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. 

TriDubai smashes it at Yas!

TriDubai had a great turnout of club members taking part in the sprint and olympic distance races that were held at the excellently run TriYas at the weekend. 

Before people got through to registration they were met by the fabulously decked out TriDubai marquee (thanks again to Christian for all the organisation and logistics - as well as the many other people who helped put things up and take things down!).  

The marquee had received the full TriDubai *bling* treatment, and was resplendent in banners and flags, and kitted out inside with hot-off-the-sewing-machine TriDubai towels, caps and polo shirts.  It was a great place to hang out and have a chat with team members throughout the day. 


We had quite a few people doing their first ever triathlon/ first ever olympic distance race (such as Brett Taylor, who provided us with this blog post beforehand, and finished the olympic with a very creditable 2.40.16).  

Another first time racer was Christian (a regular at the Friday rides and Saturday swims) who said "Considering that one and a half years ago I did my first free style swimming strokes and running was completely ruled out due to my back problems, I have to express my sincere thanks to the entire TriDubai team! I have learned a lot and look forward to hopefully many races to come. Without TriDubai I would have never done this."  Great stuff!

We also had some great results from the more experienced TriDubai members.  In the sprint race the club took a 1-2 in the mens (with Mark Lewane winning gold in 1.10.16 and Paul Stevens taking silver in 1.13.54).  In the ladies we also got on the podium, with Jessica Josselin grabbing silver in 1.20.41.

However, the outstanding performance of the day came from one of the TriDubai founders, Deirdre "Didge" Casey, who completely smashed the women's olympic distance race apart with a stunning display in each of the 3 disciplines.  With the fastest swim of the day, the fastest bike by nearly 5 minutes, and the second fastest run, Didge beat the previous record by an astonishing 15 minutes and finished in 2.06.17.  Incredible racing!

You can find all the times (including splits) here.

Didge's efforts made it into the newspapers, with her performance standing up alongside that of 2005 World Ironman Champion Faris Al Sultan.   [click on the image to make it larger]:


15 Day Countdown to Yas – My Approach to My First Olympic Triathlon

*** many thanks to Brett Taylor for this blog post ***

“Brett, do you fancy trying a triathlon?” Yes I thought why not. A few beers later though it was not only my first triathlon, it was Olympic distance, and only two weeks away.

The swim and run parts didn’t really concern me, however the bike leg did as I had at that point never been on a road bike, and struggled to remember in fact the last time I was on any bike. So with two weeks until ‘Race Day’ I thought first things first, I need a bike, luckily my girlfriends sister had a road bike and was willing to let me borrow it for two weeks. I picked up the bike and headed up to the old camel race track to check out the cycle track I never knew existed.

The target was 40km’s, I thought I better see if I can even manage it, but after 90mins I was on target. Once off the bike I had the bright idea of trying a run, a few k’s won’t hurt, how wrong was I, after 800 meters I did that weird crazy run back to the car, and called it a day. As much as I love a challenge, I wondered if I was maybe slightly out of my depth with the lack of training time.

Saturday a session with the Dubai Masters group gave me a good workout before sitting down to devise my plan of attack. My hope was that my swim and run abilities should get me through, but I would need to work on the bike. Also a little bit of Google research about how to best get rid of that funky run after the cycle leg, and also any other little tips that were floating about. I kept coming across “BRICK’ and all other new terminology, was as well as confusing, it got me very intrigued into the world of triathlons.

This is a brick session. Just not one that will help your triathlon performance

Sunday, my friend who talked me into the race and me thought a gym session between the bike and treadmill might help accustom our legs, as it was less than two weeks to the race, it probably just served to get use that burn.

Monday I just kept with my gym routine, I am currently following a program called ‘5x5’, where you perform basic compound exercises and slightly increase the weight every session. I thought I would chuck a few more legs exercises in to help with the bike.

Wednesday, I headed back to the track where I tackled 21km cycle followed by a 2.6km run. Still wasn’t happy with my cycle pace, it would put me on for 90mins to cover the 40km. Also there were some ‘wizards’ flying about which further planted the seed of doubt in my mind. On the plus side though, I tried a tip for the run transition and it seemed to have worked. Upon approaching the final leg of the cycle, I put the bike into the highest gear and stood up and pedaled like a mad man for about 20 secs, I then dropped it to a very low gear and finished off. Once into the run my legs didn’t feel as bad as I had been dreading.

My friend thought it would be good idea to get a late entry into the 2XU sprint triathlon being held on Friday. I agreed, it would be a good training event and also give us an insight into the world of triathlons. However at this point I forgot I had committed to a birthday dinner/drinks that Thursday night. Its ok I thought when I realized, I won’t go ‘crazy’, famous last words.

To be honest, I didn’t go crazy, but also I didn’t get to bed until 2ish, and was up at 5 raring to go. I made a school boy mistake though on route, I saw a car with a bike strapped to it heading in the same direction on SZR, so my logical though was it must be going where I am. I was wrong, after roughly heading the same way, I found myself in an unlit sand lot by an unknown building, before any headlights or interior lights starting flashing I decided to do a u-turn. After that detour I made it, and headed with my gear to the famous ‘racking’ I had read about. Most people had buckets and all sorts going on, I stuck my bike on the rack, chucked my trainers down then felt like I should be doing something as everybody else was.

I found my friend and when called we headed down to the water, I think we were the only two people without wetsuits, and after dipping my foot in, started to see why. The race was a training run, although in my head I thought 90mins would be a good target, although where I got that number I have no idea. I always believe if your mind say yes, your body will follow, I also thought I can’t lose to my mate as I will never hear the end of it.

3.2.1 we were off, after finding my rhythm in the water, I decided it wasn’t that cold, but it probably helped I had various people trying to swim over me. It was a free for all, but I decided to stick wide, and plod on. A minor leak in the goggles, and a few mouthfuls of water later, I decided I was in good shape. I think I climbed out the water not too far behind the lead group, but then I was heading into the unknown.

After seeing my friend all ready changing I thought I better be quick getting out the transition. However my socks had other ideas, so I just yanked my trainers up over them. After a quick wrestle with the helmet, and surprisingly the T-shirt, I was off into what felt like a hurricane, I hadn’t noticed the wind before but I felt like I would have been better off running with my bike. I must admit, a few seeds of doubt entered my head when facing that wind, I know everyone was affected by it but it seemed like I was the only one going backwards in it.

I also noticed people had repair kits and water bottles on their bikes, in all my excitement of pre race non activity I didn’t stick my trusty masfia water bottle on the bike. An uneventful 24km and the constant blow of watching a ‘wizard’ fly by finally drew to a close, although I need to thank the guy racing with the number ‘150’, as he managed to stop for a quick chat about the wind before leaving me in his wake.

