Triathletes constantly tread a fine line between training to their limits and achieving their best results on race day, and going over their limits, spending race day on the side lines or watching on TV.
In this article Bruce Thomas, levelÂ 2 Triathlon coach and Australian Ironman Hall of Fame inductee, looks at how you can achieve that balance, and how you can get to the edge without going over it.
It is very unusual to achieve a personal best in a race when you are sick or injured. No matter how clever or innovative your training, irrespective of your burgeoning natural ability, being sidelined or less than 100% healthy does not allow you to achieve your goals. When talking about gaining the edge in training, one has to be careful that you do not end up over the edge!
Athletes, after a positive experience in triathlon, like to set themselves goals. This is a good and necessary thing. If you have no goals, and consequently no direction, it is hard to motivate yourself to improve. To ensure that you improve over time and maintain interest in the sport you should set up a hierarchy of goals that, at each level, are realistic and achievable. If you do this then you give yourself the necessary stepping-stones for success. The big secret in achieving your goals and, consequently, the highest priority in training is consistency. If you can train consistently, without interruptions from illness, injury or a lack of desire, then you are well on your way to rewriting your personal record book.
All too often you hear a triathlete with scary ability bemoan the fact that they cannot put two or three months training together without falling sick or spending time with their physiotherapist to deal with an overuse injury. How do we get past this? Generally speaking we need to develop our training gradually varying the intensity and volume in such a way that our body develops athletically. More specifically, we need to start with the right foundation. To be able to train consistently and efficiently throughout the season we need to establish a base to build upon. Irrespective of how long you have been in the sport, base training is crucially important.
What are the goals of base training?
1. To develop aerobic efficiency. Training at low intensity allows your aerobic system to adapt so that oxygen is transported to the working muscles more efficiently. This occurs through training everything from your heart and lungs to increasing the capillaries through your muscles to enable oxygen to get where it is needed more quickly.
2. Improve your musculo-skeletal strength. When our bodies are asked to work hard through exercise, it is not just the muscles that get hammered. The muscle to bone attachments (tendons) and the bone to bone attachments (ligaments) also get put under stress. Ligaments and tendons, when damaged, take a long time to recover (much longer than muscles or bones). If they are not ready for the stress of more intense training they can result in a hiatus in training as they repair. Base training helps to prepare tendons and ligaments for the training to come.
3. Prepare our immune system. Our immune system is integral in recovery from training. Building the training up slowly gives the immune system time to adapt to the demands that will be made on it as the training progresses.
4. Mental adaptation. After a season of solid racing and training it is good to give the mind a little less to worry about in training. Doing some easy base work (particularly if you can do it with one or more friends) requires much less mental energy than racing or hard training sessions. This base work prepares the body so that the hard training later in the season is not so taxing and allows the mind to freshen up.
Apart from the obvious benefits of base training, this phase of training provides an opportunity to work on some other aspects of your training away from the pressure of racing. This quieter time of the year and of training is a useful time to spend some time looking at your technique and seeking to gain some athletic ground by improving your efficiency. It is also a good time of the year to address any strength imbalances that you may have noticed that you have developed. This can be done with weights or another form of resistance training.
So what does this phase of training mean in practice?
The Swim: Since swimming is a non-weight bearing activity it is possible to maintain a slightly higher level of intensity in the base period than in the other two disciplines. Having said this, a large number of triathletes come to swimming later in life and, for these athletes swimming at any level of intensity is hard work. A session designed by a swim coach as an easy session for a squad of swimmers may bury the average triathlete. You will have to recognize your swimming level (or discuss it with someone) so that your time in the pool is best utilized in this base period. Sets during this phase should be longer in duration and aerobic in intensity. For solid swimmers sets with variations on intervals from 150m to 800m with short rest are appropriate. For weaker swimmers the intervals should be shorter as, over the longer intervals the lack of efficiency results in fatigue and consequently, a less aerobic session.
