Sunday 6th September. The new normal. British Triathlon had given permission to Welsh Triathlon to put on an event, with strict guidance under Covid-19 rules.
It was very different to normal, but it was absolutely amazing to be racing again! Face masks, separate car parks, and 5-second interval timings at the start, but it worked perfectly.
It was held at the Pembrey motor circuit, where the closed-road bike circuit is also held. The event took the form of an off-road duathlon and started with a tricky 5k run consisting of 4 laps.
It was then straight into the technical bike course. Some parts of the course were tricky with a technical descent and of course a hill (this is Wales!) 10 laps of the bike course made up the distance on this sprint distance of 17.5km bike. The hill seemed to go well for the first 7-8 laps but the last two stung!
Straight back in for a super transition starting off the final two laps of the off-road 2.5km run.
This race was all about seeing how the lockdown training had gone and also overall fitness. Whatever has happened since March has clearly worked with an overall race PB, and an individual 1km run PB. I have to say I wasn’t expecting that but am one happy chap!
As always, I’m extremely happy to fly the flag for Sundried. The trisuit felt so comfortable racing!
About the author: Andrew Jones is a triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Triathlon can be a daunting sport at the best of times, but not knowing the difference between a DNS and a DNF or what a 70.3 is could make it even harder to feel part of the community. We're here with all the triathlon vocabulary you need so that you can mount your TT and calculate your VO2 and FTP with confidence.
How To Speak Triathlon
Aero Bars – These are bars that you can fix onto your road bike in order to achieve the elusive 'aero position' which allows you to ride faster. Aero bars are relatively inexpensive and are a good alternative to buying an expensive triathlon bike. Aero bars are not allowed in most cycling road races and are usually exclusive to multisport racing (in duathlon and triathlon mainly).
Aero Position – Many serious triathletes will spend hours perfecting their aero position so as to ride as fast as possible on the bike section of the race. You can achieve the aero position by resting your forearms on your tri bars or aero bars. This is a notoriously difficult position to maintain and requires a very strong back and core as well as concentration to control the bike. It is not recommended to hold this position while navigating a technical course.
Sundried sponsored athlete Conal McBride holds the aero position while competing.
Age Group/Age Grouper/AG – Triathlon races and results are categorised into gender and age group so that athletes can compete fairly against people of the same gender and similar age. If someone wins their Age Group, it means they came first out of the people in that category; there may have been hundreds competing or there may only have been one other!
Elites or Pros compete separately, regardless of age. Age Group triathletes are amateur athletes who do not get paid but are at the top level for their age; professional triathletes cannot compete in Age Group competitions.
In Britain, the following age groups are applied to BTF races:
Category Ages Youths 15-16 Juniors 17-18 17-18 Juniors 19 19 Seniors 1 20-24 Seniors 2 25-29 Seniors 3 30-34 Seniors 4 35-39 Veterans 1 40-44 Veterans 2 45-49 Veterans 3 50-54 Veterans 4 55-59 Veterans 5 60-64 Veterans 6 65-69 Veterans 7 70-74 Veterans 8 75-79 Veterans 8 80+
AquaBike – For those who have an active imagination, an AquaBike is not some sort of amphibious bicycle. An AquaBike is an event with only a swim and cycle section, ideal for those who aren't keen on running.
Australian Exit – This is a type of exit found in open water races with multiple laps. The competitors will exit the water after one lap, run on land around a marker or monument and then get back into the water to swim another lap. The Australian Exit is popular for spectators as it creates such a sight and allows family and friends to cheer on athletes as they exit and re-enter the water.
Bonk/Bonking – Otherwise known as “hitting the wall.” If you bonk during a training session or race it means your body has run out of glucose and you are running on empty. It may also be down to dehydration and/or not taking on enough electrolytes. Bonking can take many forms, from feeling light headed to physically not being able to move. It's important to nail your nutrition and hydration strategy to avoid bonking.
BOPer – An acronym for 'Back Of Packer' which refers to someone who frequently races or finishes in the Back of the Pack.
