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Sam Mileham Interview

In the first of a series of interviews I talk to professional triathlete, Sam Mileham. Sam is a former GB Age Grouper, who won the European U20 title in 2017. He has since switched to racing for Australia (His Mum is from Oz, so he is forgiven); he took the giant step to move to Perth last year to train full-time and race on the professional circuit, which includes the Continental Cup. In this interview Sam talks about a range of subjects from including our time working together and the challenges he faces as a young professional racing abroad.

Max Curle: How did you first get into Triathlon?

Sam MIleham: I have to give credit to my parents for getting me into it. When I was 9 I did my first race and as any 9 year old I did it for fun along side other sports I played such as football, hockey, swimming. I was never winning anything, in fact most of the time I was nearer the back but I enjoyed it and that was the main thing. When I was 14 or 15 I started to train properly and raced for the first time as an ‘Elite Youth’. From then on I was more determined to try and make it closer to the front and race more competitively. Soon after I was introduced to Ray Gibbs ( as my swimming technique needed fixing which lead me to you (Max) as you worked with Ray in Canary Wharf. I was pretty lean and the need to build up more strength was becoming obvious to be able to compete at a high level.

MC: Could you explain how your triathlon career has changed in the last 12-18months?

SM: It’s been huge. I made a big decision about a year ago to take a gap year and pursue triathlon full time…in Australia. I also decided to stop racing for Great Britain and race for Australia (controversial I know). But I haven’t looked back. Australia gave me the opportunity to race professionally on the international scene so I grabbed it with both hands and have raced Continental Cups in Australia, Thailand, The Netherlands, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The progress has also been huge. My first cup race in Australia I was towards the back in the swim and in the 4th bike pack. 6 months later I raced in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and both times I was in the chase pack, narrowly missing both front packs. I couldn’t have asked for a bigger improvement.

MC: What has been the single biggest difference racing in Australia compared to the UK, apart from the weather?

SM: There are a lot of differences if I’m totally honest but I would say one of the biggest differences is the quality of athletes, even at local events. I live in Perth, which is pretty small, but at almost every race in Perth there will be a small group of professional athletes racing whether that’s for some prize money or using it as training. But at a National Series race you can get multiple Olympians lining up alongside you. Other things include cost of races; they are much cheaper, quality of races….

MC: …In what way?

SM: They are better organized, for example they are always on closed roads, and there is usually a decent amount of prize money up for grabs.

MC: As a triathlete, what do you believe to be your strengths and your weaknesses? Which discipline has taken the most work to improve?

SM: This is a tough question. I’ll start with my weakness because that has always been the swim and I took 2 maybe 3 years to fix my technique and bring my swim time down. My first 750m swim I ever did I completed in 11:30 and now I’ve got it down to the low 9’s. 9:12 was my most recent and with this work I would still say it’s the weakest because it can drop off quickly if I stop swimming but I’m no longer playing catch up on the bike and run.

I’ve always been a strong runner and that’s my strong point for sure, I always look forward to the run. As for cycling, it’s always been in the middle but I can certainly say cycling in Perth makes you strong; there are some amazing training rides that will improve your cycling a lot.

MC: How do you feel the addition of a Strength & Conditioning program aided your performance?

SM: S&C I feel takes me time to come into effect. I think it takes a little longer to see the benefits and that may be why people don’t like it as much, plus its harder to measure, there’s no KPH or Mins/KM…. I needed to build some more muscle mass to be more competitive over the short sprint races. The last two years I’ve definitely seen myself become more competitive and especially I swimming, I have more power in my stroke for sure.

MC: Do you think your body has changed over the years since you took S&C more seriously?

SM: 100%. Just look at a serious of photos over the years you can see I’ve built up muscle mass especially in my upper body. But in general I think ask anyone who’s known me for a while and I’m sure they will tell you how much I’ve changed. I’ve gained the right muscle mass in the right way and dong the right things thanks to you. Continuing on you thought me, now I am in Australia is key to being successful.

MC: Triathlon is a sport in which body shape and body weight can play an important role in performance, have you ever witnessed any less desirable ways of athletes trying to loose weight or change their bodies?

Personally no, I haven’t come across anyone that has attempted to deliberately loose weight, especially in an unhealthy way. I think it is very important to maintain a healthy bodyweight and diet to maintain a good level of performance.

MC: Or gain an unfair advantage? For example drafting, on course coaching, or even banned substances?

SM: Yes, for this I have witnessed a few. A few years back I had a Spanish athlete draft on me in the 2016 European AG Championships for a good few kilometers, thankfully he was penalized by race officials though. Now most of my races are draft legal so the only unfair advantage gained is sitting and not rolling through but that’s racing.

I felt like I was targeted in a swim once, I was bashed constantly for a good 300m which was so frustrating but again you cant really do much about it… Probably the worst case was at the Ironman Maastricht 5K Night Run where I was leading and the bloke in 2nd cut the course to get in front and take the win. I was fuming as he was taking it like he really won it and lets just say I made it clear I wasn’t happy with his unsportsmanlike actions.

MC: If you could do one thing to improve the sport of Triathlon what would that be?

SM: Money is always an issue, especially when training full time. I think it would be great for National Federations to support more up and coming athletes as well as those already at the top but I know they don’t have bottomless pockets. Also prize money, if prize money could trickle down further I think that would make a massive difference to those up and coming athletes.

MC: What are you plans and goals for the next 12 months?

SM: I haven’t finalized any races or plans yet but at the moment I’m looking at targeting Continental Cup races in China and Japan and hopefully will try to start in a World Cup. Alongside this I will attempt to qualify for the World Multisport Championships in Spain in Aquathlon or Duathlon. Unlike this year I will most likely not come to England and stay more in Asia to save money. Lastly my big goal is to get a part time job, doing triathlon full time is not easy and needs to be funded.