As far as technique goes with swimming, the most efficient way to make progress is to watch yourself in the water. It is very difficult to see exactly what you are doing as you swim and so it is equally hard to make adjustments to your swim stroke. For many swimmers, what they perceive themselves to be doing in the water and what they are actually doing are two completely different things. If you can get someone to video your swim stroke, even if it is just a friend with a VCR, then at least you can get an idea of what you look like. More useful is underwater footage of you swimming and analysis by a qualified coach. A couple of things that you might like to concentrate on in your swim sessions are your head position and your hips.
Your head should be in the most hydrodynamic position. This means that you should be looking at the bottom of the pool and not lifting your head too high in the normal swim position. A drill that will help you to work out the correct position is to push off from the wall in the pool and see how far you glide with your head in different positions. You will find that you will glide the furthest when your head is in a neutral position.*
The Bike: Triathletes are notorious for smashing themselves every time they go out on the bike. Being naturally competitive it is often beyond us to allow someone to finish the ride in front of us and, if there is any sort of challenge or race on in a bunch ride, the triathletes will be in the thick of it. At this time of year we should take the time to chill out on the bike and force yourselves to do some easy rides in which you take the time to think about what you are doing.
A large number of triathletes ride the bike by stomping on the pedals. While this gets you along the road at a reasonable pace it is not the most efficient way to ride a bike. â€œStompingâ€ on the pedals uses gravity and your body weight to transfer power to the pedals but also focuses a large amount of work on some of the smaller muscles of the quadriceps. These smaller muscles consequently fatigue more quickly and make it difficult to maintain speed. If you learn to pedal in circles (using the fact that your feet are attached to the pedals to pull across the bottom of the pedal stroke and to lift up the back of the stroke) you start to utilize the large muscles of the hamstrings and the gluteus.
To train your body to pedal correctly you are best to put the bike into an easy gear in which you can pedal comfortably at a cadence of 90-100rpm. At this cadence you are not spinning so fast that momentum spins the pedal for you. Then it is a simple matter of thinking about what you are doing as you pedal and breaking the pedal action up into parts: â€œpush down, pull back, lift upâ€ is a good starting point. Training your body to pedal correctly at low intensity means that you have the skills in place to do the same at higher intensity.
During the base phase of training it is also useful to spend some time riding at a higher cadence greater than that to which you are accustomed. This helps to train your neuro-muscular coordination, which will also improve your cycling efficiency.
The Run: When watching a fun run or triathlon you will observe a whole range of running styles. Some look ungainly and yet the athlete posts a fast run split. This would suggest that technique is not as critical to a fast run time as it is to a fast swim or bike split. While this may have a degree of truth, a more efficient running style can only be an advantage.
During a base training phase you have the opportunity to generate some easy volume on the run. Your body will naturally adapt to easy volume by becoming more efficient. While you are doing these runs think about running in a relaxed manner holding yourself tall, with your hips in a neutral position, looking ahead of you. Too many people, particularly when they try to run fast, change from a relaxed person into a knot of flexed muscle. When running the upper body should be relaxed and essentially upright with the work being done by legs operating from a strong core.
Again a friend with a video camera can be of assistance in trying to see what you do when you run. Most peoples running problems come from a lack of core stability, which is why there is so much emphasis these days on improving an athlete’s abdominal control. There is a wide range of abdominal exercises that are available and classes like Pilates are good for developing this aspect of a runner. Isometric exercises (in which you hold a position rather than moving as you would in a sit-up) are very worthwhile when trying to improve core stability.
The tricky part comes when trying to utilize newfound strength on the run. Many athletes can do any abdominal strength exercise that you may care to mention and yet are still sloppy when they run. There is a skill to employing a stable core when running. To do this you need to think about activating your trunk by â€œsucking your belly-button towards your spineâ€ and to also activate your gluteus. At first it will feel very challenging but as you practice for short periods during each run, the skill will become second nature.
