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5 things I Learnt from Training for A Sprint Triathlon in 7 weeks

Why? In December Sarah encouraged us to define our 7 goals for 2017 which was a great opportunity to plan my year ahead. I usually take part in around 10 events each year – swim bike and run, either single discipline or combined and I have completed 7 triathlons since 2013. Last year I made over 20 work trips to 13 different countries which meant that I could not commit to training for 3 sports simultaneously, so I focused on single discipline events. When writing my goals for 2017 I debated whether to do another triathlon – again due to work commitments I did not feel that I could go faster or further in triathlon. However, I decided that I did not want to give up on being a triathlete and so reframed the goal to simply complete a sprint Tri as one of my 7 goals.

Choosing an event: I enjoyed an Olympic distance triathlon in the Cotswold’s so decided to return and take part in a women’s only event and the dates worked. I do like women’s only events or waves as I find the atmosphere more friendly and supportive. It gave me 7 weeks training window from returning from a fortnight travelling in Mexico to race day.

Training objectives: The goal was to keep 3 sports bubbling along for 7 weeks and to ensure some speed/high intensity training sessions which I usually try to avoid! In addition, I needed to make sure that I completed some longer rides on my road bike as one of my other 7 goals was to complete a cycle sportive 2 weeks after my triathlon. I also try to use my gym membership at least 6 times a month!


What I did

This is what I learnt:

1: I fell in love with Park Run! I had had always felt that Park Run involved too much faffing about for a short run. Why have an hour round trip in the car when you can just go for run from your house? My husband started going this year and enjoyed it and said it was a great way to force yourself to run faster than you normally would in training. I found not only did I love the atmosphere but also my pace became a lot quicker – instead of running around 6 minute kms I was hitting 5 min kms often. We also found it was a lovely thing to do together as a couple. Then I got a 5k PB, yippee!

2: I hate spin classes but discovered the Watt bike. I read a blog by Challenge Sophie (podcast August 2015) on becoming a stronger cyclist which recommended spin classes. Having not enjoyed them before I decided to give Spin another go as it ticked a box for my higher intensity training. I was barked at by the instructor for turning up despite only being on the waiting list, I struggled to move the bike and get it set up as she turned her back on me and then she just shouted “up” or “down” for the whole class. Everyone looked very intense and not one person cracked a smile or spoke so I decided that this was not an environment for me. I did however do my usual turbo session (a Chrissy Wellington audio ) on the wattbike at the gym which is a fancy stationary bike. The display was great at ensuring I hit the right cadence throughout the workout and it gave a helpful peanut graphic on pedal forces to ensure that your pedalling is on form. I shall certainly try and fit a few more sessions like this in to build up my cycling legs and stamina.

3: I supercharged my open water swimming. My open water swimming season got off to a great start. I found the first swim easy, during my second one I completed a much longer distance than I normally would at this point in the season and on my third session I hit a PB for two laps around my lake. Always tempted by a medal I signed up for a race at my lake the following Sunday and recorded another PB for 1500m, taking 2 minutes off my previous best time on that course. I have no idea where this speed came from, perhaps it was my lovely new wetsuit, the volume and intensity of training I was doing or perhaps a legacy from last year (where I completed at 7.3km swim at the end of the season).

4: I still love triathlon. I love race day and had a great event. The swim was quite hairy with a large field starting from a line on the beach rather than a deep water start. This funnelled us all towards the first bouy rather than a deep water start where the pack moves off together. The bike was flat and the run course was an interesting two loops around the lake. It was also great to meet another tribe member Claire Coles, who was taking part in her first open water tri.

5: I can still go faster! I knocked a massive 10 minutes of my previous sprint triathlon personal best. I think that the run may have been a bit short but even still it feels likes huge progress and I was delighted.

Completing a triathlon this year initially started out as a tick box exercise but, I discovered new ways of training and new speeds. By limiting the length of time for training I felt that I could commit to all three sports knowing that I was only putting myself under that pressure and training volume for a manageable period of time. I hope this plan shows that you can train for a Sprint Triathlon in a short time and still achieve PBs.

Helen Dickens

Find her on instagram @hennieswims


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