I've really been enjoying my training the past few weeks, although the heatwave has made it pretty tough! I've been getting up early to run before work in the hopes it'll be a little cooler but I've really been struggling with the humidity and haven't been able to push myself very hard before I overheat. Still, it's good to keep it ticking over and if I were to give up then my progress would only go backwards, so at this point, a bad run is still better than no run at all!
I've been trying to get creative with my cycling training as cycling round my town is an absolute nightmare. I love going on adventures anyway and discovering new places so I searched for a good cycle trail to follow. I came across The Cuckoo Trail which starts in Heathfield in East Sussex and takes you all the way down to Eastbourne (well, it finishes a few miles shy of Eastbourne but we continued along the National Cycle Network all the way to the seafront.) It was a 30-mile round trip with lunch on Eastbourne seafront in the middle to refuel which was great! It's the farthest I've ever cycled and was actually the first time I've made proper use of my road bike by using the lower handles to get my head down and sprint. I was only able to do this because the trail is secluded so there's no traffic and very few pedestrians to get in your way. It was a slight decline all the way to Eastbourne so we absolutely flew on the way there and struggled quite a bit on the way back! But I was really pleased to be able to cycle uninterrupted and not worry about dogs running in front of me or cars pulling out on me like I have here at home.
The Cuckoo Trail follows a now disused Victorian railway so it's a stunning route which passes through ghost stations (pictured) which I absolutely loved. What was not so great was that the council have built various housing estates along the old line so you have to interrupt your ride by getting off and walking down a narrow path between houses before you can get back onto the trail. We also randomly popped out into a carpark at one point with no idea which way to go next! But we followed some other people who were also following the trail and managed to find our way. I'd definitely recommend this trail for anyone looking for a fun new cycling adventure, and even though the photo makes it look off-road, it's actually all paved so it's more than suitable for a road bike.
My next big cycling challenge will be the London to Southend Bike Ride which is in 3 weeks time and is a 45-55 mile route so not too much farther than I have already cycled. I'm really looking forward to it! I'm also interested in entering the Prudential RideLondon 100 which is a 100-mile cycle from London to Surrey and back again. The route is on closed roads and takes you from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London into the beautiful Surrey countryside which is an absolute dream route. The route is inspired by the London 2012 Olympic Games and finishes on the famous Mall where the London Marathon finishes. Definitely something to work towards as I'd love to take part!
I have also finally enquired about swimming lessons. I can get lessons at my local pool with unlimited public swims included (so no excuse not to train in between lessons) all for a fairly decent price (it works out at £5.75 per lesson.) I won't be starting that just yet as I'm going to wait until I've completed training and the race for the duathlon, so I'll be starting the swimming lessons in October.
My 12-week training plan for the duathlon kicks off in a couple of weeks and I'm pretty excited! I love having a solid goal to work towards; training sessions always have more meaning when you know what you're working towards and have something to aim for. I'll be sharing my training plan in a blog post later on so keep an eye out!
Last weekend Sundried hosted the inaugural Southend Triathlon at which I was swim director! It was my job to stay on the beach and count all the athletes as they safely exited the water. It was an incredible day and the atmosphere was amazing. It was my first time experiencing a triathlon and it really was very special. I've taken part in numerous 10ks and half marathons, which always have a great buzz, but this something entirely different and we had nearly 3000 spectators out to watch and cheer people on! It has really inspired and motivated me to up my game with my training for my triathlon and I am looking to enter one sooner than I thought!
After editing the content for all the events that Sundried will be sponsoring this year, I came across the Louth Triathlon in Lincolnshire. It is a beginner-friendly event with a 400m pool swim and easy bike and run course. I must say I'm really tempted to enter! It takes place on Sunday the 3rd of September which is only 2 months way. Will I be ready by then?
I think that my fitness is certainly up to finishing a triathlon at this point, especially a shortened course featuring a pool swim, but I still need to have swimming lessons! I haven't even attempted the front crawl since I was 10 years old. Eek! I also need to step up my cycle training, but I am being left frustrated as it's so hard to get up any speed in Southend due to pedestrians walking out in front of me on the cycle path and angry motorists interrupting any cycling I do on the roads. I shall power on though.
