Triathlon .. "Why do you keep doing it?"

The question I’m most often asked about our sport is “why do you keep doing it?” Triathlon and, in particular, long course triathlon, is put up on such a pedestal, that, to many, just completing one’s chosen event is the goal. It’s a one-off. I’m sure I’ve had that thought too: Certainly, there’s always a dark moment during the marathon leg where I swear that this is it. This is the last one. No más señor. But that thought is fleeting. It’s quickly replaced by the desire to get better; to compete rather than complete. I keep doing this because I can swim faster, ride stronger, and run more efficiently. I just need to work out how.



This season has involved a lot of hard work but it’s also involved training and racing smarter. I’m a huge fan of gaining free speed. Those turbo sessions in the pain cave on rainy November mornings before work still need to be done, but there’s not an athlete I know that can’t be more efficient with their training and smarter with their racing. So, to that end, here’s a few things I’ve learnt this season.

1. Find free speed wherever you can:
From finding the right pair of feet to draft in the swim, to nailing your transitions, there’s free speed to be picked up all over the course. Think about it this way; how much work would it take to knock 90 seconds off your 10k time versus saving that in T1 and T2 by learning how to mount and dismount your bike like a pro?
2. There is no offseason:
Look, I’m not a pro. I don’t get to be selfish enough to put training and racing ahead of everything else. Life gets in the way sometimes. That doesn’t mean an off season is a good idea. Vary the intensity of your training to avoid injury but don’t spend the Winter in the pub or you’ll pay for it tenfold in the Spring



3. No junk miles – make every session count:
Until this season I used to convince myself that 3 laps around Richmond Park without my heart rate never getting out of Z2 was a workout and then wondered why I wasn’t getting better. 45 minutes spent crushing FRC intervals is worth a lot more than 90 minutes of ambling around the park.
4. Take the guesswork out:
Yes, a skeletal triathlon training program you can download is better than nothing but it’s a framework, not a definitive plan, and most of all it’s not customised to you. So get a coach if you can afford it. If you can’t, get a power meter. Preferably, get both. But if there was one value for money item I’d recommend when it comes to new kit (and we all love a bit of new kit) it’s a power meter.
5. New kit won’t make you faster by itself:
There’s no point in spending thousands on a pimped new rig and then having it not fit you. You’ll never love your new machine unless it fits you correctly. Get your fit properly dialled in and that’s more free speed – not just on the bike, but you’ll run faster and more comfortably afterward. I cannot recommend the GURU process enough – in addition to a powermeter, it’s the best money you can spend in my opinion.
6. Train your weaknesses/race your strengths:
One advantage of having a power meter is that after a relatively short amount of time you’ll be able to see your own power curve. But even if you can’t see your power curve, you’ll know roughly whether you need to work on your sprinting/time-trialling/1 min max efforts etc. So again, don’t waste any sessions; if you need to work on your 1 min max efforts, work on those, even if your race schedule is predominantly long time trials.


So with a couple of months of the triathlon season still left to go, I’ve made some good gains. I’ve managed to take 30 seconds off my Richmond Park lap PR (that’s everyone’s A-Race right?), 50 minutes off my iron-distance PB and clocked the 13th overall bike split (out of 989) at the Outlaw – just missing out on a sub 5 hour ride. Hard work is only half the recipe. As I said earlier, there’s a lot of racing smarter in there too. I think I’m probably most proud of clocking a marathon PB (not just iron-distance marathon PB) at Frankfurt and I can put this down to two things – firstly, not overdoing it on the bike course and sticking to the plan and secondly, by riding a bike that fits me and is fitted to me so that my legs were as fresh as possible, and ready to literally hit the ground running as I hit T2.

Bring on the rest of the season and even more gains in 2017!

See you out on the course
Neill Keaney

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