First things first, this is not the official Ironman UK athlete’s guide with all the information you’ll need on the day itself. That all important document can be found on the Ironman website in the last couple of months before the event. This is a piece written by me, Simon Olney, professional triathlon coach and Ironman UK finisher, here to share some pragmatic advice with you ahead of race day. The information provided here is based on the knowledge I have acquired over the years of training athletes for this event and racing myself. The race changes every year in some respect, so always trust information from the race officials over anything you read here.

Secondly, I have written an in depth article on generic race day tips for Ironman events, which can be found here. For the purposes of this article I will assume you have read the other article, or already be familiar with other Ironman branded events, as combining the two would be unwieldily.

With all that taken care of, let’s dive in.

About The Race

A cyclist receiving a high five from a Mexican wrestler
Image credit Ironman

Ironman UK is one of the hardest Ironman races in the world. It may not have the brutal winds of Lanzarote, the humidity of Kona, or the mountain ascents of Nice; but the relentless steep climbs, unpredictable weather and hilly run course gave the race a DNF rate of over 20% in 2019. That means that for every five people who collect their number from registration, at least one will have gone home without a medal. 2019 was a particularly difficult year with 2500M of elevation gain on the bike, but the race traditionally has a high DNF rate.

The support from the locals is pretty outstanding, with the population of the local area taking to the roads with signs, banners and musical instruments to cheer athletes on. At a couple of points it can feel like you are riding up a mountain in the Tour de France, with spectators filling the road either side of you.

Ironman UK has a traditional 17 hour time cutoff. You have 2:20 to finish the swim, 10:30 to finish the bike and the swim, then 17 hours to cross the finish line. All times are taken from the time you cross the timing mat at the start of the swim, so don’t think you’re at a disadvantage by starting at the back.

Long Term Planning

You are best off booking accommodation in the centre of Bolton if you can. This is so your room is only a short hobbling distance from the finish line. A minibus service runs from the city centre to the Pennington Flash on race day, as well as parking being available in the nearby Leigh Sports Village. You’ll need to book well in advance to get a spot in the centre though, so don’t put off booking a room.

You may also want to check whether they’re serving breakfast early at the hotel you’re looking at. Many do, to ensure you can get some proper food ahead of the start.

I highly recommend travelling up on the Friday if at all possible, as registration closes midday on Saturday, and if you’re delayed on the Saturday morning you won’t be racing, or eligible for a refund. You also have a busy schedule on the Saturday, so need all the time you can get to avoid a panic.

On the Weekend

Once you arrive, the first thing you should do is register, as this is time sensitive. Once you have your race number and wristband, it’s time to head back to your hotel to pack your bags. This is covered in depth in our main article (link at the top of the page), but pay close attention to the forecast on the day, and pack anything you think you might need in your bike bag.

Once your bags are packed, it’s time to head to the Pennington Flash to rack your bike. Parking is available on the Saturday, but there is a one way stretch of road coming into the venue so it can be a bit sticky at busy times. Once you re-build your bike, take it for a quick ride around the car park, trying all the gears and brakes, to ensure everything is working as it should. If it isn’t, or you need some last minute spares, mechanics are available in T1 who can help you. Mechanical tweaks are normally free, but you will have to pay for any parts.

Once you rack your bike, it’s time to head into the marquee to collect your timing chip. Protect this like your firstborn child, as getting a replacement in the morning will not be easy, and you’ll be charged for a replacement. It’s a level of stress you can probably do without. In the marquee you’ll also be hanging your bike bag on a hook for collection once you exit the swim. Make sure your bag is hanging on the correct hook, as they will be numbered.

After everything is in place, take the time to walk down to the swim exit (the left most of the ramps as you look at the water), and walk to T1 tracing the steps you’ll take on race day. In previous years, this has always ran to the left of transition. From here head into the marquee, over to where your bag is, then outside to where your bike is waiting. This will help it become second nature on the day, and save you getting confused. It’s also a good way to check your bag is on the correct hook!

Once T1 is setup, it’s time to head to T2 which is a much simpler affair, simply hanging your bag up in the marquee, though a walk through is still a good idea. Take the time while you’re here to find where your bike racking spot is, so you have one less thing to think about on race day.

The most difficult part of preparing T2 is parking, as the traffic wardens will be out in force ticketing cars which are parked on pavements or left on double yellows, so it’s worth finding somewhere legitimate to park. Contrary to the demands of many, Ironman will not refund your parking fine.

At this point, you should be ready to go, all you need to do is turn up tomorrow in your wetsuit and perform one of the single greatest single day challenges in the world. You’ve got this.

Race Morning

In an ideal world you would have breakfast around 3 hours before the start, however this just isn’t practical for the most part. That being said, you ideally want to avoid eating within 90 minutes of the start, so try to get something down you early if you can. I recommend you change into what you plan to wear for the swim before you leave the hotel, as there are no changing facilities at Pennington Flash and you don’t really want to be changing in a portable toilet.

If you’re driving and parking in Leigh Sports Village, it’s a five minute walk. You will need to load special needs bags and your streetwear into the waiting trucks which normally close up around 45-60 minutes before the swim start. You will also want to pop into transition to check your bike and pump up your tyres before the start, so I recommend arriving 90 minutes before the start, as this time will disappear very quickly, and you don’t want to be stressed on the morning of your big day.

Once you are in your wetsuit with goggles at the ready, it’s time to take your place in the starting pen. This takes the form of a long line of barriers running from the swim start all the way back to transition. There will be boards placed at intervals along this, which designate estimated swim times, ranging from 50 minutes all the way up to 2:20.

It’s imperative you place yourself in the correct area of the swim start. Your time is taken from when you start the swim, not from when the gun goes, so there is nothing to be gained from starting further towards the front of the race. All that will happen is you’ll get swim over by faster swimmers coming from behind, vastly increasing the chances of you having a panic attack as you are pushed under the water.

Once the race starts, it may take up to 30 minutes for you to enter the water as the swimmers slowly shuffle forward. Once you get to the edge of the ramp you’ll hear two beeps in short succession as your timing chip registers on the mat. You are now on an Ironman race course.


The swim start of Ironman UK with spectators lining the shore
Image credit Ironman

Enter the water very carefully, as the water is shallow, and the entry point is wet. I’ve seen plenty of swimmers fall into the water here, so take it steady.

Once in the water, I recommend you swim slightly to the right, unless you are a confident swimmer. As the course is a series of left hand turns, those looking to put in a fast time will be staying as far left as possible, and if you’re a novice swimmer you don’t want to get caught up in the brawl. Swimming off line will add a bit of distance to your swim, but in my opinion it’s worth it to avoid being half drowned.

The first turn buoy will be just over 1KM away, which is the equivalent of 40 lengths of a 25M pool. It may look like a long way, but your training should have prepared you well for this. After a couple of hundred metres the adrenaline and fear should have receded and you’ll find yourself in the state of mind you’ll find yourself in all day, which should be a calm, controlled mindset.

At this point, check in on your pacing. Can you sustain this effort for the duration of the race? This isn’t an Olympic distance race where you want to find some fast feet and sit in, this is an all day adventure and your pacing strategy starts now.

Once you reach the far end of the course it’s a pair of left hand turns before you head back to shore. These turn buoys really are a pinch point, so give them a wide berth if you don’t want to risk getting dragged under. Once you have navigated these, it’s back to the shore to complete your first lap.

As you approach the swim exit, it’s worth sighting more regularly to ensure you’re on track for the arch. Kicking a bit more will help your legs wake up here, and make you less prone to dizziness when you come out of the water. You will run (or walk) a short, left hand loop back to the a jetty next to the swim entry ramp to start your second lap, but be aware of potentially feeling light headed as blood starts rushing around your body. Lap two will be largely the same as the first, but with more in the way of traffic in the water. Be prepared for some very slow swimmers you may not expect, so sight a bit more often. As there will be fewer swimmers around you by now, you should be able to swim slightly closer to the buoys without incident, should you wish.


As you come out of the water, you’ll be making your way to the marquee, just like your walk through the day before. Grab your bike bag and don’t rush your transition like you might in shorter races. It’s worth taking the extra 15 seconds to get yourself in a good place, rather than rush out and realise you left some food in your bag. On your way you your bike, stick your blue bag into the big crate of bags to be delivered to T2 later.

As you make your way towards the bike mount line, give other athletes plenty of space. Some will be disorientated from the swim, others will not be in control of their bike, and you don’t want to be part of a clash of bikes before you’re even in the saddle. Mount your bike in your preferred method (nothing you haven’t practiced extensively) and get ready to take on the 180Km bike course.


I wish I could give you a blow by blow account of the bike course, but the course changes every year, so instead I’ll offer some general advice which is applicable every year.

There is no Flat
An image of the very hilly bike profile
Profile of the 2019 event

You may laugh, but I’m being serious. There is next to no flat on the bike course, the only the exception of the run back into town after Sheephouse Lane. You will spend the entirety of the race either going up or down, which plays havoc with your pacing. It’s easy to get carried away passing people on the hills early on, caught up in the atmosphere and generally having a great time. However you have a long way to go, over a lot of hills, and with a marathon waiting for you at the end. Keep the heart rate reasonable on the hills, and don’t go tearing up them like a road cyclist attacking on a mountain stage.

The Road Surface is Terrible

In the UK, we are not known for the quality of our roads, and it’s especially bad north of the Watford Gap. While the local authority does make a point of repairing the worst offenders from the course in the runup to the event, you still need to keep an eye out. Ironman highlight most of the holes with spray paint in the runup to the race, but you need to keep your wits about you. There is also a lot of debris on the roads, so don’t carry 60KPH into the corners and expect to stay upright.

Lots of Corners Tighten

In the UK we have a habit of planting hedgerows along our roads. These act as a boundary for farmers and are great for wildlife, but terrible for visibility. What you may think is an innocent left hander may actually be a long, sweeping corner which then tightens. I’ve seen lots of bikes in hedges, and ambulances collecting riders from the other side of drystone walls on the course, so do yourself a favour and take it easy out there, especially if you haven’t driven or ridden the course before.

Dangerous Descents

I don’t use this word lightly, but some of the downhill sections in the past have been nothing short of dangerous. Steep gradient, poor road quality and restricted visibility combine to create some testing downhill sections. These sections are signed well by the organisers with instructions to slow down, but it’s worth developing your confidence riding downhill in the runup to the event if it’s something you struggle with.

Changing Conditions

In the past three editions the event has both had an edition where the bike was nearly shortened due to wildfires, and another edition where a rainstorm appeared out of nowhere, causing dozens of DNFs due to hypothermia and crashes. This isn’t a course you can prepare for by sitting on a turbo trainer all year round, you need good bike handling skills and resilience to the elements to succeed here.

The bike will be between two and three laps depending on the year, with a cutoff for each lap if you’re not moving at a pace fast enough to finish the course within the time limit. In recent years transition has moved into Bolton city centre where you will dismount your bike, rack it in your spot, and head into the marquee to don your running gear.


A runner during the marathon
Yours truly at the halfway point

If you make it out of T2, you already have one hand on the finishers medal. Even if you power walk large sections of the course you should have enough time left to make it across the line within 17 hours.

To start with, you run through a rather uninspiring industrial area, before finding yourself in the pedestrianised area of Bolton City Centre. This is the spectating hot point, so be sure to lap up the support and keep an eye out for loved ones. The road will winds its way through the streets until it takes you past the finish line. You will have to run past the finish line no less than three times before you can finally turn right and run down the chute. Better get a wiggle on then.

Once you have passed the start/finish line you will find yourself in Queens Park, which is the steepest section of the course. It’s tempting at this point to run up the hill, but unless you’re confident in your ability to run the entire marathon nonstop, you’re probably better off walking this section to save your legs for later.

You will turn left onto Chorley New Road, somewhere you will become very familiar with for the next 3+ hours. The road is a long false flat (slight uphill) for 3KM, followed by a U-turn, and 3KM of a slight downhill. Once you finish the downhill, you will collect your marathon band. This will be green for your first lap, blue for your second lap, red for your third, and yellow for your fourth. It’s imperative you collect a band, and the right coloured one at that, to avoid having to get into any “discussions” with the race director after you finish.

Just like the bike course, the organisers will pull athletes with no chance of finishing off the course. If you’re worried about finishing within the cutoffs, but are collecting marathons bands at the end of each lap, you are on course to finish within the time limit. Keep your head down.

After this you will turn back into another section of Queens Park where you can admire the swans, and make your way back towards the town centre for another tantalising peek of the finish line.

The lap based nature of the course may mean that as you start your run, you will be seeing people finish, or at the very least with lots of bands on. Try not to think about this, and simply focus on your own race. Don’t be lulled into panic and increasing your pace, as this will almost certainly backfire.


An athlete running down the finishing chute
The finishing chute

After you collect your yellow band, you should feel unstoppable. It’s now a simple case of making your way back to the finish line, turning right, and down the red carpet. Make the most of the crowd and savour the moment.

Once you collect your medal and assume your new title of Ironman UK finisher, you will return your timing chip and make your way through to the finisher’s area. Here you will find massage, food and a finisher’s T-shirt for you to proudly wear in the gym. From here it’s time to make your way back to T2, collect all your belongings, and bask in your achievement. You are now one of the 1% of the world who has crossed an Ironman finish line, and not only that, you did it at one of the toughest events on the calendar.

Looking for some help to get you across the line? Check out our selection of Ironman training plans here:

Turbo Trainer Vs Smart Bike

For the cyclist or triathlete looking to train in a more structured way, indoor training is a must. It allows you to ride hard without interruption, worrying about road surface or other road users.

There are two primary options available for indoor training. One the one hand we have the ubiquitous turbo trainer. This is a device you mount your existing bike onto, providing resistance and power readings. Most modern turbo trainers are also what we call “smart” turbos. These change the resistance for you based on both manual input and that from a 3rd party app.

