Endurance Training

The Long Course Weekend

Every July since 2010 Pembrokeshire plays host annually to one of the most difficult multi-sport events – the Long Course Weekend. This unique event lasts three days and has grown from humble beginnings to now accommodate some of the best triathlon talent in the UK and the world, including a number of athletes utilising it as the perfect preparation and build up to the Ironman Wales event in September.

Beth did the event last year when I was away training in Switzerland and thoroughly enjoyed it so this year we both signed up for the full Long Course Weekend event; it was great preparation for Beth’s Ultraman event later this year and in my case I still love to participate in the sport I coach. There are a number of options for each discipline but to qualify for the Long Course and that elusive fourth medal you clearly have to do the full distance in each event. The weekend kicks-off on the Friday evening with The Wales Swim. There are two options a 1.2 mile and a 2.4 mile swim and it takes place on Tenby’s North Beach. The Long Course athletes have to complete 2.4 mile swim. Having not swum at all for a month due to a rotator cuff injury this was never going to be pretty for me and so it turned out with me exiting in 117th place. The course is a two-lap swim, for the full distance, with a so called “Aussie exit” (although I’m led to believe that Australians have no idea what an Aussie Exit is, nor why we call it that) and goes in a clockwise direction. The first buoy was reportedly 800m away but it seemed to take forever to reach it. There was a minor swell running and it was a little lumpy, there were reports of jellyfish last year but I only saw one however it genuinely was the biggest one I have ever seen! Straight up this event felt different to an Ironman branded event, with very little of the testosterone fuelled hype at the start and a much friendlier atmosphere. So straight away I liked it. We had stayed in a B&B in Tenby so you could just walk down to the start in your wetsuit if you wanted although we chose to just change on the beach and use the bag drop which was all very efficient. It was also quite nice to just do the swim and go back to the B&B rather than the thought of getting straight onto the bike.

On Saturday the attention turns to The Wales Sportive, and 112 miles of “undulating” Welsh countryside lined in parts with enthusiastic crowds. There is also a 44 mile and a 66 mile route option. This ride is extremely tough and some of the “undulations” are full blown hills. The weather was dark, rainy and in parts foggy. The rain did not ease up for the entire event and I did not take the rain jacket off. They start you in small groups and I started near the back and was constantly passed at the start by the likes of Lucy Gossage who was safely tucked in behind a peloton of riders from Cambridge. I wasn’t able to stay on the back of the group, to be fair I couldn’t even get on the back of the group! It is not a ‘race’ as such it is sportive so is fully draft legal. For me I spent the majority of the ride on my own and it wasn’t until near the end that I started catching riders. I rode my road bike as opposed to my Tri bike and at the time this seemed to be a mistake as there are certainly large parts where you can get nice and aero on the tri bars (perhaps a bit of grass is greener) although I was happy to be on the road bike for the decents as in the rain and fog with steaming up glasses there were a little sketchy, quite a few people came off. The ride is tough and my ride was fairly miserable going about 90 minutes slower than I did at my last Ironman. Got it done though and saved some time by not using the sportive style food stations and carrying my own food; I finished in 98th place.

To finish the weekend, the athletes have the small task of completing the 26.2 miles of The Wales Marathon, which is quickly establishing itself as a fantastic event in its own right. There are 5k, 10k and Half Marathon options with the latter two starting after the marathon. The Half for example starts 2 hours after the marathon start so if you are quick enough you will be cheered on by those runners waiting to start the half. In my case the fastest runners in the half and the 10k started to pass me around my 20 mile mark. The run was by far my best event and with the weather being much improved I aimed to run around 3:15 pace or 7:30 per mile. The route is an extremely hilly single lap and is not the Ironman Wales run course. I stayed on pace until around mile 18 or 19 but started to drift off towards the end. I came in at 3:25 which was the 26th fastest marathon time. Swim and bike for show – run for dough! You can tell which event runners are doing by their bib colour and both spectators and other runners alike were appreciative of the Long Course athletes. I passed a fellow LCW athlete on the run and rather than trying to race me he was complimentary about how well I seemed to be going – this isn’t what happens in an Ironman when you pass someone in your Age Group!

All in all I can thoroughly recommend the Long Course Weekend. It is challenging but more than that it is a well-run event with none of the drama that goes with the Ironman events, so no huge race briefing, no racking of bike or dropping of bags and it is conducted in an inclusive and friendly atmosphere. With the pick and choose nature of each discipline there is something here for everyone. For those doing an Ironman later in the year you could do the full swim and bike and perhaps just the 10k to save your legs for example. Entries for next year are open and if I was you I’d get on it.

If you have any more in depth questions about our experience of the event just contact us.

Endure 24 Race Report



Here is a great Race Report by one of our athletes, Jen about her experiences in the Endure 24 hour running race. Enjoy!  

Endure is advertised as ‘Glastonbury for Runners’. Having never been to Glastonbury I’m not sure how the constant sweat levels compare, but it certainly had an amazing party atmosphere, which was incomparable to any race I’d done before.

Running solo for this long was a first, I had no fixed expectations. My longest ultra before this was 40miles. I had no idea what would happen to my body after this, but I was more than ready to find out! I had an outline plan of laps/breaks/eating which I had discussed with Coach Neil. I was happy to adjust as needed.

My outline plan was to run each lap in 1hour, have a small snack each lap, and a longer break plus a meal every 3-4laps. I ran the first four laps with friends who were also competing. I had a quick unscheduled return to my tent after 2 laps to change trainers. I’d set off in light trail shoes, but the race organisers had laid lots of hardcore down which was much too hard underfoot. I ran the rest of the 24hrs in cushioned road shoes. My feet were certainly very grateful for the early call on this.