I jumped off the bike approaching the transition area, and saw an unfortunate person lose a battle to his clip on’s as he took a tumble. I am thankful I remembered the tip I tried, as within the first 800 meters I managed to claw a few places back. From there the 5km was fairly straight forward; I just picked one person off at a time. Even though it was only 5km, a few little seeds of doubt entered my head again, maybe it was lack of sleep, or not putting all three disciplines together before, but I knew I was ahead of my friend and I wasn’t slowing for anyone.

I completed it in 1:34:07, which I was a little disappointed with personally but the lessons learnt were priceless ahead of Yas. Such as I discovered I could run without socks (slight time saver), as I took my trainers off they had bundled around my toes where I had just thrown my trainers over the top. So with a week out, a gym session and a final cycle/run session was on the books and then rest. My legs had hurt instantly on the bike, and I knew I shouldn’t have trained Wednesday with my legs still adjusting to the muscles used for cycling.

Monday, after waiting for my friend I was taken back when he got out a brand new bike with the works attached, I guess he has to stick with it now after getting all the gear. A 30km cycle in 64 minutes which gave me hope I could finally crack that 90min barrier, then a 5.5km in a steady 27mins. I have set 3hours as my goal, 30mins swim, 90mins cycle and 50mins run. Each is at the slower end of what I believe I can achieve and still allows me some ‘fudge’ factor and transition time of 10 minutes. Although it is my first proper crack at one, and I haven’t trained to much for it, and know I can only get quicker, I will kick myself if I don’t make the 3 hour mark.

Now I intend to rest, stretch and make some ‘quick’ laces for my shoes…oh and buy a water bottle for the bike.

See you at Yas.

*** [TriDubai update:  Brett ended up having an awesome race, completing the Olympic distance in a fantastic 2.40.16.  Splits were:  swim 27.43; bike 1.21.18; run 47.22.  Good effort Brett!] ***

Collecting training data: What and How?

*** many thanks to Finn "Dataman" Zwager for this blog post.  Dataman explains what data to collect and how to do it. He also scratches the surface on watches and tells you where to get more in-depth information ***

In the last blog post I said we’d be looking at collecting training and non-training metrics. Let’s start by reviewing the non-training metrics I (attempt to) collect myself.  [Click on the chart for a larger version]

SIDE BAR: Withings Scale.

There are many good scales out there.  This one is cool as it uses your Wifi network to send your data directly to your app or to your Trainingpeaks account (for instance). It also measures your fat percentage by measuring electrical resistance between your two legs and then making a calculation based on a body model stored in the scale. This is not very accurate, but because you are always using the same method the result should still give you a reasonable idea of the changes in fat percentage. Ideally you would calibrate this measurement by using another method, such as the ones that use electrical resistance throughout your body by measuring it from your foot to your hand. Using this method, I discovered that my fat percentage hovers around 12, not 6 as my scale was telling me. (Needless to say I was depressed for a week and only ate fried, cooked or baked air). Changing the body composition profile in the scale settings from athlete (“Those who practice sports more than eight hours a week and who have a resting heart rate below 60 bpm”, according to Withings, although I train way over 8 hours per week and my resting heart rate is 37), to normal fixed the problem.

[click on the chart below for a larger version of the training metrics]


I’m not going to go into much detail on watches as there are already many great reviews out there. By far the most comprehensive reviews can be read on the website of DCRainmaker. His reviews and measuring tips are very detailed and yet easy to read and understand. If you are serious about data collection and considering any new equipment purchase you should really visit his website

For Dubai based triathletes the Garmin range seems to be the most popular. Garmin has two triathlon specific models, the 310XT and the new model that came out a bit over a year ago, the 910XT. Besides being a bit less bulky than the 310XT it gives much enhanced swim data. But, unless you really plan to focus on swimming efficiency, for instance because it is your weakest sport, the 310XT is currently a good choice as it is quite a bit cheaper than the 910XT (and you may be able to get them second hand from those who upgraded to the 910XT).

The second most popular choice may be the watches from Polar. The main difference with Garmin is that Polar comes from a heart rate measuring background and Garmin from a GPS/mapping background. Polar watches tend to have slightly cumbersome GPS measurement (most models use a separate GPS pod, which makes for very slim watches) and more accurate heart rate (straps). Other well-known makes are Suunto, Timex and the Decathlon home brand, most of which can be bought in Dubai. Lastly, there are also specialised swim watches such as Finis Swimsense and Garmin has one now as well. DC Rainmaker's web pages will give you all the details.

SIDE BAR: Heart rate straps problems.

After using them for some time, in my case a few months, I often find that I start getting in-accurate heart rate readings with the values jumping all over the place. Of course, being ‘Data man’, when this happens it totally throws me into next week. My wife reminding me that I can also “just train” usually doesn’t help! The culprit is the heart rate strap. Your watch manual will tell you to remove the heart rate sensor immediately after training, give the strap a rinse and hang it out to dry. But, if I train outside Dubai more often than not I end up stuffing the sweaty strap in a bag and I suspect many of you are not too consistent with the rinsing and drying either. But, even when taking care of the strap I find that they go haywire after a while. Team members and the internet offer steps to a possible solution:

  1. Wash the strap (not the sensor!!!) in the washing machine. This sometimes helps fix the problem for a while.
  2. Thoroughly clean the sensor-strap connectors as they can get corroded (sweat is basically salt water).
  3. Replace the strap with another one. Garmin sensors are compatible with Polar Decathlon straps.
  4. Replace the sensor/strap combination. If you watch is ANT+ compatible you can connect any ANT+ sensor.

Until next month.

Yours in training, Dataman.

TriDubai marquee at TriYAS

With many TriDubai club members taking part in the fabulous TriYAS race at the Yas Marina Circuit on 8th February, the club has been offered the use of a marquee in the race village as a place for us to meet and have a small home on the day.

It will look something like this, except with lots of nice red TriDubai signs and banners around it:

Our home at the race will look at bit like this. Except with more TriDubai bling...

So - if you are doing the race let us know by adding your name in TriYas event section of the TriDubai facebook page, and we will see you at there.  This will also be a great place for friends, family and other supporters to hang out.


Get your free TriDubai waterbottles!

Thanks to the efforts of Sean, and the funds from our wonderful sponsors, the club has taken delivery of LOTS of shiny new red white and grey TriDubai waterbottles.

Are you thirsty?  Need to drink water?  Don't have anything to put it in?  Then you need to get a couple of these little plastic beauties.