Next up we have the smart bike. These are a relatively recent invention, with the first Wattbike released in 2008, designed for use primarily by track cyclists. This was updated more recently with the Wattbike Atom, a bike designed for integration with modern training apps. In recent years other manufacturers including Wahoo, Stages and Tacx have launched their own smart bikes to rival this, seeing a gap in the market.

So, which option is superior? A turbo trainer or a smart bike? Of curse, it’s not quite as simple as that, but there are definite pros and cons to each. Let’s start by looking into each in a bit more detail.

Turbo Trainers

Wahoo Kickr Turbo Trainer

When you purchase a turbo trainer, you will be choosing between one of two options, wheel on or wheel off.

With a wheel on trainer you can simply mount the whole bike onto a trainer using a clamp, however there’s a bit more to it than that. You have to make sure the drum the tyre presses against is at the correct tension and the tyre is at the correct pressure. The trainer will also place a lot of wear on your tyres. To get around this many cyclists buy a second wheel to place an indoor specific tyre on, which they will swap out when they ride indoors. As many cyclists will look at wheel on trainers to avoid having to remove their rear wheel, this removes much of the appeal.

Most turbo trainers are wheel off trainers, where you remove the back wheel and place the bike on the trainer itself. The advantages provided by these trainers are a greater potential for creating resistance, quieter operation, improved accuracy, more realistic ride feel and smaller unit size. The only real downside is if you plan to share the trainer with another rider whose groupset isn’t compatible with yours, as the cassette lives on the trainer. A cassette swap is a five minute job with a bit of practice, but it’s a barrier to getting your workout done, especially if you’re not feeling motivated that day.

One downside of all turbos is that by riding your bike indoors, you are putting wear on it. All components have a shelf life, and riding a turbo trainer will place wear on your components. Making sure your drivetrain is clean before placing it on the turbo trainer, and regularly checking your chain length can help with this.

Some frame manufacturers don’t cover turbo use under their warranty, so you may find yourself out of pocket if your bike is damaged on the turbo trainer. Damaging a bike on a turbo trainer is incredibly difficult, and as long as you attach it to the turbo tightly, the chances of damage are incredibly low unless you do something silly.


  • Cheaper
  • Smaller
  • Correct position every time
  • Minimal setup or fussing
  • Can take with you when travelling


  • Slightly noisier
  • Places wear on your parts
  • Potential frame warranty issues

Next up, we’ll look at what you can expect from a smart bike

Smart Bikes

The Wattbike Atom Smart Bike

There are two very noticeable differences between turbo trainers and smart bikes. The size, and the price tag.

While many turbo trainers can fold up and fit behind your sofa if you are tight on space, a smart bike needs a dedicated space, perhaps even dedicated room to use. They also come in at over twice the prize of a top end turbo trainer. So, what do you get for your money?

Smart bikes are almost silent, due to the absence of a moving parts. While the latest turbos are whisper quiet compared to classic trainers which would give jet engines a run for their money, you still have the mechanical nose of the chain, which smart bikes remove. There will still be some humming as you put down the big watts, but if you have a sleeping baby in the house or live somewhere with thin walls/floors, this could justify the purchase of a smart bike over a turbo trainer.

Smart bikes also require less calibration, due to not only their ability to self calibrate, but the fact they don’t get moved around as often as a turbo trainers do. This means your power readings will be more accurate, if you are using the Smart bike’s power meter. I encourage everyone who uses a power meter outside to also use it inside, overriding the power meter on your turbo/smart bike for more consistent readings, so this won’t be as much of an issue for many.

The big downside to smart bikes for me is adjustability. While you generally have a great degree of freedom to get yourself in the right position with smart bikes, 1mm can be the difference between a great ride and a painful one for some cyclists, so replacing your position fully on a smart bike is an ongoing battle for many. A little higher, a little shorter, try a little lower again, the tweak are often endless, especially if sharing with another rider and you have to adjust each time you ride. One client I’m working with was using a smart bike, but the fixed crank length on his model meant it exacerbated a hip issue. As a result, he had to sell his smart bike and buy a turbo trainer.

Getting the basic measurements (reach, saddle height, frame size) right can take a bit of work, but once you look at replicating a TT position on a smart bike, you’re in a world of pain. TT positions are incredibly difficult to get comfortable in at the best of times, let alone replicate on another piece of machinery. Getting the stack height, length of bars, angle of bars and gap between the bars millimetre perfect on two separate bikes is maddening. Some smart bikes allow you to use your own handlebars, but the front end of triathlon bikes are not cheap, you’d be looking at around £500 minimum to replicate the cockpit of your aero bike onto your smart bike. When you consider you’re already paying a premium to be riding a smart bike in the first place, any extra expense to get comfortable on it seems difficult to justify.

Some bikes will also have features such as showing your pedalling technique, and automatic adjustments to gradient or road feel. If a manufacturer develops both smart bikes and


  • As close to silent as you’ll get
  • Some models have intuitive features
  • Save wear on your components
  • Less calibration issues


  • Very difficult to replicate exact road position, especially for TT setups
  • Expensive
  • Bulky

Next up we answer the question you came here for. Turbo trainer vs smart bike, which ones wins out?


For my money, the downsides to a smart bike do not outweigh the cost. You may save yourself money on components, but if you consider a chain costs around £20, and you’re paying a premium of around £1000 to upgrade to a smart bike, it’s probably something of a false economy. Getting the position right on them can be incredibly difficult, and they just don’t feel as good to ride. The purchase of a smart bike should come down to the following question:

Will it make you a faster triathlete?

The answer here, compared to to a turbo trainer, is an emphatic ‘no’. Smart bikes have the potential to provide some convenience, but their features don’t justify the price for my money. If you’re primarily an indoor cyclist, are a road cyclist less sensitive to position, or are just looking to get fit at home, smart bikes may well be the product for you.

None of the professional triathletes I know have switched to a smart bike and they’re not aggressively marketed in triathlon media. You may see lots of triathletes on Instagram riding smart bikes, or hear your club mates taking about their flashy new indoor bike, but the root of this is the assumption that the most expensive option is the best option. If money is no object and you want to be the best athlete you can, the £2500 option must be better than the £1000 option. That’s how it works, right?

If you’re torn between a turbo trainer and a smart bike, make the decision that’s right for you, your budget, goals and lifestyle. I don’t want to tell you what to do. However if you’re a happy turbo trainer user, wondering if a smart bike will take your training to the next level, the chances are it won’t justify the investment.

I hope this article doesn’t come across as too negative, I have a lot of love for all the manufacturers of smart bikes, I think they’re great products which do the job they’re designed to do incredibly well. However, the demands on triathlon just don’t line up with the functionality of the bikes, and it won’t be an easy problem for manufacturers to fix.

If you had already justified a smart bike to yourself, you could instead consider some race wheels, an aero helmet, or some coaching. All of which are almost guaranteed to provide more bang for your buck.

Why Is Cycling so Expensive?

It’s the question that has crossed the mind of every aspiring cyclist or triathlete, why is cycling so expensive? You may have had a budget in your head of £100 (or regional equivalent) for your bike, but it seems even that is unlikely to leave you walking away with a bike. Let alone a road bike. That’s before you even get to the clothing and accessories.

Why is cycling so expensive? Is the whole industry a rip off? In this article we’re going on a deep dive into the cycling industry to find out. We’re going to be focusing on road cycling as this is the area I’m mot familiar with. The majority of the points here apply to off road as well.

Why Shouldn’t I Buy a £100 bike?

These bikes are what I have seen fondly referred to as “bike shaped objects” by mechanics. This may come across as snobbery, but there’s logic here.

These bikes are designed to be taken out for a short ride on flat terrain a couple of times a year. The quintessential family bike ride. They’re heavy, sluggish and will break very easily. When it does break, you will probably pay 30-40% of the value of the bike to fix it. The tyres will puncture easily, the chain will probably fall off without much encouragement, and you’ll struggle to get spare parts.

What Should I Buy Instead?

In contrast, let’s look at the classic starting bike, the Specialized Allez. Like many cyclists, I started out on one of these dream machines. Other brands are available.

A Specialized Allez Road Bike

So, what does this bike offer which our bargain basement bike doesn’t?


For many cyclists, a lighter bike is a better bike. If you get passed on the hills by those on much lighter bikes, this is very demoralising as you feel powerless. An entry level road bike like an Allez could be twice as light as a cheap bike. It still isn’t that expensive in the grand scheme of road cycling, but it’s a big step up.

Lasts Longer

I’m probably not exaggerating by much when I estimate that this bike will last 100 times longer than a cheap bike. I rode mine for the best part of 15,000 miles without major issue. Yes I needed to replace some parts, but when you consider you’re lucky to get 100 miles out of a cheap bike without needing to take it to a mechanic, the difference in longevity is remarkable. It’s actually cheaper to pay more up front in the long run.

More responsive

The Specialized pictured above uses a Shimano Sora groupset. This refers to the brakes, gears, shifters, chain e.t.c.

When you shift a gear on this bike, it will jump to the new gear less than a second. When you shift a gear on a bike shaped object, it will make a slow, clunky shift. If you’re lucky it’ll end up in the gear you wanted to without jumping around. If you’re not changing gear much this doesn’t matter. But if you’re on rolling terrain and want to use your gears to make life easier, this can be frustrating.

In addition, when you turn a corner, the steering will feel silky smooth for a long time. Meanwhile, a cheaper bike’s bearings will wear quickly. Especially when it gets wet.

Upgrade Potential

Once you’ve been riding for a year or two, you’ll probably find yourself looking at some upgrades for your bike. This could be more gears, better brakes or a new saddle. These upgrades are designed to fit traditional road bikes. Cheaper bikes often have non standard fixtures, as they don’t expect to be upgraded.

When you can be looking at £80 for a comfortable saddle, you will very quickly get to the place where you’re almost spending as much on single components as you did on a cheap bike.

Inevitable Regret

If you buy a cheap bike and get bitten by the cycling bug, you’ll end up regretting it. Whether you ride with friends who leave you for dust, or it breaks down yet again at the furthest point from home and you need to call for a pick up; you’ll end up having to sell it for a fraction of what you paid for it, and buying a more expensive bike anyway.

So, where does my money go?

The Specialized Allez starts at £650, which is a lot of money to spend on a bike. So where does the money go? And why would someone look to spend £5000 on a bike?

Quality of Materials

A bike being build in the Colnago Factory, Italy
Image copyright Sigma Sports

The biggest factor which makes cycling expensive is the materials used in manufacture of the parts. If you want a cheap steel frame, you can get this for a song. However, it will be very heavy. There are Chinese factories which manufacture counterfeit bikes, which they sell on for a fraction of the cost. However, there’s a good chance these will break, potentially injuring you in the process.

When looking to purchase something it can be cheap and light. Or strong and cheap. Most bikes need to be both light and strong, but this doesn’t come cheap. For a bike to be able to withstand thousands of miles on the road without damage the materials have to be carefully chosen. They also have to be treated in a specific way to ensure performance and safety.

This extends beyond the frame materials to everything on the bike. Wheels are notoriously expensive because they have to both be incredibly light, and withstand huge forces from hitting potholes without buckling. There will always be a cheaper option out there, but this will come with a penalty to performance and longevity.

Research and Development

A bike in a wind tunnel for aerodynamic testing

If you want to create the lightest and fastest bike on the market, this involves a considerable amount of research and development. This involves paying designers and engineers to build prototypes, time spent in a wind tunnel, stress tests on the frame itself, and dozens of other steps between concept and the bike appearing for sale at your local bike shop. These costs are passed onto the consumer when they purchase the bike, to help the bike manufacturer stay in business. And help them keep pushing the boundaries.

Pro Team Sponsorship

A bike sponsor will provide a World Tour team with hundreds of bikes over the course of a year. When you consider many manufacturers will sponsor multiple teams, you’re looking at companies spending hundreds of thousands over the course of a year to support professional teams. They hope to recoup the cost by inspiring customers to buy their bikes via the team. If you think recreational cycling is expensive, wait until you see the costs involved with running a professional team!

Running of the Business

Smaller bike manufacturers will only really make money from selling frames. The sale of bikes cover everything from the receptionist’s salary to the van they use for deliveries. If companies did not make a profit from each sale, they wouldn’t be able to stay in business, offer warranties or provide any customer service. While some products provide manufacturers and retailers with a large profit margin, bike frames are not one of them, and the whole industry relies on bike manufacturers staying in business.

But What About Expensive Cycling Clothing? Some Kit Costs As Much as Cheap Bikes

A Castelli Idro cycling waterproof

It’s true that you can get a cheap bike for the cost of some waterproof jackets, but it all comes back to performance. When cycling you build up a huge amount of heat. When you cover yourself with what is essentially a plastic bag, this traps the heat and causes the rider to overheat. You may keep the rain off you with cheap jackets, but you’ll get soaked with sweat, losing a lot of sodium in the process which hurts your performance in itself. A high end waterproof jacket will be far more breathable, while still keeping you dry.

Expensive cycling jerseys may be incredibly lightweight for summer riding, aerodynamic for use in time trials, or windproof for riding in poor weather. However, they may also be expensive simply for the sake of fashion. Where bikes themselves are all about performance, clothing is far more susceptible to trends, and you can get away with spending a bit less here. Cheaper kit will be heavier, not as breathable and won’t fit as nicely, but this will have far less of an effect on your ride than a bike which is constantly breaking.

Do I Need to Spend a Lot on a Helmet?

A Kask Mojito cycling helmet

All of the helmets for sale will meet basic safety standards, so you don’t need to spend a lot on a helmet to keep you or a loved one safe. Money spent on an expensive cycling helmet can make it more aerodynamic (faster), lighter and more breathable. Cheaper helmets will feel like a block of polystyrene on your head, where you won’t notice you’re wearing a more expensive one. There are safety systems such as MIPS available on some models, which is suggested to improve safety for a small price increase.