In regards to the weather, it was very hot and muggy, lightheaded nausea became a bit of a problem. I found little sips of water and savoury snacks worked best for me. The course ran through scenic forestry, with a few nasty hills along the way! I quickly worked out where to walk and when to run, but even the shade of the trees didn’t lower the temperature.

After the first 4 laps (20miles) I had a meal break and a complete kit change as I was soaked with sweat. I ran/walked the hills for a further 3 laps. It was still incredibly muggy, so they were a bit slower. I stopped for another meal break. A jacket potato has never tasted so good! I then did another 3 laps finishing just before 1.00am. I now had 50miles in the bag. I experienced some serious chaffing on this last lap, so I took a longer break to sort myself out. I had lots of messages of support on fb which gave me a morale boost, and so I took the chance to read and update everyone.

I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself setting back out at 2.00am as I was a bit sore, and whilst walking was fine, running definitely aggravated it. Luckily I have a fast walk! I readjusted my plan to account for slower laps. I had prepared an awesome playlist for the night, and putting that on made me feel more positive. I loved the night laps. The temperature was so much cooler, and somehow even ‘heartbreak hill’ didn’t seem so steep in the dark, (as I couldn’t see it.) By 6.00am I had covered another 3 laps, but I returned to my tent feeling really tired. I had some breakfast, then had a decision to make because my legs and muscles all felt surprisingly fine, but I was so tired. I decided to try and nap for an hour, then I would still have plenty of time to get another 3 laps in before the cut off, as long as I could be back out on the course before 8.00am. I laid everything out ready, and fell asleep almost immediately I lay on my airbed! I’ve never had a problem sleeping in a tent.

I woke feeling positive. I put on fresh kit, and headed out for a further 3 laps. I knew I could do this, and that 80miles would be a very respectable total mileage. At no point did I ever want to give up. (I did, however, think many times ‘I’m not doing this ever again’.) It was just a matter of readjusting the plan and the goal to fit what I was capable of doing, as circumstances changed. I laughed, I smiled, I enjoyed banter and chat with other runners and marshals, and I looked deep inside myself…and surprised myself. I got a bit emotional as I set off on my last lap. I was doing this. 80miles was mine! I certainly had tears as I approached the finish line with so many strangers shouting and cheering.

42weeks of training. All the early mornings/ the dark/the rain/ the double runs. All were worth it.

I endured.

Thank Goodness for Clif Bar!!

clifThank goodness for Clif Bar!! I have been a bit busy with work, getting the house ready to put up for sale and looking for a new house, (or motorhome -stay tuned!) so I haven’t had the time I would have liked to experiment with nutrition bars. Enter Clifbars - an ethical company that takes whole food seriously. Plant based nutrition AND free of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup who have sponsored me on this Ultraman journey AND as well as fuelling me have sent me some cool kit! I did find the time, however, to make these Super Simple and easy to put together (right up my alley!) Onigiri. A Japanese rice ball popular in ultra race aid stations due to its cooling effect on the body – loaded with carbohydrates, electrolytes and salt and easy to digest to boot. The photo is google image (mine weren’t so pretty) and I got the recipe from :

riceEat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

By Scott Jurek, Steve Friedman

2 cups sushi rice

4 cups water

2 teaspoons miso or umeboshi paste

3-4 sheets nori seaweed

Follow the directions for cooking the rice, then rinse and place the rice in the fridge over night to cool.

Using your hands, form a 1/3 -1/4 cup rice into a triangle. Spread 1/4 teaspoon miso or umeboshi paste evenly on one side of the triangle. Cover with another 1/3-1/4 cup rice. Shape into one triangle, making sure the miso is covered with rice. Using half of one sheet of nori, wrap the rice triangle in nori, making sure to completely cover the rice.

 Next time I make these, I am going to make a bit smaller. These lasted a good 4-5 bites and on the bike I am not going to want to hold on to these suckers for that long. I also added pickled ginger (to keep the tummy happy). On the whole I am happy with these and with the seaweed sheets they have their own wrapper.

They are a big hit when you’ve been having sweet stuff and want something salty and savoury. But I’m not against trying these with almond butter or honey…

My favourite thing in the world is quick and easy to assemble snacks with as few ingredients as possible – hopefully at some point I will have the time to get stuck in making more bars. The toughest thing about triathlon- fitting life in between training sessions!

*This week I spent:

4 hours swimming (missed one session)

4 hours running

7 hours biking (cut 2 sessions short)

*And watched:

The Sasquatch Gang

Carpool karaoke with Gwen Stefani, Adel, Sia, JLo, One Direction, Chris Martin, and Elton John – and yes, I sang along.

Hundreds of swimming videos (at least 10)

Britain’s Next Top Model cycle 10… all 9 episodes… I’m not proud of this.

My Vegan nutrition for Ultraman

carrotBeing Vegan and with the rigours of the particular challenge that Ultraman places I have to really consider the nutrition I am going to use and how it will fuel me pre, during and post race so this week I did some nutrition testing. First up was some raw carrot cake balls; next week it is Scott Jurek’s Japanese Rice Balls (Onigiri). If you are interested, here is the recipe:

No-Bake Carrot Cake Energy Bites

Courtesy of Amanda @ Running with Spoons

Yields: 12 balls


  • 3 Medjool dates
  • 4 dried apricots                                                    
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • unsweetened shredded coconut, for garnish

In a food processor, combine first 5 ingredients until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients (minus the coconut) and continue processing until smooth.