Just looking at them makes you want to fill them up with water and drink out of them...But how do you get your hands on them?  Just turn up to any of the TriDubai training sessions, and ask if you can have a couple of waterbottles.  And then we'll give them to you for free.  (We'll limit them at 2 per person, so if you've been given 2 please don't ask for more!).

Thanks sponsors!

Jebel Ali Golf Resort Sprint Triathlon: Saturday 26th January

We are delighted that a new triathlon race is going to be held at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort on Saturday 26th January.

Race organiser David Mutch is going to be trialling the race, so it will be limited to 100 competitors only.  If successful, we hope that larger races can be held at the location - both in 2013 and after.

The race will be sprint distance (750m sea swim, 20km bike and a 5km run), and will start at 7.30am on the 26th Jan.  

The cost is AED 150, and is to be paid at registration on the morning of the race.  Entry will include a post race buffet on the beach.

All competitors must be over 16 years of age.

To be put on the start list please email your name and age to David Mutch.  The first 100 names will race.

Race instructions are available here.


New Year’s Resolution: Collect and analyse your tri data with Dataman in 2013!

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

Dataman?  CP came up with this nickname and it’s stuck with some in the Dubai tri community.  I much prefer the recent miss-print on my new team tri-suit: ‘Dateman’.  A name is a bit far fetched for a married-with-kids-and-a-mortage-45-year-old-who-has-difficulty-remembering-names, I am not too sure I am worthy of ‘Dataman’ either.  So, reading these blogs, please keep in mind that I am not a tri coach, nor a sport scientist.  I have competed in several sprints, some halves and one full Iron Man distance race where I usually ended up near the front in my age group, but I have not exactly won yet either.  Still, since I have been asked to write a blog about my tri data collection and analysis efforts, I’ll give it a go.  I hope that your feedback and comments will make it a learning exercise for all.

Why collect data, can’t I just train?

My interest in collecting data, the easy part, and trying to base my training on it, the hard part, is based on bitter experience.  While at university I rowed for my student club.  After a few years of rowing eights, twos and single sculls I was good enough to be selected to stroke the coxed four in the U23 World Championships.  Switching from my rowing coach at my club to the national coach, there were no questions about, or measurement of, my recent training load, just a one off test on a rowing ergonometer.  Over the next few months I became totally over trained as I had done too much before and continued to put my everything in every training session as I thought that was my responsibility as stroke (‘to lead by example’ and all that).  The end result was that I suffered physically (mentally I was fine, this was not a psychological issue), sleeping badly and waking up most nights in a pool of sweat with a through-the-roof heart rate.  Needless to say, as a boat we did poorly at the Championships.  So, I decided never to repeat this failure and have mostly kept a close track of my training ever since.

Over training

Clearly, one reason you should collect training and racing data is to prevent possible over training.  I believe amateur tri-athletes who lack a good sports knowledge background or are without a coach (which is different from a trainer) or plan (or trying to stick to the wrong plan no matter what) can quite easily get over trained.  The fact that you are a triathlete already proves you have a driven personality.  If you combine the feeling that you can always swim another kilometer, bike one more hill and go around Safa Park one more time, with the lack of proper rest and sleep due to the demands of jobs and family/friends, there is a good chance you could over train.

Under training

By the same token, if you are a less-driven personality and for instance joined the tri-scene to meet some people in a setting other than work or a bar, you may miss out an opportunity to actually get quite good at the sport.  Maybe you haven’t done much sport in the past.  Perhaps during the swim you always feel like you are drowning.  Or you are one of those athletes who says ‘I just can’t run’.  Keeping track of your data may show that you are actually making improvements, or that you can push yourself a little harder although you are sure your heart is about to give up.

Group training

If you train a lot in groups without keeping track of your data you may well be either over or under training most of the time.  While training in a group can be very motivating and in some cases, such as sea swimming, be highly advisable as going out on your own could be dangerous, you may not always be doing yourself a favour by following the group.  If the cycling group sets out to do 32 km per hour, what does that mean to your personal training load?  If there is a head wind should we still cycle at that speed?  Does speed actually have anything to do with the amount of work I am putting into my training session?  Measuring will help you answer these questions.  Once you know your data, joining small specific groups of athletes of a similar output (watts/speed) level and, importantly, in a similar phase of their training plan, could work very well for you.

Measuring loop

How can you make your data, once analysed, work for you? It will involve four steps in a continuous loop.

  1. Bench marking – finding your training zones.
  2. Making a training plan.
  3. Follow the training plan while collecting data.
  4. Going back to step 1 to find out if your plan is working, setting your new training zones and adjusting or taking the next step in your training plan.

Before starting the measuring loop, you must set yourself some Tri goals first.  This can range from ‘getting fit/lose some weight’ to trying to win your age group at the Iron Man World Championships.  If the latter is the goal you have been working on, I am pretty sure your own knowledge will go far beyond what I have to offer in this blog.  Either way, data collection may help you figure out sooner rather than later if your goal is too ambitious or too modest.

What data?

Over the next year we will be collecting training data such as a heart rate, speed, distance, power (wattage), time, lifts, reps and cadence. We will look at how we collect this data (but I won’t go into detailed ‘gadget reviews’).  I’ll go over a few data storage and analysis solutions (programs, websites) and ways of bench marking will be discussed.

We’ll also go over the non-training metrics such as resting heart rate, body weight/fat percentage and food in-take (and calorie expenditure).  Like over-training, measuring food intake and weight can be a dangerous area for triathlete types.  The sport does arguably attract a disproportionate share of obsessive/compulsive personality types; you need some of those traits to be able to commit and be any good at such an intense sport.  If your motivation to do tri is an (unrecognized) distorted body imagine or you’re trying to run away from having to deal with a past experiences or psychological issues, then there is nothing like a weight obsession to push you over the edge. Then again, by measuring things you may actually be able to stay sane and healthy!

The aims

The ultimate aims of collecting and analyzing training data are to reach your goals faster and to make the training journey more enjoyable and injury/illness free. This blog may help you achieve those aims.

Have a great 2013!



Training Camp with 2x Olympian Michelle Dillon: March 21-23 2013

We are very very very excited to announce that Michelle Dillon (two-time Olympian, a former World and European champion, and winner of “Triathlon Coach of the Year” in the 220 Triathlon Awards 2010) will be coming over to Dubai to do a weekend training camp with TriDubai over March 22nd - 23rd 2013. 

To maximise individual attention, Michelle will be assisted over the weekend by one of her fellow Team Dillon coaches, Perry Agass.