Fit is more important than cost when it comes to safety. You shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers under the chin strap, and it shouldn’t be too tight, or too loose on your head.

Manufacturers Will Charge What People are Willing to Pay

This is true in many industries, but is especially true in cycling. Many people will walk into a bike shop, ask for the latest bike, and price won’t even be discussed. They might not even look at the total. Manufacturers will push the very limit of what current technology permits, because they know someone will buy it and justify the investment in developing the product. It will also win professional races, building their brand.

The good news is that these customers help keep manufacturers in business, which allows them to keep the price down on their entry level bikes. Top end bikes will rarely be discounted in a meaningful way, but many components and accessories will be discounted within a matter of months following their release.


There are many factors which make cycling expensive, but you don’t have to remortgage your house to get started. A budget of £1000 will get you up and running with a setup that lasts years, and prove to be more economical than going for the cheapest possible option.

If you’re looking to get started, check out our article on choosing a road bike

Taking Your Triathlon Training to the Next Level

Once you’ve completed your first event or two, you’ll be riding the high of achievement, yet also slightly downbeat. While you’re proud as punch of your performance, you can’t quite get over why you got dropped so quickly at the start, how fast the cyclists who lapped you were going, or quite how it’s possible for the announcer to be calling in the winner as you come into T2. You make a vow, it’s time to take your triathlon training to the next level.

But what does this mean? The intention is clear, you want to get faster, but how do you plan to achieve that? There’s a lot of information out there, but much of it is conflicting. What you may think makes you faster just exhausts you for no tangible improvement to your times.

What follows is a list of recommendations to help you improve how you train, and therefore your performance. We cover the very basics first, the low hanging fruit which will provide the greatest benefits, before we start digging in a little deeper.

The focus here is on improving the training process, rather than the best way to improve your performance. While there are all sorts of products, gadgets and tips to help you race 1% faster, consistent, considered training needs to be the foundation.

Follow a Structured Plan

This doesn’t have to be a complex paid for plan from a website such as TrainingPeaks, but having some structure to your training will really help you develop as an athlete. This could be as simple as knowing you will have a long ride and a long run on the weekend which gets progressively longer each weekend, with two swims in the week and other workouts dotted in as and when you can fit them in. Alternatively, it could be an incredibly specific plan, tailored for you as an individual with specific targets on each day.

The benefit of a structured plan is that it holds you to a kind of accountability, and if you follow the basic principles of periodisation, will help ensure you’re doing the right kind of training at the right time of year. There are plenty of free, basic training plans available online, the race organiser of your event may even have one on their website.

Consistency is king in triathlon, and following a plan ensures you stay consistent. This is a guaranteed way to take your triathlon training to the next level.

Take Rest Days and Recovery Weeks

white and tan english bulldog lying on black rug looking tired
Photo by Pixabay on

Training breaks your body down, recovery makes it stronger. You may think that training for seven days a week proves your dedication and will propel you to greatness, but the chances are this will just result in non-functional overreaching and long term exhaustion. When we back off and allow our body to recover, we reap the benefits of our training, and are able to go hard at the next time of asking. One day of complete rest a week, and an easier recovery week every 3-4 weeks is recommended for the vast majority of athletes.

Get More Sleep

A woman sleeping
Photo by Ivan Oboleninov on

Most of us don’t get enough sleep. Between work, family, training and the desire for some “me” time in front of the TV, we can slip into the habit of getting less than six hours sleep per night. While rest days allow our body a break from training, adaptation to the training stimulus itself happens primarily during deep sleep. Ever wonder why you can do a hard session in the morning, feel fine for the next 12 hours, then upon waking the next day feel like the tin man? It’s only when we sleep that our body sends the signals to repair the muscles and generate more mitochondria. If we’re stingy with our sleep, our performance will suffer, and we increase the risk of burnout. There’s no point taking your triathlon training to the next level if you’re not receiving the benefits.

Eight hours may not be achievable for everyone due to work/family, but heading to bed at 10:30PM and waking at 6:30AM isn’t unreasonable for most people, and ticks the box of the magic eight hours.

Work on Your Weaknesses

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not the world’s greatest swimmer. In fact the mere smell of neoprene may initiate a fight or flight response in you. I struggled with this for many years. I overcame this not by hiding from it, but by getting in the pool three times a week and slowly chipping away.

It’s human nature to focus on what we’re good at, however if we really want to succeed in triathlon, we need to focus on where we can make the most time. If I spent an eight week training block focused on running with weekly hill reps, track work and long runs, I might be able to save a minute over 5K. This is a huge amount of time, and I’d feel very satisfied. But I’m not a runner, I’m a triathlete. If I had spent the time swimming instead focused on my running, I could have saved 2-3 minutes over 750M, resulting in a much greater improvement to my overall performance.

Get Some Swim Coaching

Swimming is the most technical sport by a long way, and you can only improve so much by ploughing up and down on your own. Whether you want to hire a coach on a 1to1 capacity or join a swim squad where the coach provides intermittent feedback, having an experienced set of eyes look at your stroke will work wonders. Coaching for cycling and running is also very valuable if you feel you struggle, but swimming provides the most gains for the majority of athletes.

Introduce Strength and Conditioning

Strength and conditioning for triathletes? Sacrilege! Well, it may not be your idea of a good time, but an effective strength and conditioning plan will provide you with a number of benefits to take your triathlon training to the next level, including but not limited to:

  • Reduced chance of injury
  • Improved muscular force
  • Greater range of motion
  • Reduced rate of technique breakdown
  • Moving better in day to day life

This doesn’t have to mean taking out a gym membership and tackling the free weights if you don’t want, but taking the time to strengthen your core, improve your balance and stretch/roll your tight muscles, even if only for 10 minutes a day, will provide an invisible yet important benefit to your training.

Get a Bike fit

A rider taking their triathlon training to the next level with a bike fit. A fitter gesturing to an image on screen
Image copyright Sigma Sports

Hopefully when you bought your bike they helped you choose the right size bike, and may have raised/lowered the saddle for you to get it in the right ballpark. However there’s much, much more to being comfortable on a bike than this. From choosing the right saddle, right handlebars and right shoes to getting these setup millimetre perfect, a professional can really help you get dialled in. When we’re comfortable on our bike we can put out more power for longer, and run better off the bike. Visiting a fitter based in a shop comes with benefits as they have lots of different components on hand for you to try out. Expect to pay £200 for a comprehensive experience, before parts or labour installing them.

Take Your Bike Training Indoors

An athlete taking their triathlon training to the next level by riding indoors
Image copyright Wahoo

Chances are we took up triathlon because we love the outdoors. But if it’s February, raining, and we only have an hour available, by the time we’ve bundled up and head out the door, we’re not going to get much of a session in. Combined with the risk of ice and low light levels in winter, training indoors becomes a very efficient alternative. The benefit of riding hard without worrying about traffic is not to be underestimated, which combined with software such as Zwift can provide an engaging experience.

Riding inside help maintain consistency, and consistency breeds success. This combined with the ability to ride intervals is essential when taking your triathlon training to the next level.

Monitor Training Intensity


Swimming, riding and running to feel will get you a long way. However if you really want to get fitter, you need a gauge to tell you what’s easy and what’s hard. Whether you use heart rate, power or pace isn’t of huge importance at this stage in your triathlon journey, but measuring your data, understanding it and reviewing it is key to high level triathlon performance. I recommend picking up a book on training to help you understand the data and decide what to do with the results.

Get Race Specific With Your Training

You’re swimming in open water on the day? You’d better get to your local lake once a week. If you’re planning to ride 180KM on a triathlon bike, you need to be doing your long rides on it. If the on course nutrition is a brand you’re not familiar with, you’d do well to try training with it ahead of race day to see if it works for you. When training for a hilly race, you’d better get some climbing in your legs. Once you get within a few months of your event, you need to start thinking about your workouts and how they help prepare you for race day.

Work With a Coach

Triathlon is an incredibly complex sport where we have a lot to fit into our training schedule, and need to learn to pick our battles. Working with a coach who understands you, communicates well with you and knows how to get the best out of you is the best investment you can make in your triathlon training, and will help you race much faster than spending thousands on fancy wheels for your bike. There are hundreds of coaches out there, offering different levels of service for different budgets, so don’t assume you can’t afford it.

We offer very comprehensive training programmes, as well as consultations for athletes looking for someone to point them in the right direction. Take a look if you’re dedicated to taking your triathlon training to the next level.

How To Prevent Punctures

We all want to prevent punctures. The dull thudding sound, sluggish steering and sensation you’re riding through treacle is all too familiar to anyone who has ridden a bike for a prolonged period of time. You have a flat tyre, which will need attention if you’re to continue your journey. If you’re lucky this will be on a warm summer’s morning and you’ll have a puncture repair kit with you, armed with the knowledge on how to repair it. If you’re unlucky it’ll be dark, cold and a long way from civilisation with no obvious way to fix it. Even worse, this could be during an event.

This experience can be traumatising for some, I’ve even hear multiple people tell me “I used to love riding to work, then I got a puncture, and my bike lives in the shed now”. While we can never 100% guarantee you’ll be puncture free, unless you run solid tyres, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent punctures. Saving you money on tubes and a lot of time in the process.

Buy Better Tyres

This is the biggest single thing you can do to prevent punctures, buy a tyre with better puncture protection. Some tyres can be purchased which a gel inside of them (such as slime tyres), but they are so heavy and slow you’ll want to steer clear of them for serious cycling, so you should instead be looking at tyres with a protective bead.

Most brands will have a nigh on bulletproof tyre (such as the Continental gatorskin) and a super minimalist tyre with no very little or no puncture protection (such as the Continental Grand Prix Supersonic), and many shades of grey between. Many novice cyclists will want to go for the most puncture protection they can their their hands on, which is completely understandable, but it does come at a cost.

The cost comes in weight and rolling resistance. Weight is quite obvious, a 32mm Gator Hardshell weighs in at 445g, so 890g for the pair. Meanwhile the aforementioned Supersonic weighs in at 140g, or 280g for the pair, that’s a whopping 610g difference, or the equivalent of carrying an extra water bottle on your bike. While this won’t have a huge effect on your times, you’d definitely notice the difference if you rode the two back to back.

The second price you pay is rolling resistance, this is how much resistance is created as the tyre rolls down the road. Sticking with our two examples, you lose 19.5w through the Gator Hardshell and only 10.2W through the Supersonic. If someone offered you 10 extra watts to your FTP, you’d probably bite their arm off, so this loss is not to be sniffed at.

Finally, we have grip. Many tyres boasting high levels of puncture protection will be made with a hard rubber compound to make it harder for sharp objects to penetrate the rubber, before it even gets to the protective band under the tyre. This comes at the cost of grip, and you’ll have less confidence going into wet corners as a result. I’ve ridden with people who call Gatorskins as “skaterskins” based on their lack of grip in the wet.

If you are a new cyclist looking to compete in your first event and the thought of puncturing during the race keeps you up at night, then the gatroskins will be fine. You won’t be leaning into the corners fast enough to worry about grip, and an extra minute or two onto your finishing time isn’t going to be a concern, so this might be the right tyre for you.

Even Tour de France riders aren’t immune. Image credit Cycling Weekly

If you are a high level cyclist looking for every possible gain, and will take your risks with the puncture gods for the possibility of a new PB, then the supersonic is probably the tyre for you.

However, the vast majority of us sit between these to categories. We want to avoid punctures, but not at the expense of performance. Over the course of a 180KM Ironman bike leg the chances are you’ll ride over something which will try to penetrate the tyre at some point, so don’t let the promise of low rolling resistance tempt you away from the pragmatic need for puncture protection. This is one of the few areas I recommend it’s worth spending a premium. Data on rolling resistance for individual tyres can be found at:

Most bikes roll off the shop floor with very poor tyres on them, so I always recommend someone buys new tyres when they purchase a bike to avoid that inevitable puncture and frustrated trip back to the bike shop.

Replace your tyres when they wear

Like most parts on a bicycle, a tyre will wear and need replacing after a time. The rubber will be slowly worn away after hundreds of thousands of revolutions, and the compound itself will start to harden, creating small cracks which pieces of flint or glass can find their way into. Many tyre manufacturers have a wear indicator on their tyres, so make sure you replace them before they reach the limit. If not for puncture protection purchases, to stop the tyre failing dramatically on you at speed, which could result in injury,

Pull debris out of your tyres

Many sharp objects will find their way into the rubber, only to be stopped by the protective bead. This isn’t the end of their journey though, as there they will sit for the foreseeable future until you pull them out. Left unattended they may make their way through the protective bead slowly over many weeks, months or even years until they reach your inner tube and spoil your Sunday.

To keep on top of this, I recommend you deflate your tyre and check it over very carefully by eye, pinching it wherever you see a hole in the tyre to check if anything is wedged in there. If there is remove it gently with a small flathead screwdriver and fix the hole with a dab of superglue to prevent anything else making its way in there.

Avoid riding in the gutter

When starting cycling it can be tempting to push yourself as close to the kerb/verge as possible to stay out of the way of cars. I recommend against this for a number of reasons, partly because it makes you more likely to ride through pieces of broken glass, wing mirror or thorns which can cause punctures. As anyone who has ridden through Clapham early on a Sunday morning can attest, a lot of obstructions can find their way into the gutter so a wide berth should be given where possible.

I’m not advocating riding in the middle of the lane, but don’t be afraid to move a bit further out. It also prevents you getting squeezed by motorists, and gives you room to swerve if something appears in front of you.

Keep an eye out for hedge trimmings

In Britain we are lucky to have many of our roads lined with hedgerows, which local councils and farmers will maintain to ensure they don’t cause problems for traffic. This is normally achieved by driving a tractor with a special attachment along the road, leaving the trimmings on the road. This is necessary work to keep the road safe for all traffic, but the chances of thorns finding their way into the road are very high.