To follow Sam and his results keep an eye on as well as all his social media channels.

Q&A With Max Curle – The Marathon Taper!

The countdown is on to London, and you are less than 2 week away. If you haven’t already, you should be thinking about how you’re going to manage your tired limbs through the next couple of weeks to make sure you are fresh and ready to run well on race day!

The The Altitude Centre caught up with me, their resident Endurance Coach, to ask me a few questions about tapering for marathons, and get a few top tips to help you get it right!

The Altitude Centre: Tapering is a key part in any marathon runners training programme. How important is
it to taper for a marathon to optimise performance on race day?

Max Curle: The taper is a vital part of any training plan. Over the final few weeks training volume and intensity would be at it’s highest. The taper allows the body to recover both physically and mentally; meaning the body and mind will be fresh and rearing to go on race morning.

TAC: So we’ve established tapering is definitely something to do. As a general guide, how long prior to race day should you start to taper?

MC: With athletes I coach I tend to encourage a 2-week taper, we bring the intensity and volume of training down, whilst keeping active. Depending on the experience of the athlete we will agree that the last long run is 3 weeks prior to race day.

TAC: So we’re tapering from 2 weeks out, with our last long run 3 weeks before race day. Is there a set amount we should reduce our running miles by during the taper?

MC: I always encourage a gradual taper, perhaps only running twice a week for no more than an hour at a time. Some athletes are harder to convince on this than others, I like to remind them that the hard work (should) be done already, and very little is to be gained in this time, but a lot could be lost!

TAC: Would these runs mainly be steady state, or interval based?

MC: I would suggest a very steady run, (Heart Rate Zone 2). I would avoid intervals as stress on the muscles and joints should be avoided. It could be opportunities to try some cross training, a cycle or a swim for example. But do avoid activates where contact and high impact is involved as an injury this close to race day could result in a DNS.

TAC: When would be the last day you’d recommend running, prior to the race?

MC: 4 days out would be the ideal for a first time marathon runner. In those remaining three days I would encourage the athlete to keep active, by walking and stretching. Perhaps have a massage.

TAC: What other top tips do you have for tapering?

MC: The taper can be a tricky time for some athletes as you may feel you are losing fitness by doing less training than you have been used to, I would encourage athletes to do some light sessions, keep loose by stretching.

The use of the POD at the Altitude Centre is an excellent way to keep the Cardio-vascular fitness levels high, but without putting any stress on the muscles and joints.

TAC: Carb-loading is often something discussed around marathon time. What would be your recommendations regarding dietary requirements in the final days?

MC: The chances are over the last few weeks as training volume has been high you would of naturally been eating more calories in order to fuel and recover from those long runs.

However, during the final week before the marathon, I would advice you to cut back on the amount of CHOs from Sunday – Wednesday, try to get as much of your calories from protein and healthy fats.

Thursday – Sunday morning (race day), reintroduce CHO at the level you were eating them at during the heavier weeks of training.

By cutting the CHOs out for a few day, when they are reintroduced the body will absorb them and hold on to them, meaning they are available as your primary source of energy during the marathon.

Your fluid intake should be a little higher than normal also; it is a little crude but try and keep an eye on the colour of your urine, the clearer the better.

The night before, eat your favourite CHO meal, for me it is always Tomato Pasta with Chicken. This is tried and tested for me, so hold no surprises. Avoid fatty foods, very high amounts of protein, high fibre foods, as well as anything too spicy, this could cause discomfort during the marathon.

A small CHO breakfast before the race is important, but ensure you have enough time to properly digest it before your start time.

TAC: If you could give our runners one last piece of advice before race day, what would it

MC: Respect the marathon, it is a long way! Especially for those first timers! However if you have put the hard work in over the last few months and have given the taper and your nutrition some thought. You will have one of the most amazing experiences there is. Enjoy it.

To find out a little more about The Altitude Centre, just follow the link here!

From completing a long distance Triathlon to competing in one

You have done well, you have completed you first Long Distance Triathlon, and you have set out and completed your goal of completing the most grueling single day sporting challenge on the planet.

It may seem an obvious question; but what next?

  • Never again, I’ve ticked that one off.
  • It was good but I can definitely beat my time next year.
  • I ‘m quite good at this; I reckon if I really train properly I can qualify for the (insert home nation) AG team.

These are commonly the answers I hear from clients and first time IM finishers.

So how can you as a triathlete go from ‘simply’ finishing an IM to competing in one, knocking time off your PB and making an impact in your AG?

First things first, decide on how much time you can commit to your training, you are going to have to be even more focused than previously. Discuss this with your family, your boss and if you have one your coach (if do not have one, get one).

Second thing to do is to have a search for a race that will suit your strengths. Sea v Lake v River swim, all have their pros and cons. A flat or hilly bike course, be realistic with yourself, you know by now whether the hills will work to your advantage or not. Will a hot race suit you on the run or do you suffer in extreme heat?

Last time out you may just made sure you survived the swim, but now is the time to put work in and make sure you can knock some time off. A quicker swim is the result of hours of technical work in the pool over the winter months. I work with Ray Gibbs of, he is also my swim coach, and in my first year under his wing I took my 1900m time from 44 to 33 minutes. His mantra is ‘you can be a fit as you like but if you cant catch the water you aren’t going anywhere fast’. The top swimmers in your AG will be swimming 8-12km per week during the off-season, some will be speed-endurance sessions but for the most it will be drills and technical work.