Although Michelle is an Olympian, it doesn’t mean that you need to be at that level to take part!  This weekend will be a fantastic way to learn from the one of the very best and rapidly improve your performance.  Over the years, Michelle has helped numerous triathletes (both elite and age group) realize their potential through her combination of energy and enthusiasm, coupled with the knowledge and experience of someone who has been coaching for many years and competed at the highest level.

Are we excited about this?  You bet we are!

Camp details:

The rough plan for the training camp weekend is as follows:

Thursday evening:

  • Welcome Drinks.  Meet and greet athletes, introduction to Michelle and her assistant, getting to know the athletes. 

Friday morning:

  • Run technique session (approx 2 hours).  Learn how to activate the correct muscles before running, using your glutes, learn the correct running drills and technique, then do a 30min+ run with the correct running action.

Friday Afternoon:

  • Open water swim session (approx 2.5 hours).  Improving your run in and out of the water (wading) and swimming in a group, sighting the buoys and getting your wetsuit on and off quickly.  Explanation about transition & equipment.
  • Stretch session at the beach after the swim.

Friday evening:

  • Dinner.  Informal chat with Michelle, her assistant, and camp participants.

Saturday morning:

  • Bike to run session (Hard Session + Transition practice). (Approx 2-2.5 hours).  Warm up on the turbo with a main threshold session and a hard run off the bike around the track.  Focus will be on good running form (taken from yesterday's technical session) off the bike.

Saturday afternoon:

  • Swimming pool session.  Technique and skills session within the warm up. Main set and triathlon specific skills for open water. Cool down and stretch.
  • Questions and answer session from the weekend.  Wind Down

Saturday evening:

  • Dinner + Awards from the weekend training camp



The price for the camp is AED 1,695 per person.  We are keeping all activities in Dubai, so there will be no additional accommodation costs.  (Note:  the dinners are not included in the price of the camp!)

Number of participants:

We are limiting the number of participants to 24, to ensure plenty of individual attention.


To reserve your place, get in contact as soon as possible!


Order your TriDubai trisuits now!

We've been working hard with Wolfi's Bike Shop for some time now to come up with the best triathlon race suits we can find.

We've gone with the new 2013 range from Italian manufacturer Castelli: we've tested the suits (we like them a lot!), finalised the design, and by the end of February 2013 they should have arrived at Wolfi's Bike Shop.

We are going to have both a 1 piece suit and 2 piece suit, so you can choose the style that you like the most (it may be both?!), or the one that works best for the type of racing you are going to be doing.

One piece suit: built for speed

Find out more details about the kit here.

Wolfis are going to be stocking the kit, and are going to be selling them to TriDubai members at a great discounted price of AED 595 for the 1 piece, and AED 350 for each of the top and bottom of the 2 piece.

As an extra discount, any members ordering kit before 31st December will get the special “early bird” discounted rate of AED 495 for the 1 piece, and AED 295 for each of the top and bottom of the 2 piece.

To take advantage of the "early bird" extra discounted rate, all you need to do is go to Wolfis and order the suits that you want before 31 December.

You can find out the right sizing for your suit by looking at this sizing chart.  Wolfi is also carrying samples for you to try on at the shop.

We hope everyone likes the suits (actually – we hope you LOVE the suits!), and look forward to seeing lots of people training and racing in their TriDubai kit in 2013!



Tips for Ironman

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

I've done seven Ironmans now, but it has only been for the last two that I have felt that I understand what it 
takes to put all the pieces together and give yourself as much chance as possible of achieving your goals.

So that others can avoid floundering around making the same mistakes as I did for their first few races, I’ve put down below a few things I have learned over the past 12 months that will hopefully help make others’ experiences a little more rewarding.

1. Listen to your coach. 

If you are paying to be coached, why would you not do exactly what your coach says? If you think you can do better elsewhere then go find another coach, but if not then cut your head off and just do what he or she says. And I mean do exactly what they say. If you have a 3.5k swim on the plan meeting certain times, then don’t stop after 3.2k or give yourself longer breaks between sets. If you do you will develop an “it doesn’t matter” attitude which will mean it is much easier to back off or give up on race day.

2. Train hard. 

There are no short cuts or magic pills. I used to think that I was missing something, why were others who I could beat in sprint races smashing my times at Ironman? Well, the bald truth is that they were training harder. It’s an Ironman so you have to get used to swimming 3.8k, biking 180k and running long distances. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the harder and longer I have trained this year, the quicker I have gone.

3. Speed up transitions.

I just don’t understand those people who say Ironman is a long day so relax in transition. You wouldn’t stop your bike and hang around for a few minutes halfway through your 180k, so why would you do this in transition? Get in and get out as fast as possible. That means practicing it lots and finding as many ways as possible to make things easy for yourself when the heat is on during the race. Don’t put any clothes on in T1, it’s impossible when wet. Put your shoes on the bike, it’s much quicker to run through transition in bare feet. Tape your food to your bike. Who wouldn’t want to knock 5-10 minutes off their finishing time for no effort whatsoever? And while we’re talking about free time, learn to pee on the bike.

The transition is still part of the race. Get cracking!

4. Nail your nutrition.

Everyone is different and there is no fail-safe nutrition strategy. But if you ignore this part of the race then I guarantee you will spend a lot of time in the portaloos. I have been there and it is no fun to train for six months only to blow 30 minutes of race time in the toilets. 

If you are going to rely on the food and drink the race organisers provide at the aid stations, then find out beforehand what you will be getting and use it every time in training. And I mean every time. Most people eat too much. 200-300 calories per hour should be more than enough for most people. Find out what the easiest way of getting this energy into your body is and stick with it.

And keep things simple - on race day your muscles will need the blood and your stomach will not be able to digest as much as it normally does, so don’t make things hard for it by having too complex a diet. 

5. How much pain do you want?

This is Ironman. It will hurt halfway through the marathon, no matter how fit you are. Prepare yourself mentally for this by putting yourself in the hurt box in training. Obviously you cannot replicate the unique and charming experience of running a marathon off a 180k bike, but you can put your body in an uncomfortable place through shorter and more intense efforts. 

Learn to love the pain. It’s why we do it. When we talk about the race afterwards we don’t talk about the part where we were feeling super comfortable on the bike. We talk about when we were close to breaking point on the run. We know the pain will come at some point, so find a way of dealing with it and look forward to that point coming.

6. Never Give Up

Never. Ever. No matter how horrible things seem at the time, I can guarantee that a DNF will feel much worse for much longer afterwards. I walked the whole of the second half of the marathon on one of my previous races and made 11 unscheduled toilet stops. I came very close to quitting but now looking back I see finishing that race as one of my greater Ironman achievements. Goal number one for the day should always be to finish the race. Anything else is a bonus.