If you see lots of greenery on the ground next to a rather pristine hedge, it’s worth riding further out into the lane in an effort to avoid thorns where possible. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but it’s a sensible precaution to take where possible.

Be careful in wet conditions

While I don’t want to put people off riding in the wet as I think it’s an important part of a rider’s development, the likelihood of a puncture is increased. This is not only because the water can act as a form of lubricant helping a sharp object penetrate your tyre, but heavy rain also washes sharp objects onto the road in the first place.

There isn’t a huge amount you can do here except make extra sure you’re prepared to fix a puncture, and maybe take an extra spare tube.

Run Tubeless

Image credit Cyclist magazine

Tubeless tyres do a great job at preventing punctures. They work without a tube (as the name suggests), instead simply using pressure to hold the tyre to the rim, with a thin layer of sealant inside.

This helps prevent punctures as if the tyre is nicked, the hole will fill with sealant (normally spraying some around for a couple of seconds in the process) allowing you to continue your ride as if nothing had happened. This is the perfect solution for many, so why don’t more people run them?

They require special wheels. While most manufacturers now provide a ‘tubeless ready’ wheel of sorts, if you bought your bike before 2018 the odds are it isn’t tubeless ready. You’ll also need special tubeless tyres. If you have a perfectly good setup and don’t have issues repairing punctures, it’s probably not worth the investment.

Tubeless is fiddly, no-one can deny that. You will need a special kind of pump which stores up air to blast into the cavity at high pressure and help the tyre sit on the rim. While an experienced mechanic can get them setup pretty quickly, the rest of us can spend a lot of time and curse words, on getting a tubeless tyre installed. You have to remove the tyre, scrape off the sealant and apply fresh stuff intermittently as well, so it’s not a fit and forget solution.

If the hole is too big to be sealed, you can find yourself in real trouble. If the hole punched through your tyre is too wide for the sealant to form a new seal, air and sealant will continue to pour out until there is nothing left inside the tyre and you’re left helpless at the side of the road. If you have an inner tube and the kit required you can install the tube as a get out of jail card. It’s worth pointing out that clincher tyres can fail on you in a big way mid ride as well, it’s just less likely.

Top up Your Tyre Pressure

When you hit a pothole your tyre is compressed dramatically. If you are running a low tyre pressure, this can result in your tube being trapped between the rim and the road. Thus will normally result in the rim puncturing the tube itself, giving you two large, parallel cuts in your tyre, known as a snakebite (or pinch) puncture. If your tyre has a good amount of pressure inside it, the chances of the rim making contact with the road (or the bottom of the pothole to be more precise) are drastically reduced.

This means topping the pressure in your tyres up at least once a week, to a pressure which works for you. Deciding on the correct tyre pressure for you is worthy of a lengthy article in itself, but it’s a tradeoff between an overly harsh ride from a high pressure, and the risk of snakebite punctures from a low pressure.

Remove the Source of the Puncture When Changing Tubes

If you suffer a puncture, it can be very easy to make the swap, hop back on your bike, then in a matter of minutes find yourself with another flat tyre. There is a tiny chance you’ve been catastrophically unlucky, but it’s more likely that you forgot to remove the cause of the original puncture. If a thorn has made its way through your tyre and pierced the tube, but you fail to remove the thorn, it’s only going to do the same thing to the next tube you put in.

To prevent this, when you remove the tyre, take the time to find the sharp implement. If you can’t see it by eye, you can try very gently running your finger over the inside of the tyre to see if you can find it. Every now and then we have phantom punctures where there is no evidence of the sharp object, but more often than not it will still be stuck in the tyre.

Ensure your Rim Tape is Sitting Properly

Image Credit Park Tool

The rim tape is what sits underneath your inner tube, and protects the tube from being pinched by the spoke holes, which sit on the rim itself. If the rim tape isn’t sitting as it should be, this can expose the inner tube to the sharp ends of the spoke hole, which will inevitably result in a puncture sooner or later.


While I would dearly love to be able to provide you with a way to guarantee a puncture free cycling experience, it’s just not realistic. If you follow the above tips then with a bit of luck this should dramatically reduce the chance of you picking up punctures. If you suffer with repeated punctures, it may be worth taking the wheel to your local bike mechanic and ask them to check for any abnormalities, but more often than not, it’s simply the cycling gods taking exception to you.

IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 Race Day Success

Note: This article is aimed at athletes who are preparing for an “official” IRONMAN branded race day. Not those who are completing the distance at “unofficial” events. If you are completing the distance at an even with a different organiser (Outlaw, challenge, independent), this is the article you need: Triathlon Race Day Success

Hopefully by the time you’re reading this your training has gone well, you’re excited, and feel nervous, yet unstoppable. However, a few mistakes on your Ironman race day can really put a spanner in the works. This may leave you disappointed with your time or even result in you failing to finish. All of that fitness isn’t much use if you can’t apply it onto the course, so we’re going to walk you through the confusing and sometimes stressful world of race preparation and race execution. This will help reduce stress and confusion on the day itself.

The following points are based on my experience of Ironman triathlons, however as the races are run as franchises there may be small differences in how each event is run. Always read the race information and defer to it over the advice I give here.

Long Term Planning

At some events you can put your bike in the back of the car, drive to the event, pay the entry fee and race. However an Ironman race day is one you need to put a lot of thought into. You will have likely signed up to many months in advance. You need a long term plan for the weekend, as at the very least you will need to be there the day before to register. Unless you live very locally, this involves finding accommodation in the area, and travelling down.

I highly recommend you travel down two days before to register. The reason for this is that if you get up at 7AM the day before the race for the 4 hour drive to the registration, and your car doesn’t start, there’s chaos on the railways or even just heavy traffic after an accident, that’s your ironman race day over before it’s begun. All that money on the entry, time invested in your training, all of it evaporates as registration closes at 12PM sharp the day before. No exceptions.


I recommend you pack your gear three to four days before you travel, even if means you’re training out of a suitcase for a few days. The reason is this gives you a chance to get the bike fixed if there’s a problem, to order a new trisuit if the zipper has broken, or new goggles if yours have completely fogged up. Finding these problems the day before an Ironman race day is a level of stress we can all do without.

Here’s a recommended packing list:

  • Bike
  • Wetsuit
  • Running shoes
  • Cycling shoes
  • Trisuit
  • Goggles
  • Spare goggles
  • Second swim cap/neoprene cap (for cold swims)
  • Bodyglide
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Suncream
  • Socks
  • Race belt
  • Tools for bike (tyre levers, spare inner tube, multi-tool)
  • Running cap/visor
  • Nutrition
  • Bicycle pump
  • Photo ID (for registration, normally a passport/driving license)
  • Plus anything that you specifically may want to take

During registration you will have indicated whether you wanted a special needs bag or not. I always encourage my athletes to say yes, so they can stick some expendables they may need in their bag. This could be a spare inner tube in case you’ve already used your spare, obscure nutrition you just might fancy on the marathon, and anything in-between. As yourself what you normally crave during a hard workout, and pack that.

Use this opportunity to read (or re-read) the athlete guide to familiarise yourself with the course and what you can expect. 

Two Days Before Ironman Race Day


Your first port of call should be registration where you will receive the following:

Blue bag– This is for your bike kit. Everything that won’t be on your bike in the morning, more details below

Red bag– This is for your running kit. In most cases will simply be your running kit, more details below

Race number– This is essential to avoid a disqualification, in Europe you need to wear it on the bike, however this is not always a requirement in all territories, so check the race guide. Most athletes will run with a race belt which their number will be attached to, allowing them to spin it behind them on the bike, and round the front for the run as per the rules.

Swim Cap– Pretty self explanatory, this will be what you wear for the swim, and will be branded with the event name. It’s one way to ensure only registered athletes enter the water.

Rucksack– All events I’ve been to will give you a branded rucksack at registration. The quality can be variable, but they’re generally a good souvenir of the event.

Wristband– This will normally be attached by a volunteer, and you will be unable to remove it between now and the finish line. It’s proof that you are a registered athlete. It’s your ticket into transition and other athlete only areas.

Become One Wristband– For first time athletes, they will receive a special wristband denoting them as a first timer. These are completely optional to wear, but might get you a few more cheers out on course.

Stickers– You will be provided with stickers that belong on your helmet, bike and transition bags. This is to mark them as your property, and to allow for identification on course.

Bike Check

Take the opportunity to give your bike the once over by riding it around for a bit, changing through all the gears. Your bike will likely need to be disassembled for transport, and in the rebuilding process mistakes can be made resulting in irritating imperfections such as a gear shift being slower than normal, all the way up to a race ending mechanical such as your aero bars coming loose or your brakes not working correctly. All Ironman races I’ve attended have mechanics on site in T1 who will be there to fix any major problems, so don’t panic if you find yourself with an issue you don’t know how to fix. This is why we’re looking into it now.

The Day Before Your Ironman Race Day

If you have the time it’s good to get these jobs done two days before (where possible). You have quite a lot of jobs to get done today, so get started early to avoid any unnecessary stress.

Pack up and Mark Your Bags

Once you’ve had time to have your breakfast, it’s time to pack your bags. You will have up to five bags to pack and label with your number.. Your bike bag, your run bag, your streetwear bag, bike special needs and run special needs.

Bike Bag

Here you will need as bare minimum your helmet and race number attached to a race belt. The vast majority of athletes will put socks in here as well. For those not attempting a flying mount they will have their shoes in this bag as well.

Run Bag

Here you may simply have your shoes, but many will pack a fresh pair of socks to change into for the run, especially for a wet race. You may want a running cap/visor and some nutrition you’re expecting to take on at the start of the run.

Streetwear Bag

These are comfortable clothes for you to change into at the end of the event. These may be found in the finishing area or transition, depending on the race. Pay attention to the forecast at the time you hope to finish and pack accordingly.

Special Needs Bags

Your special needs bags can contain whatever you like. For your first event I suggest you put in some ‘fun’ nutrition you may need to pick you up at the end. This could a bag of your favourite crisps, a soft drink or anything else you may feel you crave once gels and bars get a bit too much. If you plan to be on course for close to 17 hours this is especially important, as it’s far more likely you’ll encounter gastrointestinal issues.

Setting Up Transition

Next up it setting up your transition area. If you are attending an Ironman race with split transitions I recommend you attend T1 first as it’s more complicated.

The first thing you’ll be doing is racking your bike. You may be used to arriving early and placing your bike in the most advantageous position at smaller races. However at Ironman events you will be designated a spot on the racking. Also, you will be unable to leave anything on the ground next to your bike, it will be a case of arriving at your bike with everything you need, grabbing it and running towards the “bike out” banner.

Once your bike has been racked (you are unable to cover it in any way I’m afraid), you will head to transition, which usually takes the form of a marquee. Here your first port of call should be to collect your timing chip. It is ESSENTIAL that you remember this tomorrow, so I would go so far as recommending putting it on your ankle straight away and not taking it off until you get back to the hotel. Nobody wants to be rifling through their bags trying to find where their timing chip is on the morning of the race.

Once you have your timing chip it’s time to rack your bags. This will be on hooks that may remind you of primary school. Once your bags are hung it’s time to walk outside to the transition area and find the point you will enter transition from the swim. If this isn’t clear ask a marshal.

Next, imagine you are coming out of the water, and practice your journey through T1. You will be walking/running towards the marquee, once you’re inside, where do you go? Walk over to your bag (double check it’s on the right hook) and work out where you will get changed. Will you use the benches, or would you prefer to use the gendered changing areas? Open your bag, imagine which order you’ll be putting everything on in. Is there anything you’ve missed? Once you’ve repacked your bag, find where you will drop it (full of swim kit), then head to your bike. How many racks do you need to pass? Are there any landmarks you can use to help you spot it easier? Once you get to your bike, how are you removing it, and where are you running with your bike?

Once you have finished this, head to the “bike in” banner, or T2 if using split transitions. Repeat the same process here, heading to your racking spot, then to the marquee to locate your run bag and check it has everything you need, before identifying the way out to the run course. This will only take 10 minutes max, but can you time and stress on the day.

Race Briefing

There will be a mandatory race briefing for you to attend, which may be in person or virtual. It’s important you attend to understand the course and any last minute changes. Attendance is mandatory, so make sure you factor this into your day.

Never Stand When you can Sit

You may have spent a few hours on your feet by now, in which case it’s important to take a load off. You don’t want to spend an hour browsing the merchandise tent when you could be resting your legs. I recommend most athletes go for a short, sharp run the day before to ensure they’re not stale for the race, then try to stay off their feet as much as they can.

The Last Supper

What you eat the day before has a large effect on your race, as it will help dictate how much energy is available to you at the start of the day. I recommend something simple and easily digestible. New potatoes, fish and vegetables is a personal favourite of mine, but listen to what your body wants, within reason! Next up, it’s time to head to bed, even if it’s just to lie down with the curtains drawn and your eyes closed, listening to a podcast or some music. Ideally you’d want to be drifting off by 9PM, but this is very difficult for some, so don’t stress yourself out too much, just drift off when you can.

Ironman Race Day

Your Ironman race day will normally start around 6AM, and you’ll want to get to the site for at least an hour before the start to drop off your special needs and streetwear bags, which normally have a cutoff of around 30 minutes before the swim start. This is especially important if you don’t have friends/family supporting who can take items to the finish for you. If the swim start is a distance from the finish line Ironman will normally put on shuttle buses to take athletes from the town centre to the swim start from 3AM. If you are driving, make sure you’ve checked the athlete guide for information on the best area to park, don’t assume you’ll be able to roll up to the swim start and abandon your car next to transition.