For your first IM you would have made sure you did enough cycling to cover the 180km, you will have likely built up to this distance and even cycled the entire distance a few times before race day. Some of the more prepared ones of you will have even added some brick sessions. All exactly as I would prescribe if I were coaching you….

But now you want to improve on that. Unless you have an endless budget you are going to use the same bike. Get yourself to the local bike fitter and explain you want to be set up to be as quick as possible, they may advise some clip-on aero-bars, change of saddle, or a new headset. Those of you with the budget, you may look for something more specific (a new bike) to ensure a quicker bike split. Chris Brooks at suggests that a correct ‘aero’ bike fit can save 6-8 minutes on an IM bike course, even if there is no improvement in the fitness of the rider.

However, equipment and budget aside, the most important factor on the bike is you the rider, to become faster you need to increase your power/weight ratio. This is only achievable by putting in quality sessions on the bike during the off-season. SO it may be time to invest in some new toys to aid your training, a power meter for the bike makes training very black and white. Power gives you an absolute number to work from; it is by definition the amount of force you are producing. Whilst HR (which is often used during cycle training) can be influenced by a number of outside factors including, tiredness, fatigue, temperature, emotion, altitude and caffeine intake.

Once you have the equipment you can set the benchmark by completing an FTP-test (Functional Threshold Power – Test). When this number has been established you can base most of your Turbo sessions on it. Watts per kilogram is also an important figure to be aware of. The larger this ratio is the faster you will be.

Male pro IM athletes will have a body fat percentage in single digits, whilst the pro Females will be at approx 12%, a pro male will average 300-340 watts over 180km (course dependant) and female average watts will be 260-300. The guys and girls at the top end of the AGs will not be far from those figures. It might also be time to concentrate on Nutrition and make any changes necessary.

You may find a couple of KGs drop off as training volume and intensity increase, but to get to your optimal body fat percentage and therefore weight, it is best to have your body composition measured and then have some personal nutrition guidelines to adhere to.

In essence you want to periodise your nutrition in the way you would your training schedule. Fuelling your longer more intense workouts (<2hours) with increased Carbohydrate intake in the proceeding day or so, and shorter sessions (>2 hours) by eating a healthy balanced diet. It is a tricky balance between supplying enough energy to fuel your training and being able to loose any excess body fat, I would advise some professional guidance, it could be the most impactful change you make to your training.

When it comes to the run it will also be time to increase your speed. The dreaded interval sessions are the key, pushing yourself to the limit and repeat, repeat, repeat. The specifics of these sessions depend on time of the season and the race you are doing but in my experience this can be the hardest discipline to make gains. Running as quick as you can with as low HR as possible is fundamentally what you are trying to achieve. Discovering your lactate threshold is a vital measure, if you can work at just below this HR for an increasing amount of time then in theory you should become a quicker runner.

The skills to perform fast transitions need to be practiced over and over again, so you literally don’t have to think about it on race day. As does your race day nutrition, use your training sessions to nail your nutrition strategy.

Lastly, I am a massive advocate of tritahletes doing Strength & Conditioning, especially during the off-season. This should include some flexibility and stability work. All of which can aid performance and hold off injury when the high mileage is piled on. Like with Nutrition it is important to be assessed by a professional and have a personal program designed for you, as we all have different strengths and weaknesses.

Good luck, go get that AG vest!!

Simon Neville – La Marmotte completed, no dark moments

Name: Simon Neville
Event: La Marmotte
Date: 2nd July 2017

“I’ve been a “jobbing” cyclist for around 7 years, enjoying social rides and taking part in sportives, from local rides up to L’Etape du Tour a couple of years ago. Training was off the cuff and whilst I completed every event entered, I always felt I could do better – especially with the Etape, where there were a number of tough periods throughout the ride.

La Marmotte was always an ambition, so I registered for the 2017 event. Knowing there was not much margin to play with, I started working with Max at the start of the new year, after a typically lethargic Christmas/ New Year period. The initial FTP/ body composition numbers weren’t great! Still, they could only go one way and did they, with the help of Max.

Putting simply he adds structure and accountability. There’s no place to hide and I looked forward to each weekly schedule with a mixture of anticipation and slight dread! The training I completed had zero resemblance to what I chose to do previously, but the results came through in no time and continued right up to the event.

Max also assisted with nutrition. There were no radical changes away from the obvious reduction in alcohol and processed sugar, but those little tweaks helped a lot. Soreen as an on ride snack was a revalation!

The results?

18kg weight loss; FTP up 40%; La Marmotte completed with no dark moments – I genuinly enjoyed the whole ride – in a time of 9 hours 12 minutes. That’s just over 30 minutes off gold standard. Not bad for a middle aged “jobbing” cyclist who will never be a mountain goat on the bike (91kgs for the ride).

Suffice to say I’d recommend Max without question. We’re already planning next year’s quests!”

Want to give Triathlon a try but you don’t know where to start

Triathlon is a fun sport; it allows people of all abilities and fitness levels to push themselves to the limits. In some events Triathlon even gives you the chance to ‘race’ on the same course at the same time as the professionals. However if you have never tried the sport before it can be a little daunting to begin with, just keep in mind everyone had a first race once. Below is an example of some of the questions I have been asked by clients over the years – and my attempts at answering them.

What distance should I do?
If you have never done a triathlon before and have no history of endurance sports entering a long distance race might not be for you, you should perhaps look at a sprint or Olympic distance event to test the water. If you do have a history of long distance cycling, marathon running or competitive swimming then perhaps a full distance event could be for you. The British Triathlon Federation has a search function where you can search all race by distance and location. You can find an event suitable to your ability and goals.

