Triathlon tips: How a first-timer survived IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire

Chris Bailey 29/06/2019
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Sport360°’s Chris Bailey has signed up for the challenge of his life in November – an Ironman. Follow his adventure as he prepares his body for a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and a marathon to finish with the help of I Love Supersport Dubai … check out part 1, part 2, part 3part 4 and part 5 here if you haven’t already.

Dog tired, with aching muscles and lungs fit to burst, I stumbled over the line and allowed myself a brief moment of glory – before realisation slapped me across the chops. I have to do double the distance in a little more than five months.

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire was a relative success in that I wasn’t disqualified (a genuine possibility at one point) and didn’t injury myself (which I had two weeks prior by falling off my bike). Seven hours, four minutes and eight seconds after hopping into Chasewater reservoir in central England, it was finally time to stop moving, having twice brushed so close to the finish before looping around Stafford again.

I loved it, I hated it, I was elated, I was frustrated. One thing is for certain, however – the dress rehearsal was vital before the big one.

THE BUILD-UP

For the uninitiated, in most triathlons you are required to set up your stall in a transition zone, where you store your bike, running shoes and assorted accoutrements for all three legs. Depending on the layout of the course, things can get mightily confusing. At least for me.

The problem was that the first transition zone (T1), from swim to bike, was some 20 miles away from T2 for bike to run. Transition bags must be checked in the night before, which means it is crucial for the right equipment to be in the right place, particularly given the constant ferrying around (thanks mum and dad).

At 4pm on the eve of the race – an hour away from either transition zone and about half an hour to close – I’d started to flick through the race guide and it dawned on me, to my utmost horror, that my race number was supposed to be in T1. It was currently sitting in T2.

What ensued was a mass scramble to Stafford, where a volunteer took pity and ensured me that my race number could be handed to a member of staff at the reservoir in the morning and placed in my bag. It should go without saying but – if you’re anything like me – read the guide front to back, several times, well in advance of the race.

SWIM

Halfironman2size

After a rain-sodden few days (it was the English summer, after all) the clouds parted and if anything, by 7am it was getting a little toasty under the collar of our wetsuits. Some nervous chatter as we slowly filtered out into the water helped ease the flutters – especially when one person confessed he hadn’t done any training in the last two weeks – before my turn was up.

Flinging yourself into a large body of water in the UK is slightly different to the UAE. Chiefly because it’s like being engulfed by an iceberg. The shock to the system soon dissipated and I got into a rhythm, with the wetsuit adding a layer of warmth and my heart rate doing the rest.

There were a few bumps and knocks against other athletes but the field soon stretched out and I hopped from buoy, to buoy, to buoy, before my legs found earth again and I was running towards the transition tent.

BIKE

Ever tried taking off a wetsuit? When you’re in a rush it’s as if you have to pull off a Harry Houdini to extract yourself from its grasp. Off it eventually came and on my race number went … though in my haste, I put it on the wrong way round. Really not a fan of them.

The first 10 miles were twisty, hilly, pebbly, pothole-filled and hiding jutting-out branches around every corner. Every few hundred metres at one stage there were poor souls hunched over one of their wheels. As I hadn’t practised repairing punctures (more fine planning), I was just glad it wasn’t me.

With every hill or even slight rise towards the end, my thighs started to scream in protest. I’d lost the pills to replenish my salt somewhere in transition, and while that particular mineral gets bad press, it’s crucial for preventing muscle cramp.

However, there’s nothing quite like the sight of well-wishers, sitting outside their houses in the numerous villages and hamlets we wound our way through, to raise the spirits. Eventually the houses starting to become more frequent, the roads a little smoother as Stafford came into view.

RUN

The body was definitely more wobbly coming off the bike then out of the water. I thought that the slow shamble out of the transition zone would quicken with time, but in truth my run never progressed into more than a shuffle.

No matter the electrolytes, cokes and gels I’ve stuffed down, a part of my lungs felt shut off from the rest of my respiratory system. Even though my heart rate suggested I had room to spare, I couldn’t suck in enough air for whatever reason – may have been my allergy to pollen, may have been because I was shattered – but I’d hit the wall with some velocity.

There was one soul-destroying part that had to be negotiated twice – the nosebleed-inducing hill up to Stafford Castle. Not the view, nor the medieval architecture nor the happy-go-lucky volunteers dressed up as knights and maidens.

I summoned my last scrap of reserves and upgrade the shuffle to a stagger once the red carpet appeared under my feet and, having vowed to never do one again mid-run, I cast my mind to the next one within a few seconds of the finish. What a rush.

Fancy getting your first taste of triathlon? I Love Supersport Dubai are running the IRONSTAR Indoor Triathlon Dubai on August 17, involving a 10 minute swim, 30 minute bike and 20 minute run. Sign up at www.premieronline.com – hurry, places are going fast!

COACH’S CORNER

Dmitriy Firsov – ILSS coach

Chris is fine now. He’s recovering after his half-ironman in Staffordshire, where he did really well and I was surprised with his results overall. The plan was only to finish, but for now we have a certain time we have to improve.

