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TriDubai Annual Special Saturday swim (2017)

Great morning and great gathering at our annual TriDubai special swim today. Thanks again for DOSC management and Bekky Britton for arranging the venue. For those who have missed it or at least missed the committee meeting afterwards, below are the main points discussed:

1- Reminder of what TriDubai is: We are a group of dedicated triathlete friends training together and aiming to give triathletes in Dubai the opportunity to meet and train with each other. TriDubai is free for all, nobody commercially profits from it as such, and it's all-inclusive: athletes who are members of any other club/ coached by any coach / of any ability level are free to join in the sessions and be part of TriDubai. If you're on this page, you're a member.

2- Committee: A lot of work is being done behind the scenes by our committee members, and I am indeed privileged to follow in the giant footsteps of our founding Chairpersons Ian Le Pelley and Deirdre Casey, your work and efforts for TriDubai have been truly priceless throughout the years, thank you both, and hoping we will do you and the great man Roy Nasr proud. 
Our current committee members are the following: Chris Thorne Treasurer, Mike Bermingham Marketing, Diane Gordon Kits & Supplies, Paul Venn Communications and Public Relations, Ahmad Samra IT Master, Johan Moolman and Andy Edwards Training Coordination, I'm the Camps coordinator and current chairperson. Thanks also to all the training sessions leaders, the regular sessions on Wednesday Jo Edwardsand Karsten Due in addition to other training session organizers like Nick WatsonDavid MyersEmma PhillipsLynette Warn among others. Everyone is encouraged to take part and give whatever they think they can to add value.

3- App/Website & RACE REPORTS: Please download and use the TriDubai mobile app currently on iPhone but coming to Android soon. It's a great way to locate and login to the regular TriDubai training sessions.
Also please keep updating and enhancing our website with your race reports, you do not know how precious these are for people doing the same race in the future, and they are most often very entertaining reads, so please keep them coming, send them to me (chair@tridubai.org) or to our IT Master Ahmad Samra.

4- Camps: A camp is scheduled for April 13-15 in Dubai with Brett Sutton and Matt Trautman. We are struggling to get a good deal with a hotel to run the lectures and rent the rooms, so please let me know if anyone can help on this.

5- Clinics: There will be some clinics planned with different local coaches on different topics and that will be announced in due course.

6- Socials: There will be an end of season social for TriDubai on April 28th. More details to follow in due course but book that evening in your calendar.

7- TriDubai name in international races; This is an important point to note, when you register for a race (either Ironman or otherwise) and if you would like to register under TriDubai, please make sure to register the correct club name that is TriDubai, capital T and capital D with no spaces between Tri and Dubai. This is to avoid the ranking getting lost due to dispersed numbers because of wrong entering of the name. You can email race organizers like Ironman and ask them to unify your races under one profile in case you have several profiles, or emails (you can check all your races on athlinks.com and unify them there as well).

8- Sponsorships here onward will be in kind, that is no money will exchange hands within TriDubai, but companies who would like to contribute can do so by partnering with other entities to supply triathlon related goodies free to TriDubai members in exchange for marketing and communications arrangements. It can be as simple as a support car for a group ride in the mountains. 
We currently need someone to help us in printing out some simple banners/flags for members to take to races and represent, as well as coffee travel mugs as per the request of many members last year. If you know of a company who can help on that above please get in touch.

9- Join our group on Strava and TrainerRoad (I have downloaded some race profiles on TrainerRoad of several popular race bike splits like Roth, Zell Am See, Kona, and I even recently uploaded IM South Africa 2016 bike course in case you still would like to bike it before the race, just join the TriDubai team on TR).

10- REACH OUT: This is the purpose of our group, so please reach out with any issue you have on triathlon no matter how small (even contact any of the committee members privately if you don't want to post it in public) We are very much here to help.

Again any other points or feedback you have to add value, and any service that you can give to the team is highly appreciated by all.

Apologies for the long post but just thought I'd keep everyone in the loop

Train safe and race hard
Hasan

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Challenge Bahrain - December 05

How Hard Can It Be?

Ok where do I start, that's the hardest part so I thought I would start by saying that to get me started, now what?
Why sign did I sign up for Challenge Bahrain? Good question… I really dislike swimming, swim with my head out of the water and don't swim except at events, good start. The longest tri distance I've ever done is a Sprint, how much harder can 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run be compared to 750/20/5? A lot, was the answer!

Anyway my dream was that this was going to be a father/daughter bonding journey. With Holly and I signed up I could see us becoming training buddies and having lots of wonderful, quality time together. Those early morning rides that I thought we would improve together while putting the world to rights… how wrong could I have been?! If you are a teenager the rides started in the middle of the night, they will be a memory that will forever haunt me. Waking up your teenage daughter at 4.45am on a Friday morning to go on a 90km ride is something you should do with caution, in fact don't do it – it bites! The dream ended more like a nightmare – only joking Holly!

Seriously though, it was great that Holly signed up to do Challenge Bahrain. Not many girls her age (I think she was the youngest) would even tri this, never mind giving up a lot of time and some weekends aswell.

Training Plan: Time to get serious:

My plan was easy, swim the distance at least once to make sure I could do it, then get a wetsuit before the event as this would half my time!

Bike every Tuesday at the F1 track (5 laps - don't want to over do it) and cycle at Al Wathba every Friday morning (using the term morning seems wrong for a 5.30 start and I'm not a teenager!) I was never really sure what I was going to do at Al Wathba, I normally decided the distance on the day or pre-planned it the night before by asking Holly what she was doing and copying her – at a safe distance!
Run most morning before work (40-50 minutes max) and a few Striders sessions at the Golf Club (thanks Kev) and intervals on a Sunday night (thanks Jillian) building up to some bike run sessions at Al Wathba.

What could go wrong??!!!!

Although it might not look like a plan you would get from 220 or the like, it was what I wanted to do and knew it would work for me. I knew if I signed up to the Russ Fraser Training Plan I wouldn't do any of the swims so I didn't want to waste his valuable time. Also knowing that he's ex RAF I thought that the training he set would be too easy for an ex Senior Serviceman!

First thing I did was get a new bike, or a second hand one. Sam gave me his Planet X…for nothing… just like that! I suppose it was mine anyway as we bought it as a Christmas present 2 years ago. Thanks Sam. A quick – if there is such a thing - visit to see Toby and I was good to go!

Then I signed up to do the 4 week Primal Transformation Programme at Haddins new gym, Masdar City in Sep/Oct. Why you ask, would someone training for a triathlon sign up to a one month group boot camp/weight loss programme. The answer, I wanted to kick start my training by getting my overall fitness up to a good level and get my weight back down. I had seen the results of the previous Primals and wanted to give it a go. It worked a treat, I lost 9kg and won 5k AED for my efforts by coming third in the Body Transformation competition! It was a really good starting point for me, I did continue my usual running and cycling but not as much. Not to worry I still had about 9 weeks until the event to work on the three disciplines.

If you want to lose some weight in the off season or have a fat partner Primal is the thing to do, Ange loved it!

So, back to the training. It was going so well and after a few weeks I started to really feel the benefits of doing Primal and following my own training plan. My running was coming on, my speed felt good and I'd done the Raha Gardens Loop a couple of times so distance-wise it was all going to plan. The interval sessions on the turbo trainer were starting to get a bit easier as I got fitter. These sessions took a lot of planning. Flick on MTV, work really hard for a song then easy for a song and on and on, working hard again during the adverts. Tens songs later plus adverts and I was finished and I mean really finished! For a change I would switch to VH1 or MTV Cribs, for the latter just change pace every time they move into a new room, job done!

Time I think, for a triathlon. I signed up for the Roy Nasr Memorial Tri at Jebil Ali, this is a great event I think everyone would really enjoy. It’s a Sprint distance in a fantastic location and really well organised, it has a great buzz about it. I beat my time from the last one by 6 minutes, a sprint distance PB. Now I just had to do nearly 4 times that distance in less than 2 months time, easy.

I was on a roll, feeling good and fast… then disaster struck! My left hamstring went whilst doing a sprint session at Sunday night Striders. I was really gutted as I felt like I was in a really good place with my fitness and race weight (my aim was 80kg for the race – from 93kg). I gave it a weeks rest then did the Kilo Marathon, which made it a lot worse surprise surprise! I had no intention of running until an hour before the race, Ange forced me!

This made me do two things both of which I don't like doing, spend money and swim – not necessarily in that order or at the same time!

I went to see Lynn Hayhoe who was fantastic and after 2 minutes told me I needed to see a Chiropractor because my hips did not line up properly. I had to do what she said because everyone knows "my hips don't lie''! I went to see Steve at the Canadian Medical centre who did his stuff........... I can honestly say that the difference was noticeable straight away, I was a lot more flexible overall, could even touch my toes for the first time in years and my hamstrings where stronger when I tested them in the gym. With Lynn working her magic I was sure I'd be able to make it to the start line. In the meantime – and probably because I did the Kilo Marathon - I had to pull out of The 5* Aquathon and Striders Half Marathon, it killed me to help out at both of these events especially the 1/2.

Swimming. I had a few lessons with Carol Goody as I'd heard good things about her. She was good and although I gave up after a few sessions (due to my lack of interest - did I mention I don’t like swimming?) I could feel that my swimming had improved. I could even swim with my head in the water – I just choose not to!

My training now consisted of bike sessions or the cross trainer, running was still too much as I needed to protect my hamstring. I also did one swim session with AD Tri Club at Al Yasmina. This was the first time I had swam in a group class since school. Of course it killed me - so I didn't go again, didn't want to peak too early.

In the final few weeks before the event I decided that I would run after the bike sessions at Al Wathba but no more than 2km, just to get my legs moving off the bike. For a change I stuck to the plan right up until the final week when I ran 8km, it felt good but very slow but still good – it gave me abit of confidence.

One week to go (bear with me!) it was time to write my race plan which ended up being more of a whole weekend plan just so everything was covered.

1. Buy new Tri kit – only downfall of losing so much weight
2. Wait for wetsuit to arrive from Wiggle
3. Take bike to Adventure HQ so they could box it for me
4. Fly Sam to Bahrain to unpack and build it
5. Take Ange to pack, unpack, make sure I had everything I need
6. Race
7. Beer
8. Get Sam to pack bike
9. Beer
10.Take bike box back to Adventure HQ so they could unpack bike and build it
11.Beer

The wetsuit arrived from Wiggle - too small. I tried to convince myself that it fitted like a glove – a very very small glove – but swimming involved moving and breathing... it was definitely too small! Michael On kindly gave me one to tri at my one and only sea swim in AD, at Yas Links the weekend before the race. This was the first time I'd ever worn a wetsuit and stupidly forgot to use Glide so my neck was red raw by the time I had done about 700 meters - hopefully it would be ok on the day!

Adventure HQ came to the rescue – again – with the tri suit. Great Jaggad tri kit, tried on in the shop and packed for race day.

During the week I started eating a lot more protein, not sure why but carb loading was so yesterday - for now! I had marmite and crackers for lunch each day as I was told it was good for you if you sweat a lot – I’ll believe anyone! I also cut out alcohol - this was going to be a long week!!

Time flies, it felt like years since we'd signed up for this but all of a sudden it was here. It was time to pack the car and leave, got to the airport and had a beer to calm my nerves. Ok I didn't but it's hard sat in the lounge or even being in an airport and not have a drink, this must be serious! (The event or the drink problem - not sure, yet!)

Got to Bahrain, chauffeured to the hotel by the Challenge staff all very impressive! Are all events like this (AD Tri Club take note!!) Checked in and went to bed worrying about the swim. Sam arrived in the early hours, a long way for him to travel but worth it, for him and us. He was a great help building both the bikes, I’m sure they would still be on the hotel room floor with bits left over if it had been down to me and Holly! We stayed at the Crown Plaza which was great as it was so close to T1 you could walk, one less worry on the morning of the race.

Swim practice 1: Sam had arrived with a new wetsuit for me as a surprise – thanks Sam. It was great to have him around but to be honest he was probably more excited to see all the pro's and their bikes than us. I used the new wetsuit and it felt great. Now for some serious swim training, should I swim the course, 1km, 800m…. mmm can’t decide. Then they announced ‘Welcome to Swim Practice 1, for everyone who has just arrived there is coffee and cake was being served a mere
200m swim away on a pontoon the other side of the water’ – decision made, 400m it is! It was easy, 200m out, 5 minute break and 200m back, this training was going to help on the day I could feel it.

Went to the Expo in the afternoon at the F1 Circuit, took the bike to give it a spin around the track which was really good but a bit hilly! Bought some new goggles, not sure why but I think it was because they looked fast, time will tell. We then got caught up in the Prince Nasser group doing a tour with his entourage close behind him. It was time to register, no going back now - and the bag was really nice!
Time to head back to the hotel and rest for the night.

Swim practice 2: It was time to tri out the 1 day old wetsuit again and my new goggles. They worked a treat, I could actually see what each cake was this time, the ginger ones where lovely. Another 400m cracked - this was going to be a walk in the park!


Back to T2 that night for a 5* Pasta Party and race brief. I don’t usually do race briefs as I usually just follow the crowd in front of me but stayed for this one seeing as I was taking the whole thing seriously – I had to set a good example to him, didn’t want him picking up any bad habits. The Challenge guy who gave the brief was so dull I felt like crying, never again. Ho hum, bus and bed.