Roll into balls and press into the shredded coconut .


1, 2, 3 ....GO!

So my swim training is kicking into high gear – with 123 days to go, I guess it had to at some point. A Tuesday night 5.6k set took 1hr 45mins – which seemed ok until I realized the race is 10km in Lake Bala so basically I am looking at about 3.5 hours if I don’t speed up!  If you fancy replicating the session it was:  1 x 600 pb/pad

6 x 100 pb only – 10 sec rests

2 x 500 pb/pad – 30 sec rest

5 x 200 1st , 3rd and 5th are pb/pad; 2nd and 4th are pb only – 15 sec

3 x 400 pb/pad – 25 sec rest

4 x 300 1st and 3rd are pb/pad, 2nd and 4th are pb only – 20 sec


The weather has been, shall we say, “changeable”. There was a 2 hour window last weekend to take out The Beast (I am experimenting with names for my bike). This was the inaugural outing – and I am so happy to say The Beast is ALIVE! She is a Dimond with Knight 65 front and 95 rear wheels – perfectly fitted as always by Richard at FreeSpeed.

It was nice to be outdoors as I have been doing all of my cycling on the turbo trainer in the garage. At some point I think I will have watched every movie on YouTube!

Happy training!!


What do you do when Marathon, Ultras or Ironman isn't enough?

IMG_4348It all started with a book. “The Race Within” by Jim Gourley – a story of passion, courage and sacrifice at the Ultraman Triathlon. Having spent the last 15 years racing triathlon up to Ironman distance and running up to Ultras my planned ‘easy’ 2016 season of ‘just’ racing half ironman distance was slowly slipping through my fingers the more I read.   In December 2015 when I entered UM UK I had a great idea for a blog writing about what it takes to get to the start of Ultraman, as a Vegan how I plan to implement a plant based nutrition plan and ultimately how the race goes – then all of a sudden it’s the MIDDLE of APRIL! Day one of this three day race is 1st of September. Roughly 4 months away. Training so far has been about keeping the fitness I already had from training and racing Ironman distance and staying injury free. Four week blocks of training have emphasized building consistency and volume – nothing too daunting… yet. If you are not familiar with the rigours of Ultraman the race information is below.

Friday – Stage 1 – 10.0 km (6.2 mile) 1km x 5 loop swim up the right side of Bala Lake . The swim is immediately followed by a one-loop 144.8 km (90.0 mile) bike ride beginning & finishing Day 1 in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy. Time Limits – All swimmers must be out of the water within 6 hours and the bike stage must be completed in 6 hours.  Stage 1 has a total cut-off time of 12 hours.  All athletes will be timed.

Saturday – Stage 2 – One-loop 275.8 km (171.4 mile) bike ride beginning and finishing Day 2 in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy County. Time Limits – Bike (Stage 2) in 12 hours. All athletes will be timed.

Sunday – Stage 3 – Mt. Snowdon is central to the 84.3 km (52.4 mile) double-marathon run course. Day 3 begins & ends in Betws-y-Coed in Conwy County. Time Limits – Run (Stage 3) in 12 hours. All athletes will be timed.

Each must be accompanied by an individual support team of at least two persons over the entire course.  Individual resources: mental, physical and spiritual, are shared in an atmosphere where the pursuit of human excellence is the fundamental rule of the road.

Stay Tuned: Next week I will be experimenting with my plant based nutrition plan!!

Don't forget the Aerobic Engine

ovettAs you know, despite being schooled in modern methods, much of my Coaching philosophy is reflected in what would be considered an old school way of thinking about training. A good reason for this is that being a child of the 60’s I guess I am old school to many. Indeed many of the athletes I work with have never heard of many of the greats that I talk about whether that be Coaches like Percy Cerutty, Arthur Lydiard, Harry Wilson or Jimmy Hedley or athletes like Herb Elliot, Peter Snell, Steve Cram or my all time favourites Emil Zatopek, Steve Prefontaine and Steve Ovett. However when we look back at all of them and their own philosophies we see that in virtually all cases the grounding was always aerobic work. If we take Steve Cram for example, many will now know him as the voice of athletics on BBC1 but some of us we remember he had a lengthy elite career lasting from the late 70s to the 90s and was a 1:42 800m runner and a 13:26 5000m runner as well as a 3:46 miler. Despite these super fast times Cram spent a huge proportion of the year on building on endurance and the aerobic engine.  In fact he spent approximately 22 weeks running around 70-80 miles per week; which for an elite is not super high but he did suffer with a number of injuries. I do wonder how many of my athletes I would retain if when they came to me for coaching I said we’ll spend 6 months laying the foundation. Cram would do this year in year out. For me it shows that perhaps we are all in a rush to do the sexy fast workouts and we miss the need to lay a solid foundation for the work to come.

One thing to remember is how fast these athletes were so an Easy 5 miler that Ovett would do twice a day on some days would only take him 35 minutes as 7:00 per mile pace was his easy pace. So for an Age Group athlete this run might be completed at 9 or 10 min per mile pace and thus take significantly longer. When we consider Olympic 800m Gold medallist himself we see reported that his volume could be 80, 100 or even 120 miles a week and Ovett would typically spend even more time than Cram stressing the aerobic engine with periods up to 24 weeks in this phase. The total phase would be broken down into blocks but even by the final block 75% of the week would be at “low level” training. Remember all of this is pre GPS days.