You heard what he said!

7. Smile

This is a hobby for the vast majority of us so we may as well enjoy it. Some of us lose sight of this at times. We are fit and healthy and doing something that 99% of the population can only dream of. It is difficult to believe but we are an inspiration to others so we should always do it with a smile on our faces. No matter how much it is hurting at the time.


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Triathlon - Evolution or Revolution?

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

I recently came across my original triathlon training book on my office shelf: "Dave Scott's Triathlon Training" published in 1986 (but still in print and available from Amazon).

A quick scan through it gave me a broad grin and a chuckle at all the old vintage racing pictures of him in 1980s - for those who may not heard of Dave Scott his nickname was "The Man" and he won a record 6 Ironman world championship races at Kona, the last being in 1987.  Only Mark Allen "The Grip" has equalled 6 and was racing towards the end of Scott's career and in a slightly later era (to 1995).

In the 1980s all the bikes were narrow steel tubes, down tube gear shifters, conventional brakes levers (with wires from the top) and basic box section alloy wheels with normal spokes.  Wetsuits were often borrowed from other sports and all the kit was either speedos or baggy/loose fitting shorts and singlets.

So compare this to equipment and technology available now and it seems we are light years ahead with super thin and flexible wetsuits, aero carbon frames, deep section wheels, low profile aero bars for a super aerodynamic position, skin tight compression clothing and super light regenerative race shoes.

So with these amazing advancements in technology we would expect to see massive improvements in times at races.  Unfortunately not.

Dave Scott's fastest Kona time was in 8.10:13 in 1989 when he came second to Mark Allen who won in 8.09:14 and that was the first time any athlete had broken 8.10 at Kona, a feat that only a handful of athletes have achieved since (Mark Allen 3 times, Thomas Helreigel once, Luc Van Lierde once, Craig Alexander once, Pete Jacobs once).

In 1996 Luc Van Lierde beat Mark Allen's record with a time of 8:04:08 which stood for 15 years until Craig Alexander set 8.03:56 in 2011, which is the current record.  This is only 1.1% improvement on the "Grip's" time in 22 years despite all these technological advances. 

A similar pattern is apparent for women and breaking the 9 hour barrier at Kona: first by Paula Newby-Fraser in 1992 with a 8.55 then only a handful of times after with Chrissie Wellington breaking the record by less than 90 seconds with a 8.54 some 17 years later in 2009.

Unfortunately it is trickier to do a similar comparison on shorter distances because drafting became legal in Pro races more than 10 years ago.

I recognize that wind/temperature have an influence on the times at Kona, more than most other races, but considering that most of the men's sub 8.10 times were set prior to the mid 90s, these athletes must have been doing something right.

So, after the initial laugh at the pictures in Dave Scott's book I started to browse the text and consider the principles that I followed when I started racing 20 years ago. It may be a surprise to find that the fundamentals have not really changed compared to modern practice - he covers training intensities, technique, fitness, flexibility, weight training, diet etc etc and these are pretty much the same now as they were then.

So what has changed in 20+ years?  Equipment wise there have been massive improvements - I started racing on a steel tube road bike with Profile clip on aero bars and down tube shifters (although I did a DIY modification of using a MTB thumb gear shifter positioned on the aero bars) and wore baggy running gear.  This moved into a steeper geometry Tri specific bike with HED CX deep section carbon rims in the mid 1990s, progressing to carbon frame and disc wheel in the early 2000's. 

There have been some big gains and the biggest was probably the first use of aero bars in the mid 1980s – which contributed to winning times dropping below 9hrs and then towards 8hrs.  Likewise deep section wheels have improved mainly in how they deal with cross winds (I recall being scared out of my wits during a very gusty race in UK when I used a disc and the first generation of super deep front wheel called HED Deep).

So it seems there have been revolutionary changes in equipment but it seems the technology may be revolving 'full circle' as Tri specific bikes are now tending more towards comfort and rider's fit because the penny has finally dropped that these influence performance/times more than weight and super low aero position that cannot be maintained at optimum power - so perhaps all is forgiven for the unconventional Softride bike of the 90s!.  This 'revolution' is also apparent with chain rings as I rode Biopace oval rings in 1980s which have been turned 180 degrees relative to the crank to get the current, trendy...........Q Rings!

Despite the marginal improvement in times for the pros over the years at Kona it would be interesting to see the change in age groupers' times because I think this is where the biggest gains have been made.  The pros have always been superhuman, exceptional athletes pushing all the boundaries but the improvement of the amateur age grouper has been phenomenal over the years and I believe this is due to a few reasons:

  • popularity - more people doing triathlon (so proportion of quality and competition increases);
  • much better understanding of training regimes (more widespread knowledge propagated by the internet, more clubs like TriDubai etc);
  • more available and accurate monitoring and assessment techniques (heart rate monitors, speed, power, cadence etc);
  • better nutrition (sports drinks and gels etc rather than figs and apricots);
  • widespread availability of triathlon specific products (such as steep geometry bikes);
  • better understanding of sports injury prevention, treatment and cure;
  • better understanding of sports psychology.

So, what can we all learn and recognize from the "Man" Dave Scott?  Even though there has been a revolution in equipment, it is clear that fitness and personal ability are the biggest influences on performance.  Technique, form and position are the next major factors, trailed a long way by equipment.  With this in mind it is essential that you focus on improving your fitness by doing a targeted training program and ensure you are performing optimally by having your swim/bike/run and transition technique properly evaluated and corrections made.  The result of this is that it is far better to spend your hard earned cash on a swim evaluation, a proper bike fitting, a gait analysis or performance testing rather than buying a new flashy or aero gadget.  However, if you can do all and buy the gadgets then fantastic, but sort out your priorities first.

So is this message revolutionary?   No.  It's the same fundamentals that existed years ago but in my opinion our sport is evolving well to benefit all.  The good news is that now is a fantastic time to be in the sport of triathlon because it has never been as popular, as accessible and as enjoyable because the resources (knowledge/measurement/equipment and diversity of races) are available to achieve your targets and improve your talent score.

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TriDubai swimming stroke technique session with DMSC - 15th December

It's sometimes said that swimming is 80% technique and 20% fitness.  In other words, in the water, good, efficient technique is far more important than fitness.  

In comparison, for cycling (and to a lesser extent, running) fitness is arguably more important than technique. People can perform those sports well relying mainly on fitness whilst getting by with poor technique.  Not so in swimming.

Want to improve your swim technique?  TriDubai has teamed up with Dubai Masters Swimming Club to offer a FREE stroke technique session at the pool at Kings Dubai on Saturday 15th December from 5 - 6.30pm.

