Ros' Magic: Learn and Love Tri

At about 19 miles into my last marathon, the point at which you know the rest of the run is going to be hard work, I asked myself if I was really enjoying it and the answer was ‘not really’!  Somehow that marathon magic that I’d always felt before had faded.  After a few weeks rest and reflection I decided to put marathons on the shelf and to look for a new challenge that would hopefully bring along a new magic for me.

I’d often tinkered with the idea of triathlon but had always dismissed it a) because I couldn’t swim front crawl, b) the potential expense and c) I didn’t have a clue how to get started let alone train for one.

I asked a triathlete friend who might be able to teach me to swim front crawl and he suggested that Mike would be just the person.  

And so my journey into triathlon started this time last year with a handful of 1:1 swim sessions with Mike.  We went right back to basics, forgetting anything I did know about front crawl (which was very little) and started afresh.  I loved it immediately – I was terrible at it but I’d found my new challenge.  Mike sent me off to practise on my own in between our 1:1 coaching sessions.   I hadn’t realised how much technique was involved, how hard it was going to be for me and how I was going to need to build up my swim endurance which is so very different from my run endurance experience.

I kept practicing and it wasn’t long until I was asking Mike if he’d help me move into the world of triathlon.  Mike built me a training plan around my work and home life which got me out on my old hybrid bike (no fancy bikes just yet!) into the pool regularly and back into the more familiar territory for me of running.  

Not once did I feel under any pressure to perform, this was all about learning, progressing and having fun in the process.  I had a weekly call with Mike when we could chat about how I’d felt during the previous week’s training sessions, what had gone well and what hadn’t and decide what I should focus on the following week.  One of the many skills Mike has as a coach is his quiet ability to keep me calm and measured about my training – especially the bits that haven’t gone so well – whilst keeping me focussed, on track and most of all enjoying it.  

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As I write, I am three weeks into a month of rest after what has been an amazingly enjoyable novice triathlon season of for me.   I joined a fantastically supportive and friendly tri club with whom I have done many of my training sessions, I have bought a fancier bike (that made my husband cry but it has given me tons of pleasure!) and I can now not only front crawl but have completed four sprint distance triathlons and come first in my age category in two of them.  

I’m now sitting here pondering about which events I’d like to take part in next year and genuinely looking forward to getting back to training.  There are lots of areas I feel I could improve on; I’d like to improve my swimming speed and endurance, become more powerful on the bike,  knock a few more seconds off my 5k time and oh, how I’d love to master the art of transitioning – I’m a bit of snail compared to others!

I suspect I have found my new ‘magic’.  Those marathons may just need to stay on the shelf and collect dust.

Thanks Mike.

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Ash's story: 32 years in the making

1985. 32 years. That’s how long ago the dream started.

I’m a 15 year old watching my favourite show, “Wide World of Sports” and on comes this feature of a new sport in Hawaii called Ironman Triathlon. You swim, bike & run, one after each other, all on the same day. Right up my street

Fast forward 32 years and I am over weight, unfit and have done very little in terms of fitness. But I never lost sight of one day doing an Ironman. Subconsciously every decision I made in terms of where I lived and worked evolved around one day doing this event. I had to have;

- grass running track for recovery            – cause one day I’ll do an ironman

- live by the sea for open water swimming    – cause one day I’ll do an ironman

- hills and forest trails for running            – cause one day I’ll do an ironman

- swimming pool near by                – cause one day I’ll do an ironman

- quiet country lanes to cycle            – cause one day I’ll do an ironman

Operations on a Double hernia and on my right knee to remove a 1/3 of my cartilage; plus now approaching my mid 40’s and I’m thinking the dream is fading away.

More excuses as well. In addition to the above requirements I also need a decent paying job to pay for all the gear, I need flexible hours to do the training and I need my children to be a little older so as I don’t impact too much on family life. 2016 saw these boxes finally ticked as well. So after a great 2 week holiday in August, drinking and eating what I wanted, no training and general relaxing I weighed myself.

207lbs (94kg). Right, enough was enough! I had no more excuses and time was running out.

1st Sept 2016 was day 1 of fulfilling the dream. Over the next 5 months I either swam, biked or ran at least 1 hour a day, 6 days a week. I joined Brighton Tri Club and gave myself 5 months to build a good base fitness, learn more about the sport and ready myself for the challenge ahead before I entered a race

I started losing the weight, my swim times got quicker, my distance on the bike got longer and slowly I increased the run, nervous of my previous knee surgery in May.

