to Finisher by Anne Fuller
Anne Fuller has competed as a member of Thames Valley Triathletes and
Harlech Triathlon Club for
over 20 years.
She has represented GB in the age group team on a number of occasions and
has successfully completed seven Ironman triathlons.
If you have any questions you can email Anne at the address
What are we aiming to achieve?
triathlon takes place on April 9th 2017, so by then you need to be
able to swim 400m (16 lengths) in a pool, immediately followed by a 21k bike
and a 6k run. The bike includes
the climb to Upper Harlech and the run covers Harlech sand dunes and beach and also the
1:4 climb up Castle Hill. The
aim is to have fun and complete the race without half killing yourself.
In the process you can also become fitter, healthier and leaner – what
more can you ask?
How well do you swim at the
Question 1 - can you comfortably swim a
length of the pool? If your answer
is ‘No’ then your priority should be to arrange some lessons.
Question 2 - can you comfortably
swim a length using front crawl? If
your answer is ‘No’ then you have a decision to make.
Swimming breaststroke is always allowed in triathlons but if you can
master front crawl it will be faster and easier in the long term.
How can you swim
Work on three areas – technique,
stamina and speed.
Technique – ideally work with
an instructor but here are two things that you should be able to improve by
on keeping your body horizontal in the water – i.e. keep your legs close
to the surface and your head down. This reduces the resistance of the
as far as possible each time you push off.
Grab the wall and push hard so that your body travels under the
water. Your hands should be
touching and your arms straight out in front - think ‘fish’ as you glide
though the water. Kick your
legs for propulsion and finally surface and use your arms. You should travel up to 5 metres before using your arms.
Stamina - gradually increase the
distance that you swim without resting and also the total distance swum in a
session. Build up the
distance until you can swim at least 20 lengths without stopping and 50 lengths
in a single session.
Speed - swim fast for a short
distance – between one and four lengths – then rest until your breathing has
recovered. Aim at building up
to 6-8 repetitions - e.g. 8 times 2 lengths fast with a minute of rest between
each. Make sure that you start with
some easy swimming to warm up and also warm down at the end.
sessions are easier when the pool is organised for length swimming – contact
your local pool and find out which sessions are designated for lane swimming
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The cycle stage of a triathlon is
organised as a time trial – meaning that you ride a measured distance by
yourself as fast as possible. Don’t
be confused by races you might see on TV where athletes ride in a group –
these ‘drafting’ races are only for elite competitors.
Taking a typical novice competitor the ratio of
time spent during the race swimming / cycling / running would be something like
10 / 45 / 30. It is worth bearing
this in mind when you allocate your training time although you should also focus
on your on weakest areas.
When the weather is cold and the nights
dark, training in the gym is a very attractive option.
It is possible to develop pedalling technique and strength using a
stationary bike. When you start
your session it is best to have a clear programme in mind – for example:
times 1 minute pedalling as fast as possible followed by 1 minute pedalling
at 90 rpm
times 1 minute standing and pedalling a high resistance followed by 1 minute
pedalling light resistance
pyramid – 1 minute hard / 1 minute easy, 2 minutes hard / 2 minutes easy.
Increase the intervals e.g. to 5 / 5 and then work back down again
Always include a warm up and warm
down – 10 minutes spinning the pedals with a light resistance
There are two problems with indoor
training. The first is boredom –
it is difficult to keep motivated for long sessions. Two
suggestions for avoiding monotony:
a spinning class or train with friends – much more fun than training alone
and the peer pressure can push you to try harder
“Brick Sessions” to your training – these sessions alternate bike and
run to simulate a triathlon. For
example – warm up and then alternate 10 minutes on a bike followed by 5
minutes on a treadmill. To add
interest you can alter the focus of the sessions – one week cycle steadily
but work hard on the run, the next time work hard on the bike and use the
run / jog as a recovery.
Unfortunately the other problem is not
so easy to solve. You cannot
practice technique – cornering, descending, climbing, gear changing - without
getting on your bike so wrap up warmly and get out onto the road.
On to the road
You can use any bike for the race but
perhaps best to get it serviced if it has not been used recently!
If you plan to use a mountain bike try changing the ‘nobbly’ tyres
for ‘slicks’ – these are much faster because they offer less resistance.
When planning your training rides try to
build in one or more of the following aims for each ride:
the distance – before race day you should complete at least one
continuous ride lasting 2 hours. This
is more than the length of the cycle leg so you can be confident on the day.
Build up your time in the saddle gradually.
cornering – concentrate on losing as little time as possible on
corners. Select suitable gears
going into the corner, brake before the turn and then accelerate out of the
corner to build up your speed again.
climbing – choose a route that includes hills.
There are two types of hills to practice – short steep ones that
may involve you standing up on the pedals and longer hills for which you can
remain seated. For the longer
hills, select a gear which allows you to maintain your ‘cadence’ (pedal
revolutions per minute) – avoid grinding up hills in a gear which is too
descending – choose a route that includes different types of descents.
On the straight descents with good visibility practice being
aerodynamic – your body should be as low and narrow as possible on the
bike. For twisty descents
concentrate on your position on the road and practice safe braking.
Joining a club is one of the best
ways to improve. Look for triathlon and cycling clubs in your area and try to
find a club that encourages novices. You
can learn from experienced athletes and find friends to train with.
You may notice that some cyclists
ride without a helmet – their excuse will usually be ‘it is too hot or
NEVER ride without a helmet – my head matters to me – and on race day a
helmet is compulsory.