Seth from DMSC will start the session with a general discussion about the key elements of good stroke technique and what to look out for, and then will give specific advice to each person on their stroke.

The session is limited to 18 swimmers (3 per lane) to ensure that everyone gets some one-on-one tips.

Get in contact if you'd like to join the session - first come first served.  And no cost!



Bye, bye, I’ll Miss Emirati Tri

*** many thanks to Matt Warnock for this blog post.  And we all wish you the very best for your future in the Netherlands Matt! ***

(see what I did with that title, eh?)

OK, OK, OK… so it’s been a while. And for that I offer up my deepest, sincerest condolences, yadda yadda yadda… Actually, what do you want from me? I’ve been damn busy. ‘How busy?’ you may ask. Lots of work on? Too much training? Few personal commitments?

 Actually, I’ve been rounding up my life in the UAE (easier said than done), saying my goodbyes and have been a tad preoccupied with moving to the Netherlands, I’ll have you know. But now I’m there, and have been living in Amsterdam for one week exactly, I’m writing the blog I should have written a couple of weeks ago.

First up, let me say that the time was right and, even before I got here, I’ve been super-psyched about my move. Now I’m here, despite having to increase the overall size of my wardrobe by several thousand percent (coats, scarves and gloves are essentials for life in this here Netherlands, people!), I’m even more excited. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not some sadness attached to leaving Dubai. 

There’s sadness attached to the place – I was lucky enough to leave while I still feel a lot of fondness towards Dubai and the UAE, rather than so many who are ‘just reeeeally over the whole thing, you know, man?’  when they make the move away. There’s sadness attached to the job – I think I had one of the best jobs in the world at Explorer – and the people. But what I’m going to miss, more than anything else, can be summed up in one word: triathlon. 

Let’s take a pictorial journey through my time in Dubai…

2008: 93kgs and already many, many kilos lighter than at the same point the year before, I tackle my first triathlon in gym clothes, wearing a borrowed kids’ helmet and riding a borrowed bike. Sprint triathlon time: 1hr46.

2010: 85kgs and with a marathon and several triathlons under my belt, with a proper bike helmet and on my very own tri bike, I register a time of 1.17 for a sprint tri.

2012: 79kgs (going into the race…70kgs finishing it!) I complete my second Ironman. I now have many, many swim, bike, run and tri races under my belt and can cover the sprint distance in around 1.03.

What many will see there is either a dude who got himself into some sort of decent shape or a blogger who’s feeling a mite proud of himself. I’d disagree. When I look at those photos now I think of experiences (climbing Kilimanjaro, racing Ironmans, cycling tours across Thailand and Laos or Europe), I think of achievements, I think of a guy who’s happier in life and better at his job, and  I think of someone who wouldn’t have had the balls or ability to make the move I’ve just made before my tri adventure began. But, most of all, I think of all the friends I’ve made along the way.

The Middle East and endurance sport may not seem to be a match made in heaven but for me it most definitely was. So, when I look back on my time in Dubai, what I’ll always remember and be grateful for is that it gave me one of the things I love most and makes me happiest in the world. 

And it taught me one thing. Wherever you are in the world, never let location be your limiter or your barrier. Get out there and make it count! While everyone else in Amsterdam is bemoaning the cold snap and the rain, I’m wrapped up and ready for action – after jogging around and around and around at Safa or Dubai Marina in 45 degree C, hitting the canal-side trails, parks and woods of Holland in the cold is a breeze.

As rubbish and silly a dedication as it may be, this blog serves as a huge thanks to everyone at Tri2Aspire, Dubai Masters, Cycle Safe, Tri Dubai, ABRaS etc etc… thanks for pushing me harder, faster and further, and for teaching me that pushing harder, faster and further is the greatest feeling in the whole, wide, lovely, great world.


Hatta triathlon performance workshop: 17th-19th January 2013

We are extremely excited to announce that TriDubai has arranged for a couple of top triathlon/ cycling sports scientists from the UK to come over to Dubai to carry out a "triathlon performance workshop" on 17-19 January for the club.

Garth Fox (Sports Scientist & Endurance Performance Coach) and Rob Kitching (Cycling Coach, performance modelling specialist and founder will be visiting the Emirate specifically to deliver the workshop for members of TriDubai.

Hatta Fort Hotel and surrounding mountains...
Over two days Garth & Rob will review and dissect the physiological and technical determinants of performance in triathlon (using the case study of an imaginary rider targeting a breakthrough performance in an Ironman 70.3 race).  The event will combine theoretical concepts and advice with practical testing and benchmarking for all participants.

The workshop is limited to a maximum of 20 participants (to ensure that everyone gets a certain amount of individual attention)

Workshop details:

Thursday January 17th (Evening)

  • Presentation – Physiological & Technical determinants of performance.  Includes the use of power, aerodynamic optimisation, pacing and inter-sport considerations.

Friday January 18th (All day – including an early start!)

  • Performance evaluation and reactive physiological planning in cycling.  A series of short time trials to estimate rider’s critical power curves.
  • Run performance testing over 5km allowing estimation of 70.3 fatigue adjusted race pace.
  • At Lunchtime – A short presentation introducing the afternoon session.
  • Aerodynamic field testing for cycling. A practical testing session to estimate rider’s aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance, key determinants of bike leg performance.
  • Recovery time and optional swim technique advice in the Hatta Fort pool.
  • In the Evening – A presentation reviewing the day’s data, its value in performance modelling and introducing the final activity.

Saturday January 19th (early start to 12 Noon)

  • An uphill cycling time trial which anyone can win!  The event will be handicapped using Saturday’s data and performance modelling techniques.

Following the workshop, all participants will receive a personalised report which will include details such as estimated CdA (drag coefficient), estimated Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP), estimated Functional Threshold Power (FTP), estimated VO2max, estimated energy spend (kj or kcal) in the context of a ride such as the specified IM 70.3, estimated ride time for the specified IM 70.3, training zones for HR and power, and estimated run times for 5km through to marathon.


Thursday:  Dubai:  Presentation on Thursday night will be at a location in Dubai (exact location TBC)

Friday and Saturday:  Hatta Fort Hotel:  All activities on Friday and Saturday will take place either at the Hatta Fort Hotel, or on the roads surrounding it.  All participants are strongly encouraged to book a room at the Hatta Fort Hotel.  We have negotiated group rates with the hotel for the workshop.  Once your place is confirmed on the course we’ll give you the details you need in order to book your room on the Friday night.


Cost for the workshop (which excludes the hotel booking) is AED 1,495. 


To reserve your place please get in contact as soon as possible!


Energy Gels: good, bad or ineffective?