My running is going amazingly though, and with my new Garmin Forerunner 735XT watch I did a lactate threshold test and have also determined my VO2 max (which is pretty good if I do say so myself!) I'm hoping to achieve a new 5k PB soon, although now that I'm finding running easier I need to make sure I don't sprint off too quick and burn out after a mile!
I'm hoping to make up my mind about entering the Louth Triathlon soon, with the only thing being it would come before the duathlon I have entered, which was supposed to be a toe-dip into the world of multi-sport competing and give me an idea of how it feels. However, at this point I do feel like I don't really need to ease myself in too much and that I'd manage it okay. That's another feeling of confidence that came from watching all the competitors at the Sundried Southend Triathlon, as we had racers from all walks of life from professional triathletes to people who had never done one before and turned up on a mountain bike!
I'm guilty of having 'yolo' moments so chances are I will end up entering the triathlon in September, in which case things are about to get intense! Stay tuned for more, it may be time to get the swimsuit out of retirement!
Triathlons aren’t all just swimming, cycling, and running. From blackouts to ice baths, Sam Mileham tells Sundried what it takes to represent Great Britain as an age group triathlete.
Have you always been into sport?
Yes, from a young age I always did some sort of sport whether it was football, swimming, or running; I always enjoyed getting involved in sport.
What made you decide to enter a triathlon?
I can’t actually remember what made me get into triathlon but I know my first race was when I was 9. I’m pretty sure my dad had started doing them around the same time and he suggested I try one. I gave it a try and have not stopped since!
What’s been your best race to date?
That’s a tough one…I think my best result would have to be 10th at the 2016 European Triathlon Championships. I didn't have the best winter's preparation so it really set my season up well and it was also one of my main goals for the year to finish in the top 10 in Europe, so to achieve that was a brilliant start to the year.
And your proudest achievement?
I think this has to be being shortlisted two years running for 220 magazine's ‘Young Triathlete of the Year’. In 2016 I can remember how shocked I was to see myself on the list and when I saw my name on the list this year I was equally amazed and very proud to have been on that list.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
My toughest race was definitely in close contention for my best race but it did contain a slight disaster. Mexico, Cozumel, 38C, 2016 World Championships, I was in 9th place with 500m to go. Then I blacked out, I remember being on the floor and then in the ice bath. I managed to get myself across the line in what ended up being 35th place but I don't remember the final 500m at all. It was a great race, a tough race, with a small disaster at the end!
How do you overcome setbacks?
Thinking about it no one has ever asked me this before. For now I would say that the answer is in the question before. If I get injured, or ill, or have a few bad training sessions, I just think of what I am capable of before disaster struck. I know the performance and the times are in me so I always remember that and what I want to go and do at this year's World Championships: to finish in the top 10 tithout collapsing!
What is the best piece of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Simply, trust the process.
It’s a long winter. You can have so many ups and downs but trust it will work and you will enter summer in the best shape possible.
What are your goals for 2017?
I have a few goals for this year for sure. First would be to achieve a medal at the European Aquathlon Championships, then finish in the top 5 at the European Triathlon Championships and Top 10 at the World Championships. I will also compete in the British Junior Elite Super Series so I’m hoping for a really good ranking at the end of the year as it is my last year as a junior. My final goal is to do my best in my A-Levels!
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I take a lot of inspiration from all the people around me. I train with many different groups of people of all abilities who all have different stories to tell. How they've got to where they are, how they currently train, what they plan to do, and all of them inspire me to do my best and to keep chasing my goals. All of them train the hardest they can to get to where they want to be and being around them makes me want to do exactly the same.
What do you like about Sundried and what's your favourite bit of our kit?
It is rare to see a brand push so much about how their kit is made and that is what sets Sundried apart. Everything they do has the smallest carbon footprint. From the design to the manufacture, distribution, use, and disposal. You could say triathlon is a low carbon sport, so why not wear low carbon clothing.
Who doesn’t like a good T-shirt, more importantly, a stylish, comfortable t-shirt? I really like the Ortler T-shirt - it ticks all the boxes for me!
I've really ramped up my training the past couple of weeks, especially the running. I ran my first 10k in over a year and it felt absolutely fantastic! Only a few weeks ago, the thought of running 5k without stopping felt like a challenge, but my fitness is still good and now that my legs and feet have become readjusted to running I am progressing fast.
