How I set the pace for my second triathlon

I am pinned against the buoys, I've been kicked in the stomach and have accidentally but definitely kicked someone myself. And I'm only 100m into the London Triathlon. My swim training took a bit of a back seat in recent weeks while I focused on my running and I am now regretting it. It is a hot and humid afternoon and instead of sitting in a pub garden enjoying the weather, I'm taking part in the world's largest triathlon in London's Docklands.

An afternoon start time meant I'd managed to wind myself into a state of nervous excitement and had struggled to eat much. The buzzing atmosphere at Excel didn't help. About 13,000 people compete over the weekend, so the transition area is a daunting experience. I made the classic newbie mistake and got distracted chatting to fellow competitors while setting up, so now I struggle to find my small patch of land.

Grateful the swim is over and even more grateful that I am doing the sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run) I jump onto my bike - after finally locating it. The bike part goes well, I seem to be flying and my legs are full of energy. This comes as a surprise to me, as all my focus has been on the run training - and yet it turns out it's the bike where I have made the most gains. I partly put this down to the unconditional love I feel for my new Eastway bike as well as some regular and very sweaty interval sessions. I am pleased with my bike time of 41 minutes and secretly even more pleased at overtaking quite a few men on the course, but now my mind turns to preparing for the run. But for once, the run doesn't hold the same fear for me as it has previously.

Since my first triathlon in Blenheim, I have put a lot of focus into my run training. Having never been a runner, I had no real idea what I needed to do to improve. So I sought out an expert in the form of a qualified UK Athletics running coach Holly Weir. The first thing I wanted to establish was pace. I have one pace, or at least that is what I told Holly when we first meet, but it turns out I have four. Holly told me "you have fallen into the trap of running your slow runs a bit too fast and your fast runs a bit too slowly". With the help of a heart-rate monitor we established four different paces: easy, tempo, intervals, repetitions or sprints. I now have a running plan, and have been able to learn how the different paces feel, taking cues from my legs and my breathing. We did a series of drills to improve my form that looked like something from the Ministry of Silly Walks, focusing on high knees, lifting the toes and fast feet. Holly also took me for several agonising sessions at a running track. I did not enjoy them but this is where I finally learn to breathe.

I'm asthmatic and one of my issues with running is feeling out of control with my breathing. The idea of interval-paced running for sustained periods scares me, even though I always carry an inhaler. Holly explains that "breathing is a great way of determining what effort you are [putting in] if you don't have a heart-rate monitor. Knowing how fast your breathing should be at different efforts, can really help you to judge how hard you're running." She encourages me to time my breathing with my foot falls and to go off slower at the start, until I have control of my breathing and am maintaining that.

So back at Excel, I start the run. I feel good – the jelly-legs feeling common after the bike part is long gone, especially after the epic amount of time I spent in transition, running up and down shouting to a steward that I couldn't find my spot (I was in row 0; my transition area turned out to be in row Q). As instructed by Holly I set off a little slower and focus on my breathing. I only speed up once I have that under control. As I tire on the second lap I focus on pointing my toes and lifting my knees. It works – there are even a few moments where I feel like an actual runner, such as hitting a small hill and sailing on up with my breathing under control. The course has lots of turns, is very narrow and packed with people, I am a bit disappointed by this as the swerves and dodging mean it is hard to get into a good rhythm but I cross the finish line in 28 minutes.

Overall my time was 1:36. I had hoped to get 1:30 and maybe I will next time if I pay a bit more attention to where my bike is parked. So, how did everyone else find the triathlon?

Thanks to who have provided this article. View the original here.


comments powered by Disqus