So that gives you something to work on during these quieter, colder months when there are not so many races in which to compete. Remember that the base training phase is of crucial importance in a training program â€“ equally important as any other phase of training. Take the opportunity to capitalize on your ability by preparing for next season properly and enjoying your winter training.
* Obviously this is just one part of swimming to consider and there are many other drills that you can practice to address different technique faults. While there is not enough room to go into detail here, a good swim coach will be able to direct you or a follow up article on some other drills is a possibility.
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Articles on training-related topics represent the personal opinions of the author based on their own experience and research. TriZone.com.au provides these for your review and consideration, but does not endorse any particular recommendations of the authors.
Peter Robertson’s Gamagori Memories inspire Australian Talent Academy Young Guns
Triathlon Australia’s National Talent Academy â€œYoung Gunsâ€ won’t have to look too far for inspiration when they line up in Sunday’s ITU Triathlon Asian Cup in Gamagori.
It was in 2005 in the picturesque Japanese coastal city of on Mikawa Bay that one of the legends of Australian triathlon, Peter Robertson created history when he won the last of his three World Championships.
After victories in Edmonton and Queenstown in 2001 and 2003 â€œRobboâ€ stuck to his two-year cycle to dig deep again and take a third and deserving world championship victory.
Now seven years on Robertson, 36, is one of several coaches on the NTA Young Guns tour in charge of an exciting new generation of Australian triathlon stars.
Melbourne-based Robertson has been appointed along with the likes of Craig Walton, Chris Lang and Keiran Barry to steer an exciting group of youngsters who have already made a big impression.
Queensland’s Sarah Deuble, who is coached by Dan Atkins, has already chalked up two wins from two starts in the Mooloolaba Oceania Cup and at last Sunday’s ITU Triathlon Asian Cup race in Amakusa and is looking for a third.
“I’m really enjoying my first experience with the Japanese races,â€ Deuble said. â€œObviously Amakusa was great fun, winning the race there. I hope I can continue to race well again this weekend in Gamagori.â€
Deuble was 20 seconds behind in the swim and then went on to dominate the bike and run.
Sydney’s Bree Jones had a great start and lead to the first turning buoy but was forced wide and wasn’t aggressive enough to hold position so lost time to the lead three Japanese athletes. A four-women second pack lead by Jones and included Kirralee Pride with Deuble was further 20 seconds behind and out by herself.
Onto the bike the Japanese trio tried to form a lead while the group formed behind and included all three Aussie girls. They were caught at the 15km mark.
The group completed the bike together with Deuble making a very smart, very sneaky move at the end, finishing the bike about 100m off the front, the bike course finished with a moderately steep downhill with a shallow turn mid-way through.
She positioned herself on the front for the dismount line but the Asian athletes all braked for the downhill and Sarah managed to roll off the front.
Deuble then built a lead from there and raced out of sight, finishing 1min clear of Japanese pair Kirra and Sato who ran together until the last kilometre where Kirra managed to get a small break on the last small rise before the finish.
â€œOn the last hill of the bike I managed to break away from everyone and had about a handy lead on the field going down the hill but then I didn’t realise that the dismount line was so close so when I got to the line I had to fully slam on my breaks to not go over it as I still had to get one of my feet out,â€ Deuble said.
â€œBy the time I did this the main pack had all caught me so I was a little disappointed about that but I still managed to be third out of transition onto the run.
â€œThen on the run I started off at a nice comfortable pace and just eased into the first 1km and then at about the 2km mark which was this long gradual hill I pulled away.
â€œFrom then on I led the whole way although I started to struggle at about the 8km mark with a really bad stitch.
â€œOver the last 2km I just tried to push through the pain as best I could and finally at about 500m to go the pain finally subsided and I was able to finish strongly.
â€œOverall I was really happy with how I raced, I was just annoyed at my dismount but apart from that everything else ran smoothly.