Packed the transition bags, checked, checked again, got Ange to check and then check again just in case. Then it was off to rack-up. It was a great feeling seeing so many athletes we knew and also watching Sam talk to some of the Pro's like they are old friends (they are, he said!) Did what we had to do then walked around transition for 30 minutes while Sam took pictures of every bike and it’s chainset, rear derailleur, front derailleur – get the picture? Yawn yawn!

That night I felt really good, I don't get nervous (others might say different) we went out for a meal, chicken breast stuffed with dates and veg - mmm really nice. We went back to the hotel really early as we knew we would be getting up early the next day. Holly was nervous but ready and looking forward to the Challenge (did you get what I did there!). I felt nervous for her but knew she would make us proud and she did. Woke at 2am going through my race and working on my speech for the Awards Ceremony, can't believe how many people I would have to thank, this was going to be a long night.

Woke Holly up at 6.20 instead of the 6.30 she has asked for – 1st mistake of the day - 10 minutes what difference would that make! A lot it turned out, how we laugh about it now! Got to T1 at 0710 – 2nd mistake of the day - lots of time to put the drinks on the bikes and last minute checks or so we thought. T1 closed at 0700 not the 0730 we thought (I blame the dull Challenge brief guy). Nightmare, we had to ask a marshal to put the drinks on the bikes and hope our tyres etc were ok, too late to worry now - I was so worried.

We watched the Pro start, I couldn’t believe that some of them came out of the water after 20 minutes. 1.9km in 20 minutes, hopefully it was a short swim course - no such luck! Quick toilet break before mine and Holly's turn, it was good they had so much water on the floor of the toilets you could wash you feet - at least I hope it was water, too worried to worry about this!

Holly went first, a bit scared of what lay ahead, I felt really sorry for her but very proud that she had made it this far. The cannon when off and she started, it was really emotional and for the first time that day I felt like crying - but not the last. My turn next, as I was saying goodbye to Sam (who was telling me to smash it!) and Ange, Chris McCormack - my new bff – passed by on his way to T2 TV studio to do the commentary, he stopped to wish me luck and to have a good race. This was the second time I nearly cried and the last, it was so nice of him to go out of his way on such a busy day, little things mean so much.

Swim: Wore my old goggles, not sure why but I changed my mind at the last minute.

BANG - CHALLENGE BAHRAIN and I'm off like a fish, a slow injured fish but still I was moving forward which was my plan from the start no matter what pace. The swim wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, lots of space except getting to the first buoy when everyone bunched or they did at the back not sure about the front. I kept telling myself to keep swimming until the really big building was really really big then look for the buoy and turn right and right again, easy! The coffee and cake pontoon wasn’t there today which was a bit upsetting but saved me some time. The swim back was ok as I drafted behind a few people for most of it. With about 100m to go I decided it was time to kick, I always forget to use my legs for the swim and normally just drag them with me, at least this time they floated because of the wetsuit (thanks Sam).

Swim 42 minutes - PB!

T1: I was already working out my new overall time whilst looking like a beached whale triing to remove its own skin, good job the volunteers helped pull my wetsuit off. Quick drink, gel then out on the bike, onto the carpet and down the chute with cheers from the support crew, Ange and Sam. Sam was shouting encouragement and telling me my swim time, this was going to be easy, only 90km on the bike and 21km run to go, what could go wrong?

Mounted the bike like a Pro and off I went with a big smile on my face waiting for the promised 70km stretch with a strong tail wind, all I would have to do was hang on to the bike! I must have gone the wrong way because this never happened - or at least not to me. Disaster after 19km, I got cramp in my dodgy hamstring, first time ever on the bike this had happened and only the second time during a Tri (the first was at the top of Jebal Hafeet during the run part of the Beast Tri) I had to stop get off the bike and stretch for what seemed like ages but was really about 4 minutes. This happened 4 times, the last at the 80km mark when I could see the F1 circuit. I think it cost me about 15 minutes which showed in my bike and overall time. The bike course was really good, not too easy but not difficult at all, great aid stations and volunteers. I made sure I had lots to drink, water, electrolytes and a gel about every 30 minutes. It was pleasing to see the traffic queues as you cycled passed, that must have really upset them - made me smile at least.

Bike 2 hours 58 minutes 26 seconds - too slow

Off the bike, just like T1 only this time looking like a wounded hippo because of the cramps. Passed my bike over to a stranger and sprinted as only a wounded animal can to get my bag and into the tent. Quick change, new Striders hat - check, sunglasses - check, trainers on - check, gel and drink then out on to the run course in the midday sun, deep joy. Ran about 400m gave my glasses to Sam, ran 200 more and threw my new hat away (sorry Danny) as I've never ran in either before so don't know why I thought I would today. Got to the 1km mark and over took Sarah Mueller who told me I looked good and well done, keep going (or words to that effect). You'll probably go passed me at about 15km I said and guess what - she did! The run was good even though it was hot you could still find some shade in parts and the animals took your mind of it a bit. The really big chickens that ran out in front of you on the road where a bit scary! I started to feel like I was getting a blister after about 2km but that wasn't going to stop me, stopped after about 7km to take my shoe off and sort out my insole or sock which was uncomfortable. Guess what it was, you never will so I'll tell you, a salt tablet that had fallen out of the small bag I had and landed in my shoe, sorted that out and off I went. I drank at every aid station and had a banana at some of them, then some warm fizzy coke at the last few, mmmmm!

I met Holly at 11km, she looked great and was in good sprits, running really well. We spoke for a bit then both carried on with our own race plans – finish the run. The cramps started again but luckily for me not until about 18km then 20km and 21km. I had to sit on the floor next to the pit lane about 300m from the finish to stretching before going around the corner to the finish chute.

The end, what a feeling running down thea chute, I can still hear the announcer now "here comes Paul O'Shea from Iraq!! Wow! Two Paul O'Shea’s crossing the line at the same time, one from Liverpool the other Iraq, what are the chances of that! Zero, I was the Paul O'Shea from Iraq, at least it made me smile even more which looks good on the photos.

Run time 2 hours 5 minutes 38 seconds - too slow

Overall 5 hours 51 minutes 42 seconds – my plan was sub 6hrs

Presented with the biggest medal ever and a finishers puffer jacket – handy for AD! It felt great to finish even though I was a bit disappointed with my time, not because of lack of effort but the cramps, I'm sure I could knock 20 minutes at least from my time without any more effort but I'm sure everyone has excuses – next time…..

Great way to round off the event, the Awards Ceremony - didn't need my speech after all - but it was great to see all the trophies Abu Dhabi won, well done everyone. Then outside to watch the fireworks, Dire Straits and Akon with a few beers, it had been a long wait! Back to the hotel for a well earned sleep. What a great night, day, weekend, week a few months this whole journey has been.

Thank you’s:

I knew that speech would come in handy.

Ange, great supporter and helper during the months leading up to the race and the time in Bahrain. It's a bit selfish doing these long events so you need all the help you can get. Without her this would be ten times harder, although I'm not sure her forcing me to do the Kilo Marathon was a good idea!

Holly, it was great training with her (sometimes), watching her cross the finish line was fantastic. She did really well, better than she thought. She was one of the youngest competitors, I was and am really proud of her.

Sam, great advice, great wetsuit, great bike builder/ packer (very expensive though) and a great support for me and Holly, thanks mate.

Russ (Fraz), how else would I get through a day at work without one of his small emails to read (by doing this!) Didn't understand most parts but overall they really helped point me in the right direction. Thanks also for all the other bits of advice and guidance, maybe next time if I need a good coach…… can you recommend anyone!

So what next? TriYas Sprint in Feb or Challenge Dubai, Oman and Bahrain, the 1 million dollars prize money sounds good and I do need a new bike, you can never have enough bikes! Just need to work on my swim, 42 mins down to 20, then a bit faster on the bike and the run, how hard can it be?

Thank you and goodnight

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10 Signs I'm a Triathlete...

*** many thanks to Team Ramis for this blog post! ***

1.

24 hours a day is simply not enough. I’m supposed to have a full-time job, socialize, train, sleep, eat (and everything in between) in 24 hours? Please! I don’t even have kids yet!

Also, since when is it acceptable for people to sleep past 9:30 p.m. and wake up after 4:00 a.m. No, it hasn’t always been like that! Yes, I am normal.

Also, I feel it is fair to divide the year into two seasons: triathlon season and, whenissummeroversoicanwakeupatahumanhour season.

2.

The whole ‘exercising will boost your metabolism” thing is really not a myth. It works. Especially when you’re doing it for 20+ hours a week. In fact, sometimes (and especially after a long bike ride), it feels like there is not enough food in the world to appease my appetite.

Also, I can’t remember a time in the last 6 months when I was not slightly hungry. Or thirsty.

Also, I may have forgotten what it is like to drink out of cups. No, seriously.

3.

My head is so damn strong, I can take yours on anytime, anywhere. Honestly, when you’re spending that much time alone – just you, the water, the road and the silence – it gets hard to keep going if you cannot muster a serious sense of discipline, of will to push through the plateaus and endlessly long hours and just.keep.going.

Also, it gives you plenty of time to reflect on your day, your life and your decisions – and it’s much cheaper than therapy.

4.

My car serve as a large storage spaces for water bottles, extra socks, shorts, spare garmin straps and goggles. Basically, I have everything I need to swim, bike or run with a 5 minutes’ notice. It may also smell slightly like a locker room. And I’m not even embarrassed by it.

5.

My wardrobe is comprised largely of wearable lycra in all its glorious forms.

6.

My sense of humor is now (arguably) catering exclusively to triathletes. I like to ask if certain clothing makes my butt look faster. I also say think things like “pain is temporary; race results posted on the internet are forever”. Not that it makes me go any faster (unfortunately).

7.

Some part of my body is always aching. Some part of my body I never knew existed is always aching and I have visited more specialists than I knew existed. Did you know, for example, that there is a machine that actually measures your running stride? Huh.

8.

The money I have been saving for retirement (or my next holiday, whichever comes first) has magically drifted to aerobars, garmin everything and some fluorescent workout tops. Maybe also a turbo trainer.

9.

My girlfriends are insanely jealous of my tan. Until they realize where the tan lines actually stop.

10.

I have seriously thought of using my race bibs as wallpaper.

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Remember Roy Nasr Memorial Swim

*** many thanks to Vicky Arscott for this lovely blog post ***

Saturday 28th September 2013, 5.45am, a slightly earlier start than normal for our TriDubai Sea Swim, but for a very good reason. As crowds gathered on Roy’s beach, it would have been apparent to onlookers that this was no ordinary weekly training session, but a poignant celebration of an inspirational man that was cherished by so many.

Fellow triathletes, colleagues, family and friends came along to share in this special memorial swim, something that will always be remembered as a moving tribute to our dear friend and founder of TriDubai, Roy Nasr.

As dawn approached, everyone congregated around a pictoral tribute to Roy and was handed a paper lantern.

Admittedly they were not the easiest of things to light, but as we watched the glowing lanterns rise above our heads and drift out to sea, it was symbolic of a humble man who had such a wonderful presence and grace and yet was so vibrant and full of life.

A moving speech given by Ian, recalled a man who was not only a superb athlete, an enthusiastic and encouraging mentor, a successful business man, and a thoughtful friend, but also the man that stood at the heart of a loving and devoted family. He added “we may have lost our friend, but we’ll not lose our memories of him and the impact he had on us.”

TriDubai, the triathlon club that Roy and Ian built together and which Roy was so very proud of, would serve as a lasting memory of what an inspiration Roy was to so many. A minute’s silence followed before we all took to the ocean for a slow group swim.

With around 130 in attendance, this was the largest group swim for TriDubai. People from all backgrounds took to the water in memory of Roy, this was a celebration of his life, and what better way to celebrate it than at the swim session he would normally lead.

It brought together people outside of the Triathlon community who shared a mutual respect, appreciation, and admiration for Roy. 

vicky swim 8.jpg

Roy always did like to throw in a treat for us, whether it be water bottles, swim caps, museli bars, or gels and today was no different. Special memorial towels bearing the words “In Memory of Roy Nasr” were handed out to all that attended.

A special thanks goes out to all those who helped organize the Memorial Swim and continue to work behind the scenes on other tributes intended to celebrate Roy’s life, for the many people who continue to support TriDubai and the Triathlon community, and to Roy’s family – a family who, despite facing the toughest challenge of all, have welcomed us with open arms to share and celebrate in remembering Roy’s remarkable life.

“Remember Roy Nasr”

(24.02.1964 – 06.09.2013)

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Training for your first triathlon

*** many thanks to Vicky Arscott for this blog post ***

Triathlon (a swim, then a bike, then a run) is one of the fastest growing sports – and there are good reasons why.  Races are challenging (but not impossible), the training is varied and enjoyable, and the atmosphere at events is one of inclusiveness and participation (rather than closed groups of elite athletes).  If you can swim a little, cycle a little and run a little, then like many other people you can take part in your first triathlon.  Indeed, some of the local races (like the series of triathlons and aquathons that are being put on at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort over the winter - see www.race-me-events.com) even have “novice” categories within their races, so that newcomers to the sport can win prizes even if they aren’t the fastest athletes on the day.

But how do you go about training for your first triathlon?