*** many thanks to Neil Rooney for this blog post, which is also on his personal blog "Tri and Run Sensible!" ***

If you have endured a long distance race like a marathon, 70.3 Ironman, Ultra Marathon or Ironman in the last decade you'll be fairly familiar with these little packets of sticky gunk. And you will know the difficulty that can arise when trying to swallow this while pushing your body to the limits of cardiac output. So is it worth the hassle?

Gels: Little packets of sticky sugary gunk

Like all these things when you are racing you need to discover by trial and error if they will work for you, if you can swallow them on the move and if you can then keep it down. A lot of these gels will repeat on you for about 20mins after ingestion so it is important to find a brand that taste good but also does what it should. So what should it do?

If we look at these from a physiological point of view they are quite interesting. Energy gels are basically small packets of really easy access glucose, the energy stored in these is so easy to access that you can ingest some of it in your mouth. So about 20seconds after opening the little packet your muscles will be burning it up and the energy will be propelling you forward as you run or it will be turning your bike pedals. This happens because a very unique enzyme (these make things happen) in your saliva called amylase.

All carbohydrates are chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. It doesn't matter if the carbs we are talking about are fizzy sweets or brown rice they are all still the same three atoms, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen but what differs is the strength of the holding chains.

Energy gels and paper chains: easy to break down

The chains of very simple carbohydrates are not very strong. Picture these 3 atoms as being rocks of various sizes and picture the chains of simple carbs (energy gels) as being a paper chain which snaps very easy and therefore releases energy very easily. These carbs are already glucose (which is what we use at a cellular level) and they get burnt instantly (I gave analogies of fuel in previous posts, imagine these as burning like tissue paper) but yield energy for a very short time.

However this is where they can help us with one very interesting aspect of physiology and it's why we really only use them in long endurance races or during training for such events.  In the post "Nutrition 101" I said fats yield most energy but it's difficult to get them burning (because they are like logs of wood) and it requires a small amount of energy to do this. When you are a couple of hours into one of these races or a long training session your glucose stores start running low, you will be well into the fat burning zone and you will be burning lots of fuel. Since you need a small amount of energy to keep the fats burning and the carbs (glucose) is running low, the next easiest fuel to burn is proteins (building blocks) which is never a good idea. So to avoid this you can get the gels out!

Picture this; you set off on a 2hr run. For about 10mins you feel great. Then between 12-15mins you start thinking I'll never be able to keep going for 2hrs. Then when you get about 20mins into it you start feeling good again. You cruise along until about the 1hr10min point where you start feeling a bit tired and perhaps your pace begins to drop a bit. So you pop a gel, and you feel great then 15mins later you start to feel the energy drop so you pop another and this continues on a 15-20min cycle until you finish! And then you can refuel for the next session with some complex carbs and fats.

Keep the fire burning!

Now picture this; you are cold so you crumple up a few newspaper pages and set them on fire, you begin to heat up but after about 12-15mins you begin to worry that your newspaper is going to run out so you need to burn something else before the fire goes out. So you pop a few logs on your fire which take a few minutes to catch fire but 20mins after you started you have a nice fire giving you lots of heat. You keep piling the logs on and about 1hr10mins after you started you realise that you've put too many logs over the cinders, the flames are dwindling and there is a risk your fire will go out. All your newspapers are gone so you take some tissues (energy gels) from the Kleenex box and stuff them under the logs. The flames ignite the logs and the heat returns. 15mins later you pile on more logs but the flames have gone. So you need more tissues (remember the newspapers are gone) until you can go to the shop to buy another newspaper.

So yes these little packets of sheer annoyance have a very important function and they work really well. They will prevent you from burning proteins which means you will recover quicker from a work out. Remember the muscle cells contain the power stations (mitochondria) which allows us to perform faster and longer, breaking these up would be counterproductive.



TriDubai swim caps: now in!

We've now got in the first bit of TriDubai team kit - some rather fetching red swim caps with our logo emblazoned across the side.  Many thanks to our sponsor Dubai Masters Swimming Club for getting these to us!

What do you need to do to get your hands on these sexy silicon beauties?  Just turn up to a Saturday morning sea swim, and if you ask nicely you'll get one.  That's what all the team members pictured below did, and see how attractive they're looking now!

TriDubai team: what a sexy bunch

And how much do you need to pay for these lovely caps?  Nothing at all - just join us for a (free) Saturday swim and you'll get one for free.  All you need to do is try to swim with us whenever you can, smile lots when you're at the sessions, and tell the world how much you love TriDubai.

Even cuddly toys are trying to get in on the action...

TriDubai members come in all shapes and sizes. Not all of them are as cuddly as this lion...




Kona report: The day before the Ironman World Championships...

*** Many thanks to Paulo Costa for this report from Kona, Hawaii ***


[We have two members of TriDubai competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii this Saturday 13th Oct - Stefan Spies and Simon Marshall. Best of luck to both of these awesome athletes!  Not only that, we've also got a couple of team-members, Paulo Costa and Anne Petersen who have headed out there to watch!]

Long day with a proper athlete's breakfast to start with at 6:15am, before heading down to the swim start. Marshall and Marta (another IM athlete) did a 15:15:15 swim/bike/run, while me and Annie went for a 1h swim on the swim course. Amazing to swim there with corals and the fish underneath us. We met Marshall back at the car and was time to go shopping. Expo was open till 2pm, and bike checking would open at 3pm. Marshall went back to hotel while we stayed downtown the whole day. 

At bike check-in, we finally met Stefan which was in a very good mood and looking very strong.

We also had the opportunity to see a few of the pro-athletes being interviewed and checking in their bikes. The atmosphere is simply amazing to the point that you get goose bumps. Unfortunately, mobile phone battery was drained and no chance to take pictures. Tomorrow I'll be better prepared. At the end of the day, ha the opportunity to do a 8k run along the coast back to the hotel. Amazing. Will swim and run all I can before heading back to the sandpit. Not sure if I'll be able to do it when I'm back, after doing it in such amazing conditions. 

It's 9:30pm here and it's athletes should be in bed by now. We'll be driving Simon to the starting area at 4:30am, with a 4am wake up call.

Looking forward for tomorrow, and hopefully with some good pictures of the guys. They have done a great job to get here and they look great, so it is just a matter of what the gods will "serve" tomorrow. 

Time sleep. Over and out.
Anne, Simon, and Paulo: looking good the day before the big one!



Everyone is tri-ing it

*** many thanks to Matt Warnock for this post ***

Guess what… triathlon is cool!!!

Why’s that, you ask? Because it encourages a healthy lifestyle? Because it increases self-confidence? Because it increases productivity and overall happiness among those that participate? Because there are lots of cool gadgets you can buy?