What kit do I need?
The minimal equipment needed for your first triathlon is a road worthy bike and helmet. Both will be checked by an official to ensure they are in working order prior to bike check in. You will also need running shoes and suitable kit for the swim, bike and run aspects. Rules of triathlon state you must have your chest covered at all times once on the bike and run, you are also required to have your race number displayed at all times whilst cycling and running. You can simply pin these to your shirt, a race belt is preferred by most.

Many competitors will use a triathlon specific kit, which will cater for all three disciplines but is by no means required. There are then additional pieces of kit, which you may want to use, goggles, sunglasses, and cycle shoes, elastic laces, bike computers, GPS watches etc. The more triathlons you do the more kit you will suddenly deem very necessary.

When should I turn up?
This usually differs from race to race. Once entered race organizers will email you details of the race day/weekend well in advance so you can plan ahead. Sprint triathlon will allow for registration and bike check-in on race day, whilst longer races will usually ask for this to be done the day before. You can always email the organizers before entering if this affects your travel and accommodation plans.

Do I need to carb load before the Triathlon?
Simply put NO – not for a sprint race. As long as you have eaten a healthy balanced diet in the proceeding days and have eaten 2-3 hours before your start time you will be fine, although on extremely hot days dehydration can be a issue so keep drinking. If you have a very early start time then eating 2-3 hours before can be tricky and not very appetizing. I would suggest a slightly bigger meal the evening before, for example an extra bread roll or an extra spoonful of pasta. Nothing ridiculous!! Then in the morning a snack-sized breakfast would be sufficient, e.g. banana or 1 slice of Jam on toast, fluids can offer calories also. Fruit Juices are a good way of consuming calories without feeling too full.

However, if you are doing longer distances then Nutrition plays much more of a factor and I would recommend some expert advice.

Is open water swimming scary?
It certainly can be. If, the first time you swim in open water is in a race it can be very unsettling and nothing like swimming in the relative safety of a pool. There are no lines to follow, its often very dark, and can taste awful – If it is in the sea you my also have currents and waves to contend with. Be sure to scout out a lake, river or beach that allows you to swim under the watch of a lifeguard in the weeks leading up to your event. Even if you are comfortable in open water you have the other triathletes to contend with, mass swim starts can means hundreds of swimmers all aiming for the same turn point. If it is your first event or the swim is not your strongest discipline there is no shame in hanging back a little and finding some clear water.

Will the course be marked for me?
The race organizers will send you a map of the course prior to your event. Some races will be done on closed roads whilst others will not. However in any event you must adhere to the highway code of the country you are racing in. Some races will mark the bike course out in the days leading up to the event so you can drive/ride the course in the days beforehand if you wish. There will certainly be signs and marshals to help you throughout.

Marginal gains…Can it be applied to the weekend warrior?

“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together” Dave Brailsford (2012)

With the dramatic success of British cycling over the last decade we have seen the notion of Sir Dave Brailsford ‘marginal gains’ become a mainstay in sports coaching and training, with coaches, managers and athletes in a whole range of sports latch on to Sir Daves concept.

Ignoring the recent TUE scandal, (if I can call it that) something is certainly working for British cycling and its professional road spin off – Team sky, and now Team Wiggins. British Cycling have been dominant on the track since Sir Dave took over the role of Performance Director in 2003 all the way through to the Rio Olympics, despite the retirement of some of the more established stars the British team is good hands as a new generation of elite cyclists are coming through the ranks and proved their class at the recent Under 23 European Track championships, a gold in the Men’s Team Sprint and Women’s Team Pursuit, as well as a number of other notable performances. The success of Team Sky on the road and in particular their dominance at the Tour de France over the last 5 years, the numerous World Class riders we Brits have in all disciplines of cycling, just go to show the dynasty SDB has created.

As illustrated by the quote above the whole notion comes from taking every single aspect that effects performance and making small improvements, and then overall performance will be increased. I have witnessed first hand the acute detail SDB and his team goes to. I have sat through lectures by Nigel Mitchell (former nutritionist – Team Sky), Dr. James Moreton (current nutritionist – Team Sky) and shared an informal dinner with Sir Chris Hoy and Shane Sutton (former Head coach to GB track cycling). The former two gave fascinating lectures that gave extent detail the process Team Sky went to ensure their riders were in top condition during races. For example, riders were forbidden to touch door handles in hotels to minimize the chance of germ contamination, the Team would take their own Chef to race hotels, support staff would enter hotel rooms prior to the riders and remake the beds with familiar bed sheets and pillows establish familiar surroundings to promote a better nights sleep. Then there is the bike; the kit worn on race day, the training conditions, the gym work, the coaches, travel, every aspect is looked at in view to making it world class.

However, the application of these principals to the ‘weekend warrior’ is something that interests me as a coach, as a generation of amateur sportsmen and women have we taken our eye off the ball and forgotten about the basics? After all if you have targeted the E’tape there is no hiding from the fact you have to train your body (and mind) to cycle for 180km over two mountains. If you want to complete an Ironman triathlon as a minimum you have to be able to swim for 3.8km, cycle 180km and run a marathon.

Us amateur athletes don’t have the luxury of having a team around them to ensure the smallest detail is taken care of (which is probably why we aren’t professionals in the first place). So we should prioritize our time, effort and money on the basics of our sport. For us triathletes and cyclists this means making sure we cram in that 4-hour cycle on a Sunday morning before the kids wake up, ensuring we can get to the pool twice a week before work and lacing up the running shoes and getting our miles ticked off during lunch break or while the kids are at dance/football/ballet class.

Of course there are always areas any athlete can improve and I always advise my athletes to think out of the box when trying to maximize performance.

Here are my top tips for applying SDB’s principals to your training.