January 29th 2017. I bite the bullet. My hand was shaking as I pressed enter on the keypad to complete the payment section for the Maastricht Ironman in August. I’ve done it now. I’ve officially entered an Ironman and there was no going back now. Simply for the reason that the entry fee was over £500!!!! So what next?  

This is where Mike stepped in. We devised a 26 week training plan that although seemed overwhelming, when it was broken down it could be achievable. I had no idea how my body would cope. But the plan was broken down into 3 sections.

1/ Base Phase - 9 weeks 

2/Build Phase – 6 weeks 

3/ Race Specific Phase - 9 weeks

A final 2 week taper period and that’s the 26 weeks done. 

I learnt a saying years ago, “Plan your work then work your plan”. I did this and it worked a treat. Not only was I losing weight, I was getting stronger and stronger. I had no pain in my knee and yet I was running longer and further. Each week I progressively increased the mileage, all at a lower intensity, yet the key was consistency. Ensuring I was doing something everyday (allowing for 1 rest day a week) and taking my time to build up my strength and endurance. No rushing things.

Apart from the actual plan, Mike was also instrumental in getting my headspace right. We devised goals along the way but more importantly around the race itself. The number one goal was to get to the startline fit. Without that there was no race. Next was to visualise each component of the race and breaking each section down. This involved visualising all the “what ifs” and rather that reacting to situations, we devised action plans to response to whatever situation presented itself.

This transferred into the training sessions, practicing the “what ifs” so come race day there would be no surprises. I could deal with anything on the day and change action plans without stress or lack of focus.

Mikes help on the mental side was a welcomed balance to my scientific approach ofbeing constantly in touch with my Garmin and HR monitor. Although these “physical items” can be used as a good guide to performance, Mike allowed me to also concentrate on the “feel” of a session. By doing this I truly learnt what my body was capable of doing and also recognised when I was in “flow” state versus a distress state that is not sustainable. I even shelved the HR monitor altogether in the last 2 weeks of training and on race day itself, thus was my confidence in measuring my own cues.

So Race day. Mike and I never spoke of times. Well I did but Mike reassured me that once the work was done, the times would look after themselves. When I started the process I thought I was capable of achieving a sub 13hours which knowing the long journey ahead and the ultimate goal of getting to the startline fit, I was more than happy with. As the training progressed and I got stronger, I thought 12 hours could be a possibility. I would never know until the race itself what it will feel like on the run after 2.4m swim and an 112m bike ride. Individually my times were solid so I had allowed for a comfortable buffer time for the run not knowing what might happen. It was unchartered territory.

When I crossed that start line I was not nervous at all. Physically and mentally the plan had worked. I was so ready for this to the point that I did not rush the start. Same as in training, Steady progression throughout the day. Focus on technique, the strategy and allow for contingencies. The day went like a dream.

11hours 03mins!

Almost a full hour quicker than I had expected. This simply blew my mind and was way beyond my dreams. At the age of 46, after just 11 months of dedicated, focussed training, not only had I completed it but I felt competitive and worthy of saying I am now a Triathlete. Not since I was at High School could I call myself and be justified in doing so; an athlete of any level.

The plan worked and the weekly call Mike and I had, refined the plan and kept everything steering on course. Mike helped me focus my energies in a way I have never done and allowed me to believe in what ever I put my mind too, I can achieve. It really did prove that the mind can overcome the matter!!!

Thanks Mike for a journey I’ll never forget!

 

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Mark: breathtakingly good

When I first met Mike, I couldn’t swim – well to be honest I could but having been born with Asthma I had never swum the front crawl in my life and was limited to the breast stroke whenever I was in the water, and then earlier this year as a keen runner I decided to train for a Triathlon.

I knew that if I was to do this I needed to learn to swim properly and having made contact with the Brighton Triathlon Club I was introduced to Mike and promptly booked my first lesson with him.

The first thing I said to Mike was that as far as technique was concerned I was a blank piece of paper so what he taught me was the way I would swim and still is to this day.

Mike’s easy laid back style took all of the pressure away, he spent time explaining about the way we swim and broke the whole swimming stroke down in to separate elements to learn and perfect before moving on to the next bit. 

Needless to say, getting my breathing right was my biggest concern but once Mike explained the idea of bi-lateral breathing I was ready to give it a go.