Before participating in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon earlier this year, my short lived training regime lacked structure and consistency and resulted in a less than perfect race.  Marshals in kayaks along the swim course had to usher me in the right direction as I ventured off course.  The transition from the swim to the bike saw me lose my timing chip off my ankle and the Garmin watch off my wrist, as I wrestled to get the wetsuit off.  Part way through the 100km bike course, my legs began to shake and I thought back to all the times I substituted a long ride with my triathlon club, TriDubai, for a lazy lie in.  Normally I would say that running was my forte, but on this occasion, dragging what felt like blocks of concrete around the 10km circuit was not exactly a walk in the park.  Perhaps those Wednesday night “brick sessions” (where you practice the transition from bike to run) at the Autodrome were important after all!!

But I’ve learnt that it doesn’t have to be that hard.  (Unfortunately I found out the hard way – but you don’t need to!)

Whether you are looking to compete in a super-sprint distance triathlon or sprint distance triathlon (either of which I’d recommend as a good distance for your first triathlon), the aim is to be prepared yet remain injury free.  Your training plan will be key to achieving this goal.  

As a novice to triathlons and living in Dubai you may think that the period one can train for a triathlon is very limited due to the nature of the climate.  That’s not the case, and I, like many other enthusiastic beginners are finding out that training continues all year round.

Every training plan will differ as it shall need to take into consideration the race profile (in terms of distance, climate, location, elevation etc) and the athlete’s profile (athletic background, age, ability, health considerations, personal commitments etc).  Training plans are progressive and are devised to build strength, endurance, speed, and efficiency. The plan will show a progressive upward trend both in terms of hours and/ or intensity, before you taper off before your race day.

Periodically you should incorporate a rest week to enable your body to recover and adapt.  A “rest week” is not a green light to dismiss training altogether – rather, it is a week of lighter training to allow your body to recover and be ready to adapt to your next block of harder training.

Consistency in your training is very important so be realistic about the time you can set aside for training.

A couple of tips before you get going with your training plan:

  1. Get a proper bike fit - Numb feet, back ache, pain across the shoulders, knee injuries:  I’ve experienced them all, until I got a professional bike fit.
  2. Get a swim analysis – if your technique is wrong, it could result in injury and your performance will be limited, no matter how much time you spend in the pool.
  3. Get a foam roller – a valuable piece of equipment that can iron out some serious muscle tension.

Swim

Attending group sea swims, where you can simulate race conditions is extremely valuable.  This will accustom you to mass starts, drafting (swimming immediately behind someone, which makes it easier for the person behind), sighting, and exiting from the water.  Aside from the group sea swims, Dubai has numerous swimming venues open to the public, providing a controlled environment for practicing your technique and performing time trials. Distance training and sprint work is important to improve your stamina and speed, so combine some interval sets with longer distances and aim to exceed your race distance in your training.

Bike

Depending on the profile of your bike course (whether it is predominately flat, undulating or laced with steep mountainous climbs), it’s important to start off with getting some base miles with low intensity under your belt to build your strength and endurance.  Later on these may become your recovery rides as your strength and fitness improves.  These base miles are best done in a group with others.  Often other people can be your biggest motivators, and can help push you harder than you might otherwise have trained – and it’s nice and social as well! 

Interval training, where you alternate between fast and slow speeds for set periods of time, also help improve your overall speed and endurance and should be incorporated into your plan on a weekly basis.

Hill training is essential if your course elevation resembles the heart beats on an EKG.  There are some challenging climbs up Jebel Hafeet and through the Hajjar mountains, which you can use in order to prepare yourself for a particularly hilly course.

Run

As with the bike training sessions, long “slow” distance runs will give you aerobic efficiency and endurance, whereas the interval sets will be used to improve your overall speed.  Incorporating inclines into your run sessions builds additional strength and stamina.

Another important feature to incorporate into your training sessions are combined bike-run sets known as “brick sets”.  This trains your body to adapt quickly to the change in discipline and allows you to perfect your transition routine.

In order to limit the incidence of injury and improve your strength and flexibility it’s wise to incorporate some weight training and core muscle exercises and stretches as part of your training plan.

Taper

A couple of weeks leading up to the race, you need to allow your body to recover from the peak training period. Progressively begin to reduce the intensity and duration of your training. Three days prior to the race is reserved for active rest or even total rest!

Preparation for Race Day

Familiarise yourself with the course.  Make sure you clearly know the route you will take in and out of each transition zone.  Locate landmarks you will use for sighting during the swim and mounting/ dismounting the bike, as it is often hard to see the buoys during a mass swim start or temporary signs at the side of the bike course.  At the start of the swim, position yourself to give you the best advantage.  That does not necessarily mean at the front, as you may not be the fastest in the field, it could mean positioning yourself behind someone who is fast enough to draft off his/ her feet.  Finally, ensure you take on enough fluids and nutrition to fuel your body throughout the race (although for your first triathlon, which should ideally be a super sprint or sprint distance race, this shouldn’t be much of a concern).

Train hard, race smart, but most of all enjoy it.  But be warned:  triathlon is addictive!

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The Weight Loss Issue

*** many thanks to Finn “Dataman” Zwager for this blog post ***

Dataman gets the skinny on food and weight measuring

If you are attempting to reach your own ideal racing weight for your summer triathlon, or are interested in creating some ‘weight gain buffer’ before the holiday kilos stack on, keep reading.

Most of us triathletes get a kick out of, and normally aim, to achieve quite specific goals. When my Swiss Half IM race got cancelled due to a mud slide blocking the road just two kilometers into the race, I couldn’t reach my specific goal and was gutted. Of course there is always a next race, I told myself, but as mine was too far away I needed another shorter term fix. I set myself a one month weight loss goal that tied into an existing longer term plan of getting lean and lowering my fat percentage through careful, scientifically-based measurement. In between races, this weight management plan satisfied my hunger for the next goal. This blog is about how I went about it.

Why be lean?

While it may be completely obvious, to help motivation it’s helpful to review the influence that being lean may have on your (long distance) triathlon.

For swimming there may be not much advantage in being lean. Fat floats and provided you have the strength, fitness, technique and flexibility, you can swim really well even with a relatively high fat percentage. Top swimmers have fat percentages of 10-12 percent for men and 19-21 percent for woman. A bit of fat is even an advantage in cold water.

Tip: Even though it burns relatively few calories - partly because you are not supporting your own weight against gravity - you are hungriest after swimming. This is your body’s natural reaction to cold water – it’s looking for insulation in the form of food - even if the water is hardly cold in Dubai!  If you are aiming to lose weight/fat it may help to go for a jog straight after a swim before you have something to eat to keep these hunger pangs at bay. The increased body heat from the run is thought to lessen your craving for food. Combining running with swimming as we do in Dubai sea swims may also do the trick.

When it comes to cycling, weight may be a bit more complicated. Taking away aerodynamic drag which is determined by the size of your body, the shape of your bike and your frontal position on the bike, your bike speed will mainly depend on how much power you can put into your pedals. That in turn is largely determined by your strength and is expressed in Watts. The more Watts you produce the faster you go. A large Über-biker will go really fast, for a while at least, until he meets a hill. Going uphill the larger biker will discover the limits of power-to-weight ratio, expressed in cycling at Watt per Kilogram. Climbers by contrast are tiny and skinny and produce by far the most Watts per kilogram of body weight. Depending on the cyclists’ specialization, fat percentage of the pros may vary between 6-11 percent for men and 12-16 percent for women. I am not sure if that is measured with or without doping. Oh no, I forgot, the sport is clean now…

Have you ever seen fast runners who are fat? Neither have I. Every ounce you don’t have to cart around for 5, 10, 21 or 42 kilometers helps. You have to lift every extra gram against gravity with every step you take. Each extra kilo costs more effort and creates increased loads on your muscles and joints. That’s why top runners have fat percentages of around 7 for men and 12 for women.

Where does that leave us triathletes? You guessed it, somewhere in the middle. Professional male triathletes will have a fat percentage of between 6 to 10 percent and women 12 to 16. What works for you may need some experimenting. While overall the leaner the better, being too skinny may make you a bit more vulnerable to sickness, and often makes you pretty grumpy too!

Calculate your fat percentage

There are various ways to calculate your fat percentage. A very accurate test can be done by submersing your body in water and, along the lines of Archimedes, using some formulas to figure out your exact body composition. This is normally done in a testing facility. Check out www.getdunked.com for example.

For home or gym popular methods are scales and hand held devices that send a weak electric current through your body. Because water and muscle have a different electrical resistance to fat, the machines can estimate your body fat percentage.

Another method is to measure waist, hip and neck circumference and combine this with your height in a formula. There are many sources on line to do this, such as www.calculator.net/body-fat-calculator.html

Yet another method is to measure the size of skin folds, which would normally be done by a doctor or dietician.

Because all these methods work with averages and rely on humans and machines they do have margins of error. As usual, it doesn’t matter too much what method you use, as long as you use one consistently throughout your program, possible calibrating it from time to time by using one of the other methods. For instance, my electronic scales tell me my fat percentage is around 12 percent, while the formula method and my own estimate put it at 9 percent. I now use my scales for daily measurements; keeping in mind a likely over estimate of around 3 percent.

Determine your daily calorie use

Now that you have worked out your current fat percentage and decided on a percentage goal to aim for, you need to figure out how many calories you use or burn per day.

BMR

You first need to know the amount of calories you burn in rest, called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR); in other words the number of calories you'd burn if you stayed in bed all day.

The most accurate method available in the UAE to determine this is a breath analysis using aeroscan from Aerofit. Breath analysis is based on measuring the differences between inhaled and exhaled carbon dioxide and oxygen concentrations during rest. This will give you your metabolic rate at rest (RMR) from which your BMR can accurately be determined.

[During the complete aeroscan this is then combined with heart rate and running speed (or bike power in Watts) providing you with an accurate calorie burn for each level of exercise intensity.]

Other methods rely on formulas based on gender, height, weight and sometimes fat percentage. For instance:

Women: BMR = 655 + ( 9.6 x weight in kilos ) + ( 1.8 x height in cm ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )

Men: BMR = 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) - ( 6.8 x age in years )

As you can see from the formula above, when you get older your BMR goes down. Yes, every year, it becomes harder to eat whatever you want and stay lean.

The act of dieting itself may also decreases your BMR. That’s why it is always so easy to lose the first few percentages of fat, but increasingly difficult to lose the last ones.

BMR correction formula

Now pay careful attention for the next step. To determine your total calorie use per day you can EITHER:

A. Correct your BMR using the Harris Benedict (or similar) formula below;

OR

B. Measure the calories used during all your activities and add those to your BMR.

The last method involves more work, but should be more accurate.

The Harris Benedict used in method A is as follows:

  • If you are sedentary: BMR x 1.2
  • If you are lightly active: BMR x 1.375
  • If you are moderately active: BMR x 1.55
  • If you are very active: BMR x 1.725
  • If you are extra active: BMR x 1.9

Calories used during exercise

If you are NOT using a BMR correction factor, then you must add the calories burned during exercises and activity (walking, shopping, putting the kids to bed) to your BMR to determine the total calories used per day.

The calories used during exercise are most likely to come from your heart rate watch, provided you have entered your (updated!) weight, gender and age. But, there are many on-line calculators available, which won’t be very accurate but may do the job in most cases, for example:  www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/prevention/calorie-calculator.aspx

Remember that for running and cycling you can get very accurate figures using your aeroscan results.

Determine your daily calorie intake

Now that you have figured out what goes out you must measure what goes in.

For limited periods at a time – if I keep it up too long it drives my family crazy – I keep very accurate records by measuring everything I eat or drink. At home the method is a scale and a note book – see photo.

I then enter the exact amounts into my Training Peaks account. It is a bit of work in the beginning, but once you have entered and saved all your favourite/standard foods, it becomes very easy to record it all – 10 minutes per day.

Besides, the calorie, fat, protein and other content of most foods are stored in Trainingpeaks already; you can just drag and drop:

Not only does my Training Peaks account display my total calorie intake, it also gives me the breakdown of macro and micro nutrients.

If your fat loss is not going anywhere despite consuming less calories than you burn, taking a look at what you eat rather than just a straight calorie count might be a good idea. If that still doesn’t work, double check your daily calorie burn – you likely over-estimated them.

Weight management – fat loss

Unfortunately there is no magic here. Fat loss will only occur if you have a calorie deficit: burn more calories than you consume. Each Aeroscan report states: “As a general guideline, a calorie deficit of approximately 500 Kcals/day will enable you to lose approximately 0.5 kilograms per week.

If your daily calorie deficit is too extreme on a consistent basis then your body could go into ‘starvation mode’ in which it retains fat and burns carbohydrate (since carbohydrate is the easiest form of energy for your body). This is one of the good reasons to take a long gradual approach to fat loss.

The only little bit of magic is food timing: Eat around and during exercise and more in the morning and less in the evening.

Exercise zones/intensity

All exercise burns calories, and exercising harder burns more calories. Exercising at a high intensity increases the calories you use per hour and there is some positive calorie burn ‘after effect’. However, at high intensity your body uses mainly the most readily available form of stored energy, carbohydrates. That is still fine for weight loss, provided you retain a calorie deficit for the day.

Exercising at a low intensity you burn less calories per hour, but your body is better able to convert stored body fat into useable energy. You can train your body to convert fat to energy at increasing intensity levels, so your training becomes more ‘fat burn’ efficient.

Tip: A great ‘fat-burning’ exercise is an early morning (very) slow half hour run on an empty stomach or even better after a cup of black coffee. Add this to your normal exercise program once or twice a week and watch the results.