Hell no! Coz the dude from Saved By The Bell does it, dumbass!

That’s right, AC Slater – he of the Soul-glo hairdo that was so Afro-licious that even Simon Kelly would envy him – now does triathlon.

AC Slater and Simon Kelly are both triathletes

Mario going great guns







 And he’s not the only ‘schelebridee’ to get in on the triathlon act, either. Super-jock and regional wrestling champ AC Slater – sorry, I mean actor Mario Lopez – took part in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon back in 2009 and this is the epicentre of celeb tri. In fact, there’s a whole category just for famous folk.

Hatcher: Desperate for tri

J-Lo: Big girl's blouse







Any young man in his early 30s out there will have fond memories of Teri Hatcher when she used to go out with superman. Although Superman dumped her long ago coz she has a face like a scary witch, Hatcher keeps her bod looking pretty darn good with a bit of tri – raising money for charity while she does it.

When JLo isn’t busy making up weird new names, she loves a bit of swim, bike, run too. She completed the sprint distance at Malibu in 2.23, which is longer but considerably less painful than most her films.

Matthew McConaughey/ Mahogany leaning

Professional leaner and wooden actor, Matthew Mahogany, is big mates with Lance Armstrong and shares his love of endurance sports. Mahogany did the sprint in 1.30 which, let’s face it, is a bit rubbish for someone who has loads of money and no real job.

Piven: BOOM!

Huffman + Macy: DOUBLE BOOM!








The best Malibu triathletes, however, (best as in people I like most, not fastest) surely must be David Duchovny (climbs well over Twin Peaks), Jeremy Piven and Will Ferrell – who hopefully took part as research for a Blades of Glory/Talladega Nights/Semi-Pro style movie set in the world of Ironman!

There’s even an awesome celebrity triathlon couple in the form of Felicity Huffman and William H Macy.

Vernon Kaye in a lovely pink hat

The UK equivalent of the Nautica Malibu Triathlon would be the London Triathlon, which the ‘always thought he seems like a decent bloke’ DJ and TV presenter Vernon Kaye completed in 2010. Aside from him, the London Triathlon tends to attract some lamo Z-listers or rubbish relayers, like Dickie Branson, who did the swim in a tri relay a few years ago. P-Middy also took part in a tri relay, looking considerably better than Branson when she did the run at Blenheim a couple of years ago.

The best celebrity triathletes (as in the fastest, not necessarily people I like the most) tend to come from the world of sport. The fact that they leave their own sport behind in order to challenge themselves in triathlon tells us one thing: triathletes are hard as nails.

Button: the dude is fast whichever way you look at it

F1 drivers, it seems, are fast around all courses. Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg can not only go close to 2hrs for Olympic distance triathlon (having access to a wind tunnel must help nail that aero bike position!) but both run around 35 minute 10kms, which is really impressive. Button won his AG at the Hawaiian Lavaman race recently and has even set up his own annual charity triathlon.

Cracknell: Hard man

Olympic rower and famous adventurer James Cracknell is a handy triathlete too, and has even represented the GB age groups team at the European Championships.

Rowers seem to do well. Rebecca Romero, who has Olympic medals for both rowing and track cycling, competed in Ironman UK earlier this year, qualifying for Kona with 11.10 on a notoriously challenging course.

Other athletes to take to triathlon include former 400m running supremo Iwan Thomas, ex England rugby international Nick Beal, plus a load of Americans I’ve, frankly, never heard of.

But you don’t have to be a former athlete, or even all that young, to be bitten by the triathlon bug.

Sir Rocco Forte: GB team member

Former journalist and political aide, Alastair Campbell, now 55, has been a keen triathlete for a number of years, as has the 67 year old Sir Rocco Forte, who has several GB age group appearances to his name, as well as an impressive sub-12 hour time at Ironman Austria back when he was a mere 60-year-old whippersnapper.

Have I missed anyone out? Any other A, B, C or D listers out there who like to try their hand at tri every now and then?



Triathlon Workshop with Intersport

The beautiful people from TriDubai and Intersport!

*** many thanks to Abbe Le Pelley for this post ***

Warm thanks to Roy and the team at Intersport for organizing TriDubai’s first workshop at Intersport, Times Square, last Tuesday night.

Around a dozen TriDubai members turned up for the workshop, from a host of ‘newbies’ to Tri veterans!  I’m sure some of us will walk away having learnt more from the evening than others, but I think we’d all agree that it was a very useful opportunity to talk kit, technique and to learn a few new skills - as well as an opportunity to meet fellow TriDubai members in their ‘normal’ clothes!!!

Thanks to Steve of MaxiFuel, another sponsor of TriDubai, for kicking the evening off with a brief overview of the MaxiFuel products and their benefits (after a hungry workshop I have to recommend the MaxiFuel chocolate orange bar!!!).  Steve – you promised to organize a tasting session....we will hold you to that!!!!  I’m sure most of the members would love one of these after the Saturday morning sea swim. Am I right?!!!!

Obviously huge thanks goes out to our partner Intersport for kindly hosting the workshop, and for bringing their top bike technician Ryan over from the Festival City branch.  For me, and I think most of us present, Ryan’s run through of basic bike skills were exceptionally helpful.  I was happy not to be the only one in the room not to know how to change a tire and I certainly learnt how important it is to take more care of my bike.  I will start cleaning it and oiling the chain from now on.  Well, I didn’t after last night’s ride but at least I’ve taken the first step and bought the degreaser!!!! One step at a time!

Aside from bikes we talked a bit also about wetsuits and transitions too.  It was a great opportunity to ask questions and I’d recommend that, if there is another workshop in 3 or 4 months, all newbies take advantage of this unique opportunity to ask questions of the TriDubai veterans and the Intersport staff.

If you went to the workshop and you have any feedback then please let TriDubai know.  It’s great to hear what you thought was useful (they can make sure there is more of that in the future!) but also if you’ve got a few ideas of what could have been covered but wasn’t then let TriDubai know by commenting here, or on Facebook.  Alternatively, if you didn’t go but would like to attend one in the future, let TriDubai know what you’d like it to include.  This was very much a first effort, and a good one at that, but only by letting the team know what you’d like to cover can they build a workshop to tailor to your needs.

Lastly, I’d like to thank Intersport for their support of TriDubai in general and for their generous sponsorship that was presented to TriDubai at the workshop.  I’d also like to remind you all that as TriDubai members we are eligible for a 15% discount at all their Dubai stores!  I have already taken advantage of this with my degreaser; lets just hope I use it!!

Well done again Roy, and thanks Intersport!