Category Archives: triathlon

How (not) to train for a triathlon


I did a sprint triathlon in 2015 – and another last year. I enjoyed them but learnt that: I swim badly; I cycle reasonably; I am almost adequate at the run (for an old bloke). So, after signing up for an olympic distance triathlon I will have addressed the issues, right? Wrong.

The early year focus has been on my first sportive (90 miles on 23 April) to the exclusion of running and swimming. Since then I’ve cycled less than 45k, been in the water three times and have run three times, gently, with my wife and three times alone – and only once as far as 10k.

At over 60, I should know better and I don’t really have the excuse of insufficient time, given how so many people manage to do much more while sill working.

Worse still, I’ve only tried on my wetsuit twice and will not manage to get in an open water swim before the event itself. Perhaps I have a secret death wish?

I did take a swimming lesson – but just one and only last week. It was good but, at this stage it will probably serve mainly to confuse me as, during the lesson, I was totally unable to practice more than one new thing at a time – and even then several other things (like breathing) went to pieces. I’m sure it will be really helpful once all the advice becomes a natural part of my swimming but perhaps the session I plan tonight isn’t enough for that to happen!

Sunday promises to be interesting.

So: train consistently, work on your weaknesses; taper properly; and don’t let the event introduce new things to you (especially like wearing a wetsuit for the first time).

Oh yes, and do what I say, not what I do.

A second trick in a week. Old dog overload?

After mixed results from the ‘introduction to wetsuits’ experience earlier in the week, last night I tried a swimming lesson. I guess I must have had a rudimentary lesson or two at school as a child when I learned to swim – but certainly nothing in over 50 years.

Two sprint triathlons have largely proved what I already knew – I don’t swim well. The impending olympic distance triathlon had me looking for the swimming silver bullet – the hope that a proper coach would identify the one small thing that would transform me into Michael Phelps overnight.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that. The coach was very good and in just 30 minutes came up with a number of things to work on. Together, in time, I’m sure they will improve my swimming but I think that Michael’s records are safe from me.

So: starting breathing out as soon as my face is under the water; not kicking from the knee; more rotation along the long axis; a longer reach; a straighter pull backwards rather than down; and delaying the start of the next stroke until the other arm passes my head.

It’s all a lot to think about and trying to incorporate all the advice was really hard. I found I could (sort of) do any one of them if I thought about it hard – but then the others went out of the window. With a longer stroke and fewer strokes each length, I take fewer breaths and that messes with my breathing. Eventually, I assume that each stroke should be smoother and more efficient, and so less exerting, but the key there is ‘eventually’.

No silver bullet, no overnight transformation – but lots to work on in the next week or so.  If it all becomes the norm in my swimming I’m sure it will be really beneficial – if I live that long.

It just reinforces the high regard I have for good triathletes – the ability to master the three skills is really something this cyclist admires.