Keeping track of results

In my case my scale sends daily weight and fat percentage data directly to my Trainingpeaks account where I have everything in one place, as shown on this dash board picture showing seven days of triathlon life:

Sleep and weight management:

I had to work from 1 am to 6 am and hence only had three hours sleep. This day I felt very hungry and ‘fell off the wagon’, which is a known body reaction to a lack of sleep. That’s why people that work irregularly or in night shift tend to have more weight management issues.

You can of course keep track in many other ways too. Just remember that the number on the scale is never the whole story for triathletes, as we are interested in race performance, not just losing weight and fat!

 

Conclusion

Did I achieve my goal? I set a new ‘PB’ of 79.7 KG, down from 87 KG at IM South Africa in April 2012. Will this lower weight make me faster? I am not totally sure yet, but the more important drop in fat percentage by about 3 percentage should make a difference. I’ll likely gain a bit of weight and fat in the next few months, but at least I am not starting on the back foot. Also, I now know what I can achieve and in what time frame by using a measured approach.

You could of course achieve the same results and not measure a thing. But, I find keeping close track of weight management data helps me stay motivated. Motivation is key because as we all know eating wisely and managing fat percentages is not always fun. Perhaps my grandfather had it right when he said “A healthy diet doesn’t make you live longer, it just feels like you do.”

Yours in data,

DataMan

Training Absorption - Are you actually getting faster with all that training?

*** many thanks to Trudy Sturkenboom for this blog post ***

3.30am and the alarm sounds and you stumble out of bed to the coffee machine, knock one (or two) espresso down and fumble around in the dark (trying not to wake the rest of the house) getting your lycra kit on. Grab your water bottles, gu, jelly babies and bike and head out the door, ready to receive the weird looks you know you'll get from the party animals returning home in a drunk stupor. After 30-45mins of driving out to the middle of nowhere you arrive and meet your other crazy friends for 3+ hours of beautiful cycling in the desert. 

After a quick jog and a coffee/coke/chocolate milk you drive that 30-45mins back to civilisation where everyone else (except your hyper children and dog) are still in a blissful state of sleep. The time is now somewhere closer to 10am. You've completed a 3-7 hour training session on around 6 hours of sleep.

I can imagine that almost everyone reading this can make some sort of connection with their friday morning routine and the above, not to mention early Saturday morning swims, Saturday afternoon 'easy' long runs, Sunday swims, Mondays brick sessions, Tuesdays swim, Wednesdays brick session and if you're 'lucky' another swim/bike/run or a combination on Thursday. How ever your training plan looks I'm almost certain you (like 90% of every other triathlete in the world) are training a stupid amount of hours and spending less time doing anything else.

My question to you is - are you actually getting faster with the long hours of training? Is there something you can change so your body will actually adapt to that training quicker?

Sleep. That beautiful blissful state of unawareness (and/or mad crazy dreams). What if you traded in a third of your training hours to get a full 8 hours sleep each night? Would you get faster? Lets take a quick look at what is going on when you actually sleep…

"Sleep is made up of five distinct stages that the body cycles through over roughly ninety-minute periods. The first is so light that if you wake up from it, you might not realise that you have been sleeping. The second is marked by the appearance of sleep-specific brain waves that last only a few seconds at a time. If you reach this point in the cycle, you will know you have been sleeping when you wake up. This stage marks the last drop before your brain takes a long ride away from consciousness. Stages three and four are considered deep sleep. In three, the brain sends out long, rhythmic bursts called delta waves. Stage four is known as slow-wave sleep for the speed of its accompanying brain waves. The deepest form of sleep, this is the farthest that your brain travels from conscious thought. If you are woken up while in stage four, you will be disoriented, unable to answer basic questions, and want nothing more than to go back to sleep, a condition that researchers call sleep drunkenness. The final stage is REM sleep, so named because of the rapid movements of your eyes dancing against your eyelids. In this stage of sleep, the brain is as active as it is when it is awake. This is when most dreams occur."  (www.brainpickings.org)


Throughout the 5 stages of sleep our bodies are basically restoring and repairing physically, and storing mentally. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night. When we sleep our bodies are repairing the damage that days training has done to our muscles and central nervous system (CNS). Ideally, we want our muscles to be rebuilt stronger and faster than they were before the training session - thus maximising the whole effect of training. Our CNS needs enough sleep to avoid suffering from acute and chronic overtraining and from adrenal fatigue - not to mention many more conditions. These conditions affect our training adaption, or in many cases - lack of adaption. If we miss sleep completely or sleep less than we need to, then our body misses its chance to actually adapt to the training… So what was the point of training if you can't get the benefit from it? 

Sleep is connected to many hormonal responses from our body and brain. The most obvious two are the onset of sleepiness when it gets darker (your body is releasing more melatonin), and your body's natural awakening when it gets lighter (an increased release of serotonin). Training also affects many of these hormones (as do our diets which is closely linked but another story for another day).

"Sleep is critical for maintaining a healthy metabolic rate and synthesising essential hormones and protein needed for muscle growth. Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced more abundantly when you sleep; you'll need it for growth stimulation and cell reproduction.Sleep also encourages better eating habits. A not-so-restful night might mean reduced leptin (an appetite-regulating hormone) levels. So, if you ever wake up from a fitful night craving nothing but carbs, lower leptin levels might be the reason. Sleep well and your diet will feel easier. At the same time, sleeping also replenishes critical neurotransmitters (specialised chemicals) that you need to build muscles effectively and safely. These neurotransmitters include dopamine, adrenalin, noradrenalin, acetylcholine and more.These chemicals are responsible for focus, attention, motivation, overall energy levels and muscular contractions. These chemicals are depleted by hard training and everyday activities. Only sleeping allows your body to repair itself and replenish the chemicals that are needed for you to get best results." (www.bodybuilding.com

Now you know a few more facts about sleep and why an adequate amount of it will boost your training and results - lets put it to use. You know you need more sleep if you:

  • Have trouble concentrating and remembering.
  • Sometimes lose your sense of humour.
  • Work in a stressful environment.
  • Are tempted to doze in boring meetings.
  • Hit the snooze button repeatedly in the morning. 
  • Have reduced immunity to disease and viral infections.
  • Feel chilled.
  • Struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Have mood shifts, feel depressed or irritable.
  • Experience weight gain.
  • Fall asleep watching TV.
  • Sleep late on weekends.
  • Think that a Saturday afternoon nap is a necessity, not just a luxury.

(This is just a small list of changes you will experience if you are sleep deprived. If you are constantly exhausted you may have adrenal fatigue - this is worth getting checked out by your doctor as it takes months to recover from and your adrenal glands play a large role in controlling your body's homeostasis).

During my triathlon training I could easily have ticked all the above boxes. We really don't even need this list to tell us that we are sleep deprived. But there are days when you will not be able to avoid a shorter sleep (Thursday evening - when getting up at 2am to get your ride in before the summer sun comes up in the desert for example). So what can we do to improve our sleeping hours? 

  • Use an eye pillow if you are sleeping during daylight hours.
  • If you can fit in a nap, go for it- even 20 minutes has been shown to be beneficial.
  • Try as much as possible to sleep when its dark, and wake up when the sun is coming up.
  • Use melatonin if you have problems sleeping at night.
  • Use magnesium to help you sleep deeper (Mg also helps aid in muscle relaxation).
  • Save your carb intake for your last meal of the day, and stick to higher protein and fat breakfasts.
  • Eat clean and avoid alcohol, that way your body regulates hormones levels much more efficiently.
  • Get regular deep tissue massage to relax the body.
  • Try meditation before bed time.
  • Limit your use of bright lights/tv/computer close to bed time (red or pink lights are better- most computers should have this screen function).
  • Don't eat to close to bed time (at least 60-90minutes digestion time before sleep).
  • Take a casual walk or swim after dinner before bed.
  • Adopt your children out until they reach the 'sleepy teenager' years.
  • Try to keep your going to bed and getting up times the same each day.
  • Schedule your training- know exactly what you are doing when you get there, and stick to it so you can get home at the right time. (I'm a big culprit for spending too much time talking and not enough time training!)
  • Make sure your training plan has an 'easy' week every 3 or 4 weeks where you can get at least 7 nights of full sleep.
  • Follow a decent taper before your race, 2 or 3 days is just not enough for most people. The longer your training build up has been then the longer you should be tapering.

I am totally aware that a lot of these options may not exist for you - but if your training adaptions have become stale, it might be time to think about getting some more shut eye.

As long as we are getting adequate sleep, our bodies are regulating the right hormones at the right times in the right amounts. Our muscles and central nervous system are rebuilding faster neuromuscular connections, larger connection areas across the muscle (think - more muscle recruitment to bike faster and turn your legs over faster in the run), and stronger muscle fibres (not bigger, but stronger) just to name a few optimal training adaptions. 

If we are missing adequate sleep then our bodies become less responsive to internal (hormones, food, drugs, bacteria) and external (light, dark, sound) stimuli. Our immune system drops (hello flu) and our hormone levels are out of whack - less growth hormone means less muscle growth (don't think bulk - think faster and stronger muscle growth) - less muscle growth means less training adaption - less training adaption means less improvement in your finish time at your next race. Sleep is one of the most important and generally the easiest aspect of physical improvement- Are you getting enough of it???

(As a side note- If you're not convinced to trade in a few hours of training for that extra shut eye - take a look at some of our own stars in TriDubai.  I know some of our best performers have have relatively low training hours each week (I am talking less than 10 hours per week) and, even though they may be excellent athletes themselves, their bodies are adapting to their training schedules and they are producing the results). 

Power Meters - Friend or Foe?

*** many thanks to Paul Miles for this blog post ***

Power, speed, cadence, heart rate, distance, duration can be called the six dimensions of training.  They are the parameters we are recommended to monitor and record during our training sessions;  you can find hundreds of articles that tell you the best way to plan, monitor, record, evaluate and assess all this data. 

I agree that these measurements are very useful and can form the back bone of a serious and focused training plan.  Indeed a power meter is a great addition to measure your performance on you bike because it quantifies your input and allows you to track it, adapt your training and hopefully keep improving.  

SRM power meters: the "gold standard"

But has the power and data revolution gone too far? Some coaches preach about power meters; some athletes say there is no point riding without a power meter but are they (and all the other measuring gadgets) so essential?  Let's really go "off piste" and question if they actually limit our performance???

Think of the scenario where you go out and you are training hard in a group, been out for 2 hrs and starting to feel tired.  You've been constantly monitoring your Garmin and it shows your heart rate is high, power and speed are now in your threshold zone.  Someone in the group pushes hard and you try to keep with them so your heart rate/power climb and it starts to feel uncomfortable.  You see your power go over your threshold and you start to hope this won't go on too long as you will not be able to keep this level up.  Your Garmin shows your elevated values and this affirms why you are starting to feel tired so you drop off the pace to plod home but you make the distance and time you aimed for.  Job done, pat on the back by your coach!  But did you drop off and feel tired because your muscles are fatigued and your energy is low..........or are you sub consciously limiting yourself and feeling tired by re-assuring yourself that your training is working because you are making the numbers you should.  Are you tired because that is what a few hours of 'hard' training is supposed to do?  Is the data just affirming what you mind wants you to believe and justifying your tiredness or performance limits?

There has been controversial research that concluded endurance is not limited by energy or physical/muscle limitation but perception of effort. Simply put, your speed/pace/power are not limited solely by your muscles or energy but also by your mind and how hard you perceive you are working/exerting yourself.  Are your power meter and measuring gadgets distorting your perception???

For instance, you often hear athletes say I was racing/training "on my limit and couldn't go any faster/further" but once they get to the end, they rest for a few minutes, have a drink of water and then jog/cycle off as a cool down!  If they really were on their limit they should be collapsed on the floor and need help to stand up.  What was actually limiting them? Maybe it was their power meter showing 300 watts which they adopted as their limit, or a self induced performance ceiling because it was feeling uncomfortable, or both?

Who has experienced 'second wind' where you are riding or running and you reach a low during your training/racing where you feel slower, less energy, less motivated and it's tougher continuing?  However, as you get closer to the end you perk up and speed/power increases, energy feels better, generally less fatigued and you surge to the end.  What explains this?  It's all in your mind because your muscles must be more fatigued at the end of a ride than 2/3rds through it. 

Similarly, who has found training in a group provides better results?  Peer pressure, combined motivation, distraction etc all help to dumb down your perceived exertion level which enables you to push yourself more and harder.

Power meters and GPS can be huge motivational training devices but exploit their benefits and be conscious of their drawbacks in that they can affirm an exertion state you want to see/believe, and consequently distort your perception.  With this in mind I would recommend that at least once per month you train on "feel" alone.

Even better, check if your power meter (or HR monitor) is your friend or foe: put your perception to test by placing masking tape over your display of your Garmin.  Go out to train while being in tune with your exertion level - do some max intervals on "feel" and then get home and download your data. Compare how long and far you felt you went with the actuals, then see if your intervals on feel alone are higher/harder/longer than your normal "with data" intervals, in which case your gadget is restricting your performance; whereas if they are lower then your gadget is a motivator!

Race on feel? (and check your stats afterwards!)