1 – Planning.
There is no hiding in individual endurance events; if you haven’t done the sufficient mileage it will be a very tough race day. Plan your training from the start to finish. Be honest with your self, how much time can you dedicate to training per week? When is the best time to train and how does that fit in with family and work commitments.

2 – Body weight.
Generally the lighter you are the easier it is to cycle/run, especially up hills. With increased training volume and intensity eating healthier can become second nature to a lot of people, others may struggle to match calorie intake with expenditure, and knowing what to eat and when. This is an area where individual needs must be met and expert advice is very much worth it.

3 – Equipment.
Let me start by saying do NOT break the bank by lining up the £10’000 time trial bike that you’ve always wanted. Make a start by getting the most of the equipment you already have, start by adding a pair of clip on Tri-bars to your road bike, see a professional bike fitter who will ensure you are as aero dynamic as possible on your bike. Exchanging traditional shoes laces for elastic laces. You will also need to be comfortable on race day, so it is best not to use band new equipment for the first time in a race, nobody wants blisters from new shoes half way around the run course.

4 – Strength sessions.
Having been a strength coach for a long time before I began to focus on endurance sports I am a massive advocate of strength and power sessions for endurance athletes. Cyclists/Triathletes need to be flexible in the hips, shoulders and spine especially, all the muscles and joints of the lower limbs need to be strong, this will not only help prevent injury but it will also increase performance. You do not need to be lift heavyweight weight like a body builder, instead sets need to be higher in reps and lighter in weight, as a general rule. The muscles of the core need to be strengthened, this will hold the body in a better position and alleviate excess energy expenditure.

5 – Sleep.
I have deliberately put this one last as it often the hardest to control and do anything about. The average adult needs 6-8 hours sleep a night, this can increase with exercise. Our bodies go through the majority of recovery processes between 10pm-2am so being asleep between those hours is ideal.

I will be writing a separate post titled ‘Maximize your sleep for better recovery’

Riccardo Composto – Season Review

Riccardo Composto

I started training with Max in January 2016. My main objective was qualifying for the 2017 European championship for Olympic distance (ETU 2017).

My background and fitness was pretty good in swimming and running, but the bike has always been my weakness.

I have always been a self trained athlete and had very little knowledge of what to do to improve specific areas. My main struggles were managing work/life/triathlon balance as well as training for a specific race while also racing other minor competitions.

With Max, I have managed to improve dramatically my bike split and my overall fitness. To give an idea I knocked off 18 minutes (mainly from bike and run) from my 70.3 race (despite atrocious wether conditions this year) and more than 5 minutes from my Olympic distance. I managed not only to qualify for ETU 2017 but I also came 5th in my age group (30-34), which was extremely competitive age group!

During the year I set a few PBs, and managed to improve my half marathon time (now down to 1:20). I also came among the first three spots in most of the London League triathlon events for my age group, winning one of the Thames turbo sprint triathlon races.

What a year! Next challenge for me (and Max!) is doing well at ETU and qualifying for 2018! needs to resume! Looking forward!!

3 races, 3 weekends!

1 – Ironman Wiesbaden 70.3, 14th August, 1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21km run

Oh Wiesbaden, we have history…. It was the first triathlon I ever entered, back in 2011 and this year would be the forth time I had headed over to Germany for it. The first time was a rude awakening to what a very hilly 70.3 felt like the second was a DNF due to a crash on a steep decent, and the third time, last year, was pure redemption and a sub 5.30 finish, which put will well up in my AG.

This year I had set 3 goals for the race, firstly a sub 3 hour bike, which would mean a 30kmh average, and with 1455m of climbing that wouldn’t be easy, and quicker transitions to last year…. and to beat last years 5.28.

Travelling back and forth to Frankfurt twice in the previous few days wasn’t really ideal, and 5 days holiday in Ibiza a couple of weeks ago wasn’t what ‘the coach’ would necessarily suggest but nevertheless it was fantastic and greatly needed. Besides I had put in some serious work in the 2 weeks before Ibiza and got back to it the week after.

Any IM event that I have done has the race briefing and bike drop the day before, now usually they are in a big tent in a field, but Wiesbaden being the European championships IM uses the beautiful Karhaus (Casino hall)

Not much had changed from last year other than the swim course and a small stretch at the end of the bike due to road works.

After the briefing I headed to the lake and dropped my kit in T1 and headed back to hangout with the wife and my son, in fact we went swimming…. well splashing!

I had driven the course on the Saturday morning before the race briefing so all there was left to do was force massive amount of food into my belly and try and get an early night, thankfully, Jona obliged.

Last year I clocked an Ok (for me) 37mins but had swam the long way round, the swim course had been slightly changed, due to the lake being a working lake which sand is dredged from, so the shape and depth of the lake is different every year. However being sand based it is always clean, if not always clear! This year the course was mushroom shaped, and the same entrance/exit point was used on the shore. The rolling start helped me focus on my own swim and stay relaxed and with last song I heard in the car on the way (Karma Chameleon) in my head I focused on my technique, and not my sighting, as the mushroom shaped course wasn’t the easiest to follow, I exited in 37 minutes. But T1 was quicker, yey!!!