I’m really happy with how the bike went, especially with the hilly Staffordshire course. The improvement will mainly be focused on bike and run right now, his swimming is at a decent level as it’s improved so much over the last two months.

Ironman Arizona is very soon, so we’re mainly focusing on endurance and we’ll gain a bit of speed before the race. The date is coming, but Chris is getting more and more ready.

Usually the recovery process after a race doesn’t take much time if you’re doing everything correctly. It takes one week to 10 days after the half-ironman distance if you follow a routine of massage, steamroom and sauna, easy training to recover the muscle structure and remove soreness. Another important element is stretching, which helps for muscle relief after such a hard race.

How much Chris needs to train over the next five months is hard to answer beforehand because it depends on the results, but the minimum amount I’d recommend to train each week would be 14 to 15 hours. That will guide someone to a properly decent result for an Ironman in around 12 or 13 hours.

It’s hard to train over the summer outside in Dubai, but indoors is perfectly fine – as long as you have the proper equipment or gym. In fact, I think training indoors is more effective because of the consistency of performance you can maintain, on numbers such as heart-rate, cadence and power. Outdoors you have elements such as the weather and hills, which can give you feedback in an improper way in terms of the training process. So, focus on training inside with a few rides outside during the year.

If you do want to train inside, we have our beautiful I Love Supersport Dubai triathlon training group, where we are preparing people for their different goals, where it is their first event ever or they’re doing an Ironman like Chris.

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Triathlon tips: IRONMAN 70.3 in Staffordshire is go despite injury pain

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Sport360°’s Chris Bailey has signed up for the challenge of his life in November – an Ironman. Follow his adventure as he prepares his body for a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and a marathon to finish with the help of I Love Supersport Dubai … check out part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 here if you haven’t already.

You haven’t known pain until you’ve fallen off your bike.

Exactly two weeks out from my first real triathlon test, the tarmac at Nad Al Sheba gave my body a thorough examination.

Shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, ankle and wrist were all scraped to such an extent that I’m still playing connect-the-scabs 10 days later.

It was no one’s fault but mine. A few kilometres out from finishing the bike portion of my ‘brick’ session – in which cycling is immediately followed by a short run –  I turned my wrist inwards to check my watch, which turned my aerobars inwards, which turned my front wheel inwards. The next thing I know I’m using the asphalt like an ice rink.

The errors didn’t stop there. I gave myself a cotton skin graft by applying fibrous material to what were essentially burns – the nurse who treated me used everything save a pickaxe to dig it all out.

The good news? The pain has stopped and an invaluable lesson has been learned, although the thought of cycling 90km in the race proper is making my left side twitch.

Race against time

Sunday is an important yardstick – my first-ever half-Ironman, less than six months out from the real thing. Yes, good guess, it’s half of what will be required of me in November: a 1.9km swim, 90km on the bike and a half marathon to finish.

The last five months working with I Love Supersport Dubai, and particularly super coach Dmitriy Firsov, has turned me from a half-baked gym-goer to a workout metronome.

It’s possible to train six days a week. It’s possible to get up before 6am. It’s possible to commit to something and for it not to be a chore.

Neither is it just my journey. In the ILSS Dubai strength group that I attend, several people are building up to this race distance in time for Ironman 70.3 Dubai early next year and it’s inspiring to see so many strive for similar goals.

Food for thought

No amount of training will get my body around the course, set to the beautiful backdrop of Staffordshire in central England, without the appropriate amount of fuel.

My final sitdown with coach Dmitriy focused less on the moving and more on the eating.

As it’s not possible to lug – or chew – a gourmet meal around for 70.3 miles, food must come in liquidated form.

As such I’ve now got some serious ammunition. Three huge sachets to pour in a water bottle that apparently amount to a staggering 1,000 calories, all for the roughly three hours I’ll be spending on the bike.

Three more sachets – thankfully a little less dense – for the run, and that’s not including the salt-infused chews, water and other energy drinks I’ll be consuming as well.

Hopefully my stomach lives up to the Ironman billing.

Rock around the clock

So back to the UK I go, filled with hope that the British roads aren’t keen to get up close with my newly repaired shoulder.

As I’ll be let off the bridle, and racing in fresher, cooler conditions, Dmitriy is hopeful that I’ll beat six hours. My recently wounded ego is saying six-and-a-half.

If you’re interested in my progress, download the IRONMAN Tracker app and follow me from circa 10:30 GST this Sunday. Send some positive vibes my way while you’re at it!

I Love Supersport Dubai is the premier international endurance sports school. No matter your age or ability, achieve your goals as a swimmer, runner, cyclist and triathlete under the tutelage of some of the region’s best coaches. Visit dubai.ilovesupersport.com for more details.

COACH’S CORNER

Dmitriy Firsov – ILSS coach

Around 45 per cent of the time, injuries occur during the warm-up or the cool down – because of lack of concentration. This is what caused Chris to fall off his bike, after a hard workout during the tapering period for his half-Ironman. The most important thing is to ensure you recover as much as possible. If you don’t it affects the execution of the race, but nothing else. Put it down to experience. In future he’ll know and be cautious when it comes to his training.