With your mind playing such a fundamental role in your physical performance, think back over your last season of racing and evaluate if this could have affected your performance.   Take my race at Abu Dhabi Tri as an example: I had a plan which set target power (for bike) and pace (for swim and run) which I knew I could achieve and maintain as my training and testing had proven this.  I maintained the targets, raced to plan and achieved the time I predicted......but what was limiting my performance? There were numerous times on the bike I could have pushed an extra 20-30 watts but didn't because I had a plan to stick to.  I had convinced myself I needed to hold back to save myself for the run, and consequently I finished strong, but partially unfulfilled.  Perhaps playing out such a plan keeps exertion levels in a comfort zone and therefore should put the focus on efficiency; in my case I gained a good result but left the race feeling it was a well rehearsed, long training session as I had not really elevated any mental or physical boundaries, and there was no racing spontaneity.  Maybe next year will be different...... but ask yourself if you will choose to do training rehearsals in races or really make a break through.....

We all have different aims when we do triathlons; some like to go long, some short, some fast, some steady, some participate and some race.  Regardless of your targets, don't be a slave to your data gadgets, also race on "feel".   I guarantee the races you will remember most will be those that you battled with yourself or against others; those that you had to go 'beyond yourself' as these push your boundaries, re-calibrate your perception and most importantly, re-adjust your exertion level to a new peak.  Keep the gadgets but make "feel" your seventh training dimension and you will become a better athlete and racer.

BlackRock TriDubai training camp: what a week!

*** many thanks to Piers Constable for this blog post ***

When Roy told me early one morning after a masters swim set that TriDubai were running a training camp at BlackRock Ski Lodge in the French Alps, it took me all of five minutes to sign up. Over the past few years I have spent many happy hours riding up famous Tour de France cols in the Haute Savoie, and earlier this year had a memorable few days skiing the Chamonix back country with Lizzy and Beej Mercer, the owners of BlackRock and the hosts for the training week. This was one camp I did not want to miss!

Riding amongst Chamonix's mountains near BlackRock Ski Lodge

The seven camp participants were an eclectic bunch - all had connections to Dubai but some were now living in Europe. There was also a good mix of abilities and experience - some were racing Ironman and 70.3 this summer and others were looking to take the next step up from short course racing. We were extremely fortunate to have the knowledge of coach Garth Fox to tap into - as the week progressed it was clear that Garth was a genuine leader in sports science, nutrition, and triathlon-specific performance coaching.

The team...

We had been sent a rough itinerary a few weeks prior to the camp, however this was very weather dependent and totally flexible given the preferences of the campers. The main aims were to swim bike and run lots, and soak up as much knowledge from Garth as possible.

Trail run

Each day began with a large, healthy breakfast to give us the energy for the work ahead. Food was a focal point of the week, with most of us burning an extra 3000-4000 calories each day just from the exercise. With an attention to detail typical of the whole camp, BlackRock had worked closely with coach Garth and chef Emma to put together an endurance-athlete specific menu each day - lots of energy rich food with masses of fruit and veggies. All the athletes ate a ridiculous amount each day - but we were all amazed to find we had lost significant percentages of body fat when Garth measured us again at the end of the week.

Pool time...

Each day's activity was different. Generally we agreed a plan that everyone was happy with at dinner the previous evening, and this would be tinkered with at breakfast depending on the weather and how people were feeling. The day was usually centred around the bike, with swim and run added in according to athlete preference. My weekly stats were 9k swim (two pool and two lake sessions), 420k bike (six rides) and 54k run (six runs). Although this was around 28 hours across the week - roughly double my normal training volume - I didn't really ever feel that tired given we had so much more time to rest and recover than we get when we try to fit in our training around work and family.  On top of all this BlackRock had laid on the services each afternoon of local elite age-group triathlete turned sports masseur turned osteopath Carlton. Combining a post-ride rub down with a chill out in the hot tub meant that we were all primed and ready to go the next day.

There are hills in the Alps. And then more hills!

Highlights of the week for me were the ascents of the Col des Aravis and Col de Romme (the latter 8k at 8 per cent); the impossibly long, steep and cold ride above the snow-line to Lac d'Emosson at 2000m; the whole team swimming in a super-efficient pack in Lac de Passy (13 degrees water temperature!); and bumping into ultra-marathon running legend Kilian Jornet on a trail run through the forests above Chamonix. But in truth every session was interesting, fun, and challenging - all set in a majestic mountain environment.

The Col des Aravis ascent was a trip highlight

As I sit reflecting on my flight back to the sandpit, I'm thinking that I'm a much fitter and knowledgable triathlete than I was a week ago. But more importantly I have been able to spend time with old and new friends doing something I love and for that I feel humbled and privileged.

It may be 13C, but everyone's still smiling!

So thank you Roy and Ian for organising, Lizzy and Beej for hosting, Garth for coaching, Emma for cooking, Carlton for massaging, and Marc, Martin, Paul, Sonja, Gary and Brian for sharing with me. You guys all rock.

Training zones

*** many thanks to Neil Rooney for this blog post ***

Triathletes can be forgiven for getting confused by all the jargon relating to training zones.  Easy, hard, lactate threshold, aerobic training, VO2 max etc etc.  There are hundreds of ways of setting training zones, but I like a standard 5 zone breakdown.  I've been doing this for quite some time and I don't need a heart rate monitor anymore to know what zone I am in (I do however still use a Garmin on almost every run and on every cycle).

I thought it would be useful to set out what you can achieve in each training zone or what each training zone is for.

Zone 1 (aerobic zone, slow twitch muscle)

Recovery training zone. The purpose of this is to reuse lactic acid built up from a previous long session or high intensity session. The lactic acid is buffered to the liver converted to glycogen and reused as an energy source. This is an excellent was to stay fresh and limit or prevent injury. By training in zone 1 all your connective tissues get the chance to build up a responsiveness to the demands of training something they can't do at higher intensities when the demand on these structures is much higher.

Zone 2 (aerobic zone, predominantly slow twitch muscle)

Rich Roll (Ultraman) advocates Z2 training

This is the engine building zone. An endurance athlete should spend most of his/her training hours in this zone. It will promote the opening of new and dormant blood vessels, increasing blood flow to muscles which provides fuel faster and removes waste. It will also cause an increase in mitochondrial density. This is how the engine gets bigger allowing you to move faster for longer.

While training in this zone you can go for hours and hours without depleting fat stores. However you do need a small amount of carbohydrate replenishment to avoid the brain from bonking, this happens because the nervous system cannot use fat as a fuel source (see previous post)

Zone 3 (transition between aerobic and anaerobic zone, slow and fast twitch muscle)

Race pace zone. All those hours spent fluctuating between zone 2 and 4 will allow you to race at the high end of zone 3 without building up too much lactic acid or getting injured. If you are going long in zone 3 you need some carbohydrate fuel.

It is very important to do a few swims, bike sessions and runs in this zone on the weeks leading up to race day. This lets you get a feel for race pace and the task ahead.

During training this is known as the grey zone because you are not specifically relying on fats or carbohydrates as a fuel source but more a mix of the 2, if weight loss is you goal get out of this zone ASAP!

Anybody doing a marathon, ultra distance run, 70.3 IM or an ironman triathlon this is the zone you are going to race in. It requires a lot of refuelling while racing particularly on the bike during an ironman. If you get your nutrition wrong whilst racing in zone 3 you will bonk, hit the wall and your performance will deteriorate immensely.

Zone 4 (anaerobic zone, predominantly fast twitch muscle, lactic acid production)

The Brownlees and Gomez racing in Z4

Lactate threshold zone. Once you reach this coveted zone you are no longer relying on fats as a fuel source. This rapidly depletes carbohydrate stores, if you start a race in zone 4 due to excitement and nerves you will suffer the remainder of the race.

If you are a seasoned triathlete and you are fairly fit and fast you can probably get away with racing an Olympic triathlon at the low end of zone 4. Carbohydrate stores can last about 90mins and if you consider the swim will not be at zone 4 rather zone 3, then I think the real fit guys can race this in zone 4 with a small amount of fuel replacement.

Zone 5 (pure fast twitch muscle activity)

A very specific zone most notably know to build speed over a short distance by improving the neuromuscular junction message relay. Where the never tells the muscle what the brain wants it to do i.e. flex, extend, flex, extend very quickly so we can move fast and win this race.

Zone 5 is good place to be if you want to improve your sprint finish.

Hydration for hot weather training

*** many thanks to Tony Hchaimé for this blog post ***

I went for a run a few nights ago and could barely keep my heart rate under control:  the Dubai summer is officially here:  heat, humidity, smog, and the perils of air conditioning.

This coincides with a number of questions I've received recently from beginner as well as "elite" amateur endurance athletes regarding the optimal nutrition and hydration strategy for hot weather training.

After all, who among us hasn't suffered through heat-induced cramps, stomach problems, bloating, and bonking when training / racing in the sandpit summer?  I know I have! And I still make mistakes with that...

Let me start with a small reminder from basic school biology: do you remember the process of osmosis?  You get 2 liquids, separate them with a membrane.  Add some some salt or any other mineral to one.  So now one of the liquids has a higher concentration of minerals than the other.  As time passes, the "clean" liquid will pass through the membrane into the "concentrated liquid", until both liquids have equal concentration.  How cool is that??!  Ok, now keep that in mind, we'll come back to it later...

Water serves 3 main functions for the endurance athlete:

1.  Temperature regulation

2.  Maintaining cellular chemical balance

3.  Aiding in digestion (to be addressed in separate article)

1.  Temperature Regulation

Mechanism:  sweating. Yes, not pleasant, but that's why we can outrun a gazelle over a day-long run...

Sounds simple enough, no?:  When sweating, the water evaporating from the skin cools the skin down, hence cooling the blood in the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) under the skin, and hence cooling the rest of the body.

Not so fast.

This works great in mild and dry weather, where the humidity in the air isn't low.  Remember that school biology lesson we started with about osmosis?  Well when humidity is high, the air is "concentrated" with water molecules, and "doesn't want to take more", this slows down dramatically the evaporation of sweat off your skin. Result:  less cooling.

Your body's reaction:

  • Stage 1: uh oh, this sweating thing isn't working very well, let's try and sweat some more --> you start sweating more, so this means losing more and more water, which needs to be replaced
  • Stage 2: dammit! Even this higher level of sweating is not cooling me down! That's it! I'm shutting down non-essential units.  HELLO CRAMPS!

This scenario is not uncommon among athletes, even smart ones. They say things like:

  • I ran with a fuelbelt and was drinking water all the time!"
  • "I took electrolytes all the time" (more on that later)
  • But I was still cramping and my heart rate was going through the roof! What's going on??"

Make sure you hydrate properly...

Well, a couple of things are going on:

a.  Yes you're drinking more and more water, which is replacing the sweat you're losing.  So your problem is not getting dehydrated by loss of water.

b.  The water you're drinking from your fuelbelt is warm and getting warmer by the minute by being in the sun/heat and / or close to your body, so effectively you're warming your "insides" with every sip of water, thereby negating any benefits you're getting from sweating.

c.  Yes you're taking electrolytes, which is great since they are essential for your muscles to function, and you're losing them when sweating... but the question is, are you taking too many electrolytes?

This is a good time to talk about how water helps in maintaining your cellular chemical balance.

2. Maintaining cellular chemical balance

a.  Some essential minerals (and water) are needed for our muscles to function properly (won't go into cellular chemistry here, email if you want to know more!).

b.  Those minerals are lost with sweating.

c.  Cells (nervous and muscle fibres) are sensitive to swings in their cellular chemistry (including availability of those minerals).

d.  Replacing those minerals is simple enough: taking electrolytes during hot weather training/racing.

So what could go wrong? Why do athletes suffer from cramps even when taking electrolytes (I'm guilty too, check out my Abu Dhabi race report!!).

Well there are 2 scenarios:

Scenario 1: Not taking any electrolytes

  • You sweat, losing water and minerals;
  • You drink tons of water to replace sweat;
  • Your stomach fills with nice clean water.

RESULT: Remember that osmosis thing?

{water in stomach, low concentration} ==> ||Stomach Wall/Membrane|| ==> {blood, high concentration}

Your stomach wall is the "membrane", on one side you have a "low concentration liquid, the water in your stomach", and on the other you have a "high concentration liquid, your blood".  Because of osmosis, water will move through the stomach wall into your blood stream. This causes your blood to get diluted (becomes lower concentration).

Now you have:

{diluted blood, low concentration} ==> ||Cellular/muscle Wall/Membrane|| ==> {Cells in muscles and nervous system / high concentration}

So what happens now, is water will Flood the cells, diluting the minerals. Cells are now hit with a "double whammy": they're losing minerals from sweating, and the flooding of water is causing whatever minerals are left to get diluted further!  They start shutting down or "mis-firing". HELLO CRAMPS!!!

Ok, so you say, fine, I'll take as much electrolytes as I need. Well yes, but again, not so fast, because there is such a thing as taking TOO MANY electrolytes! It's not easy to keep a balance.

Scenario 2: taking too many electrolytes

  • You're smart / experienced enough to know that water alone doesn't work
  • You start popping salt tablets like crazy
  • Yet you still cramp!!! WTF!!!!???

Well here's "WTF":

Remember that osmosis thing?  Now imagine the situation we have in Scenario 1 above is reversed. You take SO MANY electrolytes that the water in your stomach now is higher in concentration than your blood.

{water in stomach, high concentration} <== ||Stomach Wall/Membrane|| <== {blood, low concentration}

So what do you think happens now?  That's right!: the higher concentration in your stomach is drawing water out of your blood and into your stomach!!! By the same token, now your blood is super concentrated, and draws water out of your cells! and that, ladies and gentlemen, is how one can get dehydrated even when drinking water... when you overload with electrolytes, it's no longer water, it's highly concentrated liquid that's actually pulling water out of your entire body and into your stomach!