Elite athletes tend to run twice or usually in the Kenyan’s case three times a day and Harry Wilson, who was Ovett’s legendary Coach would structure the weeks training in this aerobic development phase with a real mix of easy, medium and faster-steady-state runs, longer aerobic repeats, some build runs and with some sprint drills and mobility exercises included. So you can see the heavy emphasis on aerobic development. So it wasn’t just pure mileage, there were variations on the distance run and the speed run for normal runs but it wasn’t sexy fast intervals.

So whether we have lost the knowledge that these workouts are the ones that really count, or whether we are in such a rush to get things done in this modern age so we skip this phase I don’t know but I do know it is what makes the greats GREAT. It’s of no surprise to me that in that great 800m final in the London Olympics that British runner Andrew Osagie ran a PB of 1:43:77 yet in 1985 that Steve Cram’s PB was 1:42:77. So my advice to all my athletes and all reading this is not to forget the aerobic engine and develop it continually through all phases of training for your entire athletic life.

The ABC of Training

ABC-logoThe 3 key principles of Accuracy of Session, Balance in Training and Consistency are key to any training programme regardless of the sport and are ones that if you or your Coach builds them as central pillars to your programme will aid you in your desire to achieve that PB in the race season. Accuracy of Session or making your sessions more Specific to you, your abilities, your goals and your event is a key pillar to ensure that the desired adaptation occurs. The term specificity is sometimes used interchangeably with the acronym SAID, which stands for specific adaptation to imposed demands. The underlying principle here is that it is the type of demand that is placed on the body that dictates the type of adaptation that will occur. So if you are training for a marathon then an accurately designed session would revolve around perhaps some race pace adaptation, or some shorter interval type work to facilitate that leg speed and improve the aerobic engine efficiency, or tempo work or an appropriately paced longer runs. Not long and slow but longer and appropriately paced. Similarly if you are training for a Ironman Triathlon then you need to swim 3.8km efficiently in a wetsuit, therefore to match the stimulus must match the desired adaptation, so a session might be something like 40 x 100m with some small paddles and pull buoy Would swimming open water make you a better open water swimmer? Perhaps yes, because it is more specific – it is also quite tough to do all year long in most climates. So the examples I have used here are ones where I am trying to activate or recruit the same motor units required by your sport and by incorporating training that mimics the movement patterns of your sport as a Coach I increase the likelihood that muscles involved in the sport will be recruited.

Balance in life whilst still achieving the consistency, that as you will read below is fundamental, is key to achieving long-term success in sport. Training adds to our daily dose of stressors, work, death, marriage, taxes etc. and therefore by achieving balance and limiting that total stress you allow therefore just Training Stress to be placed upon us. If we achieve this then we can perhaps up the training stress thus facilitating greater adaptation. By achieving this healthy balance you can eke out the most from those training sessions.

Consistency is the unqualified key to long-term progress. Consistency in training is paramount and in its simplest form is limiting those sessions you miss. Your Coach may plan weeks where you will do no training – and believe me when I say these will be tough but in principle we look to keep ticking over. Aerobic progress and fitness, in general, respond well to continued stimulation. De-training happens very, very quickly. For this reason, avoiding injury is absolutely imperative. Injuries do nothing but put you on the couch, undermining consistency, and therefore long-term progress.

 So when you or your Coach is designing your next block of training consider the ABCs.

Boost your Immune System this Winter



Leek, Fennel, Apple + Walnut Soup with Turmericserves: 4

One of the great ways we can get good nutrients into our diet and to boost that immune system in the Winter time when colds, coughs and flu are abound is to cook up a great pot of soup. This recipe here is designed to provide anti inflammatory ingredients  to heal, nourish, and soothe. Whether you’re battling a bad cold or the flu, this food will help you on the road to recover but best of all it tastes great!  There is some good research to suggest that the health-giving properties of these home remedies and their active ingredients will actively help in these Winter months. So why not try this recipe below to ward off illness or just warm up a chilly weeknight supper.

soup ingredients:2 tbsp coconut oil3 leeks, white + light green parts chopped 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves minced1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped (reserve a few fronds for garnish)2 medium bramley apples, peeled, cored + chopped1-2 tsp ground turmeric1/2 cup walnut halves, toastedsalt + pepper4 cups vegetable stock

to serve:maple syrupfresh black pepperreserved fennel frondsmore toasted walnuts

Heat the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add the chopped leeks and thyme. Stir and sauté the leeks until they are a bit soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped fennel and apples. Stir everything up a bit. Add the turmeric and stir to coat all of the vegetables evenly. Sauté the vegetables until the fennel is starting to soften, another 4 minutes. Add the walnuts and stir them in. Season the whole thing with salt and pepper.Add the vegetable stock and stir. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer until all of the vegetables/apples are very soft, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat. Carefully blend the mixture in batches until totally smooth. Check the soup for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Bring the puréed soup to a boil and serve hot with drizzles of maple syrup, fresh black pepper, fennel fronds and more toasted walnuts.


“How do I improve my swim leg for triathlon?” – Also very applicable to Runners!

images“How do I improve my swim leg for triathlon?” – Also very applicable to Runners! There are 3 go to tenets that should help you improve and certainly make you more efficient in that triathlon swim leg.

Be Consistent
: Consistency in training is the number one method to achieve success in all three disciplines of triathlon, especially swimming. Depending on background I encourage my athletes to maintain at least 3 training swims a week a solid structure and basis to each session. For some who do not have a swim background yet have lofty goals like a Kona qualification we may work up to 6 swims a week and 20km of swimming. Typically this would consist of four 4km sets and a couple of 2km recovery type sets that would follow other disciplines – so Sunday for example might be a longer run and later in the day a 2km recovery swim.