By the end of my first session with Mike I swam two lengths front crawl – I did need a rest between each one but the sense of achievement was amazing and I couldn’t stop smiling.

Over the coming weeks I swam at every opportunity, visiting my local pool almost every morning and gradually increased the distance that I was swimming and also the number of lengths between rests to get my breath back.

I’ve had a few “fine tuning” lessons with Mike since that first lesson and will continue to do so as my strength and ability improves but I now love swimming and no longer feel that my asthma is a bar to achieving my Triathlon goals. Indeed, I now find my breathing when running and cycling is also more relaxed and controlled with new personal bests happening all of the time.

I’ve also discovered that I enjoy open water swimming and having joined a couple of local clubs regularly swim distances of up to 2600m in lakes, reservoirs and the open sea without a rest, a feat unimaginable when I started. 

As far as Triathlons are concerned, when I first met Mike I asked when he thought I would be able to do one and he said in about 3 months’ time, I didn’t for one minute think that would be possible but amazingly enough, here we are 3 months down the line and I have just completed my second Triathlon in 2 weeks and I love it!!!

Thanks to Mike and his teaching I can now enjoy something that I always thought I would never be able to do and I can’t recommend Mike highly enough as a very motivational swimming coach and instructor.

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Outlaw Mark

Way, way, way back in the winter of 2015, I decided 2016 was the year I was going to 'Go Long'.  I'd completed a half Ironman in the summer of 2015 which I'd enjoyed but found hard and was looking for another challenge.  For 2016 I had three races I wanted to complete, the South Downs Way 50 Ultra Marathon, Stafford IM70.3 and the Outlaw Iron distance Triathlon in Nottingham.  

Knowing I had three pretty big races in the year and that I would be fitting training in around work I realised I would need some help to make sure I got enough training done for me to feel I'd done myself justice. I contacted Mike and over a healthy salad we talked about my goals, ambitions, past races and limitations on my training time.  That process was really helpful - I hadn't really thought about what I wanted out of the three races other than to complete them.  Mike and I agreed some layered goals that started with 'Finish' then 'Finish with a smile on my face' and got more interesting from there.

Mike wrote up a training plan that went into great depth which is typical of his detail focussed approach.  The Outlaw was my A race which meant that the training plan had to be adapted to accommodate taper and recovery for the other races.  We mapped out the training periods and Mike made things nice and simple for me.  To start with, just focus on a set number of swims, bikes and runs a week.  Each session was shorter than I was used to, by design. Previously I'd go out on such long training runs that I would then needs days to recover. Consistency was key in this training plan and letting consistency do the work for me became my mantra.

Mike and I had a weekly phone call to check in on how training was going and to agree a plan for the coming week.  We scheduled training sessions around other commitments and tried to use club sessions where possible.  Mike would add my training sessions to the Train Xhale online system so I always knew what I needed to do and could upload my completed sessions so Mike knew I was on plan.  

The Ultra marathon went off without a hitch and I started ramping up training volume in the lead up to the 70.3 at Stafford.  That wasn't my A race and Mike and I talked about not getting too carried away and racing hard.  I needed to be able to get back to training quickly afterwards  so couldn't empty the tank and risk picking up an injury.  Without pushing hard I managed to PB that race by 20 mins which was a big confidence boost.  Knowing I was fitter than the year before and hadn't felt fatigued or consumed by training was proof that the plan was working.

Now everything was focussed on Outlaw.  The training volume picked up gradually but only in the last big training block did I start to feel tired. There were two weeks where I couldn't wait for a rest day.  I knew I'd signed up for a big event and making sacrifices came with the territory so I kept at it and got the miles under my belt.  A few weeks before the race, Mike and I talked about strategy for each of the the three disciplines, nutrition and focussing on what I could control.  

We spoke again the day before race day and went over some final details.  I'd had a two week taper to make sure I was rested for race day and really wanted to get on with the race.  The 3:30 alarm went off on race day and I got on with all the normal preparations making sure I stuck to the nutrition plan. I felt confident although apprehensive about what the day would bring.  

As 1500 triathletes nervously bobbed around in the warm water of the rowing lake, I thought about the training I'd done and knew I was as ready as I could be. The race really took care of itself.  I was 5 mins faster in the swim than I expected.  The bike leg went well and I made sure I stuck with the plan and ate and drank what I needed to, when I should. A mechanical issue slowed me down a little but I finished just under the prediction I had made.  I felt strong going into the run and thought about getting into my running stride quickly as Mike had always coached me to.  I kept an even pace for the first 30k then started to slow a bit finishing the run in 4:20. I didn't have a target in mind for the run as I had no idea how I'd feel after 6 hours on the bike so it was really pleasing to finish like this.