For further advice on Winter
Cycle Training click on the link.
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If you watch the world’s top runners
you could be forgiven for thinking that perfect running technique is not an
essential pre-requisite for success. Paul
Radcliffe is famous for her nodding head whilst Haile
Gebrselassie began his athletics career by running 10 kilometers to school and
back as a child and still has an uneven arm action from holding his
satchel under one arm. This said it
is still important to develop an efficient running technique – it will
minimise the effort required and reduce the risk of injuries.
There are many aspects to good running technique but the main things to
concentrate on when you start are:
Don’t try to take too long a stride – for distance running it is more
efficient to take a shorter quicker stride.
Allow your body to tip slightly in front of the vertical – this allows
your body weight to help you as you move forward.
When doing this remember to keep your torso straight and your hips
forward – avoid leaning forward from the shoulders and sticking your
bottom out. This forward
position is especially important when running down hill – it prevents you
from ‘braking’ with your body.
shoulders and arms
Try not to tense your shoulders and arms. Use your arms to complement your
leg stride – think of moving your elbow backwards and forwards at 90
degrees to your body. Keep your
hand open and relaxed. When you
increase the pace or run up hill you can increase the vigour of your arms to
balance the extra effort from your legs.
Keep your head still but relaxed. Look forwards and down – you should
focus about 15m in front of you.
Avoid taking shallow breaths and concentrate on deep even breathing.
If you find your breathing becoming ragged try the following:
synchronising your breathing with your stride – e.g. breath in for two
strides and out for two
concentrate on breathing OUT – this ensures that you avoid CO2 build up
and possible stitch
Go the distance
When you first start running your
initial aim should be to increase the length of time for which you can run.
Very few people can go straight out and run for more than a few minutes
but by mixing running and walking it is possible to cover a reasonable distance.
by running for 30 seconds and then walk for 90 seconds - repeat this nine
more times for a total of 20 minutes.
Repeat this session at least 2-3 times per week.
to running for 45 seconds and walking for 75 – again the total time should
be 20 minutes
to 60/60, 75/45 and then 90/30 - eventually you will be able to run for
several minutes at a time between walking breaks and finally run for 20
minutes without stopping.
you are running keep taking the ‘talk test’ – if you can’t hold a
conversation without gasping or feeling out of breath you should slow down.
on going farther, not harder. Once
you have achieved 20 minutes of running use the same principle to build up
to 30 minutes and then increase to 40, 50 and 60.
At this early stage speed does not matter - Increasing endurance is
your first priority. Even
when you are more experienced, one run session a week should be focused on
steady distance – aim for at least twice your anticipated race distance.
Fast and strong
Once you can comfortably run for 40+
minutes you can start thinking about improving speed and strength.
‘Quality’ run sessions fall into 3 main categories:
These sessions involve repeated short intervals – for example 200 / 400 /
600 or 800 meter repetitions. As
an alternative you can use time as the measure for the repetitions – 1 / 2
or 3 minutes. Run the intervals
faster than your intended race pace and try to maintain the same pace for
each of the intervals. The
number of repetitions to complete will depend on the length and your fitness
e.g. 8-12 times 200m or 3-6 times 800m.
Be sure to warm and warm down.
endurance (threshold) sessions
These sessions involve an extended period at your race pace or slightly
faster. For example following a
10 minute steady warm up you the run at your race pace for five minutes,
easy for five minutes and then again at race pace for five minutes.
Gradually build up the time until you can run for twenty minutes at
race pace. Warm down for 10
minutes to complete the session.
You can build strength by running up hills – short (up to 200m) steeper
hills for pure strength and longer (up to 800m) shallower hills for strength
endurance. Complete a series of
repetitions (e.g. 8-12 times for short hills and 3-6 times for longer
hills). Try to maintain the
same pace for each of the repetitions. Use the return downhill as your
recovery – concentrate on relaxed running and allow your body to tip
forward so your weight ‘falls’ down the hill.
Be sure to warm and warm down.
VERY IMPORTANT – do not
increase your volume or speed too quickly.
You can avoid injuries by gradually building up the amount of quality
up and warm down
Start and finish each run with two to three
minutes of brisk walking and once you start running take it easy for the
first 10 minutes.
Increase the time spent running by no more than five minutes a day and
never increase your mileage by more than 10 per cent a week. The main cause
of injuries to beginners is running too far / fast before they’re ready.
Devote 10 minutes to stretching after each run. Pay particular attention
to the hamstrings, calves and quadriceps.
it hurts stop
Running with an injury is a sure way to turn it into a chronic problem
For experienced runners hill training can be used to boost fitness and
strength. For novices running up and down steep hills can increase the risk
of injury from jarring – when you start working on hills pick a long
gradual incline to build strength.
Avoid pavements if possible – they are hard and uneven
Asphalt is a lot softer than concrete so run on the road when
possible – try to avoid running on a steep camber
Grass is the softest surface to run on, but it can be uneven –
beware of bumps and holes etc
Running tracks are easy on your legs but circling a 400m loop to be
mind-numbingly boring. Use tracks for speed sessions not endurance runs
Treadmills provide a cushioned surface but like running on the track
the sessions can become very dull. Use
them for speed work or ‘brick’ sessions which alternate bike and run
The ideal surface is a smooth dirt track – arrange your long runs
for the weekend and consider travelling to the country if you do not have
suitable routes locally
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