Before Leaving

Many big hotels close to races will provide a special early breakfast for athletes competing, but check this explicitly beforehand rather than assuming. Breakfast is a personal choice, but I’ve had more success with gastrointestinal issues since I cut down on the lactose on race morning. We’re all lactose intolerant to a greater or lesser extent, and the emotions of an Ironman race day combined with the exertion of racing can cause that big bowl of porridge to sit very heavy on the stomach, or even make a reappearance in the swim if you’re very unlucky. If you struggle to eat anything that early it’s worth grabbing something to go that you can nibble on throughout the morning.

This is also a good time to put your trisuit, to prevent having to get changed in a portaloo at the race venue.

Final Preparations

Now is the time to look at the details such as your tyre pressures as well as attach your shoes/computer to your bike. I recommend you stick to the tyre pressure you’re used training with in most cases, but consider dropping them slightly if rain is forecast. Try not to obsessively check your pressure as you increase the risk of damaging the valve, which is a problem can do without.

Next up we need to get our wetsuit on. Leave plenty of time for this if you are new to the sport, as it can be very time consuming, and you don’t want to be panicking that you’ll miss the start. You can find a guide on how to put your wetsuit on here: Choosing a Triathlon Wetsuit

Just make sure you ask someone else to do your wetsuit up for you, as the last thing you want is for your zipper to break in your hands on race morning.

The Swim

What happens next depends largely on the kind of swim start the event is using. Most Ironman events use a self seeded swim start, but there are some exceptions.

Deep Water Start

Image Credit 220 Triathlon

Only used for the World Championship in Kona as far as I’m aware, athletes will self seed themselves (faster swimmers at the front), wait for the gun to go then start swimming. As you are very unlikely to encounter this in an official Ironman event, I won’t dwell on this here, however I have an article looking at deep water starts here.

Self Seeded Rolling Start

The most popular form of swim start at Ironman events. You will be placed in a queuing area denoted by placards showing predicted swim times. Slot yourself in where you think you’ll finish, but don’t get overly optimistic. Your time is taken from when you enter the water, not when the first swimmers starts. If you place yourself too far forward believing this will give you another five minutes to finish, you may end up being half drowned by faster swimmers swimming over the top of you. Not an ideal start to your Ironman race day.

Beach Start

These are very rare, and rarely seen outside of Lanzarote. This involves a group of athletes lined up on a beach with a short run into the water. The athletes will wait for a starting klaxon which signals the start of the event, and a very technical, potentially dangerous entry into the water. When the first participants reach the shoreline they’ll be able to run a short distance, before it becomes too deep to run normally.

From here many athletes will run and swing their legs our to the side to avoid the waves until the water gets too deep. At this point athletes will do one of two things, they will start with a slightly awkward front crawl in water that’s too shallow, or they’ll break into a dolphin kick, potentially with butterfly arms to match if they are proficient. This is the most effective way to move your body through shallow water, and is the choice of top swimmers. Once you are in deep water, it’s business as usual.

In the Water

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re new to open water swimming. You will want to stay clear of other swimmers where you can, allowing you to focus on your own race without worrying about swimming close to others. However, you also need to be aware of slower swimmers you may be about to swim into, so you can’t afford to swim in your own little world without the risk of injury or going very off course.

You may be very new or unfamiliar with freestyle (front crawl), and after a matter of minutes or seconds, you may feel panicked and need to revert to breaststroke. This is fine, you can breaststroke your way around the entire course if you need to, but please don’t so when close to other swimmers, as you can very easily injure them and end their race, only use breaststroke when away from the racing line. You can also hold onto a kayak for a rest if you want, although it’s best to ask the kayaker where the best place to hold onto is, as you don’t want to capsize them. Not only is this unpleasant for all involved, this affects the level of safety cover they can provide, and may distract from a swimmer in trouble.

If you find yourself in a panic without a kayak close enough, you can simply roll onto your back. You will float in this position if wearing a wetsuit.

Your primary goal is to make it to the first buoy, which you should have scouted out at the start of the race, and which everyone else will be heading towards. This does create a pinch point however, as everyone wants the best (closest) line to the buoy. If you are surrounded by other swimmers, it may be more beneficial to add an extra 5M onto your swim by going wide rather than swimming close to the buoy itself and risking a kick to the chest or being swum over. 

You will then swim to the next buoy, then the next, and so on until you reach the swim exit. Many Ironman races will use an “Australian exit” where you will exit the water, run about 50M, then get back in for your second lap, to help make the course more manageable from a safety perspective. Even if you are looking to qualify for a Kona slot, by the time you get towards the end of your fist lap the male pros (if racing) will probably be finishing their swim, and come through like a freight train. If you manage to catch a glimpse of them approaching, it’s best to swim slightly away from the racing line unless you want to risk a clout, as they’re not slowing down for anyone or anything, it’s their job to swim as fast as they can.

Swim Exit

Once you reach the swim exit, which should be marked by an inflatable arch, it’s time to to stand up. This can be tricky if the ground is rocky, slimy or deep mud underfoot, especially after 3800M. Don’t rush this, and take your time to get out of the water, there will often be volunteers to help you. 

Once you are out of the water you can either run to transition if you’re feeling ok and want to be competitive, or you can take it at more of a walk if you feel very disorientated coming out of the water. Better to take it slower and make it to T1 than to rush, fall over and potentially injure yourself. You’ve got a long day ahead of you.

The run to T1 can be long and uphill, so don’t let the adrenaline get the better of you and shred your legs before you even get on your bike. Now is a good time to remove your swim hat and your goggles. I like to unzip my wetsuit and roll it down to my waist so that by the time I get to my blue bag I have one less thing to worry about in the transition area itself.


After walking through transition yesterday this should be a breeze. Grab your bag and find a space to get changed where you won’t feel panicked. The first thing to do is remove the rest of your wetsuit and place it on the ground next to you. Put your bike gear on, stuff your wetsuit, goggles and hat in the blue bag, then drop it off on your way to the bike. Grab your bike off the rack and head straight to the “bike out” banner.


All Ironman races are held on closed roads (save for a few crossing points), so you generally don’t have to worry about cars. You still have to worry about other competitors though which can be just as dangerous. Especially on multi lap courses where you run the risk of reaching the back markers or being lapped yourself. Keep to the left as much as you can, and always check over your shoulder when making a change in direction to ensure you’re not about to wipe someone out. If you are about to pass a slower athlete, take a wide line around them, especially when approaching a corner they may swing out to take the racing line around.

Ironman events all have a 12 meter drawing zone, which means it is illegal to ride less than 12 metres behind another rider, unless overtaking. If you are passed, it is your responsibility to allow the 12 metre gap to re-establish. Don’t draft because everyone else is doing it, as you risk a five minute penalty from a roaming marshal in the form of a blue card.

The bike will be the first time during your Ironman race day that many of you will feel comfortable. Don’t make the mistake of using this as a chance to drop the hammer as adrenaline flows, you still have a very long day ahead of you. Stick to a pace which you perceive being able to sustain between now and when you cross the finish line.

There will be hills on the course, whether gentle or steep, and pacing these will make a huge difference to your bike split. If you are riding on the flats at a heart rate of 140BPM, then you sprint up a hill at 170BPM, that will be a huge effort and take several minutes to recover from. Make too many of these big efforts on the hills and you’ll be exhausted before you start the run. Instead, it’s smarter to use your gears to ride up them with the minimum effort required to get over the hill. This will still increase your heart rate, but allow you to get straight back to racing once you hit the bottom of the descent, rather than freewheeling with burning lungs for a few minutes.

Nutrition should be at the forefront of your mind on the bike, make sure you keep on top of your calorific intake. You may find it preferable to eat solids in the first half of the bike, then switch to liquids and gels in the second half. More information on race nutrition here

There will be several feed stations on course, and one area for you to access your special needs bag, often close to the transition area. For the feed stations volunteers will stand holding bottles and food out for you and calling out the contents such as “isotonic!” “gels!” or “water!” as you approach. They will be holding the nutrition between two fingers and out at a distance which means you should be able to catch them at speed. You can also ditch your empty bottles here by launching them into the designated littering zone.

Mechanical support is available on the bike, however they will not fix punctures, it is your responsibility to learn how to do this and practice in your own time. Mechanical support is reserved for more serious issues such as broken spokes, tyre blow outs or bent rear hangers. If you require assistance, inform a marshal and they’ll request support for you.

Above all, make sure you don’t let your ego get in the way on the bike. You could end up being passed by hundreds of athletes on the bike. But there’s every chance you’ll pass them on the run if they’ve gone too hard on the bike. More people regret going too hard on the bike than not going hard enough.


As you approach the end of the bike, it’s time to think about your dismount. There will be a dismount line in the same manner as the mount line, which both your feet must touch before you cross. Failure to do so would result in a penalty. For most athletes, this will be a case of pulling over a few feet from the line, dismounting as normal and running towards your rack where you’ll leave your bike before heading to the marquee.

Once inside the first port of call should be finding your bag and removing the contents, much as you did following the swim. You will then remove your cycling gear and switch into your running gear instead.

For many athletes T2 can be the lowest part of the race. You may have really struggled towards the end of the bike, and the prospect of running seems the least appealing thing currently. I recommend you take the time you need to get yourself into your kit without rushing, but don’t spend any longer sitting down that you absolutely have to as it will only make it harder to get going again.

You will either be placing your run bag back on the hook or placing it in a drop off point depending on the event, which you will then be able to collet the end of the event.


Now it’s a footrace to the finish line, and the simplest of disciplines in many ways, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach the finish line.

The run at the end of such a long event is war of attrition. If you’re used to running your way through the field at the end of a shorter race, it’s important not to get carried away in the opening kilometres. Unless you are a very accomplished runner there’s a good chance you will have to run/walk your first Ironman marathon. This isn’t what you want, and it isn’t what I want either, but short walking breaks are preferable to walking the last 10KM, experiencing a race ending cramp or collapsing from exhaustion. This run/walk can be in the form of a regimented strategy such as run 10K, walk 1K, or it can simply be a case of walking the aid stations, which even professional athletes at the highest level will do sometimes.

There will usually be aid stations every mile with food, water and sometimes toilets. I recommend you take something from each aid station, even if it’s just a cup of water to pour over your head to cool yourself. Running past aid stations because you don’t need anything can set you up for a serious implosion later on.

As most Ironman marathons take place over four laps they need an easy way to see who has completed the requisite laps before finishing. This is tracked with marathon bands, which are coloured and sit on your wrist. You collect them towards the end of each lap, and once you have a full set allow you to enter the finishing chute. If you are flirting with the cutoffs, they will stop giving out the marathon bands for each lap when they consider anyone who is still at that point in the race would be unable to finish.

The Finish Line

This is it, what you’ve been training for, the finish chute experience. At Ironman races you are unable to take anybody down the chute with you, so while grabbing your child to run down the finishing chute with them would be a lovely gesture, it will result in a disqualification. They also have rules on outside assistance, so be careful what you take from the crowd. I don’t mean to be a killjoy, I just want you to end up being denied a medal on a technicality.

Once the MC has announced your new title as an Ironman you will be handed a medal. If you require any medical assistance you should inform one of the finish line marshals, otherwise don’t dramatically collapse over the line for dramatic effect to allow the medical crews can prioritise those who genuinely need help. A volunteer will remove your timing chip from your ankle From here you can make your way into the finishers area.

Here you will be presented with food, which can be anything from pizza to a full buffet depending on the event. There will also be masseurs, and this is where you can connect your finishers T-shirt. Some finishing areas will include your streetwear bags to take home, others will ask you to walk back to T2 to collect your clothes, where you’ll have to head anyway to pick up your gear and head home.

Whether you have completed your first Ironman 70.3 or your 20th Ironman you should be incredibly proud of what you have achieved. If you are in any doubt of your ability to drive home safely, it’s best you check into a nearby hotel, as you wouldn’t want a tired driver on the roads while you were out training on your bike.

Make sure you get plenty of photos of you with your medal and your bike to remember your accomplishment in years to come.

Inspired to sign up? Visit to find the right event for you.

Triathlon Race Day Success

Hopefully by the time you’re reading this your training has gone well, you’re excited, and feel nervous, yet unstoppable. However, a few mistakes on your triathlon race day can really put a spanner in the works. Maybe even result in your failing to finish. All of that fitness isn’t much use if you can’t apply it onto the course, so we’re going to walk you through the confusing and stressful world of race preparation. This will reduce stress and confusion on the morning itself.

It’s worth clarifying that every race has its quirks and differences. There are races which start at 7PM, are pool swims, end with a run up a mountain, mix up the disciplines and more. Don’t see this as being a guide to your race specifically as it can’t cover all possibilities, Make sure you always read the pre race information on the organiser’s website. Don’t make assumptions that what you read here will happen on the day.

Two Days Before

This is the best day to organise your kit. As most triathlon race days are Sundays, by packing your kit on the Friday is a good idea. Not only to make it a less stressful experience, you make it more likely you’ll remember something you forgot to pack. This also gives you time to replace anything missing/broken.

Here’s a recommended packing list:

  • Bike
  • Wetsuit
  • Running shoes
  • Cycling shoes
  • Trisuit
  • Goggles
  • Spare goggles
  • Second swim cap/neoprene cap (for cold swims)
  • Bodyglide
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Suncream
  • Socks
  • Race belt
  • Tools for bike (tyre levers, spare tube (unless running tubeless), multi-tool)
  • Running cap/visor
  • Nutrition
  • Bicycle pump
  • Photo ID (for registration, normally a passport/driving license)
  • Plus anything that you specifically may want to take

Use this opportunity to read (or re-read) the athlete guide for your event.

The Day Before

Unless you race is very local, I recommend travelling up the night before. A traffic jam, cancelled train, or dead battery could be the end of your triathlon race day before it’s even begun.