I know this course, and I know where I crashed, I know the ups and downs. I really wanted to beat last years 3.04 and went hard on the first 20km, which is nice and flat. Then we entered Wiesbaden and the hills start, the 1st significant decent is where I crashed in 2012, no problem this time, the next one is so steep IM do a special King of the mountain prize for the quickest AGer up it, it wasn’t me but I went past a few and no one passed me! At the top you take a quick left then right and you are on the long climb up into the Taunus area, basically its Germanys Peak District, 5.8km at 8% average, again I hit a steady cadence and seem to pass plenty of riders… at the top we continued up and down with some lovely long descents which I reached speeds in excess of 70kmh, I felt much more confident on them this time round, mostly due to the time spent in Mallorca with @methodtriathlon, there are some nasty corners at the bottom of steep hills, you know its dangerous when there are hay bales on corners, and I am sorry to say I saw 2 riders being loaded into ambulances. Anyway after 84km I found myself at the top of the pre-mentioned hill and all that was left was the long decent back down to T2, that 6km took just 8mins!!! 2.58 bike more watts and more speed than 2015. Happy

T2 was quick, less than 2 minutes, but I knew almost straight away I was in trouble my quadriceps muscles were cramping with every stride, Nevertheless the first 2 km passed in 4.40s, 5km passed in 23.30, but after the first lap the cramping returned and my pace slowed, then the pain got worse and I walked, then I stopped and stretched…. this felt rubbish Run walk run walk for 13km wasn’t fun but eventually I got there feeling a little dejected I entered the finish area and saw Inga and Jona furiously waving at me, this spurred me on a little and I managed at least to finish by running over the line!

I had eaten plenty on the bike and in the days before, lots of salts. Once I uploaded my Garmin I had an idea of where I went wrong, I just pushed too hard on the bike, too many watts had fatigued my legs just too much… Once over the finish line I met up with Inga and Jona, Inga knew I hadn’t finished in the time I had hoped but Jona first words in front of me were ‘I need a wee-wee, can I do it on the tree’? (He’s potty training).

Of course I am a little disappointed that I didn’t perform as I had hoped. It’s a great event and well organised. There was a lot less spectators than in previous years, as well as added security at bike check-in and transition, sadly, perhaps just a sign of the time over in Germany.

Life is good, and I get to do it all gain next Sunday!!!

2 – Cotswold Classic, 21st August, 1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21km run

So I entered this race when Inga had decided that she and Jona would be spending a week in the USA with her parents, it was never really a conscious thought that I would be doing two 70.3’s in consecutive weekends, but once I realised I could I thought I would. It would be a good challenge if a little daft!

The past week consisted of travelling back from Germany, a couple of massages and limping around, a couple of light Wattbike sessions and a jog around the park was the only ‘training’ I did. The pain of the cramps I suffered in Wiesbaden stayed with me for a few days, and to be honest I could still feel them on Friday and even at the start I wasn’t 100%.

It wasn’t just me this time I had two clients taking part as well as a couple of other familiar faces, and Chris from @methodtriathlon came along to offer his unique style of support.

The night before a group of us headed into Swindon to an Italian restaurant to get stuck into the pasta and bread, then I was back to my hotel for an early night as I was due to start at 7.10am.

The event is in the heart of the Cotswolds; the swim in is a shallow water sports lake. In fact the organisers informed us the lake was particularly shallow, and in parts so shallow it was possible stand up in.

We were let off in waves of approximately 100, and followed an M shape course across the lake. As we were told the lake was very shallow in parts, so shallow in fact I could of pulled my self along with my hands on the bottom in parts.

The first 400m I felt awful, tight shoulders, couldn’t get my breathing right, I was convinced I was going to get cramp… We turned the left at the first buoy and I slowly began to relax, my arms and shoulders began to feel looser and I slowly started to pick up speed. I suddenly found myself swimming along side my client, I recognised his wetsuit, we stayed together for about 800m, perhaps it spurred us both on a little bit. I exited the lake in 33mins.

My first transition was quick enough, wetsuit off; shoes and helmet on and off we go. The bike course is two laps of a P shaped course, it only has 1 hill on each lap, and that hill is only a couple of hundred meters long. So gauging my effort using my power meter was going to be important, especially after over cooking it on the bike last week in Germany. I had already decided that I would try to keep to 65-70% FTP around 210w, even if this meant sacrificing speed in the hope of saving my legs for the run. The winds were strong and on the way back it was directly blowing into my face making the ride feel harder than perhaps it should of. The nature of the course made for constant effort, no hills also means no rest on the downhill’s, so by the T2 arrived my legs were feeling heavy. The bike course was all on relatively quiet roads however within the last 15km I passed what looked like a serious accident, cyclist – ambulance – parked cars… As competitors wee were asked to dismount and walk past, we have since be informed the rider is doing well, despite a few broken bones. A timely reminder that racing is meant to be fun, but we all have to be incredibly careful. I finished the bike after 2.32.

Another quick transition and out on to the 3-lap course. The first half is mostly under the trees on dirt footpaths that rug the edge of the lake we swam in. The shade was much appreciated as the sun was beginning to warm up the air by this point. The second half is mostly on the roads of the local village before heading back to the lake to complete the lap. I took the first 2kms very quickly and soon realised I should slow down to avoid the pain of the week before. However having done a strong bike I had my eyes on a sub 5-hour finish. The second and third laps began to hurt, but no cramps. I did slow slightly in pace towards the end of the run but crossed the line in a time of 4.56.

113 events run the Cotswold Classic, they are a smaller brand then the multi-national monster that is Ironman, but they organise a great event, all the marshals are great and the feed stations are very comprehensive. I was pleased with my performance considering I had raced the week before. Had I been fresher I would have hoped to finish in around 4.45.

Just Daventry Sprint to go….

3 – Daventry Sprint Triathlon, 21st August, 400m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run

This past week was really all about recovery, I had to visit Sarah at Physio Remedies as I had some foot pain, she poked and pulled my foot around and told me it was just some inflammation after the abuse I had given it in the last 2 weeks. Even my left foot was very painful all week. Totally my own fault but nevertheless I was pleased I wasn’t having to chase Jona around this week. Daventry is the town where I went to school and the swim is in the Leisure Centre where I played a lot of basketball in my teenage years. I stayed with friend the night before which made getting to the venue incredibly easy. Having done the 2 70.3s and no speed work for months, it was obvious I would just go 100% from the start and hope the foot was Ok to run… I would stop if the pain were too much.