Brick/Brick Workout – A brick workout is a training session where you do two different disciplines back to back, usually cycling followed by running. These sessions are crucial to performing well in triathlon as running off the bike can be notoriously difficult and getting your legs used to it is vital for not getting caught out by jelly legs on race day.
BTF – The BTF is the British Triathlon Foundation and is the governing body for triathlon in the UK.
Cadence – More commonly known among laymen as RPM< or revolutions per minute. Your cadence is the rhythm of your swim stroke, bike pedalling, or running stride. A higher cadence when running would mean taking more steps, a higher cadence when cycling would mean pedalling more quickly, and so on.
Century – A 100-mile bike ride. Many cyclists and triathletes consider riding a century to be an important milestone.
Century, Metric – A 100km (62-mile) bike ride.
Cleat – The part on the bottom of the cycling shoe where your shoe attaches to your clipless pedals. You can read our cleat guide here.
Clipless Pedals – Pedals installed on your bike that allow you to “clip in” your shoes. Some people do not feel confident 'cycling clipless' as there is the danger that you could topple over if you do not unclip before your bike comes to a stop. However, if you have the confidence, riding clipless will allow you to increase your power output and therefore ride faster and more efficiently.
Criterium (Crit) – A criterium is a cycling race which consists of cycling several laps of a tight and often technical closed course, usually in city or town centres.
DFL – Acronym for “Dead F***ing Last”. It is no shame to finish DFL in a race.
DNF – Acronym for “Did Not Finish” (the race). An athlete can have a DNF for any number of reasons, from bike mechanicals to illness or injury.
DNS – Acronym for “Did Not Start” (the race). Many triathletes consider a DNS to be worse than a DNF, because with a DNF at least you gave it a go.
Dolphin Kick – Kicking your legs in unison when swimming. Athletes will often do this just after diving into the pool before they resurface and begin their stroke.
DQ – Acronym for being disqualified from a race.
Drafting – In cycling, drafting is when you cycle closely behind a fellow cyclist (or sometimes vehicle) in order to conserve energy. Due to reduced wind resistance because of the object in front of you, drafting allows you to keep a steady pace while using less power and as such is considered cheating in some races.
Drafting is more commonly seen in pure cycling races as many triathlon races are 'non draft legal'. Additionally, drafting takes skill and precision in order not to cause a crash, which is why most amateur races will not allow drafting while professional races may allow it.
Drafting is most commonly seen in cycling races like the Tour De France and is often banned in amateur triathlon races.
Duathlon – A duathlon is a race consisting of a run followed by a bike section, followed by a second run. Duathlon is a very popular sport for triathletes to undertake in the winter as open water swimming becomes inappropriate and still allows triathletes to practise their running and cycling in a competitive atmosphere. Duathlon racing is also popular for those who dislike swimming.
Fartlek – Fartlek is a Swedish term that translates as 'speed play'. Fartlek training is a type of interval training whereby you mix up the intervals to keep your body guessing and make better progress.
Foot Strike –This is a term that applies to running and refers to the way your foot hits the ground. Different people will have a different foot strike, and most people have either a forefoot strike, mid-foot strike, or heel strike. It's good to know which category you fall into so that you can buy the appropriate running shoes.
Freestyle – Also known as the “front crawl,” this is the most efficient form of swimming in a triathlon.
FTP – FTP is a cycling term that refers to the average power an athlete can produce over the course of an hour in watts. Many triathletes and cyclists will use a power meter which measures your power output in watts and do a regular FTP test to make sure they are producing a good level of power.
Half-Ironman – Ironman is a specific brand of triathlon and a half Ironman race consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. This is considered a good stepping stone for those who have the goal of completing a full Ironman. Half Ironman is also known as 70.3 due to the number of miles the athlete completes over the course of the race.
Holding the Line – Holding the Line is a cycling term that refers to cycling in a dead straight line without wobbling or diverging. Holding your line is an important bike skill to have when cycling in groups.
