Coaching & Training » Triathlon

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Training for Triathlon

Coaching a triathlete is about balance. If we start with the individual events we know that a top swimmer will swim up to 20 hours per week but a recreational swimmer will swim maybe 3 or 4 hours, a tour cyclist will ride up to 25 hours but a recreational cyclists might ride 4 to 7 hours and an elite runner will run up to 15 hours but a recreational runner may do 3 to 5 hours.

Armed with this information we can match it with the following facts:

  1. The swim constitutes about 9 to 16% of triathlon race time, the 52 to 54% and the run takes 31 to 35% and, time-wise, has much more impact on overall results in the shorter races. This balance changes as the races get longer until the run dominates the result of an ironwoman or ironman event.

    This fact does NOT mean an athlete should deliberately neglect one discipline. Remember what we said about being as accomplished as possible in all areas.
  2. Running has been proven to assist swimming and cycling but, once a certain level of run fitness is attained swimming and cycling will not help running. This is why swimmers jog - the great Janette Evans is on record as running 1 hour a day during periods of her training and cyclists and many cyclists (eg, Greg Le Mond) incorporate activities that involve running in their general preparation phase while history shows many examples of runners (Kathy Watt - Barcelona Road Gold) and triathletes (Lance Armstrong) making rapid transitions to the highest levels of cycling. On the other I do not know of any middle/long distance runner who moved into even a world top 25 ranking within five years of switching from eiter sport to running.
  3. This means if running can help cycling it solves some time problems for age group athletes. It is easier, and safer, to toss on some shoes and run out the door than to ride. The age grouper can now limit riding to 2 to 3 times per week and rely on a good 3 to 4 days per week running program to get them through. However no-one should compromise on swimming unless they are already very good and racing in long course events. Professionals and those wanting to be professional cannot compromise on anything.
  4. Finally if, for an intermediate type athlete, we follow the arms - legs - arms - legs - arms - legs - legs routine we cannot go far wrong. That is, swim (Monday - Wednesday* - Friday), cycle (Tuesday* - Thursday - Sunday) and run (Tuesday - Thursday* - Saturday). [* = optional].


The following story is not about triathlon but it does represent the committment I spoke about on the main coaching page.

This lady, despite knowing it might take her over 6 hours to complete a Half Ironman, to was determined to do the event as part of a greater goal to do a full Iron(Wo)man. It involves an Ultra ride, one of four scheduled for 2003-2004. Unfortunately the weather was not ideal but something that could easily happen in a race.

This is E's story and it is the personification of committment:

"I started my ultra ride at 6am and rode with the group to Frankston, but some of them got away after Oliver's Hill. I asked the others not to wait for me, as their pace was higher than I wanted to maintain for such a long ride but L - - stayed with me. However, at Dromana she had to stop and go back because she was too cold to continue so I rode on alone.

Had a run-in with a slippery white line at Rosebud and kissed the tarmac (hurt my shoulder and have since had X-rays at St Vincent's, which verified it wasn't broken, just badly sprained). My head hit the road quite hard, so I was VERY glad of the helmet. Did its job beautifully.

Reached Sorrento and, after a 10 minute rest, I turned around only to get a flat tyre at Dromana which was quite difficult & painful to change it with only one good arm bit I succeeded.

In all, I rode 182 km. I'm quite proud of the effort. It took 8 hour 50 minutes out and back from Middle Park. Of that, I spent half hour at Dromana with L - - getting some food, 10 minutes recovering at Rosebud, 10 minutes at Sorrento, 20 minutes changing tyre at Dromana, 10 minutes at Frankston getting the tyre pumped up properly at a cycle shop and 5 minutes at Mordialloc.

I consumed adequate food - 2 bars, 2 Gu's, half a foccacia, half a muffin and a hot chocolate, 2 water bottles with Pete's Pure Fuel stuff and 2 water bottles of Sustagen Sport.

Physically, my legs held up better than I expected, so I was quite pleased with that aspect. It helped that I had a gale force tailwind from Mordialloc back to Middle Park. Shoulder was quite painful for the last 110km of the ride. Much weeping at the time I came off and when I was changing the tyre.

Mentally, all this was very difficult especially as the weather was awful and I was alone for much of the ride and the 'off' didn't help.

However I did come to the conclusion that whilst I was slow, I did seem to have deep reserves of determination and persistence - otherwise I would probably have hitched a ride home or at least got the train from Frankston. I now also know that no matter how long it takes I will be able to complete the Ironman cycle.

My arm is in a sling for four or five days, so I won't be riding or cycling this week (and no running was already decided) but I may be right to attempt the ultra run next week if you think it is a good idea. I'm also on some good anti-biotics.

I now need a nap!"