The 400m swim was in the pool, I just went hard from the start, pushing off was a little tricky on the foot, not a great start. I slowed a little in the last couple of lengths but exited in 7.07, the timing mat was on the exit of the swimming pool so by the time I had climbed out of the water I probably wasn’t far off the 6.45 I submitted on entry.

I used tri specific shoes for the first time in a race, which gave me a few seconds in T1 & T2. The bike course was a 20km loop on open but quiet roads, and apart from a couple of big roundabouts near transition it was drama free. I over took plenty of other riders and no one came past me, I knew I was on for a decent time, the 2km hill exiting the village of Braunston certainly did drain the legs, but for every up there is a down so it evened out nicely and I finished the 20km in 35.31.

I slid on the running shoes and heading off on the run course that took us around the country park, it was strange as I haven’t been there since I was about 10 years old. Anyway the foot began to hurt almost as soon as I began but it was just there constantly and the pain didn’t increase. I kept going, but it wasn’t great, the lack of speed work meant I felt slow and sluggish. The course was on dirt paths and under trees so it was slightly slippery in parts. A couple of guys who had started behind me came past, normally I would try and stick with them but given the foot I didn’t have the top end speed to keep pace. The small hill up to the finish felt like a mountain I was pleased to finish in 18.38… yes, it was slightly short of the full 5km.

I finished with a time of 1.03.49 a 10th place overall. I know if I was 100% I would have been slightly quicker but I am pleased that I did this race. Another well organised event.

Why Use EMS (Electromuscular Stimulation Training)

EMS has become increasingly popular throughout mainland Europe over the last few years and I’ve been one of the first personal trainers in the UK to offer EMS training from our studio in Canary Wharf, using the innovative Miha Bodytec machines.


What is EMS?

Muscle contraction is caused by the central nervous system, which sends electrical impulses to control muscle contraction. During EMS training this natural principle is used: the EMS device generates an electrical impulse which is delivered through electrodes placed in direct proximity to the muscles, causing the muscles to contract. EMS technology has its origins in rehabilitation and was first proven to be effective on human performance in the 1970s.

The Miha Bodytec machine is superior to conventional EMS training devices as it stimulates agonist and antagonist muscle at the same time, as well as deep muscle groups that are difficult to reach with conventional methods. During training, you will wear a vest, which contains electrodes in the areas of the upper and lower back, abdomen and chest, a hip belt that stimulates the gluteal muscles, as well as arm and leg pads. The intensity of different muscle groups can be controlled, and Max will create a program customised to your needs and aspirations.

Due to the intensity of the workout one session per week is enough to achieve results. The success of EMS training becomes visible and tangible after just a few weeks: Fat content and weight are reduced, while muscles are strengthened and toned, and general wellbeing is improved. Research has shown that EMS offers the following benefits:

Benefits of EMS

Due to the intensity of the workout one session per week is enough to achieve results. The success of EMS training becomes visible and tangible after just a few weeks: Fat content and weight are reduced, while muscles are strengthened and toned, and general wellbeing is improved. Research has shown that EMS offers the following benefits:

Strength & Conditioning / Sports Performance

  • Increased muscle size and strength
  • Increased muscular endurance
  • Increased explosive power

Health & Wellbeing

  • Reduction of lower back pain
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Improved posture
  • Reduction in symptoms of incontinence (particularly postnatal)
  • Strengthening of connective tissues Weight loss and appearance
  • Increased metabolism leading to…
    • Decreased body fat%
    • Decreased body weight
    • Decreased abdominal girth
  • Reduction of Cellulite

While EMS offers excellent results on its own, I believe that it should be seen as a supplement to traditional training and a well-rounded nutrition plan.

Why use EMS?
  • The use of Miha Bodytec is the only training form that increases maximum performance via improved speed of motion.
  • 84% users reported an increase in performance.
  • After just 4 training session maximal strength increased by 17%.
  • 71% of participants increased endurance levels.
  • Strength-endurance values increased by as much as 108% after 12 training sessions.
  • After 4 weeks of training, maximum performance rose by as much as 30%.
  • Muscle contraction speed increased 22% on average. The explosive power of core rose by up to 74%.

Source: Studies at the University of Bayreuth (Boeckh-Behrens et al. 2002-2006) and the German Sports University Cologne (Kleinöder/Kreuzer/Speicher 2006-2008)

  • 88 % of the subjects reduced their back pain. The frequency and duration of back pain reduced by up to 80%.
  • 40% of participants complained about constant back pain at the start of the study, after 6 weeks of training this reduced to 9%.
  • Back pain totally disappeared in 44% of the patients with chronic complaints. The duration of back pain in everyday life improved by 30%.
  • An alleviation of urinary incontinence complaints was achieved in 65% of the cases. 24% of subjects became complaint-free, whilst a decrease in complaints occurred in 24%.

Source: Studies at the University of Bayreuth (Boeckh-Behrens/Vatter 2003, Boeckh-Behrens/Walz/Niewöhner 2003, Boeckh-Behrens/Sebelefsky/Grützmacher 2002, Boeckh-Behrens/Stötzel/Benner 2003).