Indoor Trainer – Also known as a Turbo Trainer, an indoor trainer is a piece of kit that you attach your bike to in order to allow you to ride it indoors while stationary. Many triathletes will use an indoor trainer during winter when conditions don't allow for outdoor cycling. Turbo sessions are notoriously difficult as it can be boring cycling indoors with no scenery and no wind to dry your sweat!
Some turbo trainers will attach straight to the chain ring while others clip onto the wheel.
Ironman – A full Ironman is considered one of the toughest tests of human endurance and consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. Completing a full Ironman is the life goal for many triathletes and requires a huge amount of training dedication.
Long Course Triathlon – A long-course triathlon or full distance triathlon is an unbranded version of a full Ironman.
Mass Swim Start – A mass swim start is when all participants of the triathlon start the swim at the same time. A mass swim start takes some getting used to and it is not uncommon to be kicked or even punched when participating. Practising with a triathlon club can help massively, such as having fellow members splash you when swimming.
Mdot – The name of the trademarked logo of Ironman. Sometimes when a triathlete has completed an Ironman, they will get the Mdot tattooed on them somewhere as a mark of pride.
Negative Split – If you run a negative split it means that as you progress through the miles, you get faster.
PR – Stands for “Personal Record.” Also known as a "PB" or "Personal Best".
Race Number Belt – In triathlon races, you are required to show your race number on your back while cycling but on your front while running. The traditional safety pin method of attaching your race number doesn't allow this, so triathletes will wear a race number belt which fastens the race number securely and can be spun around when necessary.
Racing Flats – Lighter and “faster” running shoes to be used in races only. These are usually reserved for track running as they are not suitable for running long distances or on uneven terrain.
RPM – See Cadence.
Swim Wave – If a race doesn't feature a dreaded Mass Swim Start, the swim leg will be divided into waves whereby racers start the swim at staggered times.
Taper – The period of time before a race where you slow down the frequency and intensity of the workouts in order to give your body time to recover and rest before the event. Most racers will taper for around a week.
Turbo Trainer– See Indoor Trainer.
Transition – The transition area is the space where you will rack your bike ready for the race. After the swim, you will enter transition in order to collect your bike for the bike leg. Once you've finish the bike leg, you will return to transition to re-rack your bike and head out on the run.
Sometimes there are two different transition areas, usually if the race is point-to-point. For elite athletes, the time spent in transition can mean the difference between a win and not even making the podium, so practising your transition is vital. You will need to practise things like taking off your wetsuit, mounting your bike, and taking on any necessary nutrition. Some athletes spend less than a minute in transition but it is a fine art!
You will enter the transition area before the race to rack your bike and place down any kit you need for later in the race.
Triathlon Bike – A triathlon bike, or tri bike, is a special type of bike specifically used in triathlon. These do not have conventional handlebars and instead use tri bars as defined above. A triathlon bike can be notoriously difficult to handle so they take some getting used to. Not all races are suited to triathlon bikes as they are better for flat courses and ones that are not too technical.
VO2 Max – The highest rate at which oxygen can be taken up and utilised during exercise by a person. The higher your VO2 max, the fitter you are and the better at racing you'll be! There are fitness tests you can do to calculate your VO2 max in order to keep an eye on your progress and see how you stack up against others.
Washing Machine – Refers to the swim start in some races where the water is so choppy that it feels like the swimmers are in a washing machine.
Wetsuit Legal – According to the BTF, wetsuits may be mandatory or forbidden depending on the water temperature. Wetsuits are forbidden above temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius and mandatory when swimming in waters colder than 14 degrees Celsius.
The New Year's Day Triathlon in Edinburgh is a very special event. It consists of a 400m swim in the Commonwealth pool, followed by 3 hilly bike laps of Arthur’s Seat, and finishes with a 5km road run through the historic streets of Edinburgh. Given the location, the weather is often pretty ‘bracing’. The event starts around midday giving plenty of time for people to wake up!
Sundried sponsored athlete Alice Hector has written a fantastic race report in the form of a poem.
The First of Jan, it's New Year’s Day,
A lovely time for rest and play.
Maybe extended time in bed,
Nursing a touch of ‘tender head’.