List of Jobs
  • Rebuild bike and take it for a very short ride to check everything is working ok
  • Organise nutrition, attach it to bike/place it in clothing where applicable
  • Drive the bike course (if you own a car)
  • Walk to the swim start to get an idea of the swim course
  • Register, if possible
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat a nutritious, easily digestible meal
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Get an early night

Race Morning

Wake up at least 2 hours before your start time, allowing more time if the venue is further away. You want to arrive with at least an hour between arriving at the venue and your start time. There are a lot of things that can go wrong during your triathlon race day. Give yourself as much time to deal with these as you can.

Before Leaving

You’ll probably want breakfast before you leave for your race, but hotels can make this difficult, unless you are staying at a big hotel close to a big race, who will often put an early breakfast on. Breakfast is a personal choice, but I’ve had more success with gastrointestinal issues since I cut down on the lactose on race morning. We’re all lactose intolerant to a greater or lesser extent, and the emotions of race day combined with the exertion of racing can cause that big bowl of porridge to sit very heavy on the stomach, or even make a reappearance in the swim if you’re very unlucky.

This is also a good time to put your trisuit, or whatever you’re wearing for the swim on. Races don’t normally have a dedicated changing area, and I doubt you want to get changed in a portaloo.

Leave your accommodation with plenty of time to make it to the start. It’s better to be sat around in your wetsuit for another 15 minutes than to miss your start because you hit the snooze button.


If you haven’t registered yet, that should be your first port of call. You should receive the following, unless they arrived via post in the preceding days:

  • Race number
  • Wristband
  • Race number stickers
  • Timing chip

Contents may vary from race to race

Your timing chip will normally be in the form of a plastic chip on a band with a velcro closure system. This is placed on your left leg, to prevent it from interfering with the bike. Make sure you do not put this over the top of your wetsuit as not only does this increase the chances of it getting knocked off in the water, it also makes it a pain to get your wetsuit off.

The wristband allows you access into transition and will normally include your race number so marshals can check it matches the number on your bike.

Your race number usually needs to be placed on your back when cycling and your front when running. A race belt is the best solution and prevents you messing around with safety pins through your expensive tri suit.

Your race stickers belong on your bike and your helmet, and are used to identify you both on course and in race photos afterwards. They are also used to identify your bike in transition when the marshal will cross reference it with your wristband, to stop someone walking off with your pride and joy.

Setting up Transition

Your next port of call will be heading to transition where you will rack your bike, unless you did so the evening before. On your way into transition officials will check your bike’s brakes work and that you have bar plugs on your dropped handle bars, if applicable.

Some races have stickers denoting your race number on the racking, others it is a free for all. If you have the choice, rack your bike near the end of a rack to make it easier to find. Another benefit to getting there early!

To start with place your bike on the rack, which normally takes the form of a scaffolding tube. The jury is out on which way it should face, just make sure you have a plan for removing it swiftly without clouting your fellow competitors. Use this opportunity to mark sure it’s in an appropriate gear. If the bike course starts with a hill, don’t leave it in the big ring.

Next up you need to place the following items on/in front of your bike

  • Running shoes
  • Cycling shoes (if not attached to bike)
  • Race number
  • Helmet
  • Eyewear
  • Anything else you’ll need on the bike/run

Many athletes place their race number over the handle/aero bars with their race belt underneath so they have a simple system to work through, and prevent the brain fog. After 9 years of triathlon I was so stressed after the swim I forgot my race number on once. It helps to lay things out in an order which makes it hard to get things wrong.

I like to place a small, coloured towel in front of my transition area. This way when I’m disorientated after the swim I can find my bike easily.

Once your transition area is setup, it’s time to think about using the toilet. I don’t think I’ve ever had a triathlon race day without a nervous wee. It may be the first of many visits between now and the start. Arriving at the start line absolutely desperate for the toilet does not set you up for success!

After your comfort stop, it’s time to walk the transition area. Start by finding where you’ll enter after the swim, and head over there. Picture yourself coming out of the swim. Where is your bike? Are there any landmarks you can aim for such as a tree or catering truck? After you get to your bike, which way do you run with your bike towards the start of the bike course? Repeat this for the bike in and the run out, so you can map it out in your mind, and reduce the chances of you losing time as you run the wrong way.

Final Preparations

Once your transition area is ready, it’s time to look at the details if you have time, such as your tyre pressures. It’s best you stick with what you used in training as we don’t encourage you to try anything new on your triathlon race day, but if rain is forecast for the bike section, and you normally run your tyres at a very high pressure, it’s probably worth lowering them slightly to give you more grip in the corners. Try not to obsessively check your pressures, as every time you open the valve there’s a small chance of snapping it, so be careful here.

Next up we need to get our wetsuit on. Leave plenty of time for this if you are new to the sport, as it can be very time consuming, and you don’t want to be panicking that you’ll miss the start. You can find a guide on how to put your wetsuit on here: Choosing a Triathlon Wetsuit

Just make sure you ask someone else to do your suit up for you, as the last thing you want is for your zipper to break in your hands on race morning.

The Swim

What happens next depends largely on the kind of swim start bring used on your triathlon race day.

Deep Water Start

This involves lowering yourself into the water and swimming over to the starting area, which is normally two buoys or some kayaks. You will then wait for the starting horn/klaxon to go, after which the large group of swimmers will all start at the same time. If you are a weaker swimmer, I STRONGLY suggest you place yourself at the back or the sides of the group. Don’t place yourself in the middle or front of the group, this will only result in you getting pushed underwater by other swimmers. If you are especially nervous, after the klaxon sounds, count to three in your head before starting your swim.

Self Seeded Rolling Start

Increasingly popular in the age of Covid 19, these swim starts involve swimmers forming a long line based on their ability. This is normally marked with small signs denoting predicted swim times, to help ensure swimmers start in the right area. The start here is much less pronounced than deep water starts as the first swimmer enters the water on the signal of the race director, but the adrenaline will still be pumping as you slowly shuffle your way towards the water’s edge.

Beach Start

These are very rare, but it’s worth covering them nonetheless. This involves a small group of athletes lined up on a beach with a short run into the water. The athletes will wait for a starting klaxon which signals the start of the event, and a very technical, potentially dangerous entry into the water.

When the first participants reach the shoreline they’ll be able to run a short distance, before it becomes too deep to run normally. From here many athletes will run and swing their legs our to the side to avoid the waves until the water gets too deep. At this point athletes will do one of two things, they will start with a slightly awkward front crawl in water that’s too shallow, or they’ll break into a dolphin kick, potentially with butterfly arms to match if they are proficient. This is the most effective way to move your body through shallow water, and is the choice of top swimmers. Once you are in deep water, it’s full steam ahead to the closest buoy.

Pontoon Start

This is the start you are least likely to encounter as an athlete, I am yet to see it used outside of a pro race, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. You will line up on the edge of a pontoon ready to dive in. Athletes will be told to take their marks, before a horn sounds signifying the start. I have participated in races where I started holding onto the pontoon used by the pros, waiting for the signal to let go and start my swim.

In the Water

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re new to open water swimming, and it will be the most intimidating part of your triathlon race day. You will want to stay clear of other swimmers where you can, allowing you to focus on your own race without worrying about swimming close to others. However, you also need to be aware of slower swimmers you may be about to swim into, so you can’t afford to swim in your own little world without the risk of injury or going very off course.

You may be very new or unfamiliar with freestyle (front crawl), and after a matter of minutes or seconds, you may feel panicked and need to revert to breaststroke. This is fine, you can breaststroke your way around the entire course if you need to. You can also hold onto a kayak for a rest if you want, although it’s best to ask the kayaker where the best place to hold onto is, as you don’t want to capsize them. Not only is this unpleasant for all involved, this affects the level of safety cover they can provide, and may distract from a swimmer in trouble.

Your primary goal is to make it to the first buoy, which you should have scouted out at the start of the race, and which everyone else will be heading towards. This does create a pinch point however, as everyone wants the best (closest) line to the buoy. If you are surrounded by other swimmers, it may be more beneficial to add an extra 5M onto your swim by going wide rather than swimming close to the buoy itself and risking a kick or being swum over.

You will then swim to the next buoy, then the next, and so on until you reach the swim exit. If you’re unsure which direction you should be swimming in, take a moment to do a spot of breaststroke to get your bearings rather than carrying on regardless, as this can result in your swimming way off course. I will normally sight by lifting my eyes out of the water before turning my head to breathe every 20-30 seconds to make sure I’m still on course, but this is an advanced technique, so do whatever makes you feel comfortable.

Swim Exit

When you reach the swim exit, normally indicated by an inflatable arch, it’s time to stand up. This can be tricky if the ground is rocky, slimy or deep mud underfoot. Don’t rush this, and take your time to get out of the water, there will often be volunteers to help you.

Once you are out of the water you can either run to transition if you’re feeling ok and want to be competitive, or you can take it at more of a walk if you feel very disorientated coming out of the water. Better to take it slower and make it to T1 than to rush, fall over and potentially injure yourself.

The run to T1 can be long and uphill, so don’t let the adrenaline get the better of you and shred your legs before you even get on your bike. If you can, now is a good time to remove your swim hat and your goggles. I like to unzip my wetsuit and roll it down to my waist so that when I get to my bike I only have to remove the legs.


Short for transition 1, this is where you change out of your swimming gear and into your bike gear. Most athletes will be wearing tri suits on a triathlon race day, which allows them to wear the same one piece suit throughout the race, and simply add the required elements for each sport. For cycling this will be your helmet, race belt, shoes and anything else you wish to wear on the bike.

In midsummer, you’re unlikely to want to wear anything else, but in spring or autumn races it can pay to have an extra layer on standby in transition in case you need it. This could be a cycling jersey, gilet, waterproof jacket or anything else you feel would offer you desired insulation. Hypothermia is no fun and will likely result in a DNF, so take the time to dress appropriately instead of rushing your transition to save a few seconds.

Next up is the question of shoes. You can wear trainers on the bike and trainers for the run which is completely fine, or you can wear special cycling shoes. If you have not trained extensively with these, do not try them for the first time on race day! Cycling shoes have a very stiff sole and clip into the pedals using a cleat (piece of plastic/metal) on the bottom of the shoes which makes them cumbersome to run in. To counter this, many athletes will leave their shoes already clipped into the bike, and mount their bike by jumping onto it while pushing it.

This is known as the flying mount, and is a very high risk manoeuvre. Getting it wrong can be incredibly painful (especially for the gents) and potentially the end of your race if you fall hard enough or damage your bike. I recommend first timers affix their shoes next to their rack and run in the shoes awkwardly. The time lost will be pretty negligible over the course of the whole race, and most transition areas are on grass which makes it less ungainly.

After you exit transition you will approach the mount line. This denotes the point from which you can ride your bike. If you are mounting your bike in the traditional fashion, pull over to the left to mount your bike. Don’t stop in the middle of the race course to slowly mount your bike as you’ll block the course.


There are two main kinds of bike course, closed road and open road. Most organisers can’t close a road for the sake of a triathlon race day, so you will share the road with traffic. There will most likely be points where you do not have priority or come across traffic signals, and it’s imperative that you give way in these situations. Not only is it a very bad look for the race organiser and the sport in general, it’s dangerous and will result in you being disqualified by the marshal which will inevitably be on that junction.

Each race has their own drafting rules which must be followed. Drafting is the act of riding behind another cyclist to use their slipstream as a competitive advantage. Many races will have different rules regarding this, make sure you familiarise yourself with them. Don’t get sucked into drafting because everyone else is, or you could find yourself landed with a penalty. If you are overtaken by a faster athlete, it’s your job to fall back outside the drafting zone.

The bike will be the first time during your triathlon race day that many of you will feel comfortable. Don’t make the mistake of pushing hard on fresh legs. You may feel you’re a third of the way through after finishing the swim, but the reality is that you probably still have at least three quarters of the race ahead of you.

While on the bike route, it’s important that you stay to whichever side of the route you are racing on, unless overtaking. This not only means faster athletes can pass you, but it also means you’ll be able to pass athletes who are slower than you without issue. Whenever you are riding, always look over your shoulder before overtaking. You never know if another cyclist or car could be in that space, or about to move into it. If in doubt, hang back until it’s safe to take the move.

There will be hills on the course, and pacing these will make a huge difference to our bike split. If you are riding on the flats at a heart rate of 140BPM, then you sprint up a hill at 170BPM, that will be a huge effort and take several minutes to overcome. Make too many of these big efforts on the hills and you’ll end up exhausted before you start the run. Instead, it’s smarter to use your gears to ride up them with the minimum effort required to get over the hill. This will still increase your heart rate, but allow you to get straight back to racing once you hit the bottom of the descent. Those who push too hard will lose time on the other end.

If your race is going to take you over the 90 minute mark, you’ll want something to eat on the bike. This is to replace the energy stores depleted from racing. This can take whatever form you wish, but energy gels are popular for being a small to carry, calorie intensive solution. They are easy to digest in most cases, but can sit on some athlete’s stomachs, so make sure you try these before the big day.

Don’t take any risks in the corners unless you know your tyres well, and consider the rest of the race when determining your pacing strategy. Are you a confident runner who can pull a fast run leg out of the bag even on tired legs? Or are you dreading the run, unsure if you’ll be able to finish? These will help determine your pacing strategy, as will your overall goals. Just don’t let your ego get in the way, those around you may be making mistakes, so don’t feel you need to follow them.


As you approach the end of the bike, it’s time to think about your dismount. There will be a dismount line in the same manner as the mount line, which both your feet must touch before you cross. Failure to do so would result in a penalty. For most athletes, this will be a case of pulling over a few feet from the line, dismounting as normal and running to your rack.

Once you locate your racking you can return your bike and remove your helmet. If you are still wearing cycling shoes you’ll need to remove these and replace with running shoes. Elastic laces are a must have here, they generally cost under £10 and save you a lot of time, especially if your hands are slightly cold following the bike.

Once your shoes are on, you can put a running cap/visor on if you wish, then make your way towards the start of the run course which should be marked “run out”.


Now it’s a footrace to the finish line, and the simplest of disciplines in many ways, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach the finish line.