Usually when I run I get agonising pain in my feet, ankles, calves, knees, and hips. This is due to my tilted hips, knock knees, and flat feet. When I stand naturally, my feet turn outwards and my knees turn inwards, which means I am definitely not built for running. But the 10k I ran last weekend was a miracle - no pain! As I started running, I felt bouncy and light on my feet, which is unusual for me. I completed my first mile in 9:45 and felt great. I found myself thinking, "how long is this going to last" and wondered how soon the pain would come. But I finished mile two and still no pain! I was really enjoying it!
Mile 3, then 4 came and went. I was flying! I was averaging just under 10 minutes per mile which is a good pace for me. I ran a route that I have never run before which definitely helped as it kept the run interesting. There was a bit of an uphill incline which slowed me down, but mile 5 and 6 came and went and still I felt on top of the world. I haven't had a run that great in years! I was so pleased. You can see my time splits below.
I know that these times are pretty slow compared to proper runners, who think that an 8-minute mile is slow. But for me, this was a great run. My all-time 10k PB is 59:59 so I'd like to beat that sometime soon. I ran 7 miles a few days later and that was really slow, averaging 11-minute miles. My feet and legs hurt a lot during that run so it wasn't quite as fantastic, but it was still a great achievement to run that distance after only getting back into running a few weeks ago.
Everyone tells me that it's not about how fast you go, it's just good to get the miles in, but my Garmin watch says otherwise. I was really quite shocked at the difference in stats between the 10k and the 7-miler. For the 10k, I was pushing quite hard and my heart rate exceeded 170bpm for the majority of the run. For the 7-miler a few days later, I was really plodding along and my heart rate was closer to 120-130bpm. My Garmin watch calculated that I burnt 777 calories for the 10k, compared to only 450 for the 7-miler, despite the fact that I ran further and for longer during the latter run. This really goes to show that a slow ploddy run might not necessarily be good for your training.
I've decided to start incorporating more hills and sprints into my training, rather than plodding along at 120bpm for 7 slow miles. This will hopefully improve my cardiovascular fitness and also get my legs used to moving faster. I will also try running more shorter distances to try and improve my speed, I want to get my 5k time back under 30 minutes - my all-time 5k PB is 27:33 and it took me 30:33 to run it last week.
For the cycling, I decided to do an indoor session on a spin bike to try and improve my speed. When I cycle outside I'm a little wary of being on the road and also of pedestrians jumping out in front of me (and I also have issues with dogs running in front of my bike) so I never really exceed 15mph. I wanted to try a faster blast indoors to really make the most of the training session. I've now got a bike rack so I can take my bike to a countryside location and get some better quality miles in so that's exciting!
I'm really excited about the progress I've made so far - I feel like it's all much easier than it was last time round, and I feel like I stand a good chance of beating my running PBs so stay tuned to see if I manage it!
A 22-year career in the military has left me with many things and one that comes in handy with training is a head full of abbreviations and acronyms that would confuse most people. The particular acronym I want to focus on for this piece is the classic "5 Ps". “Prior Planning Prevents P*ss Poor Performance.” In the military, this would normally be delivered with a large slice of sarcasm when something has gone wrong but taken seriously does present a valuable lesson.
In my time coaching cyclists and multisport athletes one aspect of training I have noticed that works best for everyone is to have a sound plan in place aimed at a specific goal and the application of a structured schedule of progressive training. This sounds simple but seems to be overlooked quite easily and unfortunately, as the 5 Ps suggest, is an almost guaranteed recipe for disaster.
So how do you create a successful plan? The first step is to have a goal or target to aim for. Training can be very hard both physically and mentally and having a goal and end result target is the first step. This can be almost anything but must be a tangible real event or performance target. Choosing your event must be done with an element of realism from the off and, although all of the planning stages are equally important, getting this first step right will go a long way to promote success throughout the entire plan.
Choosing the right event for you should be based on a number of things but for me, it begins with a lifestyle survey. Plot a week in your life on a spread sheet and mark each day hour by hour including working hours, family commitments, sleep, travelling time etc and take a look at how much time you have left over for training. I always advise my athletes to involve their families at this stage too as getting agreement and a buy-in from your partner from the off is a big plus. Remember sport is part of life and not the other way around! So now you have an amount of time to train within and can start to estimate what you want to do with it. A good coach will help you maximise the training benefit from your allowable time but there is a limit to what you will be able to achieve hence the need to choose the event or target carefully.