Understand Your Speed: 
You need to know how fast you are swimming your 100s so learn to read the Pace Clock or use some form of timing equipment, like your fancy Garmin 920 watch, or use a Finis Tempo Trainer. This skill is essential in order to measure improvement – you can’t measure improvement if you don’t know where you are starting from. Knowing what times you are swimming and the pace you are holding is central to improving your times. Having said that for a triathlon swimmer I’ll take efficiency over ultimate speed every day of the week. So I’d much rather you swam 1:15 in your Ironman efficiently than you swam 1:05 but it took a lot out of you. To achieve either result we still must understand our relative speed and the simplest way is to start reading that pace clock..

Build Sessions
 These work to prevent the common mistake of going off too hard. We see this error in all three disciplines in triathlon where an athlete starts a session or a race too fast. Try to break sets down into 3 where you build through the session. So if you were swimming a 2400m main set maybe as 12 x 200s think of the first 800m or 4 x 200m as easy, the middle 800m as steady and the last 800m as fast. This means getting faster, or at least trying harder, throughout the set. This not only applies to swimming but all disciplines in triathlon. This will allow you to be aware of your pace in a race and can teach you how to start fast but not too fast and then to build throughout the swim.

So in your next swim set why not try and put one of these latter two tips above into practice and over the next few weeks work to become more consistent in your training and soon you’ll reap the benefits.

How are You going to Approach your next Training Race?



As I write this in November there is a good chance that your primary race for the year will be some months off. Perhaps you are aiming for a Spring Marathon or maybe a Summer Ironman and therefore any race that you conduct around this time in the season can be thought of as a Training Race or a C or perhaps B Focus event. As a runner you may have entered your local Cross Country (XC) series or some trail races or as a triathlete perhaps you are doing a Winter Duathlon or you have entered a Cyclocross race or you also are taking part in that same Cross Country league. So how are you going to approach this Training Race? By at least having an “approach” you can ensure that you get the most out of the experience either as a race, as a race simulation or as a solid training experience.First and foremost I think it is key just to have the approach or goal that you aim to get something out of the event. It doesn’t need to involve the totality of the event; perhaps you have been working your bike strength recently so in the Duathlon you want to focus on the bike, or you have been working on some run hill reps so you want to feel like you can push more than usual on the hills. Perhaps you have devised up a new warm up strategy, or if appropriate a new nutrition strategy or have some new kit you want to try out. What ever it is, make a point of noting it and understand that it is your rationale for the race.

One thing to consider is that you have paid money and taken time to enter the race and to get to the race venue so you do want to race and race hard! However in this phase of the season you do not want to forgo good training time by tapering for such an event - so incorporate it into your training volume. As a runner if you have a 10km XC race then perhaps do an easy 5km jog before breakfast then head out for the race and either as a cool down or later in the day do a 5km cool down jog so you make it a 20km run day with the middle 10km being at a hard race pace. Or as a triathlete, do a nice aerobic 4km swim set on the Friday and a long easy bike or possibly turbo session on the Saturday before entering the same XC race on the Sunday. In both cases run the race as hard as you can and it can be your hard session for the weekend. That way you get the competitive juices flowing, you run hard against others, your trial new strategies but you incorporate it all appropriately into your weekly training load.

After the event don’t forget to reflect and consider what went well and what went not so well. Look at the process and not the outcome. The outcome will be affected by the fact that for you this was a training day – for others this may be their goal for the year! So look at the process: how did that new warm up routine work, or that new kit or that race strategy? Consider it all and reflect such that when it comes time for your A race all of these things are second nature.

So take your training races seriouslybut remember their place within the bigger picture. Place them appropriately within your programme, go into them with a plan, race them hard and reflect upon them afterwards. That way you’ll be on your way to greater success when the main races in your season roll around

Have you tried this running trick?

watchWhen I trained as a youngster with the local athletics club the Coach had a stopwatch but none of us young athletes wore a watch. If we owned a watch, it’s only functions would have been to tell us the time and perhaps the date. It would have certainly been taken it off prior to the run. When we raced we would run as hard as we could for the distance; so if it was a 3 mile XC race we would race as fast as we could for 3 miles when we conducted a training session each interval was as fast as we could for the number of yards (yes it was yards back in the day) that the coach set. In the mid-1990s I did buy my first heart rate monitor and for full disclosure I do own a GPS watch. I no longer use the former and I do find the latter useful for some racing and in particular to hold my pace in the first few miles (yes even I go off too hard at times) if I am trying to even pace a race. I will also use the time facility if I am doing a timed fartlek or interval session and would use the GPS if I wanted to run a particular distance or a particular pace. However the absolute majority of my runs are conducted with no watch, no HRM and no GPS.

This morning’s run was a good example, I wanted to run about an hour at an easy pace with my Collie, Murphy but to be honest if it was 55 minutes or 65 minutes or it was 7:30 pace or 8:30 pace it didn’t matter as long as it felt easy. So I picked a route that I knew would take about an hour an off we went. Running this way will allow you to truly understand your body and understand how running at particular intensities actually feels.

imagesThis week in Athletics Weekly, Julia Bleasdale the British 10,000m runner was interviewed and stated that she too enjoys leaving the watch behind. Rather than paraphrase what Julia said I will quote it and if you want to read the full article please buy Athletics Weekly.

“With the training aids nowadays giving you your pace and distance, when you run along with your watch, you’re always going to have an emotional response,” she says. “Sometimes in training I don’t take a watch and I feel I’ve become very in tune with my body. I can sense whether I’m running at the right intensity but only by starting the process of sometimes leaving your watch behind can develop that real deeper self-awareness and having that self-awareness can really help athletes to get closer to fulfilling their potential because you’re really in tune with your body, sensing niggles and how hard to push rather than trying to fulfil what a piece of paper or your training aid is telling you.”

