills can be improved from mountain biking. A quick change of direction or bunny hop up and down a curb aren’t something you may necessarily rehearse, but if it’s already part of the skill set from MTB its nice to have in the locker.


Same Same But Different:
I’m not sure you can completely get the same workout from a day of mountain biking that you can from a road training session. It’s good to break the (no pun intended) cycle every now and again, but whatever sport you are training for, you get better by doing that sport more. I think if you go from MTB to Road you will see a benefits perhaps more so than vice versa. It is a different kind of fitness and to all intents and purposes a different sport. Tactics, body position, equipment is all so specialist now you choose your path.In a recent race I took part in, it was fairly frustrating to have the ‘fitter’ riders crawling away from me on long, slow, arduous climbs and then I’d be all over them coming back down the single track downhill sections. Without blowing my own trumpet, I believe I was technically a better bicycle rider than them. Its more fun to come back down on the edge than it is to see who can climb a hill at 3mph. May as well go sit on the road all day. Having the ability to come down a hill also instills a bit of confidence in my descending on the road bike. I am not scared of speed and can feel when its maybe a bit too much. Again, a spill over from the limits MTB has made me aware of.

This is generally a quick look at the two sports from my own personal point of view, but when I had a quick look for famous MTB/Road riders John Tomac’s name kept cropping up. Turns out he’s a bit of a legend at both.

I wouldn’t incorporate the mountain biking regularly into my training schedule but its nice for a change. There is also the added possibility of injury. Its pretty easy to get pitched off that mudder and there’s always a tree pretty nearby.