A big roast lunch, a laze around,
Watching some old film you found.
But there’s a certain type of fool,
Who likes to go against these rules.
They think, “oh, what a good idea
To do the opposite of beer,
And do a tri at Arthur’s Seat
To prove that we are totes elite”.
These silly people, barely clad,
Fight wind and cold and feeling bad.
Swim some lengths, then rush outdoors
And bike and run like Minotaurs.
I was there, and I admit
To being a certain breed of twit.
We do this type of thing for FUN,
Which lo, perplexes everyone.
The wind was screaming “stop right here,
You crazy athletes: disappear!”
Triathletes are the hardy type
And don’t give up without a fight
And Mother Nature, raging round
All but blew us to the ground.
Swept one direction then the next
Unwitting passers-by perplexed
Whisp'ring as we grunted by,
“bunch o eejits, tha’s no lie”.
Crosswind here and crosswind there,
Dummy out, this isn’t fair!
Finish at last and joy of joys,
I've beaten all but 5 fast boys.
Twas bonus more than anything:
To stay upright AND take the win.
For my efforts I was given
Haggis – big as any chicken.
4 kilograms of meat and ‘stuff’
Apt for being so mighty tough!
Swim 2.4 Miles. Bike 112 Miles. Run 26.2 Miles. Time allowed 16 hours.
The journey to become an Ironman is long and arduous and starts for many different reasons and from many different levels of ability and experience. The goal to ‘compete or complete’ an Ironman is what makes it such a difficult and unique challenge but can ultimately lead to the most amazing achievement of an athlete’s life. The road is long and is littered with obstacles that can, without preparation and a strong mind, derail the process at any given time.
If you want to hear those immortal words at the end of a gruelling 140.6 miles – ’You are an Ironman’ – then the 5 pillars of Ironman training may just help you achieve that goal.
I will be the first to admit that these are not always easy to adhere to and it is easy to make mistakes in race preparations. Normally, either over training or under training are the biggest downfalls. Over training is easy to slip into when the body is feeling good and fast progress seems achievable if you just push harder, longer, faster. Wrong! It can take a strong, fit athlete 3-4 months to prepare for an Ironman and it can take a year or longer if you are starting from a different base point.
Under training often results from a busy lifestyle, lack of conditioning and rest, injuries, and poor nutrition plus sometimes simply a lack of commitment. Commitment is something I have never lacked but pushing too hard too soon has often caused me to reassess my training. Remember, you need to know where you are now (Point A) to understand where you want to get to (Point B) and the time in which you have to do so. The base training phase of any Ironman program creates the platform for any athlete to build a solid training foundation.
Ironman training is all-consuming and selfish. It affects family life, social activities, diet, sleep, wallet contents and stress levels. You will need support, understanding family and friends and a whole lot of determination. On the flip side, you will never feel more invincible, strong, fast, healthy, focused or proud.
The 5 Pillars of Ironman Training
Ironman triathlon is a sport in itself, not a combination of swim, bike, and run. We balance our strengths and energies, our weaknesses and abilities to train and race holistically. Ironman does not allow a strong swimmer to be out of the water first and stay there if their bike and run don’t match their initial speed. Balance is critical.
Triathlon training is a juggling act. Family, work, training schedules, rest and recovery, house admin, shopping... the list goes on. Where do we find the time? This becomes a skill in itself. 5am runs, 45-minute core sessions during lunch, late night swims when the kids are in bed.
Personally, I do 50 squats every time I clean my teeth, 50 calf raises when I’m showering, stretch while watching TV, and I always take the stairs. This way, you can maximise your activity levels even if you have a busy lifestyle.
What is endurance? The ability to last. The ability to sustain long periods of physical activity at any given level of exertion.This all comes from a properly organised and planned training program. Ultimately, if you can sustain, you will succeed!
Probably the most important pillar. Training plans allow structure but what if they can’t be adhered to? Illness, injury, family holidays, work. We have to be able to overcome and adapt. If you have a niggling injury that prevents you running, can you increase your swim and bike sessions? Adaptation and an intuitive flexibility is the key to prevent burnout and injury. Listen to your body, no one knows it better than you do!