An interesting area here is that Julia talks about having an ‘emotional response’ when running with a GPS and as a Coach I believe that sometimes athletes will set a false ceiling. They may be going well and look at their GPS and think ‘I can’t run this fast’ and slow down. In some respects this may be the correct response as they may have actually gone off way too hard however on the other hand they may be having a breakthrough performance and should carry on. Again if they have conducted training without a watch then they will know whether they are going too hard. Regardless what your gadget is telling you if you feel like you are going too easy or too hard then you probably are.

So like Julia I would encourage you to start to leave the watch at home for some of your runs and begin to develop that self-awareness and sense the intensity you are running at.

Let us know how you get on.

Race Week Advice

Race weekSo race week is upon us and for all my athletes the first thing they will notice is that they will see that we keep training quite similar to that they have been used to. There is no massive taper for the athletes; yes we reduce the volume and for some we keep a bit of intensity but overall we keep a nice consistent training rhythm going. As an athlete you aren't going to get fitter in these last few days but you also won't lose a lot of fitness so don't stress it if life takes over; after all you probably will have some travelling to do and prep for the races. If you have raced before you'll know there is a lot of pre race posturing that goes on, particularly in triathlon, but this counts for nothing when the gun goes off. As a Brit everyone else always seems to look better tanned, have better shaved legs, look more muscular, more lean, have better kit a better bike etc etc but this counts for nothing so don't let it affect you. However staying out of this environment is always worth while. I'd advise spending as little time around others that are racing as you can. Go and register, go to the race brief and check out the course as required and for triathlon the flow through transitions and all aspects you need to know but do all of that efficiently. I like to wear my iPod just to keep myself in my own world. You've been there though you know the routine and how to race but any physical or mental energy you can save here all helps.

As the training load is slightly lower than normal there is no real need to carbo load as you are not burning the calories as normal. Hence with your usual calorie intake from foods you in effect will already be loading up. I always advise athletes to miss any pre race pasta party - no need to go wild at the buffet!

During the race itself concentrate on the process and not the outcome. Try and quieten your mind and never give up. Just be the best YOU can be on race day.

Keep your mind still and just keep working mile after mile. Break the event down and don't let the totality of it overwhelm you; so in a run think of it as 5ks or 10k or look to the next aid station but don't concern yourself with mile 20 while you are still at mile 10. Lastly good luck; we all need it. Concentrate on the process and most of all enjoy the race!

Dublin 70.3 Race Report

Dublin 70.3 Race Report 10448825_497448720387814_4220495444974091941_n Last Sunday Beth and I raced the inaugral 70.3 in Dublin. After a race I like to be quite objective with my race reports in order that I and others can glean some information about the race, and learn from those things that worked well and those things that didn’t go quite to plan.

My objectives for this event

This was a build up race for us in our prep for IM Chattanooga in September but with most races I always aim to do as well as I can.

Swim – as ever try to be strong and get the swim done without it taking anything out of me

Bike – ride a solid bike leg aiming to put myself in a good position to run strongly

Run – aim was to run around 1:30 which I hoped would put me in sight of an age group podium


On the Sunday before the race I had my last real hit out session with a run that included 20 x 3 min reps at 70.3 race pace with 1 min recovery jogs. After the session I felt like I had a bit of hayfever coming on but early hours of Monday I awoke with a sore throat. No excuses whatsoever but this developed into a cold then a chesty cough as the week went on. Come the Friday I made the decision I would race as I felt it was getting better and we spent the day sight seeing; which culminated in a great meal and a couple of pints of Guinness in a bar on O’Connell Street with some great live Irish music – the Guinness actually seemed to help my cold! Saturday was the usual racking of bikes, dropping of bags and race briefing all of which seemed to take forever as the swim start and T1 was an hours drive away from T2 and the brief.


11811294_706981652767852_4258489646522847887_nRace morning felt pretty nervous which I haven’t been since Vitoria last year and this is definitely something to continue to work on. The swim takes place in Scotsman’s Bay, Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary) and the 1 lap anti clockwise swim was set off in rolling, wave starts; there is a nice video of the swim start here. We were split into gender and age group waves that set off at 10 min intervals but you entered in a very orderly fashion down a slipway into the Irish Sea with the timing mat at the bottom of the slip way so there way no drama of the mass start. The swim was un-dramatic, although was about 300m long! The water temperature was reported to be 14.9 degrees C and there was a bit of a swell running that made sighting awkward. I came out in 40:40 which was 13th in my AG but as it turns out nicely placed with those who would be in the mix as you can see from the results below. The exit is steep but multiple helpers did a grand job pulling you out.

All the bike bags were on racks in a tent as is normal at these events and I found mine and pulled on a long sleeved skins top to keep me at a good temperature and protect from the” Irish sunshine” on the bike. I was away well and pleased with myself for a reasonably slick transition all things considered.



bikeThe bike course is a beautiful relatively flat course where you cycle on closed roads firstly straight into and through Dublin city centre the out on a one lap route that ends in Phoenix Park. The road surface in the main is pretty ropey to be honest and there were some significant pot holes. There are also at least 30 to 40 speed bumps on the course with 22 of them in the last few miles coming into Phoenix Park. These coupled with the road conditions and the rain shower we had made for some crashes and also the usual bottles and bits of bikes littering the course. I felt like I cycled well and only remember a couple of guys passing me and came off the bike in good shape in 2:33.


