A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I needed some help with my training. It was 7 weeks until Ironman Wales and I needed focus, experience and structure behind what I was doing. Charley had previously been in contact with Mark Kleanthous who has more triathlons and Ironman races to his name than most of us could conceive of. He's raced pretty much every Ironman race on the circuit and has years of experience to share. His level of knowledge and experience was evident from the first time we spoke, but what attracted me the most was how passionate he was about sharing this and helping others achieve their best in triathlon.
Last week I spent the day with Mark out in Leighton Buzzard (near Milton Keynes) to assess my current standard and gain as many tips as we could cram in, on nutrition, swim, bike, run, transition, rest and mental game.
It was a brilliant day! Mark invited me into his home, shared his kit and lifetime of triathlon knowledge with me and sent me off as a more confident and skilled triathlete.
An area I was really keen to expand my limited knowledge in. Mark broke it down into simple and clear chunks for me. Making sure you eat at least half an hour before the hills and transitions so that when your body needs blood in the legs for power or switching over muscles, it's not stuck in the stomach digesting food. We discussed the difference between gels, bars, energy drinks sachets and what will be available on the IM Wales course. We talked about how important it is to practise my nutrition strategy and not overload with calories. He explained it's difficult to digest on the run and so getting nutrition wrong comes with a hefty price tag of risking stomach cramps or worse, having an adverse affect on my race. Not ideal.
Next we headed out for a running skills session - much needed! I showed Mark my normal running style and the one I've been working on recently - short, quick strokes - he said the latter was definitely the one to focus on. I learnt about the position of my hands, how to run up and down hill, what tempo to run at and how to keep it consistent throughout the race.
Open Water Swim
My favourite part of the day! We headed off to a private lake and I couldn't believe it - I could have stayed there all day. Mark has very kindly lent me his wetsuit for the coming weeks training and racing so it was a chance to try it on. We practised jumping into the wetsuit and then headed into the stunning lake.
He picked up on a few technique issues for me to work on. We practised a standing start and how to generate power fast. Turns at buoys, drafting on the feet and hips, how to overtake or swim over someone if they have stopped unexpectedly. We practised sighting, lengthening out my stroke and really pushing back hard on the last section of the stroke. We had loads of fun in the water, it was a stunning day and great to be in such beautiful water learning with Mark.
Back at the car we practised the swimming movement with bungee cords (I have now bought a set). Mark explained this was a very efficient way of swimming - if you only have 15 minutes to spare and will help to boost upper body strength. I'm in!
By now the hottest part of the day, we headed out on our bikes which felt like cycling into a hairdryer. I was constantly thirsty. The countryside around Mark's house is a perfect training ground with rolling, undulating hills and fields as far as the eye can see. We saw loads of people out on their bikes all of them waved at Mark - having set up and coached at the local triathlon clubs he is a familiar face in the area.
We did a 10 mile circuit at 85% of maximum effort, to practise shifting between gears, position on the bike and see what speed we did. It was great fun, I love having someone coaching me on the bike. Getting down onto the drop handlebars, focusing on effort and technique and learning from someone telling you things to focus on.
We did the 10 miles in 30 minutes and headed back to his house.
Sadly by this point we had run out of time to do a run off the bike and I had to get the train back to London.
There are so many things to consider in an Ironman and you can be bombarded with information on the internet about how you should train, eat and race. With Mark, I can put my faith in him and focus on understanding, training and learning. I don't want to be thinking about what I should do today, he is always on hand to have a quick chat if I'm unsure about something or want to discuss my race plan. It's reassuring to know that there's a reason behind how I'm feeling physically or mentally. I have a limited amount of weeks left to train so it's a fast-track program we're working on :)
I had a great day with Mark, he is knowledgeable, kind and generous. He wants to help people and loves the sport for the sake of achieving your own personal best.