However, there’s a difference between a run, and a run at the end of a triathlon, as you’re about to find out. The chances are your legs will feel a bit wooden and your stride length may be shorter after the bike. Hopefully this will pass in time if you’ve done enough brick sessions in your training, but if running isn’t your strong suite anyway, it could be a slog to the finish line.

Along the way there will probably be at least one chance to take on fluids, maybe even some snacks at some races. Many athletes will walk these sections, allowing them a short break as well as a chance to eat/drink in more comfort. If it’s an especially hot day, you can use this as an opportunity to cool yourself by dousing yourself with water.

Many run courses will have distance markers which dictate how far you are into the course. This may not align with your GPS watch, but if in doubt you should listen to the markers on course. GPS data gets confused if lots of watches are in close proximity, and the course will have been measured manually with a wheel, so is more likely to be accurate.

When they going gets tough, make sure you’re standing upright, looking ahead, and picking your feet up. If you have to walk, you have to walk, and there’s no shame in this. You’re still doing better than everyone sat at home.

The Finish Line

At smaller events this could be a collection of cones. At larger events it will be a big showpiece which funnels you into a finishing area with an announcer.

After you cross the line you will be presented with a medal, and hopefully some water/snacks to help you refuel. You will need to remove the timing chip around your ankle and return it to avoid being charged for a replacement.

At larger events you may be taken into a marquee with T-shirts, massage, food and benches to help you recover. At smaller events you’ll simply be able to walk out and back to your transition area. Here you will collect your bike and make your way home with a medal round your chest and heart full of pride. Congratulations for getting fit enough, and handling the pressures of a triathlon race day to achieve your goal. You may have noticed we used the phrase triathlon race day rather than triathlon. That’s because we believe triathlon is a lifestyle, not a single day. We hope you’ll continue to swim, bike and run in some capacity.

If this has inspired you to have a go at a triathlon, check out where you can find listings for most triathlons in the UK.

Gift Ideas for Triathletes

Triathletes need a lot of equipment to participate in their races, and the costs can get out of hand quickly. There’s always something else they could, or feel they should have, but gift ideas for triathletes can be tricky as there is so much to choose from. What would they appreciate, and what would end up stuffed at the back of their kit drawer? We’ll take you through the options available for various budgets, starting with items not to fall into the trap of buying.

I have included images of products here to help non triathletes identify the products in question. These are not endorsements, simply the brands and products most readily available and most likely to be found in stores.

Items to avoid

This isn’t to say you can’t but they these items at all, but you’d need to communicate carefully with your partner before purchasing

Replica Cycling Jerseys

You’d be forgiven for thinking that someone who spends a lot of time on their bike would appreciate a replica yellow jersey or the strip of his favourite cycling team, but this is generally a no no to be seen wearing. Unless you ride for the team or are currently leading the Tour de France, it makes you look like a bit odd, so it may be resigned to the wardrobe indefinitely. Think of it as the equivalent of someone who turns up to a local 5 a side game with friends in full Manchester United kit.

If you want to treat them to a jersey, pay attention to the brand and sizing of the jerseys they wear most often.


This includes both running shoes and cycling shoes. The fit of a pair of shoes is paramount, with different shoes fitting different feet. If they have a wide foot, narrow foot, need more space in the toe box, have issues with their Achilles or require a certain level of support/cushioning, these all have to be taken into consideration. The running shoes you found online may look nice and snazzy, but the last thing you’d want is for them to pick up an injury because of the shoes you bought them. It’s unlikely they’d hold it against you, but you’d probably feel guilty.

Even purchasing a like for like replacement for a worn shoe may be problematic, as models can change slightly from year to year.


An aerodynamic helmet is at an appealing price point for many to get as a ‘big’ present for their partner, often coming in around the £100-£200 mark. However, different helmets fit different heads, and when we’re looking at a piece of protective equipment, we want to make sure it’s doing its job.

I know from experience my head is a narrow shape, so certain brands of helmet work very well for me. Other helmets on the other hand sit on my head like a pudding bowl and move around a lot, compromising the protection in the event of a crash. This is nothing against any specific manufacturers, it’s just that they can’t all make helmets which fit everyone’s head.

Cycling Safety Products

This helmet cover is a good way to get very hot, very quickly

This is a controversial one, but bear with me here. You obviously care about the safety of the athlete you’re buying for, but the majority of cycle safety equipment isn’t very good, and is aimed more at cycling commuters who ride short distances than athletes who will be in the saddle for several hours. Whether it’s a mirror attachment for their helmet, an oversized daylglo yellow jacket, high visibility helmet cover or a set of indicators for their bike, they’re unlikely to want to wear these while out training unless they have expressed an interest in these products before. I have a very high quality high visibility cycling jacket (worth £180), four very powerful lights I run on my bike and numerous reflective details on my my person to make sure nobody misses me when riding in the dark. I take my visibility seriously, but many of these products are low quality and won’t last very long.


If you have the budget, you could be forgiven for thinking a bike would be a great gift idea for a triathlete. However, choosing a bike is a very personal and very complicated process as you can see in my article here. If you would like to treat the triathlete in your life to a new bike, work closely with them on making the decision, don’t just wrap one up, stick it under the Christmas tree and hope for the best.


The fit of a wetsuit is even more personal than that of a bike, so as above, make sure you work closely with the athlete before you take the plunge here. You don’t want them to struggle to breathe due to a high neckline, or get pulled out of the water because their suit has filled with water.

Cycling Themed Oddities

In the past I have received gifts based simply on the fact it has a bike on it, is bike themed, or is supposed to be used by cyclists. In some cases these have been amusing, interesting or useful, but in most cases they go straight to the back of the cupboard. An especially memorable example was being gifted a tin of “cycling mints”, which were just a small tin of mints, with a sticker of a bicycle on the top. I don’t even like mints.

Stocking Fillers

Next up are cheap, small items it’s hard to go wrong with. This is a mixture of one size fits all or easily sized clothing, expendable items and more that every triathlete will appreciate. These are a good shout if you don’t know the athlete that well or you want to supplement larger gifts.


Who doesn’t love socks? As these sizing here is much easier than other items, you can buy thee with confidence. Running socks, cycling socks and even compression socks come in a variety of fun designs and colours. As these will be on high rotation, an athlete can never have enough.

Cycling Cap

Perfect for the winter months, this keeps the rain off your head and retains the heat at the same time. One size fits all so you can’t go wrong here.

Cycling Lubricant

The chain on a bicycle requires regular lubrication to ensure optimal running and to extend the life of the components. Triathletes can get through this pretty quickly, especially in bad weather, so make a note of the brand they use and buy them a top up. There’s a small chance they could wax their chain instead of using lubricant, so this might be worth investigating first. I recommend wet lube in all but the driest of conditions.

Bike Cleaner and Degreaser

These are standard expendables which every triathlete will be using to keep their bike in good working order. If they don’t need it now, they will in the coming months. The gift set pictured would go down very well with most cyclists, as even the brushes will wear over time.

Inner tubes

Assuming the athlete in your life uses inner tubes (and not tubeless or tubular tyres), a few extras are always welcome, though hardly the most exciting gift so make sure you already these with something else. Avoid latex inner tubes unless they have expressed a preference in the past.

Black Witch

It’s impossible to use a wetsuit without accidentally nicking it with your nails at some point. This damage is largely superficial, but there’s always the chance it could be made worse with time and cause real damage to the suit. A spot of this will repair the damage, but it’s unlikely a triathlete will ever use more than one tube in a lifetime, so make sure they don’t have any before you buy.

Cheaper Presents

These are generally presents between the £20 and £50 mark. These should definitely put a smile on their face

Multi Tool

These are compact tools cyclists take with them to fix mechanicals out on the open road. You can get them for cheap, but a more expensive, lightweight multi tool with added functionality (such as the one above) is a great gift.


Goggles are very personal, so make a note of the pair they currently use, and look to replace them with a like for like pair. All goggles have a limited lifespan due to the lenses fogging up over time, so there’s never a bad time to replace them.

Triathlon Books

Buying someone a book on training, the history of triathlon or the biography of a prominent athlete is a great way to help them engage with the sport. Many triathletes are more kit focused, so may not consider spending money here.

Stock Training Plan

If your athlete is currently making things up as they go alone, they will probably appreciate a structured training plan to follow. We have a small (but growing) collection you can view here, you can also head to the TrainingPeaks webstore to find a plan to suit them and their needs. Plans for shorter events are generally cheaper than those for longer events.

Torque Wrench

This is an expensive bike tool that is used to ensure athletes don’t damage their bike when performing maintenance. They set the torque setting to the number denoted on the component they’re tightening, and tighten until the wrench won’t let them tighten any more. This can save athletes hundreds of pounds in damaged parts from over tightening.

Pool Toys

This is a broad category including pull buoys, fins, hand paddles, ankle bands, snorkels and more. Ideally you don’t want to duplicate items they already own, so have a look in their swim bag to check what they already own, as long as you don’t think they’ll mind.

Running Shorts

Athletes will accumulate a large collection of race T-shirts over the years, so they won’t be wanting for anything to cover their upper body, but they’ll probably only have a couple of pairs of running shorts on rotation.

Swimming Costume

Whether it’s a full costume, jammers or a pair of speedos, all of our swimwear is damaged over time by the chlorine in the pools we swim in. There are lots of fun designs out there and sizing is fairly easy, so these make a good gift. Make sure these are performance items however, rather than loose fitting or revealing, designed for days lounging at the pool rather than hard swimming.

Mid Range Gifts

If it’s you want to spend a bit more, these gifts should really stand out and show how much you care. These are between £50 and £200

Stryd Footpod

For the data driven triathlete this is a great investment to help them improve their running. An understanding of mathematics and time available to invest in learning how it works are required for them to get the most out of it, but it’s a great investment in them and their training rather than simply buying lighter or more aerodynamic kit.

Phazon Triathlon Consultation

For £75 we can look at the triathlete in your life’s training history, help them create a long term plan for their training and make recommendations on the best way to help them achieve their goals. If they’re new to the sport and don’t have much of a training history we can instead use the time to answer questions, recommend kit to suit their needs and otherwise assist them with their triathlon journey.

Running Vest

For longer runs it’s important to stay hydrated, and the best option for most runners is a vest with soft flasks attached which allows you to run without having to hold bottles. There’s also pockets for your keys, snacks and a waterproof so it’s a good all rounder.

Waterproof Jacket

Cycling jerseys and shorts are pretty personal, but waterproof jackets for cycling and/or running are normally relatively expensive and easier to size, as they don’t have to be skintight. The more you pay, the longer it will keep the rain off for and the more breathable it will be. Cheaper jackets are known as “boil in a bag” for a reason. Jackets for running and cycling aren’t generally interchangeable, and their everyday waterproof will be too bulky.

Bike Lights

When cycling in the daytime it helps to have a couple of small lights blinking to ensure drivers spot cyclists, but at night these become an essential. I recommend a small set of blinking lights to grab the attention of drivers, and two larger steady lights to allow drivers to gauge the speed of the rider. If they’re planning to do riding on unlit roads a big, powerful light is important to allow them to see the road (or trail) in front of them. A decent set of lights isn’t cheap, so would make a nice gift.

Coached Session

Many coaches like myself offer one off coached sessions to help athletes improve their technique, skills or help push them harder than before. This could be in the pool, on a running track or even held virtually in some cases.

Premium Gifts

If it’s a big birthday or you simply have the disposable income, you could consider the following gifts that tend to come in over £200.

Sports Watch

Garmin, Polar, Suunto and Wahoo all produce high quality sports watches which are used to record your workouts and provide meaningful insights. Their range is normally updated every year or two, so if they don’t have the latest model it could be a nice upgrade for them. Expect to pay north of £300 for their latest top of the range model.

Turbo Trainer

These are all but essential for the serious athlete, allowing them to ride their bike all year round in a time efficient manner. Prices start around the £600 for a direct drive smart trainer, which I highly recommend. Alternatively, if they have the space, a dedicated indoor bike could be an option, thought these tend to come in at closer to £2000 and there can be some fiddling around involved to get it to match the setup of your race bike.

Race Wheels

The wheels that come on bikes are heavy but generally quite durable. You can get lighter, more aerodynamic models which improve speed on race day quite considerably, for a price. These are a very complicated subject, so I recommend you communicate closely with the athlete before purchasing. Expect to pay north of £800 for a half decent set.

Custom Training Plan

We provide training plans based on an athlete’s strengths, time available, target event and equipment available to get them into the best shape possible. For £15 a week we can build a personalised plan delivered via TrainingPeaks to help get them to the finish line. Overall price depends on the length of the plan, you can find details here

Bike Fit

Buying a state of the art bike is all well and good, but if you can’t ride it comfortably you’re not going to enjoy it. A good bike fit helps you ride faster in more comfort, and is worth its weight in gold. Make sure you go to a dedicated bike fitter, and expect to spend at least £150 for a full fit. If someone spent 20 minutes setting a bike up when it was purchased this is better than nothing but does not constitute a proper bike fit.


Shopping for triathletes can be difficult, but if in doubt I highly recommend you talk to them about your planned purchases. You may not get to see the surprise and joy on their face when they open their gift, but you will avoid any awkward moments or the disappointment that comes from seeing the gift you went over budget on collecting dust in the garage.

How to Fall Back in Love With Triathlon

As with everything in life, what once raised our pulse and dominated our every thought becomes slowly mundane. When we started out in triathlon we were all smitten with the bike tech, wetsuits, different events and all the toys we never knew we needed. We completed our first race, got faster quickly, raced progressively longer distances, until a day came when we no longer jumped out of bed to train every morning. How can we fall back in love with triathlon?