11870694_706847759447908_6256546699818839470_nThis is my strength and I had high hopes of keeping to the 1:30 target I ghad set myself. The run course is three laps around Phoenix Park and is pretty much supported the whole way round. At the end of lap 1 I stopped to have a pee in a portaloo and this was a good move in terms of I ran much better afterwards but took a few precious seconds so perhaps I should have peed on the bike. Technique wise I tried to run light, using a heel strike and hold my hips high with high cadence. It’s never easy in a triathlon but I felt my technique stayed reasonable throughout although I could definitely have run with a higher cadence.

The crowd support on the run was fantastic enthusiastic! My first two laps were pretty much on target and I felt that I was accelerating as the race went on which on a multi lap course is a great mental boost as you spend the entire race overtaking people. I ran a 1:32 so was happy with that time and it gave me a finish time of 4:56:19 and 5th in my AG. No World Championship slot for me although it rolled to 3rd place however Beth managed to bad a roll down slot and therefore we will be making the trek across to Mooloolaba in September 2016. Still time for me to join her racing though!


Swim – I stayed focused and got it done without it taking anything out of me

Bike – I’m in good and felt I rode reasonably strongly without it killing me for the run.

Run – A strong run, not as fast as some but I felt like I tried hard.


Overall I went in with a plan and stuck to it and didn’t feel I needed anymore.


We had breakfast in the hotel: cereal with some fruit and some homebaked Guinness Brown Bread with honey and almond butter. Yes all you Paleo people will be shouting at this.


One bottle with 4 Overstims gels in it topped up with water.

One bottle with some Overstims carb drink

1 ½ Powerbars withy the whole bar cut in half.

1 x Double Expresso Clif Shot Gels (caffeinated)



1 x Double Expresso Clif Shot Gels (caffeinated)

2 x Overstims gels


Plan was to eat half a bar every 20 mins on bike then take caffeinated gel at 1 hr 20 then drink from gel bottle every 20 mins to finish. On run it was 1 gel every 25 ish minutes.



  1. All my gear worked great and I did not get too hot or cold. Huub wetsuit, Cervelo P3, Adidas Tempo run shoes – I’ve run in Adidas Tempo since 2012 if it ain’t broke don’t try and fix it
  2. I handled the mental side well once the race started but was nervous before. In the swim and the bike and raced my own race. Felt I ran strongly
  3. Nutrition worked pretty well in terms of not bonking at all
  4. Confident that if things go well I can put together a faster time

Negatives / Work On’s:

  1. Race nerves pre race
  2. Possibly nutrition. I need to think how to transfer this plan to Ironman
  3. Push harder on swim and bike – however cognisant that “you run for dough” so don’t want to overcook it

All in all a great race and one I would certainly do again.



Are you Doing the Right Training Session?

RickWells-GlenCook-Avignon__mediumHard training 100% of the time is not about going flat out for every session. Instead it is about the difficulty in doing the right session, at the right intensity, 100% of the time”. So said Glenn Cook. I know I have longevity as a Coach when I have to explain who Glenn Cook is but he was a triathlete who made a number of appearances in the British team between the mid 80’s and 90’s and who was a World silver medalist at the first ITU Triathlon World Championships in Avignon in 1989; the year that ITU was formed. For a bonus point can you name the other athlete in the photo? Cook was right of course and I think we are all guilty of doing what we like rather than what we need to do in training and further than that we are guilty of not making those easy sessions truly easy or making those hard sessions lung busting hard. However we can look to Cook’s quote and take some inspiration when designing our sessions. Taking a run example if we want to break 40 minutes for the 10km then we can break this time and distance down and train very specifically. A 40 minute 10k pace means running 25 x 400m at 96s per 400m. So initially we can do sessions where we build up to this; we may do for example 10 x 400m aiming to hit 96s for each 400m and take 30s rest in between them. We can progress this to sessions where we run the 400s but do a 200m “float” jog in between each and work this up until we can run the full twenty five 400s at our race pace.

Of course no one want 40:00 so running slightly faster and getting for you a magic 39 something instead of a 40 something is the way to go so you’ll want to be slightly faster than 96s. This often occurs on race day and hitting race pace in training is tough. However this type of training will give you the feel of what your goal pace is like and whilst not a ‘flat out’ session it certainly can be one of the right session in your build up. For the 40 min 10k runner these repeats will not feel like going 100% for the 400 as they are manageable and this can be, in Cook’s words, “the right session at the right intensity” for you to hit your goal.

Until the next time, heed the words of Glenn Cook and do the right session at the right intensity.



Rachel Qualifies for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii!


Here is a great Blog post from one of my athletes who recently raced Ironman UK at Bolton. Rachel had the most audacious goal in that our only goal for this season was to win the 30-34 AG at IMUK and qualify for Kona. Coming out the water in 57 minutes, the fastest time in the AG, then riding the fastest time in the AG, 5:52, and finally running the fastest run split of 3:29 is certainly the way to achieve your goal! Rachel finished in 10:28 which won her AG by 32 minutes and gave her 6th female overall and 2nd age grouper so we were extremely pleased and have already started making our preps training wise for Kona. I'll be writing more about how we achieved this in due course but for now enjoy Rachel's report on her race.