Successful training incorporates a spectrum of intensity, from full throttle workouts to rest and recovery. It’s the valleys that make the peaks possible and both are essential to real consistent progress. Proper rest allows the body to grow and develop. Don’t forget that professional athletes train really hard but they also rest for the remainder of the day. Their food is prepared for them and all they do is get ready for the next training day. We don’t have that luxury so when you get a chance to rest, take it!
Prepare well, stay consistent, balance your training and life, be adaptable and don’t forget that recovery is as important as training itself.
See you at the start line.
About the author: Mick Cronin is an Ironman Certified Coach.
Racing the Ironman 70.3 World Championship is always special. The calibre of athletes is high, the competition fierce, and the atmosphere is electric. I was absolutely delighted to qualify at my first race of 2019, despite having a year off due to injury throughout 2018.
This year, the world championship was to be in Nice in France, and athletes were to tackle what was being described as one of the toughest bike courses yet. 1,300m of climbing up the famous Col de Vence was going to be extremely tough. Especially when you favour flat courses as I do!
Training had gone well leading into the race though and with some specific turbo sessions designed to build climbing strength, a whole lot of track sessions, and a little weight lost to help my power to weight ratio, we were in a good position.
The weather was perfect – brilliant sunshine, blue skies, and the sea was so warm that the organisers were teetering on the decision of a wetsuit or non-wetsuit swim (wetsuits are banned over 24.5 degrees), but with just 0.5 degree leeway in favour of wetsuits on the morning of the race, the decision was favourable.
As we lined up on the beach with almost every famous name in triathlon present, I was excited but felt super relaxed. We hadn’t put any pressure on this race, just to see whether I could finally do myself justice at a world championship, in the toughest of tough fields on the global Ironman 70.3 circuit.
With the format of women racing on the Saturday and men racing on the Sunday, it always makes for a more pleasant race environment, especially during the swim and the bike. Women tend to race less aggressively than men and the atmosphere almost feels ‘calm’ in comparison.
Crystal clear water made for an additionally pleasant swim – in fact at one point I actually acknowledged that I was enjoying it, which is probably a first! The sea was warm, there were fish swimming below us, and no dramas at all, and with just a little chop, it didn’t seem to take too much out of me as I ran into T1.
The start of the bike was flat and fast along the coast so I was in my element, but this didn’t last long before the course swerved inland and we were hitting the start of the climbing.
Weirdly, I was also enjoying the climbing. My power numbers were looking super strong but I felt comfortable and was riding within myself, so pushed on trying to make the most of the stunning scenery. The famous climb seemed to go quite quickly and before I knew it we were starting what would be a FUN descent which would last about 30km – plenty of solid recovery time!
The final stretch of flat road led us back into transition and although my bike split seemed slow at a touch over 3 hours, the climbing would have accounted for much slower bike splits than usual – even for the pros.
I ran out of T2 feeling strong and was delighted to see my parents and my coach on the course – the support at a world championship is extra special, and it definitely made the 21km run go quickly. The run course stretched along the Promenade d’Anglais with the sea glistening alongside the entire way, it really was a beautiful spot for a race.
I was holding my pacing very comfortably, perhaps even a little too comfortably, and as I ran down the finish chute I felt super proud to have completed yet another Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I was pleased to have run a 1:34 half marathon, especially off the back of such a tough bike course, and although my overall time seemed a lot slower than usual, in 5 hours and 17 minutes, I knew my personal performance was strong and I couldn’t have got much more out of myself.
I ended up finishing 25th in my age group out of 250 – a huge improvement in my overall result compared to previous world championship events. I was so happy with this result, finally I had achieved the performance that was warranted and it was testament to all the hard work I had put in so far in 2019.
The best bit though, results aside, was that I absolutely loved the race – every single minute. I had no dark moments, I was just in my element and for me, you can’t ask for much more than a perfect race.
About the author: Amy Kilpin is an elite triathlete and Sundried ambassador.