â€œMy transitions were nice and fast so hopefully coach Dan Atkins will be pleased with that.â€
Mitch Keally wins Bronze in the Men’s race
In the men’s race it was Shane Barry and Taylor Cecil who led out of water with a five to seven second lead to a group of men including former Commonwealth Games athlete Mitch Kealy (who would go on to finish third) Marcel Walkington, Kenji Nener and Kane Simpson.
Michael Gosman was a further 10sec back with another Japanese athlete. Sam Speachley was 1.10min down on the leaders.
On the mount line Kim (Korea) ran into the back of Walkington who broke his rear derailleur resulting in a DNF.
This group formed a lead pack of 12 men on the bike that worked well together to build a 2 min plus gap on the chasers.
Onto the run a lead group of 10 formed straight away with Michael Gosman falling off the pace out of transition.
Mitch, Taylor and Shane ran at the front until the 4km mark where Svarc (CZE) and Goldsmith (NZL) formed a small break on the steep downhill.
Goldsmith built a strong lead from there and looked well in control from the 8km mark and was never headed.
Svarc built a small lead but that was cut in the last 1km as Mitch and Taylor finished strongly dropping Shane over the last rise on the course a bridge with 1km to go.
Svarc held on while Kealy and Taylor had a sprint finish for 3rd (the race finished on a tartan track for the final 300m) with Barry fifth, Shaw sixth and Nenner seventh and Simpson ninth â€“ giving Australia six of the top ten.
As for Robertson he can’t wait to get back to the Gamagori course with so many great memories.
“After winning the world champs in 2005 in Gamagori I can’t wait to return this time to watch and support the young guns from Australia!â€ said the duel Olympian.
â€œThe Japanese always put on great events and I sure Gamagori will once again be exciting racing. A little less painful for me this time around though!”
Australian Triathlon Olympic Team Voting Results
We ran a poll on Trizone a couple of weeks ago to get some feedback from the Australian triathlon community. 474 people voted on who they wanted in the Australian Triathlon Team for the Olympics. It was interesting to watch the voting. Macca and Atkinson were the overwhelming favourites to fill the remaining two men’s spots. Brendan Sexton receivedÂ around about 12% of the men’s votes. Interestingly Macca received 1% of the vote to fill one of the female spots.
For the record Brad Kahlefledt and Emma Moffatt are already in the team.
In the women’s voting things were heavily weighted towards Erin Densham for obvious reasons. However voting for the third spot was interesting. It was all Emma Snowsill for the first few days then over a 2-3 hour period on a Thursday afternoon there was a plunge on Emma Jackson and she swept to the lead and remained there until we closed the poll.
The talk is that Snowy will get the 3rd spot and it is pretty obvious that Erin Densham is the number 2.
A lot of people are questioning why Ashleigh Gentle’s name is not being mentioned. The word is that she is still young and not quite consistent enough but is definitely being groomed for the Olympics in Rio 2016. Along with Emma Jackson and whoever else we will have an incredibly strong female Olympic team in four years time.
In the men’s team things are not quite as straight forward. Courtney Atkinson has come good recently and with his past form will get the nod for spot number two. To everyone it looks like Chris McCormack should get the nod ahead of Brendan Sexton. However the inside talk is that Sexton has met more of the selection criteria over the last year.
In Sydney during the ITU it was obvious who the triathlon public wanted to see in the London 2012 team. Everytime Macca came past the cheers were huge.
Sexton seems to be struggling to get out of the water and is then struggling to get back in to the race.
A dark horse would be Aaron Royle. If it wasn’t for a major mistake in T1 Royle could very well have placed top 10 in Madrid. Coming out of the water with the leaders Royle then proceeded to follow them through transition forgetting that he was around number 49 not 9. So he had to double back to get his bike and missed the front pack. In saying this Royle has not had the opportunity over the last year to meet selection criteria.
Let’s see what happens this weekend.
Triathlon Australia’s Newest Board Member Mick Maroney wants to Connect Triathletes with the Board
The appointment of Dr Mick Maroney to the Triathlon Australia board recently has been met with a positive reaction from the general triathlon community in Australia. A professional in the sport in the late 80s and 90s Mick Maroney brings a true â€˜triathlon’ representation to the sport’s governing body.