Result: cramping, and bloating (ugghh hate that feeling!), liquid sloshing around your stomach... not fun, especially on the run.

Conclusion

Well that's all well and good, but what do I do about it??  Well, a solution isn't really a workable solution unless it's simple right? There is no "fool proof" method, but here are my suggestions:

  • #TIP1:  Don't overload on salt the days before training / racing. Here's a tidbit: our typical diet (even healthy ones) have 5x to 8x the recommended daily salt intake. AND, our body does store a lot of that.
  • #TIP 2:  be careful when taking electrolytes: you want to take in the minimum to maintain osmotic balance. So start with 1 tablet / hr, then increase.  It's a learning process, and eventually you'll find the right balance for you (each body is different).
  • #TIP 3: chose a balanced electrolyte: some products out there have way too much salt compared to other minerals.  What happens is that even if you take a tiny bit, and the concentration of minerals in your stomach is "balanced", you will have such a high concentration of "salt" that it creates an osmotic imbalance and draws water out of your blood/cells.
  • #TIP 4: be aware of your drinks! Remember, sports drinks (Gatorade, etc) are by design concentrated (due to sugar contents), and by having them in your stomach you're increasing the concentration. If you want to drink them, just be aware of that when taking electrolytes on top. My personal strategy is to drink only water when racing / training - I take my calories and electrolytes separately.
  • #TIP 5: drink cold water: whenever you can.  Drinking cold water cools you from the inside, cools your blood and organs.  This is even more critical on humid days where the sweating mechanism isn't doing much to cool you down.
  • #TIP 6:  do NOT overhydrate!  On very hot days, it's tempting to guzzle down cold water.  Remember, you need to keep the liquid in your stomach balanced.  Too much water causes an imbalance (see Part 2/Scenario 1 above) - do a "Sweat Test" to determine your sweat rate (call/email for details).
  • #TIP 7:  don't forget to hydrate while swimming in the summer.  While you may think that you're not sweating, you are! and you're losing minerals too! So for hard/long swims, replace those lost fluids/minerals
  • #TIP 8:  hydration doesn't stop when you stop training. Stay well hydrated throughout your day, before and after training to maintain that infamous osmotic balance...

Happy Training,

T

Running injuries - are you going too hard?

*** many thanks to Neil Rooney for this blog post ***

In my last blog post Running Faster I outlined the mechanism behind making yourself run faster by training below your lactate threshold. There is another golden reason why running below you lactate threshold is vitally important and it's got nothing to do with speed but keeping yourself healthy and injury free.

I'm sure you've all met people like myself who never get injured and claims to feel energised after exercise. Most people I know who are training for a specific event will feel tired or worn out a couple of weeks into a program. It's not uncommon to hear marathon runners and triathlete wishing race day away so they can have "time off training" or "get their lives back" and are complaining about being worn out. These people are also the individuals who are going to complain of these running or exercise related injuries. The injuries in question are; joint pain, ligament strain, Achilles tendinitis, compartment syndrome, shin splints, stress fracture, knee bursitis, meniscus or cartilage damage/tear, runners knee, IlioTibial band pain, low back pain, shoulder capsule pain and rotator cuff injuries (in swimmers).

So why are these injuries so common and why are the occurring?

Let me begin by giving my views on a quote that gets thrown around all too often. I'm not 100% certain who the quote came from so I won't suggest but it was definitely from somebody in the "barefoot" movement. The quote goes to the tune off "Running is one of the most dangerous exercises you can choose with over 70% participants getting injured" they proceeded to suggest running barefoot would save you from this dooming percentage. Well even if you run barefoot with picture perfect posture your risk of injury will be up around 70% if you continuously train above lactate threshold. So once again physiology reins through and regardless of what you do or don't put on your feet you must obey the physiology and biochemistry if you are to avoid these injuries.

When you exercise (and let's take running as the example: although this applies to all exercise, running is a good example because of the impact - cycling and swimming are virtually impact free so these injuries are less likely, however the rules still apply) you are breaking your body down in an attempt to rebuild it and make it stronger and perform better. Every single workout should have a purpose and that purpose should be fresh in your head during that work out. Differing workouts during the week will have varying purposes but all workouts are aimed at getting you to the same place.

In the last post I gave an example of a female runner training above and below her lactate threshold. I explained that once you go above your lactate threshold you will be burning sugars as a primary fuel source. This means you will be generating lactic acid at a rate quicker than you can process it, to be reused as energy. This lactic acid will build up in your muscle and connective tissues and this is not a good idea. Let me explain!

When exercising a waste product spills out from the power stations in your muscle cells called lactic acid. Lactic acid is collected and brought to the liver where it is processed and manufactured back into a fuel source to be reused. You might remember this from school, it's called the Kreb's cycle. Above your lactate threshold lactic acid will accumulate and eventually make your muscles feel so sore that you have to stop. Below the lactate threshold you will be able to process this lactic acid and continue exercising for a long period. If you stay below lactate threshold and exercise for a few hours eventually lactic acid will build up and you will lose the battle to process it quicker than you develop it. When lactic acid builds up is tissues they will feel sore and you will have to stop.

Along with lactic acid build up during training above lactate threshold you will also accumulate carbon dioxide in your tissues as you develop breathlessness. This will push the body into a more acid state. As you push on the glycogen stores run low and your body starts looking for protein to use as fuel.

Since the muscles have a huge blood supply they are not at huge risk of the ill effects of these metabolic products. However in the connective tissues; fascia, bone, ligaments, tendons, joint capsule, joints, meniscus, cartilage and bursa there is very little blood turn over. As a result of poor blood turn over metabolic waste can build up really easily and very quickly in these tissues, especially if you are always training in a zone that produces lactic acid faster than you can recycle it, above your lactate threshold.

When you keep running above the lactate threshold and repeatedly beat your body up you will accumulate enough waste and acid by products to cause severe pain (free nerve endings or pain receptors don't like acidic environments) and eventually injury. Once a connective tissue becomes injured by tearing or spraining it is very difficult to repair. These tissue don't have a huge blood supply so the process will take time (far longer than a muscle strain), it will also require rest which is usually the last thing a marathon runner will do if a race date is approaching.

The general story of a person with one of these injuries is; take a few days rest until pain subsides, since you're not running the acid accumulation is less and therefore pain is less. Then the person will go for a light jog and they feel good, most people are worried and this light jog is under the lactate threshold so no acid accumulation. Then the person feels cured so goes out the for the next run all guns blazing, training way above lactate threshold and to their utter surprise the injury returns.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so try experimenting with a heart rate monitor. I've been using Garmin for the past 6 years before that I had a Polar. Personally I think the Garmin brand is best. I use a forerunner 310XT, which meets all my swimming, biking and running needs.

I commute on average 140km per week around London on a single speed bike, the vast majority of this is below my lactate threshold. Also all of my long runs are performed 1-2bpm below my lactate threshold. It is these factors alone that prevent me getting injured no matter how many kilometres I run each week. I measure my lactate threshold roughly every 6 weeks. It's essential to monitor the lactate threshold (it will vary with fitness) so that you can be just under it on a long run pushing the fat burning system to its limit.

Remember you can't run a marathon or ironman on sugar, so train your body to fuel on fats.

In the next post I will describe how you go about finding your lactate threshold without using any equipment other than a heart rate monitor. That seems like a logical step since I've been explaining its importance so much.

Running faster

*** many thanks to Neil Rooney for this blog post ***

Most people who partake in running or triathlon begin with a goal of just completing whatever race they want to do but soon after that race, if they have been bitten by the bug they'll want to run faster.  The common method for increasing running speed is running faster and faster on each training session. However that method is incorrect and will lead to minor increments in running times, injury and poor health.

The correct way to get faster at endurance running is learning how to run slow first, this will speed you up long term and will help you avoid unnecessary injury. I should point out that endurance or distance running is anything further than 800m. Yes that's right 800m, so if you are training to run the mile or anything further you are training for endurance or at least you should be. The 5km race series or the run in a sprint triathlon (5km) is definitely an endurance feat and this should be addressed in training. Any run that is longer than a marathon (26.2 miles or 42.2km) is considered an ultra-distance race.

David Rudisha: this lad can run

The line between endurance running and speed running can be drawn at the 800m line because of physiological measures. If you prepare correctly it is possible (just like David Rudisha demonstrated in the London Olympics 2012) to run 800m in an all-out sprint from start to finish. During this distance your body can rely predominantly on sugars as a fuel source from start to finish.  This means you can run in an anaerobic (without using oxygen for fuel and solely relying on glycogen) state.  Any distance further, let’s say 1 mile, you cannot run solely on sugars, at some point in that distance fats must be a fuel source.  Which means you cannot go all out sprint from start to finish, you must pace yourself and you will have to use oxygen along with those fats.  Therefore running in an aerobic state.

As I have mentioned before, all 3 of our energy systems are active all the time.  However the dominance on one system will change dramatically depending on exercise. The line between burning glucose (sugar) as a primary fuel source and fats as a primary fuel source is called the lactate threshold.  It is this key feature of physiology that you are trying to raise by training, the higher this lactate threshold becomes, the faster and longer you will be at distance running.

The lactate threshold is determined by the body’s ability to burn fat as a fuel source.  By developing your muscles’ power stations (mitochondrial density) you can raise your lactate threshold.  Raising your lactate threshold inevitably brings that number closer to your maximum heart rate (MHR) number.  If you don't know your maximum heart rate it can be roughly calculated by subtracting your age from 220. MHR = 220 - Age.  So lets say we take an individual who is just beginning running.  Lets suppose her MHR is 180bpm (beats per minute) and at 120bpm she will reach lactate threshold. That means when exercising the heart rate up to 120bpm she will be relying 50% on fat and 50% on glucose as a fuel source. If she keeps the heart rate below 120bpm she is relying predominantly on fat as a fuel source and above 120bpm she is relying predominantly on glucose as a fuel source.  Since distance running requires fat as a fuel source, you don't need a great deal of distance before fat is dominating sugar fuel source considerably. A nd the longer you run the more and more fat dominates as a fuel source.  So in order to become faster you must be able to burn fat more quickly, remember fat yields more than twice the energy that glucose yields per gram.

The key question I suppose is "how do I train to burn fat and raise my lactate threshold?"  This training needs to increase the muscles mitochondrial density and vascular pathways (see previous posts on the Run Sensible site).  The more power stations and road ways the more energy you will have available.  The only way to increase mitochondrial density is to train your body to burn fat.  This can only be achieved by training just below your lactate threshold.

So our individual needs to run at a heart rate of 119bpm, for her long run. As the muscles develop and open new mitochondria the lactate threshold will slowly increase as will her speed and ability to run further.  Now lets suppose after 6 weeks of training the lactate threshold is 125bpm (as a result of new blood vessels and increased mitochondria in the muscle cells), the individual will now be able to run at 124bpm and feel as comfortable as she did at the beginning when running at 119bpm.  If at 6 weeks later the new lactate threshold is 130bpm she will feel comfortable running at 129bpm and so on!  You get the message?  Since the heart rate or bpm determine the effort and the effort determines the speed, the higher the heart rate (so long as you are under the lactate threshold) the faster you become at distance running.

An important note to remember.  If you are all the time training above your lactate threshold you are training your body to burn sugar.  If you train your body to burn sugar, guess what?  Your body is going to crave sugar!  It doesn't matter how strict you are on the Paleo diet, the Atkins diet or any other low carb diet, if you train your body to burn sugar by being above your lactate threshold, your day is going to be filled with thoughts of quick fix sugar foods and fizzy drinks.  You can't cheat physiology, you just can't!

My suggestion to anybody doing any type of training from running, cycling, swimming, cross fit, weight lifting or spinning you should include a sub lactate threshold training session once a week to gain speed, reduce fat and prevent injury.

TriDubai Jebel Ali Sprint Triathlon - 30 March 2013

After the successful running of the trial race earlier in the season, the first TriDubai Jebel Ali Resort triathlon took place on Saturday 30th March.  It was also a huge success!

The race - which was organised by David Mutch - was sold out a few weeks before the start, and so we had pretty much 200 people take part.

David gives the race briefing to the awesome competitorsIt was a sprint distance race - with the 750m swim in the marina at the Jebel Ali Beach Resort.  This was triathlon, Dubai style:  "just turn left at the super-yacht"!

After smashing themselves in the swim, the racers headed up to a packed transition in the main car park to grab their bikes and head out onto the loop outside the hotel for the 20km bike leg. 

The final leg, the 5km run, involved a bit of the dreaded "sand running" just to finish off anyone's legs that hadn't already had enough.

Sand isn't fun. Especially after a 750m swim and a 20km bike!

Not only did we have the top local triathletes taking part (Oli Godart and Deirdre Casey being the standout male and female Dubai based athletes in the last couple of seasons), but we were also graced with triathlon royalty in the shape of 2005 Ironman World Champion (and 5th placed finisher in the event in Kona last year), Faris Al Sultan.  He won - but not by much!

Faris giving it some on the sand

You can see the results here (or an online version here).

A huge amount of effort went into organising the race by David Mutch and his team of helpers - thanks to David and the many, many people that volunteered to help!  (Thanks also to Sven Polter Photography and Andy for the photos above).

Many thanks also to Edgar who put together this fantastic video of the event:

The race even made it into local newspaper 7Days [click on the article for a larger version]:

We hope that next season we will be able to build on this race, and have a mini-series of races at the Jebel Ali Beach Hotel.  Watch this space!

