2018 was an exhausting year. I moved house, changed my coaching setup and had my longest training and racing season ever. I had an absolute shocker of a race in June, after which I made some fairly drastic changes to how I approached training and racing. By the end of the year I’d taken 22 minutes off my 70.3 PB.
Safe to say the changes have been for the better!
Ed and I moved to Amsterdam in 2015, leaving behind our house in London along with friends, family and familiarity. We rented an apartment near the city centre, which had its good and bad points. The lowest may have been when builders arrived unannounced, demanded access to our power and water, began external works that the landlord had commissioned without our knowledge, and promptly managed to flood the place…
The search for our own house intensified and Ed eventually found the perfect home. I managed to be in Amsterdam for long enough to visit it, between him putting the offer in and us signing the contract… admittedly I didn’t then quite make it back from winter training camp in time for moving day!
I had full coaching for the first time in my triathlon career from November 2016 until May 2018, working with Michael Lovato and his great group of athletes based in Boulder, Colorado. We struggled a little throughout because I simply couldn’t spend enough time there (when it’s cold at home, it’s also cold in Boulder, so winter training camps there weren’t workable).
I also had trouble relinquishing control over my programme. I’ve always loved designing my own programme and for me it appears to be particularly valuable to retain the ability to “flex” sessions based around fatigue, conditions and occasionally even how busy the pool is on a given day. Head-up-breast-strokers plus Frankie flat out intervals does not appear to be a recipe for anyone’s success or happiness.
It was a tough decision to change setup – Michael and his athletes are lovely people – but eventually I decided I had to try something else. I’m now back working with the wonderful Steve Trew, who has me figure out in my own time how and when I complete his suggested sessions, and somehow manages to marshal my delinquent brain to make it do what we need.
The race that flipped a switch
At 70.3 Lahti, Finland at the end of June I came nearly last in the pro field and just over 26 minutes behind the winner. My swim was reasonable in that I managed to stay with the main pack, but I still lost plenty of time to those at the front; my bike was mediocre and run was a disaster – I felt sick and bloated and was struggling to run. Transitions were a mess, in particular T1 where I lost well over a minute to the leader.
There are often tears at the finish line simply due to the release after managing normal racing pain for hours, but this time it went deeper. I was still in a filthy mood days later, and almost considering quitting. Why keep trying when I have been this slow for so long and not made any progress?
We decided it was time to address some things I thought I couldn’t or didn’t need to change…
Until this year I’d never attempted to learn flying mounts or dismounts. I’ve never been the most co-ordinated of people: so bad at ball sports as a child that I almost missed out on sport altogether, and one of my strongest childhood memories is someone who should probably remain nameless calling me a “clumsy great lump” as I tripped over something yet again.
We started on a road bike with flat pedals and progressed to the full “tri shoes and elastic bands” model.
Having struggled to run off the bike in all my races this year, feeling bloated and nauseous, I finally figured out why. Turns out I was trying to eat and drink too much on the bike – a simple change of nutrition quantity and timing has since helped me leave T2 feeling, not “good,” but as good as one can hope to feel after several hours of racing…
Last but by no means least, after years of ignoring whether bodyweight could be a factor in my continued underperformance, I decided to try losing some weight. I’d been reluctant to do this after having repeated stress fractures while rowing and early in my triathlon career, and under advice from those I’d asked that it simply wasn’t an issue.
I’ll go deeper into this in another post….. but…… it is an issue. Having lost 10kg that I didn’t know I had to bring my BMI down to around 20, my biking is noticeably faster and my run has completely transformed.
I haven’t been able to obtain sensible advice on weight loss in any real level of detail, so I’ve tried to be as cautious as possible and take measures to avoid becoming unhealthy or injured as a result. I’m now simply trying to maintain rather than lose weight, and very much hoping I’ve managed it healthily – time will tell.
At Bahrain 70.3 in December, my race plan was essentially “don’t fuck it up”: have a solid race to see whether all the changes were starting to have some effect. Despite only being reunited with my bike the day before the race, I managed it. My best time up to June had been 4:33. I was dreaming of a sub-4:20 so was pleasantly surprised to see 4:11 on my watch as I crossed the finish line!
Onwards to 2019, and more changes as required!