  • 87% of participants report clear visible body-contouring effects; with a substantially more positive perception of their bodies.
  • 89% felt more firm and taut after the training program.
  • EMS training reduced the percentage of body fat by 4% within 6 weeks.
  • Females lost an average of 1.5 cm from their waist and hip circumference.
  • Male subjects reduced their abdominal circumference by up to 2.3 cm – with a muscle buildup of 1-2 cm on their legs, upper arms and chest.
  • After just 13 weeks of training overweight subjects lost an average of 3.5 kg and 9% body fat as well as 6.5 cm at the waist and 2 cm on their upper arm circumference.
  • Subjects over the age of 65 lost 6.8% of their abdominal fat and 6 cm of their waist measurements – even with a low level of training.

Source: Studies at the University of Bayreuth (Boeckh-Behrens/Vatter 2003, Boeckh-Behrens/Walz/Niewöhner 2003, Boeckh-Behrens/Sebelefsky/Grützmacher 2002, Boeckh-Behrens/Stötzel/Benner 2003, Boeckh-Behrens/Treu 2002), a study at the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (Kemmler/Birlauf/von Stengel 2009), Miha Bodytec own studies

  • A 12-week EMS training program demonstrated beneficial effects on muscle strength and power in elite rugby players (Babault et al 2007).
  • Results suggest that supplementing dynamic contractions with EMS appears more effective than EMS only, or weight training only, for increasing knee extensor strength and Vertical Jump scores in female track & field athletes (Willoughby & Simpson 1998)
  • Combining EMS with dynamic contractions may be the most effective the most effective method of increasing muscular strength in USA college basketball players (Willoughby & Simpson 1998)

    An athlete of old, isn’t everyone(?)

    Toby Davies
    Age 42
    Weight 83kgs
    Height 5.11
    Body Fat 12%

    An athlete of old, isn’t everyone(?), my last attempt at fitness was in 2010, my eldest had just been born and I finished that year 132 in the Marmot and a week later 512 in the Etape, should/could have done better, Wife then instructed me off the bike. Prior to that I lived off my achievements as a teenager, having been a middle distance athlete for county and country but come university I had a choice and it wasn’t athletics. In 2008 I had an accident whilst Kite surfing in Africa and managed to practically kill myself ending with two weeks in a Jo Burg intensive care unit, after having broken my leg, split my skull open, severely damaged circa 80% of my lungs with sea water and carelessly lost a couple pints of blood enroute from Mozambique. That accident spurred me onto the bike and the achievements listed above……. But I felt there was more, not least I was board of my own pub chat on sporting achievements, along with the rest of my peer group, as 40 somethings, we were all still talking about events /achievements of over 20 years prior!!!!
    The Haute Route – Alps, “The toughest amateur cycle race in the world” or that’s what it purports to be, circa 900km and 23km of vertical height gain over 7 days, for some reason this seemed a sensible objective for my return to cycling. I gave myself 1 year to prepare, not that I would need that to complete it, but, I wanted to complete it at the front, or the closest to the front that I could achieve….. I needed help.
    Max; we started in the Gym looking at core strength and advice on diet for weight loss that climbing up mountains requires aka cycling chic. I was also looking for a cycle coach and Max put his hand up for this also, so with a weekly training schedule, diet advice, training peaks as the medium to communicate day to day, we set off. The first 3 mths, it felt like little was happening, weight stayed more or less static, and the training seasons didn’t get any easier (they never got any easier). Then slowly things started to improve, power on the bike, average speed increased and weight started to come off, at 77kg’s and circa 3.85 watts/kg I felt I had achieve all I could, but we had 8 mths to go, the training seasons on the bike developed as did the gym work (twice a week, meeting Max twice a mth). Come Feb with 6/7 mths left, we increased the bike miles, and weight carried coming off in a controlled manor, hitting in April 73kg’s, 4.3 watts/kg, which propelled me to 6th place in the 272 kilometre Liege-Bastion-Liege amateur race of some 6000 participants (how many do the full distance I’m not sure, for sure it was the longest distance I had ever ridden in one go by almost 90km! and it rained the whole way). Happy with that I put head down and carried on, Max found more and more interesting and challenging training schedules, although also at this time I remember a prompt call to say stop cycling, take a rest!!! Max was right of course I had dug myself in to a hole of fatigue, but all part of the journey which I was still somehow managing to balance around work and family.
    The final two mths; I have to thank my wife, as much as Max, as time with family did suffer a little, but that said it was great to see them all so supportive and good for the kids to see what dedication can achieve. After two weeks in Corsica where I cycled every morning approx. 200km (thank you Mark Warner kids club), I was flying, the Tour De France had been in Corsica in 2013 and I was posting times on Strava faster than the Tour riders!!! 63kg = 5 watts/kg, 6.7% body fat, domestic pro type status… I got a late entry to the Trois Etape pro/am cycling event, where I finished 3rd, beating all except one of the twenty pros, including Yens Voigt… I beat Yens Voigt!!!! And again posted times on Strava faster than some of the Tour boys.
    Haute Route; circa 750 riders, would say some of the best amateur and semi pro riders in the world, arrived in Nice for the start, I wanted to finish in the top 20 and top 10 in the mountain time trail on the 3rd day, but on arrival, everyone was looking very very game… had Max and I done enough, I seriously thought we may have misjudged this, not least the pace they set off on Day 1. Day 3, my favourite day I placed 16th in the mountain time trial, but the first British Rider and when Emma Poole (yes Olympic Silver medallist and World Time trial champion) said she was very upset not to beat me…. I knew we had done all we could. Across the week I was consistently placed in the top 25 riders, riding in the front peloton (yes me, 42 yrs old and I normally sit in front of four computer screens for 10-12 hrs a day) and finished the week in 20th spot, the first British rider of some 300 Brits, and very very happy. Max, where can you take me next.


    If you have any questions or comments, or for further information, please don't hesitate to get in touch.