How to Predict your Ironman Finish Time

mathsAs a Coach when I am chatting to my athletes it is not long before the subject of Personal Bests/Personal Records and prospective finish times for races comes up. Indeed it is a vital conversation as by having an idea of this information leads to appropriate pacing and very often it is the lack of appropriate pacing that causes races to awry and leads to those ‘explosions’ and statements such as ‘I was going ok until mile X’. If you are looking to estimate your finish time for a run race there are a number of online predictors and you could do a lot worse than to start with those. By entering a known finish time over a set distance these will calculate a prospective finish time for a variety of distance races one of favourites for the marathon was quoted by the late great Frank Horwill from Serpentine AC who stated that if you take you 10km time, multiply it by 5 and then subtract 10 minutes you will get your predicted marathon time. As a rule of thumb for the marathon this is surprisingly (or unsurprisingly if you knew Frank) accurate!

However in the world of multi sport the predictions made become more difficult. Not least that, in the case of triathlon, there are three sports involved and, in the case of Ironman triathlon, the extended duration of the event allows for the potential for more unexpected events or for the terrain/weather/fatigue etc to play a greater part and to make predictions difficult However that is exactly what scientists at the University of Zurich[1] did. They set out to assess whether physical characteristics, training, or pre race experience were related to performance in age group male Ironman triathletes and measured the results at Ironman Switzerland.

The findings show that speed in running during training, personal best marathon time, and personal best time in an Olympic distance triathlon were related to the Ironman race time. The results are not just saying that faster runners over the marathon and the faster an athlete is over the Olympic distance the faster the Ironman finish; they have created a relationship between the times. One of the major findings was related to pace in that the scientists discovered that the triathletes swam and cycled at much faster speeds that they did in training yet ran at significantly slower speeds. The equation that was developed for predicting your Ironman finish time based on Olympic distance triathlon and marathon finish times was:

Iron Distance Finish Time (mins) = 152.1 + [1.332 x (Marathon PB)] + [1.964 x (Olympic Distance PB)]

Whilst your Personal Bests may have been set on a different type of course than the Ironman and the results must be current results I do feel that this formula gives us a great starting point to predict finish times and as a result goals and training paces along with aspirations can be better understood and adhered to. Worthy of note in the research is that slowing down factor on the run and as always it is she or he who slows down least that will do well.

Test it out and let us know how you get on!


Is your Training Camp making you Slower?

imagesAs we prepare to head out the door to host our April Triathlon Training Camp in Mallorca I wanted to give you some thoughts about the rationale of the camp and perhaps some things you might consider when choosing a triathlon training camp. Each Spring we see northern hemisphere age-group athletes go out in search of some sunshine and great training facilities with the sole intention of getting some big miles in the legs as well as the opportunity to eat, sleep and train with fellow athletes without the distraction of work and family ties. Sounds great right?

The problem is that on some of these training weeks the age group athlete will potentially quadruple the volume that they are used to (believe me I have been there) and this can lead to burn out and over use injuries (again, been there). Yet the true rationale for going on a camp is that we get a performance benefit down the line and actually get faster – isn’t it? So here at Performance Edge the rationale is slightly different. Yes we will train - after all we have great weather and all day to do it – we do not bring our athletes out for a Spa week - but we do not try and over work them to the point of ultimate fatigue as most of these athletes are only really starting to emerge from the Northern winter and this will be the first foray into the sunshine and some consistent volume.

Rather the aims of the camp are:

  • To complete an appropriately increased volume of training with some great rides at an increased volume than they are conducting at home– after all they are not working and we have removed the distractions of home so we do have all day to train.
  • To work on athletic development – so we conduct both run and swim video analysis as well as constantly watching for areas during run & swim sessions where we can improve the athletes efficiency
  • To do all of this in a great location, with some great weather so the athletes can train and recover from both life stressors and the stress imposed by the training they are doing and
  • To return them fitter and in better shape than they first arrived – not more tired and needing the following week off to recover

So at the end of next week I want to see a dozen refreshed, fit, tanned and better informed athletes returning home with a passion and an ability to progress towards their A Race of the season.

Are You Running Too Fast in Training?

SpeedWe have all heard the argument that Speed Kills. A lot of our road safety campaigns are based on this premise and we often carry this mantra across to sport. There are certainly physiological and psychological advantages to be had by conducting speed work and I will certainly include appropriate amounts even in an ultra marathoner runners schedule, however when it comes to the multisport world and in particular the Ironman Triathlon distance how much is too much or how fast is too fast? I came across a nice paper by Vleck, VE, et al in the J Strength Cond Res 24(1): 30-36, 2010 looking at training and injury effects within triathlon distance specialization. Over a 5 year period the authors looked at training duration and training frequency, so how long and how often the athletes trained, as well as injury frequency and severity. For the Ironman Distance triathletes the number of overuse injury number went up with the duration of “speed run” and “speed bike” sessions. The authors also noted that cycle and run training may have a “cumulative stress” influence on injury risk. Therefore, the tendency of some triathletes or indeed Coaches to modify, rather than stop training when injured,-usually by increasing load in another discipline from that in which the injury first occurred may increase both their risk of injury recurrence and time to full rehabilitation. So perhaps in our Ironman Distance population “speed” really does kill.

Of course speed is a relative term and I feel that appropriate, evidence informed pace work (particularly race pace work) has a place in our schedules. The key is appropriate pace though. Our Tuesday evening club 1 km reps at sub 6 min per mile have little place for a triathlete that is in reality going to be running a 3:30 to 4 hour marathon off the bike at best. In the majority of Ironman races IF you can run 3:30, that is around 8 min per mile pace, you are going to do extremely well so our need to do the volume and duration of speed work, as observed by the authors may lead to a prevalence of overuse injury.

Remember Triathlon and in particular Ironman Triathlon and Marathon Running are Aerobic sports built on the pillar of Strength Endurance.