Just before the race, the body can become fragile when it comes to the peak of form during tapering. You feel yourself getting stronger, and you want to push yourself more and more. I tell most of the athletes I’m working with to become more calm and thoughtful at this point. Concentrate on what you have to do, how you must do it – go through it in your mind before each workout. Make sure you maintain hydration including electrolytes in your body, and increase your carbs two or three days out before the race – thought it depends on the length of race too.

On race day, if you’re not concentrating in terms of distance, pace, heart rate and power and nutrition, you will not succeed. You have to be smart before doing anything – concentration and control. This race is important for Chris because he has to build experience, and halfway through his training, it’s to test himself and where his performance is. It will inform our future preparations for the Ironman, and how we’ve built so far.

Chris is doing well. We finished the main endurance block and we will we go to higher volume after this race. Overall it will take us three, three-and-a-half months where we will push really hard with the volume and the aerobic capacity to increase it as much as we can. Then we will switch to speed endurance, which will increase his speed and power. We did have minor issues that stopped us proceeding with the loading and recovery in a proper way, for example the fall and his illness a couple of months ago. We only missed four days of training with the fall though, so I’m happy with that!

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Triathlon tips: Why technique is as important as running hard miles in training

Chris Bailey 12/05/2019
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Sport360°’s Chris Bailey has signed up for the challenge of his life in November – an Ironman. Follow his adventure as he prepares his body for a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and a marathon to finish … check out part 1, part 2 and part 3 if you haven’t already.

Living in Dubai is a blessing in many ways, but this Ironman-in-training is in danger of melting.

Since the summer has thrown a blanket of heat over the country, running sessions will soon ‘boil’ down to two choices: the tedious treadmill or training at ungodly hours.

My body struggles with water retention at the coldest of times so, with just four weeks to go until I hit up my first Ironman 70.3 in Staffordshire, the treadmill and I are going to become increasingly familiar.

The problem is, there are only so many podcasts or playlists you can listen to before your ears tap out. The solution? To tap into the knowledge of I Love Supersport Dubai.

ILSS Dubai’s premier running coach is Ethiopian Fanos Tekle, who has won more than 30 international races in her career to date and can run 10km in about 35 minutes.

As it sounded like she knew a thing or two about forward motion I moseyed on down to Zabeel Park one evening, where ILSS regularly hold running workshops for budding or improving runners.

I arrived complete with heart rate monitor, fitness watch, electrolytes and gritted teeth ready to be taxed – instead it was rather relaxed. The workout consisted of short and sharp exercises which, while intense for 30 seconds or so, was conducted at a pace where technique took precedence.

TWIST AND SHOUT

High knees, hip twists, star jumps, skipping with jumps and all manner of exercises designed to stretch and flex the body.

The point of all this? To get each part of your body working in harmony. While running may feel like the most natural thing in the world – we start to run almost as soon as we learn to walk – there is a big difference between plodding along and propelling yourself forward.

You may have bumped into older runners whose knees are suffering from the strain, but incorporate drills into your routine and there is nothing to stop you from being sprightly for decades.

I put some of my new-found knowledge to the test during the Run The Track Night Run at the Dubai Autodrome for a hot and humid 10km complete with a rather intimidating hill.

ILSSrunning (1)

LONG, HARD YARDS

In truth coach Dmitriy has been helping me lay the groundwork for months. Long and easy runs at no more than 75 per cent of maximum heart rate to get the miles in but not wear out the body. 100m and 200m sprints, with proper warm-ups and cooldowns, to get my body used to running at more intense speeds. Incline work on the treadmill to tone up the leg muscles.

Which is why despite the hot and humid conditions (and the 60k bike ride the morning of), I felt strong during the race. With Dmitriy having set target heart rates every 3k or so, I was never at a pace where I was gasping for breath.

Now, clocking in at a time of one hour and two minutes didn’t send the speed guns smoking. In more pleasant conditions though sub one hour would have been mine – and there weren’t even any grumbles from the body the following day.

Perhaps I’ll survive this thing in November after all.

COACH’S CORNER

Fanos Tekle – ILSS Dubai running coach

FanosTekleILSS3 (1)

Our main aim in our running groups and private sessions at I Love Supersport Dubai is to help runners achieve their goals without injury.

We help people train to finish a 10km race, half-marathon and marathon or set new personal best times.

Running more does not necessarily make you a better runner – that’s only one part of it. Doing strength training and drills are important to increase coordination and flexibility of the body. People who have too little of either have a high risk of injury, and they are wasting energy that they need to use for running forward.

Beginner runners can also make mistakes by doing the wrong type of training – mostly because they don’t know how to manage the pace and go too fast. Running three times a week is good enough for beginners, they need to run for just a short duration and focus on base training.

To get better the quickest way, find your main weakness and work more on it. Train continuously for three to six times a week, but in a regime that includes more running drills and strength work.

I Love Supersport Dubai is the premier international endurance sports school. No matter your age or ability, achieve your goals as a swimmer, runner, cyclist and triathlete under the tutelage of some of the region’s best coaches. Visit dubai.ilovesupersport.com for more details.

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