There is no way I would have finished this race in 11:40 without Mike's coaching.  The consistent training plan Mike built for me worked as did the weekly check in's and online training diary. Completing an Ironman or any challenge like this requires a lot of commitment and hard work which Mike obviously can't do for you but if you're prepared to do the work, Mike will guide your training so that you can get the best out of yourself.  I'd have no hesitation recommending Mike to anyone taking on a challenge or series of challenges like this.

I'm really proud of my race medal but when I look back at the training diary, I'm equally proud of the work Mike and I put into the training that made it possible. 

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Gill: less is more

For the past 4 or 5 years, I have considered myself a runner.  I usually run a spring marathon and over the recent years I have started to push myself to improve my times across 5km to marathon distances.  I have completed a few triathlons but my swimming is weak and my bike strength comes from my running fitness.  More often than not, I come out of the swim and my bike is the only one left in T1.  I am very slow in transition and slowly warm up on the bike overtake people as I go.  Once on the run I come into my own, the harder the run course in a triathlon the more places I overtake.  I only ever do these things to complete and manage to blag it on running fitness alone.  A very good friend gave me some polite advice and said if I trained for the other two like I did for running then I would surprise myself.

On the South Downs Way Relay - athlete and coach

On the South Downs Way Relay - athlete and coach

On the back of this year's London marathon I ended up with a suspected stress fracture. I took some time off training and enjoyed the finer things in life, wine and pizza.  Once my foot felt better there was still a place in Brighton Triathlon Club's South Downs Way relay team.  This was a 100 mile relay race and I would need to run 3 stages totalling 18.5 miles.  I had lost lots of fitness but had a fear of missing out so decided to go anyway.  To recover from this and a half ironman which I hadn't trained for meant I decided to enjoy life again and take some rest. 

In the back of my mind I knew I had the Chilham Castle sprint duathlon booked for the middle of October.  Also I remembered Santi's pep talk telling me if I trained properly I could surprise myself so I went to Mike at ZigZag Alive for some training.  At the first session Mike and I discussed my lack of current training, the key sessions I wished to continue within the plan and also my goals for the race.  At this point I boldly told Mike I wanted to win the event.  This was possibly a tough challenge as we only had 11 weeks left.  Mike explained the plan would not have as many intense running sessions as I was doing and the plan would have more rest incorporated into it than I was used to.

A few days later and the plan turned up.  The plan was considerably different to what I am used to.  Initially, I decided it was not for me and I would use aspects of it but not very much at all.  My husband had stern words and explained if someone will offer you advice you should take it.  With this in mind I looked again.  The plan was based on time and not distance, I decided I would convert the allocated time into miles and train towards that target.  I was happy to drop one intervals session at the start, as it came back 3 weeks later.  I also decided I would still do parkrun every week (this was definitely not in the plan) and my long run would be 13 miles and not 80 minutes.  With all this decided I sent an email back saying, this looks great no problems.  A few white lies don't hurt, do they?

I then started to train, the beginning of the week was Brighton & Hove AC training session.  I enjoy this session a lot so Mike ensured it stayed put.  I then enjoyed getting out on my bike and it was so nice having my longest ride as 2 hours.  This was perfect.  Then Saturday morning came around and through guilt and having weekly feedback sessions I realised it wouldn't hurt volunteering at parkrun instead.  Once Sunday morning came around I started my 13 mile run but from a complete lack of fitness I got to 80 minutes and realised I was shattered so decided to walk home instead.  Week 1: Mike 1 - 0 Gill.  Around came week 2 and the same routine happened, I argued the plan in my head and eventually did what Mike suggested.  The third week was a recovery week, which didn't feel necessary as compared to previous training as I hadn't really done much.  However, I stuck to the plan.  Well I sort of did, I went to the same sessions without a watch so I ran on feel.  This continued weekly. I respect Mike a lot and as much as I thought I would be happy to lie to him and sneak off to Hove Park parkrun, however in practice the weekly catch up on training had to be truthful.  Then an opportunity came around to switch Tuesday's session to the last Friday of the month 5k in Hyde park.  Yippee, a parkrun which was allowed.  I think the built up excitement, the one lap course and improved training meant a 1 minute course PB and a 5k PB in 20:19.  I was then sold, do what Mike tells you. 