 

Michelle Dillon camp: lots learnt!

Twenty four TriDubai members took part in the fantastic Michelle Dillon training camp last weekend.

As many people know, Michelle is a 2x Olympian (representing GB in triathlon at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics), and a former World and European champion, who was famed for her aggressive approach on the bike and fearsome run speed.  (And for running we are talking about a 31.40 10km PB - definitely something to be feared by her competitors!)

The weekend started off with some drinks and chat at Ian's house on the Thursday night, where the participants got to have a chat to Michelle and her assistant coach Perry Agass, ask questions, explain what they wanted out of the weekend, and set out what their triathlon goals were.

Everyone had a relative lie-in the next morning (by Dubai triathletes' standards!) and met at Safa Park for opening time.  

We then had a run technique session, and first off we found out how to activate the glutes before running (lots of clenching went on!).  From there Michelle and Perry took the team through several drills in order to learn, and then run with, the running style that Michelle promised would make us more efficient, quicker, and less likely to get injured.  What's not to like about that?!

That afternoon, the group met at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort, for an open water swim session in the sea.  The wind had got up a bit, and there was a certain amount of chop around, so it served to show the important of having a high arm turnover in the water in order to keep moving through it.  Everyone practised entrys in and exits out of the water, race starts and sighting, before a number of sprints and a team race to finish everyone off nicely.  Other than a couple of cut feet from some sharp rocks, it all worked out great.  Michelle then gave a talk about set up for transition, wetsuit removal, and then took the group through a stretching session.

The next morning, everyone set up their bikes on turbo trainers next to the running track at the Dubai Mens College.  People were aware that it might be a hard session, but perhaps not ready for it to be quite as hard as it was!

We started off again with the glute exercises - with Michelle and Perry lending a hand!

After a warm-up, we were then into the first set:  a 1km run; 10 min hard bike; 1km run session.  Did most people go out too hard on the first 1km run?  (Yes!)

Michelle and Perry explaining the next set to the group:

From then on we had another couple of nasty sets that involved 2 things:  (a) running fast and (b) biking hard.

Perry shouting at the group:  "You can still push harder!  This is where it counts!  Come on - work it!".  It really hurt.

Michelle explaining what we were going to do next:

The final session of the day was a swim technique session in the pool at Kings School (thanks a lot to Dubai Masters Swimming Club for sorting this out for us!).  Here Perry took us through the "no-glide" open water technique - essentially moving away from front-quadrant swimming, and teaching the group a stroke that should be more efficient in open water (and specifically in choppy open water).  After the technique work, the group was then kindly given a main set of 20 x 50m (hard!) to finish off.  And finish the group off it did!

That evening the group met for dinner at the Westin, with Gary and Jess getting the "best performance" awards (and some Team Dillon kit to show for their efforts!)

Thanks to Michelle and Perry for a fantastic weekend.  You can see more photos from the weekend here.

Race analysis - ADIT

*** many thanks for Finn "Dataman" Zwager for this blog post ***

As many TriDubai members raced the recent Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (ADIT) and have done so more than once, Dataman thought it would be interesting to look more in depth at comparative pre-race training data as well as the data from the race itself.

Training data - volume

So, what could my training data tell me about my readiness for this race?

Last year’s ADIT was during the build/peak period for my ‘A-race’ a few weeks later, Iron Man South Africa. This year it was a few weeks after the Dubai Marathon, which had been an ‘A-race’ in an attempt to get under 3 hours (it worked: 2:59:06!). Clearly these different A-race goals meant a very different preparation for the ADIT training race.

Time

The charts below show training hours for each discipline in the 3 months prior to ADIT:

In 2012 I trained 32 more hours (or almost a quarter more) compared to the same period in 2013. I also spent a lot more time, 41 hours or 70 percent, on the bike, which is typical for IM preparation. The emphasis on running in 2013 was clear.

Training data – intensity

Training intensity also varies according to your training goal. Iron Man distance training generally consists largely of longer, lower intensity work, while (arguably!) preparation for a fast marathon should include quite a lot of high intensity speed work as well. The heart rate distribution chart below comparing percentage of time in each heart rate bin (a bin is 10 beats wide in this graph) reflects this approach.

Note: The 2012 distribution is skewed to the right in contradiction to the ‘long, steady’ statement on IM training above. This is partly due to brick sessions; running after bike causes higher heart rates, and participating in sprint races.

Based on this pretty basic way of looking at my data, I expected that:

  1. My swim time would be similar or a bit slower compared to last year.
  2. The bike would be slower. Or, at least my average power output would be lower while the speed could still be similar depending on the circumstances on race day.
  3. My run would perhaps be faster.

There are certainly other more sophisticated ways to determine race readiness for instance using Trainingpeaks or WKO+ software and (preferably) a bike power meter. We will discuss these in a future blog.

Race day!

Weather

You have got the deal with the weather on the day, which in some races can vary wildly from one year to the next. The circumstances at ADIT are pretty predictable: Hot and windy!

As it turned out, last year it was a bit windier and cooler, this year a bit calmer but hotter as can be seen on the graphs below.

Course

The run and swim course were the same, but measured by GPS the bike course of the short distance was 5 km longer than last year and the routing was different as well. The main change was taking out crossing the big bridge twice and not going all the way into town before heading back out, which made for a flatter (440 meters less climbing this year using uncorrected GPS elevation data), more wind exposed course.

Results

Swim

My swim time didn’t really change 24min13sec for 1522 meters this year, versus 24min44sec for 1566 meters last year, or 1min30sec per 100 meters. While some members of TriDubai swim that time using one arm while towing the Titanic, I was quite pleased with it because I had kept the pace the same despite my lower swim training volume (and intensity). It is likely that improved technique and more (open water) swimming experience gained over the year paid some dividends.

Bike

The bike results are in the table and charts below (some of the terms will be discussed in a next blog):

 

 

The 2013 graphs show a consistently higher heart rate and from around 2 hour 20 minutes you can see the blue power bars drop and the red heart rate line rise. The decoupling taking place here may have had to do with some stress and dehydration at the end of my race: When I reached for my drink bottle behind my back on the bike, I discovered it was gone. I did not have a drink for the last part of the race, while I desperately needed and expected one. Bummer!

The last interesting bike graph is a power/heart rate scatter plot where each 1 second power measured is plotted against the heart rate in that same second.

This graph again shows that overall in 2013 I had higher heart rates producing less power, indicting decreased bike fitness compared to 2012.

Run

Unlike my prediction, the 2013 9.5KM run turned out to be slower at 41min versus 39min16sec in 2012. The average heart rate was the same at 154 bpm.

The difference is well explained by the lack of hydration in the last part of the bike (I had to slow down to drink lots on the run) as well as the higher (perceived) effort I had to put in the bike because of my lower bike fitness

Conclusion

Your training data can predict your race results quite well, especially if you have previous race data as well.

To end this episode and to get you back out there training, I found a good quote in Alan Hunter’s book ‘Cutting-Edge Cycling’:

…nobody wins because they’re the best data logger! On the other hand, careful ongoing analysis of the data, along with honest assessment of goals and communication…may help.”

Yours in data, DataMan.

Hitting the wall

*** many thanks to Neil Rooney for this blog post ***

I am a firm believer that there is a purpose to every experience in life. No matter how harsh or unfair things seem at the time there is always something to be learned from an experience once you come out the other side.

If you've ever "hit the wall" in an endurance race, you should have learned that you were unprepared and that you made a beginner's mistake. If it has happened more than once you need to do some research on training and nutrition. And if it's a regular occurrence when you train or race you should seriously think about becoming a couch potato because that's probably a healthier way of living. Let me explain!

The phenomenon of "hitting the wall" happens when you have exhausted the body of its glucose stores to the point where you've bonked and still haven't refueled with carbohydrates. The muscles are relying on the fat stores as an energy source (which is a good thing), but remember fats are very slow burning and the 3 energy systems (see post on bonking) are active all the time. So when the glucose stores are exhausted the easy burning fuel system requires something else to burn. The next easy option fuel source is protein, it's not as easy to break down as carbohydrates but it yields the same amount of energy per calorie, so not a bad substitute.

We never have to worry about our fat stores running low because we are so well equipped at storing fat we can never deplete the stores no mater how far we run or bike. Even elite athletes who race between 3%-4% body fat, it's impossible for them to deplete their fat stores. However in order to keep the fat burning process in operation we need some easy access fuel too. So the body must start to burn proteins in the absence of carbohydrates.

We all know that proteins are what we use to build our bodies. Proteins are an enormously important nutrient and they have far more important functions than building strong muscles. All the hormones in your body are proteins in one form or another, the receptors on cells that receive these hormones are proteins, neurotransmitters (responsible for movement and feelings), immune cells (that fight infection), and inflammatory cells (part of the repair process after training) are all proteins and have a huge role in the body.

When you use protein as a primary fuel source such as when you've "hit the wall" you are jeopardising every system in the body which relies on protein. Some hormones and especially neurotransmitters are very short lived, some have a shelf life of less than a second so our bodies are constructing these proteins all the time with the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that are stored in our liver. We don't have the capacity to store many amino acids due to their acidity so it won't take long to run low on protein stores too. At which point your body will really begin to fall apart from the inside out. When this happens you will feel like you have run into a wall hence the term " Hitting the wall!"

This can happen for two main reasons; poor preparation and inadequate training or inadequate fuel replenishment on race day as a result of poor nutrition.

The common habits of a novice marathon runner or triathlete is to skip breakfast for fear of stomach cramps during the race. Instead is backed up with a pocket or bum bag full of energy gels and energy bars. The race begins and so does the sugar roller coaster. If your training has been inadequate for your desired time you won't have the mitochondrial density (power stations for burning fats) to access the energy required from fats, so you over- rely on sugar. Until the sugar runs out! You will feel really sick (or perhaps have been sick) from downing all the gels and the only option for the body is to burn protein. By mile 20 (in a marathon) you'll know all about that wall!

It will probably take 1-3 weeks to recover from this experience and you may get bombarded with a throat or chest infection days after the race as a result of your immune system (defence army) being depleted.

I hit the wall in the first marathon I ever did in 2001 and haven't revisited the experience since. What amazed me most that day was the participants' ability to jog home after the race. I was so beaten up I could hardly stand and here were these guys jogging home after beating me by an hour or more. That's when I knew I had got something wrong,,, very wrong.

Our involuntary (autonomic) nervous system has a sympathetic component (fight or flight) and a parasympathetic component (rest and digest). These two systems work on a see saw motion, if one goes up in activity the other must go down. On race morning the sympathetic system is on over drive which is why you feel nervous, digestion is turned down which is why you feel butterflies in your stomach. It's a good idea to eat a wholesome oatmeal breakfast with some nuts for slow energy release 3-4 hours before the race. It will take a little longer than usual to digest (due to low parasympathetic activity) but you will reap the benefits during the race. After the 45 - 60 minute point of a marathon and after the swim in a triathlon start to refuel with whatever works for you but be advised simple sugars at this point are not the best option. The fuel source should be carbohydrate and slow releasing. Get inventive and find out what works for you. I like sweet potatoes, dates and bananas.

If on race day you are close to your desired time in the final 5km but feeling low on energy by all means crack open the gels and sugar drinks, they will work wonders to get you home, just don't depend on them from an early stage, they will let you down.

Overall preparation, be it mental, physical or nutritional readiness are essential for a race like a marathon or triathlon. The body must be able to endure the mental stress of wanting to quit, the physical battle to carry on and the fluctuating energy levels that occur during endurance sport. If you are not prepared for all three, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Find a training plan that fits into your life, set a goal, stick to the goal and go for it on race day. No matter how good you feel, stick to the plan unless with 5km to go you still feel great; then you can take off and beat the goal. Rehydrate with water at every opportunity and refuel as you need it. Enjoy the experience and remember there is always another race!

Black Rock Ski Lodge TriDubai Triathlon Training Camp: 10th - 18th May 2013

Black Rock Ski Lodge is a purpose built, luxury mountain sports chalet nestled in the foothills of the Mont Blanc Massif, France, and its owners (TriDubai triathletes, Lizzy and 'Beej' Mercer) have teamed up with sports scientist and endurance performance coach Garth Fox to put on a triathlon training camp in the French Alps for TriDubai from 10th - 18th May 2013.

Garth Fox

Black Rock Ski Lodge is proud to host Garth Fox, a renowned sports scientist and endurance performance coach.  Garth has worked with triathletes of all abilities (from novice to British and World Champions) in both triathlon and cycling. He is also a regular contributor of articles on training science and physiology to Runner’s World and Triathlon Plus magazines as well as holding an MSc in Sports Science & Human Performance. Visit his site at www.garthfox.com.

Black Rock Ski Lodge

Black Rock Ski Lodge is a purpose built, luxury mountain sports chalet nestled in the foothills of the Mont Blanc Massif, France.  The chalet is owned and run by Lizzy and 'Beej' Mercer, two keen amateur triathletes who between them have represented GB at Age group level in the Long Distance World Championships in Perth, Australia and Las Vegas, USA.  Black Rock Ski Lodge is proud to welcome multi sport endurance athletes, at all levels, to their mountain sports retreat in Les Houches, Chamonix Mont Blanc. The region hosts many international triathlons, most notably the Mont Blanc Triathlon, Thonon Triathlon, Annecy and Geneva triathlons, to name a few. The area also hosts some of the worlds top triathletes who use this spectacular terrain, made so famous by 'Le tour de France', to prepare them for the highest level of international competition.