Maroney has replaced Michelle Gallen on the TA board. “I have jumped at this great opportunity. Whilst it is an 18 month term I hope to be involved at this level for a lot longer. I would like to eventually be involved in the High Performance area in TA post London.”
Maroney is adament that he wants to be a conduit for communication between the general Australia triathlon community and the board. “I am passionate about the sport as everyone who knows me is aware of. I want to be someone that triathletes in Australia feel they can come to and talk about anything that is going on in the sport.”
Many newcomers to triathlon will not be so familiar with Mick Maroney, especially if they are from outside NSW. These days you will see Mick racing the NSW triseries, TriShave Sprint Series and world ITU age group championships. In 2009 and 2011 Mick won the ITU world sprint championship title for his age group and regularly wins NSW sprint race and always his age group. At 45 he is still showing the young guys and girls how to race. He has been heavily involved in the junior development of the sport.
In 1989 Maroney won the Noosa triathlon title and was selected the following year in the elite team. He then went on to race domestically and made the unselfish decision to travel the world and support his young sister in her swimming endeavours. You can find photos of Mick standing with Fidal Castro in Cuba when Susie Maroney famously swum from Florida to Cuba amongst many other great endeavours.
Out of school Mick followed his father’s (deputy police commissioner ) footsteps in to the police force. This lasted for only a couple of years before he realised it was not for him. He went on to do triathlons professionally for a few years.
In 2001 he stepped down from racing completely and didn’t take it up again until 2006 when the children were getting a little older.
Maroney came from a swimming background. “When we started we knew nothing about triathlon. I spent all my time reading magazines from the US trying to work out what to do. A long with a number of other pioneers of the sport we developed a bunch of guys in Cronulla like Troy Fidler, Greg Welch, a young Chris McCormack, Craig Alexander, Brad Bevan occasionally turned up along with Peter Roberston, among others.”
People like the great Scott Mollina where his idols and what got him in to the sport. Something that a lot of newcomers to the sport don’t have. The past greats of the sport were what attracted people to triathlon. These days it is more about lifestyle for most people.
After pulling back from the sport and supporting Susie in her endeavours Mick became a fireman. “While my colleagues were watching Foxtel I was studying to get a degree so that I could become a teacher. I wanted to get a career that would be ideal for family life and triathlon coaching.” He now teaches PE full time and also lectures at university in Educational Psychology. Mick received a Doctorate in Education Psychology after doing extensive studies and papers on adolescent development.
I took the opportunity to ask what everyone wants to know. Is the way that TA selects the Olympic team is working? “The process is a collaborative process and is put together by a number of parties. TA really only looks at the process to make sure that it is followed. The selection committee makes the policy in collaboration with coaches and athletes. TA oversees its implementation.”
Could TA communicate this better to the triathlon public so that there is less â€˜TA bashing’ taking place?
“The board is a representation of the membership. Some information bandied about is incorrect. The board has copped a bit of flack when all it is doing is following a process. The communication process could be improved no doubt. But that is more my opinion as a triathlete.”
“The board doesn’t say this person should be in and this person shouldn’t. The board simply makes sure that process is followed.”
On the board because he thinks he could make a difference. “I hope that people in the sport will come to me and tell me what they are not happy with so I can make a difference. It is alright to complain after but what about tell me earlier if there are things you are not happy about. We need to hear from people on what is working and what isn’t.” Mick hopes this will happen.
Inaugural Port Stephens triseries a Huge Success
The end of season and inaugural triseries race at Port Stephens last weekend was a great success with Elite Energy holding their usual three race format and putting on a great triathlon festival. A race for everyone is what seems to make these events so great. The weather was perfect and the times the main races were held was ideal for Sydneysiders and those travelling to the race on the day.