The rest of the training plan until the last three weeks followed suit.  I scrapped parkrun and did some intense bike rides taking in Ditchling Beacon.  These were usually at a much harder intensity as I was missing a session I enjoyed.  I would cycle into the park to report back to Mike on the weekly session whilst everyone else ran.  I incorporated some hard turbo sessions and found the reduction in distance meant I was faster for the key sessions which matter.  I made sure the long bike ride stayed as the plan and I could possibly have deviated a touch with the long run.  All was well and I felt confident.  Then sadly work happened.  I had to spend the last three weeks living in hotels for 6 nights out of 7.  I tried to train in the gym but everything became junk training so I gave in to my excuses.  I ditched most sport and took up eating and drinking. I think I gained half a stone and the wheels well and truly fell off.  I was honest on my weekly catch ups and Mike gave good advice.  I explained I would follow this but knew there was slim chance.  Another week would roll by and I decided I would do parkrun and my Sunday run and that would be it.  I hadn't riden a bike for 2 weeks before the race.  Then there was a realisation that race day was here.  I decided I no longer minded the result. I know I can finish, it's a good training day with friends and I would have fun and probably wouldn't come last so what did it matter.

First woman by 4 minutes, Chilham Castle Sprint Duathlon champion and new course record holder. Photo courtesy of Tri Spirits Events

First woman by 4 minutes, Chilham Castle Sprint Duathlon champion and new course record holder. Photo courtesy of Tri Spirits Events

It was an early start and we had racked and got chatting to fellow competitors.  I wasn't nervous, I didn't feel sick and had no adrenalin at all.  After a quick race briefing we wished each other well and we were off.  The first run can only be described as undulating and muddy.  The start is an uphill 1km mud bath, this is usually what my Sunday's are made of so I counted back from 100 and just kept going.  Mike's advice was pace the first run and my pace was too quick.  I tried to adjust this for the next 4k and I tried to keep my heart rate low for the forthcoming hills.  As I took on the incline to T1 I heard a spectator tell her friend I was the first lady.  I hadn't at this point realised she meant out of the duathletes and 5k runners, oops maybe I was a bit off with my pacing.  After a quick T1, which luckily I found my bike as for once most people were still racked, I was off.  The bike course starts with a long climb and I took it easy and rehydrated.  At the roundabout the marshal confirmed I was 1st and doing a 180 degree turn I saw second place.   A combination of this and a fast borrowed bike I knew I had to get a move on.  A very fast downhill and flat section enabled this bike to move.  Mike assures me that my legs were powering it but I wasn't telling myself this at the time.  I had been drinking copious amount of wine in the two week build up.  In no time at all and after racing the same 5 blokes who refused to let me beat them, the long climb into T2 happened.  Then the final run which is the majority of the same course, minus the mud.  This was a joy as it was only 2.5km.  I kept telling myself I better carry on as I told Mike at the start I wanted to win.  The finish is at the top of a long hill and I crossed the line in first place. This training combined with perfect racing conditions also helped break the course record.


Gill

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Kat's Loch Gu Loch swimrun

I heard of the sport of “Swimrunning” from a friend last year. It’s a growing sport that comprises of multiple swims and runs in succession, pioneered by the Scandinavians, and involves being completely “amphibian” – with 20+ transitions per race there is no time to change, so you need to swim in your trainers and run in your wetsuit. It needs to be done as a pair. Something about the wild swimming, long runs,  scenic locations, teamwork and novelty of these events appealed to me immensely. When I heard about Loch Gu Loch, a Scottish Swimrun comprising of a total of 8k swimming and 47k of running, I (half-joking) suggested to my partner Mark that we enter, and was rather horrified when he said yes. 

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I am a very reluctant swimmer and had about 6 months to prepare myself for swimming further than I have ever done before. I knew I would need help to improve my swimming – having never had any real swimming lessons before, and having taught myself frontcrawl as an adult, I had a lot of work to do.  I couldn’t even bilaterally breathe! 

Kat and Mark on the right

Kat and Mark on the right

I contacted Mike about organising some swimming sessions. I am actually fairly fearful of the ‘open water’.  I know Mike as both a Coach from my Tri Club and friend who has helped pace me through some long runs in the past, and knew that if there was anyone who could help improve both my technique and confidence, Coach Mike would be it. 