Black Rock Ski Lodge: Built for triathletes!

Facilities

Camp participants will enjoy swim training like never before at two spectacular locations. Chamonix town offers a newly renovated 50m open air pool in which, whether you breathe right or left, you are treated to stunning views of Mont Blanc and Brevent whilst improving your stamina training at over 3000 feet. In the valley, less than15 minutes away from the lodge, Lake Passy, host of the Mont Blanc Triathlon, offers athletes a 1 km long alpine lake, sighting on the breathtaking Mont Blanc Massif.

Biking from Black Rock Ski Lodge opens the door to a world of French alpine cycling made so famous by 'Le Tour de France'. Tour climbs such as the Col du Montet, Col des Aravis and Col de la Colombiere can be accessed from the front door of the chalet, whilst other challenging routes a little further a field such as the Col de Joux Plaine near Morzine can be arranged with Land Rover support from our team. Road bike hire can be arranged for delivery to the chalet and maintenance can be carried out at your accommodation with trained mechanics if required.

Running from the chalet provides our athletes with varied and challenging terrain. A route down the river valley along undulating forest tracks will improve strength and endurance whilst speed and interval training can be carried out next to the pool in Chamonix on a brand new 300m sprung running track that is open to the public. For those training for more mountainous races such as Alpe D’Huez you can train on the trails of the spectacular Tour du Mont Blanc, adding an altitude aspect to your training vacation. 

Black Rock Ski Lodge has been designed specifically by triathletes to support the sport they love. You can focus on your training whilst we look after the rest. We can provide nutritious food to support your training needs and after a breathtaking and challenging day you can recover with a sauna, and a Jacuzzi with spectacular views of the valley, relax in front of the fire and rehydrate in the bar or just collapse on our sun soaked terrace to prepare you for another inspiring day in the mountain sports capital of the world.

What's Included:

  • Transfers to/from Geneva Airport
  • All accommodation, full board for 6 nights (breakfast, packed lunch and dinner with wine).
  • 2 nights are not catered to give you time to sample the restaurants in the valley
  • Breakfast and lunch are provided for the 8 days.
  • Support Vehicle and driver on all rides.
  • All coaching – Swim, Bike, Run
  • All transportation and Geneva airport transfers
  • HotTub/Sauna/wifi

See full details of the camp here [click the image to download the pdf]

Cost per person per week

The chalet has 5 bedrooms. 3 rooms can be set up as a double bed or 2 singles. 1 room can sleep up to 4 in either a double or 2 single beds and 2 bunk beds. I room can sleep up to 4 with a double bed and 2 bunk beds. We can therefore offer these options with indicative pricing:

Option 1.  Based on a 5 person camp

  • Single Occupancy – 1525 Euros
  • Twin room – 1200 Euros

Option 2.  Based on a 10 person camp

  • Single Occupancy – 1275 Euros
  • Twin room –950 Euros

Option 3.  Based on 14 on the camp

  • Twin room – 880 Euros
  • 4 in a room – 820 Euros

(NOTE: If we have final numbers in between 5, 10 or 14 we will set the price based on a division of fixed costs to make the camp as cost effective as possible.)

Booking

To book, or for more information, contact Lizzy and Beej here.

TriDubai race kit now available!

It took us quite a few months of planning, choosing the right suit, finalising the design, but we got there eventually, and the TriDubai race kit is now available and ready to buy at Wolfi's Bike Shop.  Its from the 2013 Castelli range, fits like a glove, and its super fast!

We took delivery of it just 1 week before the Abu Dhabi Intenational Triathlon - and were delighted to see so many club members wearing it at the race.

Our plan is to keep the same basic design for all TriDubai trisuits going forward, so that club members don't have to buy a new suit every season - it will still be the "team" suit in 2,3,4 years time (with only minor changes such as sponsors, any change to the Castelli design etc).

We've had lots of great feedback on the suits.  Thanks to everyone for this!

Free Swim Speed

*** many thanks to Pete Hallatt for this blog post ***

At the swim last Saturday, I was pretty hungover, so I sat out some of the entry/exit sprints for everyone’s wellbeing.  This week I was suffering with man flu so sat out again.  Next week I am all out of excuses and will be back in the water. With that being said I thought I’d continue the tradition of TriDubai giving away freebies, and offer a slight insight into what to do to get the most out of your triathlon swims, and what you can do to get some free speed.  To me, a triathlon swim is vastly different to an open water swim, as I want to get out of the water feeling as fresh and composed as possible.

Whilst watching I was surprised by what I saw in that most people were giving up significant chunks of free speed in the water. These are the same people (generalisation!) that spend a small fortune to get small gains out on the bike e.g. disc wheels, super bike, aero helmet etc. I am convinced many of us could save more time overall in a race by taking advantage of the swim conditions than splashing out all that cash on the bike bling. People generally progress in swimming in 4 steps: technique, endurance, comfort in open water and awareness in open water. And it’s the last one I’d really like to address, as the sea swims which Roy and Didge put on for us all are great to focus on these last two. 

  • Technique work should be done in the pool with a qualified instructor (ask Crissy Harris). There are so many nuances that go into someone’s stroke. I’m not even going to pretend to understand the complexities of it. My front crawl stroke is not pretty, it’s not what a coach would teach you but for me, (in Ed’s words), it’s effective. If you want to check out a quality distance stroke, watch the video of Sun Yang in the 1500m. However, note a triathlon stroke will generally be much shorter, faster turnover (windmill style) and with less kick. Sun really has a powerful kick for a long distance swimmer - if you watch closely, the last 100m is scary.

  • Endurance work is also best done in the pool, a simple set such as 30 x 100m with 10s rest is a great triathlon building set, where you can control the times and aim to even pace it.  I also love sets that have the 400m as a building block e.g. one of my favourites as a marker of my fitness is a 2km pyramid set of 4 x100, 2 x200  and 1x 400m and back down off a set time e.g. I do it all off 1.30/100m when I’m fit but pick the time that suits you and be consistent across the entire set.
  • Comfort in the water is about spending more time in it frankly. I’m lucky, I grew up as a swimmer (breaststroke, butterfly and IM) and progressed to water polo to a pretty high level, swam in the sea all the time and therefore I kind of skip this stage.  However, I do appreciate it can be a big struggle so keep practising and keep coming down to the Saturday swims.  I thought after Abu Dhabi we'd be down in numbers but it seems that numbers keep growing each week and it's great to see so many people there.  
  • Awareness in the water should not just be something the front pack swimmers are concerned with, we can all benefit from it and it will result in real time gains.  Awareness can help a front pack swimmer lose those drafting them by timing a wave right or by putting in small well timed bursts. But it can help all of us come out the water feeling fresher and more confident by using the conditions to our advantage rather than feeling like we are constantly fighting against the conditions. Just because you have your head in the water and have to breathe doesn't mean you can stop thinking.

Wetsuit and bodyglide: Before you even get in the water, make sure your wetsuit is on properly, some wetsuits take 5 or so minutes to get on properly, working your way up over the shoulders. The wetsuit should be pretty tight with no areas where it bags, there are so many brands and sizes to suit everyone.  Prior to this, liberally apply some body glide to shoulders, neck and cuffs/ankles. The cuffs and ankles will help get it off easier whilst shoulders and neck will make the stroke easier and provide less discomfort during the swim. If you have real issues getting the suit off past your ankles, consider cutting an inch or so off the bottom (at your own risk!).

Warm up:  So many good reasons but I’ll take a few. Your wetsuit will take a minute or two to move to its natural place in the water. You can adjust to the conditions. Is there a current, if so where do I want to start to swim to the first buoy. If a beach start, how quickly does the seabed descend, are there any potholes to fall into, how many dolphin dives needed. How are you going to sight? Are there any landmarks that are easier to aim for other than the buoys, always easier to aim for a mountain, tree, mosque, pylon than the buoy itself. What is the sun doing? Am I going to be heading straight back into it? do I need darker goggles? (I always have a black and blue lens with me). What’s the temperature like? If too cold, a quick fix is to put on an extra swim cap. Are there any other ways you can gain a (legal) advantage? - check out this video of Kris Gemmell at the 2012 ITU race in San Diego (he's at the top of the screen at about 20 seconds in), this fella had done his homework, he did the same on the exit too.

 

Starts: Choose your place wisely at the start line, don't get in the way of those faster than you but make sure you have forwards momentum even if that means starting out wide or a few rows back. Start with a higher turnover stroke to get going, but not balls out (you'll regret it later in the day) and look for some feet to draft off. Get your head up lots to see what groups are forming and where you need to be. If you need to move left/right, best to do it early in the chaos as you'll never get back on later. The higher turnover stroke also gives you a slightly wider arc which protects your position with an increased number of flying elbows. As soon as you have clear water/decent feet to swim off, change to your natural stroke.

Drafting: Unlike cycling, drafting is allowed in the swim during a triathlon. This is estimated to conserve up to 20% of your energy expenditure. Now I'm not saying you'll go 20% faster, though you should be able to hold a faster pace than you're used to, and you will get out the water feeling fresher for the ret of the race, which for me is key. I like to feel I've done a decent pace but feeling like I haven't done much, don't want to burn those matches too early in a race. To draft simply practice swimming directly on someone's feet, as close as possible without touching every stroke (this gets annoying quickly for the guy infront!). Don't get too caught up with one person like Harry Wiltshere in this clip!

The next best place to draft is off the hips of the lead swimmer on the protected side e.g. sheltered from current, waves but at the top of their wake. Practice this at the sessions with your buddy, get used to the feeling of swimming in someone's bubbles and not having to sight constantly. Drafting is most obvious for those doing river swims with the upstream portion e.g. Didge racing in the Potomac in Washington. Picking the person you are going to draft off is key. If there is someone a similar standard to you at TriDubai, start next to them in a race as it'll mean you create a bigger area in the chaotic starts and less people will 'want' to swim over you. 

Sighting takes practice, at the long swim to the rocks on Saturday, people were spread out across a vast area, I’ve highlighted a few swimmers below to give you an idea of the spread:

You have to get your head up regularly and pick something easy to use to sight with. I should also say stationary as well, as obvious as it sounds I've seen people using boats etc to sight with, could be a long day out!  Depending on how confident you are with your swimming in a straight line ability will dictate how often you get your head up.  I generally look up every 8 strokes using a water polo stroke.  It's also important to know your stroke, none of us have perfect strokes and there will be a tendency to drift in one direction due to stroke imperfections, differences in strength, flexibility etc.  If you know you generally drift slightly left, account for that when you are sighting. Don't rely on kayakers or the person you are drafting to go the right way, you can relax a little, but still get your head out to ensure you're heading the right way. Sighting also depends on timing, when there is a swell, there is no point sticking to every 8 strokes, you have to sight when you are on the crest of the wave (sounds stupid, but it takes practice to get it right).

Use the conditions to your advantage, waves, current, whatever it is. Use the Saturday swims to try different things and be confident in the water. 

Waves: Bodysurf them in, check out this old video below from Formula 1 triathlon and see how important it is to surf these waves, you have to look behind you and see them coming, watch the lead swimmer practically stop. Not many triathlons these days are 'allowed' waves as too many athletes come unprepared, but races such as the Los Angeles triathlon are known to have them.

Surfing waves takes practice but it's 10 times quicker and easier than swimming in. On the way out, dive under them, if they're really big, grab onto some sand on the bottom, otherwise, use those dolphin dives. Always sight on the top of waves. On the way to shore, adjust your sighting e.g. last Saturday the waves were pushing people away from the flagpole and towards the Burj, rather than getting out halfway down the beach and running back, it's far quicker and simpler when coming from the big red buoy to aim further left e.g. straight at the mosque and then surf it back in using the conditions to take you straight to the flagpole. Same thing with sea currents, let them do the work and adjust your direction accordingly. If there is a wall, rocks, breakwater at the side, stay further out to sea, the barrier will create a 'washing machine' effect with lots of chop and waves coming from both sides, making it incredibly difficult to keep a solid stroke. Following on from this, adjust your style to conditions, as the wave comes through lengthen the stroke, as it passes and the undercurrent comes, throw in a handful of short strokes to hold your position.

Rivers: Let the river do the hard work. We obviously can't practice here, but there are plenty of races out there in rivers, IM China, IMNY, New York triathlon, Washington, Paris come to mind. At New York, it's downstream, get out into the current as much as possible, at the Oly distance, they reckon driftwood completes the swim leg in approx 23 minutes depending on the tides. Andy Potts, did it in 12.30! Get out as far into the current as you can, stay alert and watch for sighting the exit, concentrate as it will come earlier than you expect! Try not to swallow the water. If the race has upstream and downstream, just adjust it. Fly down the middle of the river on the downstream and try to stick as close to the edges, outside of the current as possible on the upstream, sounds simple, but the lure of taking the more direct line is too much for some.

It's a lot of food for thought, but this is precisely to promote that. Keep thinking, use your head out in the water, make life easier for yourself by using the conditions. Try to pick one or two things that you know you need to concentrate on that would provide you individually with the biggest gains, some of you are already doing most of the above. Just keep the brain engaged and you will learn to make open water swimming much easier, all it takes is a bit of time and practice. Relax and enjoy it. By focusing on several of the points above will also make you feel more comfortable in the water. Win, win.

If you want some help with specific things, just come grab me in the Saturday swims and let me know what you want to work on.

See you all on Saturday.