Those that have heard of the SMART goals principle will see where the previous paragraphs are going so now is a good time to explain what SMART is.
- Specific. Training should be targeted at a specific goal or at a specific attribute of an event. What do I want to achieve? What are the requirements? What are the constraints? Every single training session should have an aim and all be part of the journey towards your goal or event.
- Measurable. How will I measure my progress? Will I know when the goal is achieved? What is deemed as success and can it be measured?
- Achievable. How can the goal be accomplished? What are the steps and progression path to success? This is sometimes replaced with Agreed. This would be a discussion with your coach to discuss the goals and objectives. The same questions would be asked and the coach offering some expectation management and guidance as and when required.
- Relevant. Is this a worthwhile goal? Is it the right time? Does this goal fit with my long-term objectives? Do I have the necessary resources to accomplish the goal?
- Time-bound. When is the event? How long will it take to accomplish the training targets? Use monthly or quarterly check points as smaller targets.
With all of the above taken into account, you now have a target set and know how much training time is available. The next phase is to start to construct a plan which leads you to the event or target and, within that, a weekly schedule which will cover all of the required aspects, as examined using the SMART principles.
The easiest way to do this is plan backwards from the event and applying a rotational schedule with recovery periods and rest. This can be a 6-week rotation with 5 weeks of training and 1 week of recovery or a more sensible starter schedule of 3 weeks of hard training with 1 week of recovery between each 3-week working block. Plan back until you get to the present day and you have the spine of a plan already. You can easily add detail to this such as including levels of training required at what stage of the plan, progressing from winter endurance to tempo training and then Lactate Threshold and V02 work as the plan progresses towards the event. I always do this on a downloaded A4 year planner in the first instance as it is far easier to plan visually and then upload it into a spread sheet or online software package when you have written it all out and are content.
My next piece of advice is to set small monthly targets and goals that will aid to maintain focus over a long training plan and also provide a good method of imbedded progression monitoring. Training for an event that may be well over a year away takes real mental determination so setting progress check points and small goals that all add up to getting you to race day helps to break the overall target down into manageable chunks. This is almost a must! These can be distance based, power based, speed based or even to look for a reduction in perceived effort over a certain test session. These check points can and often will be pure performance tests to maintain the accuracy of training zones whilst still offering a repeatable review of improvement and progress.
The last major step of the planning phase is to populate your weekly schedule. This will need a return to your lifestyle survey and a look at where and when you have training time. The schedule will need to include sessions aimed at meeting the targets set whilst also allowing for adequate and proportional rest. The one big reason a lot of people fail in training effectively is an over estimation of time available. You must be honest with yourself right from the off.
I have included a very simple sample week below to demonstrate how you would possibly schedule and sessions for a Duathlon training plan.
Slow run 5km.
Strength and Conditioning.
Stretching and foam roller.
Track running speed session. 5-6km total
Brick session. Bike to run or Run to Bike.
Bike Interval session. 1-1.5 hours.
Strength and conditioning.
Stretching and foam roller
Rest Day. No training.
Stretching and foam roller.
Long run. Steady Paced with no efforts. 12-16km
Long Road bike ride. Steady paced with no efforts. 2.5-3 hours
In conclusion, a plan can make or break an event and must be the starting piece for any sporting ambition. How do I get to where I want to be and what am I going to do to get there? With intelligent use of the SMART principles and a process of constant review, you will be on the path to success.
About the author: Mark Griffin is a cycling and multi-sport coach based in Morton, Lincolnshire. He is the coach for Claire Steels duathlete, a Sundried ambassador.
"Coaching is a hobby for me and is fitted in around my normal day job as an Aviation Safety Consultant. I do still try to keep fit myself and am currently training for my 2 ultra-marathons in July this year. It’s a busy life but I love the coaching and seeing people enjoy sports as much as I do. My team is currently made up from a British and European AG Duathlon Champion, a double AG Duathlon World Champion now competing as Elite, as well as 2 further GB Age Group athletes and two specialist cycle Time Trial racers."