shannon 5 k night 1  Mairtin Grealish, Rory Sexton and Mark Jeffers ……. 3 athletes having breakthrough seasons



Rather than talk about the race and how choppy the swim was or how my bike malfunctioned 10km from the end or how tipsey I got at the BBQ, I’d prefer to talk to about the race or journey that has been chasing time improvements at the HOW over the past five years. This is all based on my experiences, I don’t want to come across as a know all (because I still have a lot to learn) or arrogant….I just thought it was a good opportunity to share some insights.

I work as an Engineer and I like graphs, facts, numbers (for BBQs [Symbol]). Graphs in particular help show improvements, no hiding from the data as STL would say. below is a graph of my time and position improvements over the past 5 years at HOTW which I will talk about now in my best engineering English!

I’ve always had a strong relationship with HOTW. When I first started triathlon in 2006 it was the toughest race in Ireland and something I wouldn’t have dreamed taking on. People who did HOTW were seen as hardcore and had respect from peers.  Three years later I was on the start line, ready for the punishment. I don’t believe I have natural talent, I couldn’t run a lap of a soccer pitch in 2004 or swim freestyle in 2005. I got hooked on triathlon in 2006, went crazy buying gear to try and get faster but it didn’t work and I wondered why. Time has allowed to understand why!

Year on year I’ve kept coming back to Kilkee.  Why haven’t I done this for other races? Why kilkee? I see Kilkee as almost the Kona of Ireland, attracting in the best in the country to measure yourself against. There is almost a romance about the race, as Trevor said to me today over coffee.  The history of the race is impressive but the course is what I love. Competitor vs Raw Nature… hiding in calm rivers or flat cycles…all very primitive stuff. Kilkee is like going to one of STL’s training nights in Killaloe, the Kilkee weather can be like his mood. Bad mood / weather= a really tough session, Good mood/weather  = a less tough session! [Symbol]And that’s the beauty of Kilkee, totally unpredictable. You can never predict your time.

My training has changed a lot since my first HOTW. I started doing maybe 6-8 hours a week, little structure (basically did what I felt like) and lacked consistency mainly due to social life at the weekend and hangovers! Like most age-groupers I searched for that secret training session that would make me improve dramatically but what I learnt is that there are no secret sessions or shortcuts to improving your times. I’m riding the same bike I cycled back in 2009, wearing roughly the same wetsuit and running in the same runners (not literally). The last two years I have seen gains in my times, so what’s been so different? The 5 factors I see as having helped me improve over the years are (note this is my personal experiences, you may think differently!):

  1. Take a step back & review the data What are your times for last season?  Where are you weakest? What is your SMART goals? measure the gap! Set the targets. What can you sacrifice? The few pints at the weekend, watching TV late at night so you can get up early for a run?
  2. Structure – it costs money to get a coach (no more than a big night out once a month or a fancy wheel) but it forces you to look for a long term goal and a weekly plan. Plans give structure for the weeks ahead allowing you to plan your life better. Plan your week out on a Monday morning. We all miss and juggle sessions, thats life….I work an 8-5 job, cant swim in the mornings, sometimes have to work till 11pm….i miss sessions.
  3. Consistency – consistent execution of a plan leads to attaining your goals . In particular winter months need to be consistent to build the aerobic engine. Without a strong cardiovascular engine, the oxygen isn’t going to muscles themselves and keep that lactic acid at bay! A lot of my winter training was consistent miles at low aerobic zones, nothing fancy. Lots of Monday murders, Saturday cycles and swims and long Sunday runs. Training with others helps too, time passes quicker especially on the bike! I target 90% plan execution at a minimum.
  4. Drop a few Kilos I hate saying it, but weight hits you twice! Firstly it consumes oxygen to keep the fat cells alive and second its extra work on your muscles to carry the fat which then results in the muscles consuming more oxygen. Now I’m no super model, I used to weigh 87 kilos and slowly through healthy means and training I am now down to 78kg. I still enjoy my food and beer as your saw at BBQ, but for the most part eat healthy.
  5. Planned Volume Increases  Since 2009 my training volume has increased massively and in particular this year. Double sessions are a common occurrence and weeks of 16hours training and 80km of running were frequent during the winter (please don’t jump into this volume, it was ramped up slowly). I remember stephan ringing me and telling me that I will be running 70km per week and I laughed….4 weeks later I hit 70km! Aerobic volume stimulates physiological improvement and there is no way around it. Hard aerobic work = improvements. Aero wheels, helmets, etc will give you the seconds but hard aerobic work will give you the minutes.

I don’t want to seem like some sort of elite athlete here because I’m far from it nor am I qualified as a coach….its just my experiences. I see myself as a regular joe who started out with little fitness and I have progressed steadily. I suppose the message is for those starting out, don’t get frustrated if you are not improving quickly, adaption takes time (years if you come from low fitness) but stick at it, be patient and you will reap the rewards!! Make your goals smart, get a plan & record your sessions! Target 90% flawless plan execution!

Hope this helps people try and make the next steps toward improving on times in HOW 2014!

Well done everyone so far this season! Best of luck for the rest of the season!




The Chief Speaks MJ Hell of the west 2013

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