We had some focused sessions in the pool where we identified key issues I needed to work on to improve my stroke.  We mastered bilateral breathing in one session and Mike gave me recommendations on what to focus on in my own time. I was fearful of letting down Mark, who is a much better swimmer than I (not hard), so I went to the pool in my own time and practised and practised. We also managed to get into the sea about once a week, and practised working as a team, swimming alongside each other, and getting used to different pieces of kit. 

Kat and Mark wet suit running on the trails

Kat and Mark wet suit running on the trails

The day of the race finally came round. The event started with a 5am ferry ride from Fort Augustus up Loch Ness to Urquart Castle, where the start was. I was very nervous about the 2 kilometre 10 degrees swim across the Loch that was at the start - but somehow, after we got going, I managed to relax and even enjoy some of the swimming once I got into it. It was very peaceful and much more pleasant than swimming in the salty sea. We got out at the other end of that swim in 39 minutes - 39 minutes across Loch Ness! I still can’t quite believe it.

I already knew once we were out of that first swim we would be able to finish. The rest of the event was tough and beautiful in equal measure, and we finished in a decent time of 10hours and 3 minutes. And Mike, I’m already thinking about how I can knock off those 3 minutes for next year…!

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Chris F's focus

Last year was my first full season of Triathlon.  I had done a couple of sprint events before which had got me interested in triathlon then last year I competed in 8 events which were a mix of sprints, one full Olympic and a couple of races somewhere in-between.  I was having a lot of fun racing and increasing my fitness.  My primary sport was cycling and because I enjoy that the most that is what I would do the most training in.  My swim is probably the weakest element and I view the run as something at the end of the bike that had to be endured before crossing the finish line.

I am in a triathlon club so my approach to training was to go to the sessions that I fancied and go with the flow.  The results that I was seeing were ok but nothing to write home about.  For this upcoming season I wanted to add a bit more structure to my training to try and move up the finishing order.  It is through the club that I know Mike. Having attended training sessions with Mike it is obvious that he knows his stuff when it comes to training for multisport events.  The opportunity came up to spend some time with him to draw up a plan of how to approach my training for the upcoming season.  I already had my race calendar planned in my mind.  I want to do more full Olympic distance races with open water swims and I have also entered a 3km river swim in the Thames starting in Marlow.

I spent about an hour with Mike and a few days later I received my plan.  It was clear that Mike had really listened to what my targets, current positions and constraints were and has come up with a plan that will help me get where I want to be.  It is structured in a way that I can fit in around my work and other commitments.  The thing I particularly like is the way that the plan is specifically built around my planned events and focuses on peaking for the ones that are most important to me.  Now I just need to put the hours in to the training in line with the plan to be ready for the races in the summer.

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Cheryl's first triathlon

I overheard my friend saying she was doing a Sprint Triathlon in Windsor and I quickly jumped in and asked if I could also do it. It was the best decisions I've made.

 I was in a non-fit phase at the time and had a uphill challenge in front of me. The first time I went swimming (the first time in years) I was struggling with a couple of lengths, I was spluttering, panicking and breathless at the end – I quickly started to worry that 750m would be beyond my capabilities in 6 weeks.

I booked a session with Mike and we spent a hour going through breathing and basic technique. I really enjoyed the session and it gave me a way forward with my training. I was totally committed and after 10 days of visiting the pool 4 times/week, I swam the distance and was totally elated! The triathlon now seemed manageable. 

My other training was also going well and I stuck to the schedule like glue..In the last couple of weeks I did the whole distance over all three discliplines back to back, it took ages, but I did it. On the day of the Windsor Triathlon, I was super excited albeit nervous for the outdoor swim.  It was fair to say the swim was one of the most 'challenging' things I have done in a long time. The current was really strong and was pitch black…very different from the swimming pool. I was determined to finish the swim….and did in 20 mins..not too bad all things considered. The bike and run went well and overall I came 89th out of 192 which is pretty good for my first one and the fact my bike is as old as me. 

I would definitely do another one!     

Nadia's dream of a mean swimming machine

Like almost every running/cycling enthusiast, I have felt the lure of triathlon but lacked the necessary swimming skills - that is, I felt pretty happy and confident in the water, but became a spluttering mess when faced with front crawl. 