How warm was it for mid May? You did not need a wetsuit and in the Sprint race there really was no advantage. With the rip dragging everyone out to the first buoy it was really only and couple of hundred meters of swimming before we had to stand up and run another couple of hundred meters in calf deep water. That was hard!!
In the main race of the day Kieran Roche and Caroline Sweeney took the overall Olympic distance honours. In the men’s open category Roche pulled away on the bike from second placed Sam Douglas and was never headed. He ran a 36:42 to cap off a successful race.
First time to the open category was Wollongong’s Nathan Miller racing in the Mark Scott stripes. Miller headed out of T2, along with Shaun Vidler, ahead of Ben Hammond. Hammond fell off the pace in the bike leg towards the end but had enough of a run in him to get over the top of Miller and take third place.
(Victor Lee’s photos from the day can be viewed here)
Upstaging them all though was age grouper Adam Conquest who’s race time put him in second place overall. Conquest is known for his very strong bike but backed it up with a run that was faster than the open guys to have the third fastest run time overall. The three fastest runs of the day all went to age groupers. Balmoral’s Owain Matthews posted a 34:59 to continue his impressive start to the sport of triathlon. The renowned runner from Great Britain is loving the multi discipline sport. He is still playing with the balance between the bike and run. Jarred Adams posted the second fastest run with a 36:14. Adams works with Mark Newton at Jet Cycles and is part of the coaching team that looks after Douglas and Roche.
In the women’s race there was again a lack of open females racing. This is no slight on Elite Energy as there have been a distinct lack of open females racing this season everywhere. Brook Langereis was down to race open but with no other open female entrants she changed to her age group which she duly won.
Caroline Sweeney eventually took the overall title. This â€˜Wonder Women’ (full time worker, mother of two pre schoolers, violinist in the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra) has made a fairly decent comeback to the sport of triathlon after taking time out to have her two children. Although Sweeney’s swim was almost three minutes behind Langereis she was able to use her strong bike / run combo to finish almost three minutes ahead of Langereis.
Julie Uebel finished third overall.
In the Sprint race we were lucky as always to watch the ability of 45 year old Mick Maroney as he claimed the overall fastest time of the day. He decided to redline all day and see how long he could keep the pace up. Until the end as we found out. He pulled out one of his fastest runs of the year in doing so.
Cameron Roberts and Luke Chalker rounded out the overall podium. In doing so Roberts won the 16-17 age group and Chalker won the 14-15 age group. Roberts ran a 16:46 for the 5kms and rode very well.
In the women’s race South African Anel Stewart had a solid hit out and was the fastest female on the day with Balmoral’s Hannah Lawrence second overall and Michelle Wiseman third. Stewart has raced at ITU level and on her day is a very fast triathlete. Lawrence is a solid age grouper with some good potential. Loves racing and is always positive and outgoing.
Elite Energy puts on triathlon festivals that we love going to. The atmosphere and vibe from the team is always great. From a couple of events (including Husky of course) three years ago to over 10 triathlon festivals next year is a significant growth curve.
Australian Triathlon Olympic Team Makeup – Have your say!
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Triathlon on TV in May – One HD
Channel Ten’s One HD has 10 triathlon programs still to run in May. Saturday May 12 at 1pm sees Ironman Melbourne with a repeat on Sunday at 4:30pm. The San Diego round of the ITU will be shown on Wednesday, Thursday and with highlights early Friday morning next week.
- Sat May 12: Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship, 1-2pm
- Sun May 13: Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship, 4.30-5.30pm (repeat)
- Wed May 16: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Womens Race, 12-2.30pm
- Thur May 17: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Mens Race, 12-2.30pm
- Fri May 18: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Highlights, 6-7am
- Mon May 21: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Womens Race, 6-8.30am (repeat)
- Mon May 21: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Mens Race, 8.30-11am (repeat)
- Wed May 23: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Highlights, 2-3am (repeat)
- Sat May 26: Ironman Australia 2011, 6-7am
- Sat May 26: ITU World Championship Triathlon Round 2 San Diego Highlights, 7-8am (repeat)
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