Mike has been the perfect coach to guide me on my journey towards becoming a mean swimming machine - giving me the tools, technique AND the confidence I need to progress. While I'm guilty of not getting in the water as often as I should (so many exciting things to do!), I know exactly where I stand and what I need to concentrate on until I next see him.

Working with him is always fun, never stressful and he's been incredibly nice and helpful every step of the way.  Ironman 2017 here I come!!! (maybe)



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David's story - going for my second ironman

In 2012 when I trained for my first Ironman I decided to employ the services of a professional coach to help with my training plan. I learnt a lot and looking back I feel it was definitely money well spent.

2 years on and I am about 6 weeks out from my next ironman distance event - a good time to reflect on my decision to ask Coach Mike Porteous from ZigZagAlive to assist me with my training plan this time round.

I have known Mike for a few years both as a friend and fellow member of my local triathlon Club. He has helped me improve my swim technique so it seemed an obvious choice to ask his advice in relation to my overall fitness goals.

I do consider myself as a bit of a seasoned triathlete who has previously learnt a decent amount from the very structured approach that I was exposed to the first time around. At the time it involved some initial testing and individual sessions, listed on Training Peaks in advance, detailing exactly what should be done that day, which was probably the best way to go. It placed the responsibility of my training firmly with my Coach to tweak and fine-tune as he felt necessary based on the feedback I provided via Training Peaks and a few meetings / e-mail exchange.

When I sat down with Mike for that introductory session the approach was somewhat  different. I did most of the talking, he asked a lot of open questions to probe into my background - it was more like a SWOT analysis - as he carefully listened to what I believed were my strengths, weaknesses, threats to meeting my season goals and opportunities to improve and enjoy the experience this second time around.

Once Mike felt he had a good understanding of my overall fitness, strengths, weaknesses, goals, ambitions and general personality and commitments (family, work and health related) he got to work on a plan of action.

After a few days I was sent the plan by e-mail together with an invitation to meet for coffee to discuss further. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't dictate what individual sessions I must do this week or the next but was more of a strategy document covering the months ahead and providing guidance through the different phases of training - base, build, peak and taper.

Each phase had some sensible guidelines listed and mini goals to aim for and keep me motivated and moving in the right direction. It was simple to follow and you could clearly distinguish what was the goal for the week or 3-week cycle. Mike was not spoon-feeding me with individual sessions but educating me to focus on the mini goals that would help me to meet my bigger goals that would in turn give me the very best chance to complete my season goal(s) and have a great ‘A’ race experience.

One week my focus was on the bike and just a single ride, which enabled me to build aerobic endurance (hours in the saddle). Other weeks it was run/swim focus, then more about the recovery, ensuring I didn't over train and get injured. Within the phases there was other advice provided; whether it be to build the aerobic base (just get out there - quantity being the key driver), more intensity (shorter interval sets - quality over quantity) or during my current phase (peak) to compliment both quality / quantity into more race specific scenarios.

Attention was also given to weaknesses, especially during the base period, when we discussed swim technique, nutrition, transition, pacing etc. Mike was keen to back up the talking with a number of one-to-one coaching sessions in the pool, bike, trails or with a 3rd party - nutrition experts, specialists in stretching and core strength etc. 

Although Mike was less interested in the day to day sessions and more the weekly goal he was always at the end of the phone or e-mail and occasionally would advise when he thought the session was not aligned to the weekly goal, i.e. decision to go on a 4-hour high intensity Group ride on a recovery week. In addition I enjoyed our regular face to face catch ups, normally in a coffee shop after a training session, when I could justify a nice bit of cake.

I must have re-read that original strategy document he originally produced 10x (at least) and still refer back to his wise words, making sure I am still on the right path.

So now I am on the last few weeks of peak training my thoughts are increasingly turning to race day and my strategy, especially around pacing, nutrition, time goals etc. I know Mike will be also interested in my final preparation and guiding me to the start line, so I feel 100% ready not just in the body but in the mind. At the moment my confidence is high and I feel the top-down plan will deliver, whatever the clock says when I cross the finish line on the day.

My interest in coaching has developed over the last few years from knowing very little and being spoon-fed my daily sessions to understanding some broader mini goals and aligning them to my main goal. Who knows what is next - I have certainly learnt a lot.

Actually, I do have a plan for the off-season, I am going to apply for Level 1 Coaching training myself; Mike has inspired me to develop my understanding and a deeper knowledge for this great sport.

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