It could be that your performance hit a plateau, you picked up an injury, or you achieved everything you wanted to. For whatever reason you’ve lost your mojo and triathlon no longer gives you goosebumps. While you can never recapture the thrill of the first year or two in the sport, there are steps you can take to remember why you started, and hopefully get back to enjoying training. These tips are very generalised, and depend on why you’ve found yourself out of love with the sport, but should hopefully help you get back into the swing of things.

Find New Training Routes

A cyclist silhouetted against a sunset

To start with, exploring the roads in your local area by bike was a real buzz. Whether putting in a big training ride or simply saving money on petrol/public transport, it was a new way to see the world. Fast forward five years and you know every pothole, every corner and every gradient change within 10 miles of your front door. The list of places to explore is dwindling and with it the satisfaction of achieving something new.

To start with, look into some route planning software such as Komoot, Strava or Ride with GPS. These can help you both find new routes uploaded by others, or help you create a new route based on a destination such as a cafe or a piece of coastline. Be careful here though, as some software will try to take you down overgrown bike paths, through muddy forests or a really convoluted, slow route using cycle lanes, so it’s worth checking the route before you blindly set off.

Focus on a Single Sport

If you’ve always been a pure triathlete, you’ve probably missed out on a lot of events. It may be worth looking into cross country running, time trialling or long distance swimming. These events are usually much cheaper than entering a triathlon, and you can train for them alongside the other two disciplines. They may push you out of your comfort zone, but this is a good thing, as being outside your comfort zone was probably one of the things that appealed to you about triathlon in the first place! You may not even need any new equipment, just a sense of adventure.

Mix up Your Multisport

The start of The London Duathlon
Athletes begin the first 10KM run at The London Duathlon

Triathlon is great, but so is duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, swimrun, quadrathlon, off road triathlon and other variations that I’ve no doubt forgotten or have yet to be invented. If you are struggling with a running injury? Have a go at aquabike. Always way behind in the swim? Spend your off season racing duathlon to see how you perform there. Triathlon may still be your ultimate goal, but this is a good way to shake things up a bit. Falling in love with other multisports for the first time will probably help you fall in love with triathlon again.

Just Sign up for a Race

This is a high risk, high reward strategy. You need to put money on the table here, but there’s nothing quite like a race on the calendar to focus the mind and get you out the door, which can be the hardest part of some workouts. Make sure it’s something which is challenging enough to feel you have to train for it, but it’s also achievable within the time you have to train for it. Signing up for an Ironman with three months to go and minimal fitness probably isn’t going to end well.

Treat Yourself to Some New Kit

A cycling jersey and pair of bib shorts

Let me make this clear, I am NOT suggesting you go out and drop four figures on a new bike to help motivate you. The chances are this motivation will be short lived, and very expensive if it doesn’t work out. Instead, think about buying yourself some new sunglasses, replacing your worn out bib shorts, or getting some new goggles you can actually see out of, things like that. This is unlikely to have a huge effect on its own, but should help make your return to training feel that bit more exciting, and different to last time.

Try a Structured Training Plan

A screenshot from a training plan
The week from one of our Ironman training plans

Many clients I have coached have commented on how I have helped them fall back in love with triathlon by delivering flexible, detailed plans. The sense of specificity and the accountability of a coach who will ask questions if the training isn’t done and the knowledge that they’re working towards something special help motivate them. If you burned out in the past, failed to finish your big race or trained randomly with mixed results, structured training can help refocus the mind and get results. If you’re not looking for a coaching relationship, a training plan is an affordable way to bring structure to your training.

Step Away from Structured Training

10 cyclists cheering at the end of a group ride
A social bike ride is a great way to reconnect with cycling

If you have spent the last four years moving from coach to coach, or training plan to training plan, and you’re just feeling drained, taking some time away from a structured regime may be what you need. This could be for an entire season of self discovery or just for a few weeks, but it can really help you recharge mentally. Once you are back into the swing of training 5-6 days a week, you can if you wish look at returning to a more structured plan.

Join a Club

If you are used to training solo, which definitely has its advantages, it can be a lonely existence. While training in a group may be less effective at getting you race ready for a non drafting event than a solo ride on your race bike, it’s better than no ride, and can bring joy in its own way. Whether it’s the mid ride banter or getting to know other members at a cafe stop, it can be a reminder of why we started riding our bikes in the first place. After the isolation of Covid-19 lockdowns, this is a good way to re-engage with the human side of the sport.

Squad swim training sessions can be a good way for someone to have a look at your technique, while running sessions at a track add a competitive aspect to your intervals. Even if you only join in with the group workouts for the off season and early base period, it can help you build the momentum you need to get back on the triathlon wagon.

Sign up for an Event That Scares You

Athletes jumping into the water from a boat at the start of the Norseman Xtri
The Norseman is one of the toughest races on the planet. Image credit Norseman

You’ve already achieved more than you thought possible, but what else could you achieve? Perhaps you could step up to a half or a full Ironman, or if you’ve already done that, perhaps an extreme triathlon, an off road triathlon, or just a tough Ironman course like Nice. If you’re genuinely unsure whether you’ll be able to complete a race or not, this can put the fear into people and encourage them to train with the same urgency as when they signed up for events earlier in their triathlon career, and saw the experience as a huge step into the unknown.

Aim to Qualify for a World Championship Event

A collection of athletes with national flags on Port Elizabeth Beach
Athletes flying their national colours

This may not be in the reach of everyone within the next 12 months, but aiming to qualify to represent your country at a world championship event, or qualifying for the Ironman/70.3 championships as an individual is an admirable goal you can apply yourself to. While the qualification itself is never guaranteed and depends on who else turns up on the day, it’s a good way to really apply yourself and aim to perform to the best of your ability, rather than simply ‘good enough to get round’. To qualify you will normally need to be one of the top 3 in your age group to finish.

Choosing the right target race is also very important to maximise your chances of success. If you target a big early season race such as Ironman 70.3 Marbella you’ll struggle to make an impression, where if you find a less popular race in late summer your chances of success are much greater. Aquathlon and duathlon are also less competitive, and a good way to snag your first spot on the age group team.

Even if you don’t manage to achieve your goal of qualifying, you’ll probably be in the shape of your life and be able to place very well at some more local races as a result.

Attend Races as a Spectator/Support Crew

I encourage all athletes to attend at least one triathlon they’re not racing at. This may be a local race you’re not targeting, or supporting someone at a bigger race, but watching from the sidelines really helps give you some perspective. Not only can you learn from other athletes by watching what they do well (or not so well), chances are it will give you the itch to compete yourself. When I attended the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa in the early days of my coaching career, it really helped me fall back in love with triathlon. Not only was there the fact I got to travel out to South Africa, but the buzz of the event, watching athletes prepare, spectating the pro race, attending the expo, it inspired me so much I signed up for a 70.3 myself the next weekend.

Follow Professional Triathletes

Professional triathletes are some of the fittest athletes in the world. In this age of social media we can gain an unparalleled insight into their lives and their training regimes, as well as their lifestyle. Instagram is an especially well used platform by the pros, where you can find plenty of genuinely inspirational photos, videos and advice to help get you down the pool or out on a run. Watching professional athletes race is an acquired taste, especially over the Ironman distance, but is a fantastic way to see just what the pinnacle of the sport looks like, and what the human body can achieve. It may even help you identify the location of your next event!

Consume Triathlon Media

The cover of 220 triathlon magazine
220 Triathlon is one of the most popular triathlon magazines

You can find triathlon themed documentaries, magazines, podcasts, books, videos and more to help teach you about the sport and engage with it more fully. This can be time consuming, and you’ll never finish them all, but it can give you ideas for new training sessions, new target races or simply entertain and inspire you. You need to take it all with a pinch of salt (everyone can’t be right), but broadening your horizons and finding new ways to enjoy the sport goes a long way to getting you out the door.

Sort out That Injury

You know the one, that niggle in your knee which stops you running fast, or that tightness in your hip which makes cycling progressively more uncomfortable after you hit the three hour mark. Not only do these injuries affect our ability to train the way we’d like to, they also present us with a big psychological roadblock. You may tell yourself “If I can’t run pain free, why bother with the cycling and swimming?” Suck it up and spend some money on a physio who can help you identify the cause of the injury, then do the exercises required to address the cause of the issue. Having a glass ceiling placed there by an injury which doesn’t allow you to train to the best of your potential causes the best of us to fall out of love with the sport. If you’re based in London, we recommend

Recover Better

Are you struggling to fit training in because you feel so run down all the time? Are you working hard but not seeing results? There’s a good chance your issues stem from poor recovery. Most triathletes should aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night, with many pros getting closer to 9 with a nap in the afternoon. The best way to achieve this is to simply get to bed earlier, forgoing that last episode of The Next Generation or that glass of wine and heading straight to bed instead. Getting to bed by 10:30PM and up at 6AM to train should be achievable for most, and nets you a decent 7.5 hours of shut eye. Sleep is the only time the body can truly adapt to exercise, and no amount of caffeine will offset the damage done by consistently failing to get enough sleep.

Ensuring you refuel after workouts by eating sufficient amounts of carbohydrate and protein as well as allowing sufficient time between hard sessions are key to allowing your body and mind enough time to recover well. Without sufficient recovery you won’t really get any fitter, just dig yourself a hole which will take months to recover from.

Start Coaching

A coach addressing a group of swimmers in front of an open water venue
Introducing a group of new swimmers to the open water at London Royal Docks

I’m not suggesting a career change here, but coaching people, formally or informally, is a great way to reconnect with the sport. Whether you’re a qualified coach on poolside with a whistle or simply teaching a club mate how to fix a puncture, sharing your knowledge/expertise with newcomers not only helps them out, but gives you a sense of satisfaction that you’re helping the next generation of athletes.

Take a Break From the Sport

Have you been in a constant state of training for several years? Does the sight of your bike fill you with a low level feeling of dread? Do you check what today’s workout is while cowering behind the sofa? Is there a picture of your coach’s face on a dartboard somewhere in your house? The chances are the most productive thing you could do to help you fall back in love with triathlon, is take a break from triathlon. Distance makes the heart grow fonder as they say, and taking a step back from training may help you realise how important it is to you. I recommend athletes take at least one full week away from training at the end of a season, and normally a few more weeks away from proper structured training. Neglecting this can result in burnout and a loss of interest in the sport.

What if None of This Works?

I’ve listed some of the techniques which work for myself and those I’ve coached, but we’re all individuals at the end of the day. Ask yourself why you got into the sport in the first place, and how you can reignite that. If you started the sport for a sense of adventure, think about how you could make your training more dynamic. If you enjoyed using it to push your limits, find a race which will push you further than any event before. Perhaps you started the sport for its social reasons, but moved towards solo training over time, it might be worth reconnecting with other athletes, even if just for your easy workouts.

Sometimes though, no matter how hard you work at it, how much time you invest or money you throw at the problem, you won’t be able to get back in the groove of training. It may be that your priorities lie elsewhere now, you have too many responsibilities in more pressing areas of your life or recent events in your life have rearranged your priorities. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy exercising occasionally or that you can’t return to the sport properly at a later date, but sometimes it’s better to accept that you need to park your triathlon hobby for now and wait for the right time to restart. After all, not training every week for the rest of your life doesn’t make you a failure.


An athlete holding the Union Jack wearing a medal

Falling back in love with triathlon is unlikely to be a life changing experience like when you first discovered the sport. It will be more like putting back on a favourite pair of slippers, or rediscovering one of your favourite hangouts as a child. It will motivate you to get outside and make the right choices for your mental/physical health, and help fortify your identity as a triathlete. Even professional athletes lose motivation sometimes, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I hope this has helped you find your triathlon mojo again, if you have any tips that worked for you, leave them in the comments below to help others.

Covid-19 is still a problem in many countries, and will continue to be for many years to come. If you decide to travel outside of your local area for training or racing ensure you respect local restrictions at all times, regardless of your vaccination status, and research entry requirements for different countries if you plan to travel internationally. It is also worth researching the covid-19 refund policies different race organisers may or may not offer.

The London Duathlon Race Guide

Billed at the world’s biggest duathlon, The London Duathlon is an annual event in Richmond Park that sees athletes competing over the sprint, standard and ultra distances in Richmond Park, SouthWest London. For the purposes of this article I will be focusing primarily on the standard distance as this is the most popular distance by far. All information in this article is correct as of the time of writing, the course has remained unchanged since the first event (to my knowledge), but the intricacies of how the event is ran may change from year to year with very little notice. Always read all the pre race information to avoid being caught out.

An winter morning in Richmond Park, hopefully it’s warmer on race day!

Arriving at the Venue

Richmond Park is completely closed for the event, so despite the fact there are car parks at the venue, they will be inaccessible on the day itself. You will need to find parking on nearby roads if arriving by car which can be challenging. Your best bet would be to take the train to Richmond Station and ride to the park from there. Bikes are permitted on the national rail, overground and district line, all of which are served by Richmond Station. You will want to be arriving at the event village at least an hour before your start time to allow you to prepare in a calm, methodical way. Nobody wants to be faffing around with their bike with minutes until the start of their run.

Event Village

The London Duathlon event village can be found on the east side of the park, next to Roehampton Gate. It is accessible by a footbridge which you will need to carry your bike up and over. If you struggle with this, there are plenty of individuals present I’m sure will be happy to help. When you enter the event village, take the time to attach your race number to your top, your bike stickers to your bike and attach your wristband. This will be required to remove your bike from transition, so do not remove it until you leave the venue.

Setting up Transition

Your wristband is your ticket into transition, an athletes only area where you will find a number of racks for you to place your bike. The last time I did the event it was a free for all, if this is the case I recommend you place your bike close asp possible to the end of one of the racks, to make it easier to find. You can also place a coloured towel in front of your bike for improved visibility if this helps, but you’re unable to tie a balloon or similar to the rack as an identifier. The run will be the first discipline, so make sure you leave everything associated with the bike leg (sunglasses, nutrition, helmet e.t.c.) with your bike to access it later. Large bags are not permitted, but can be left in the bag drop area.

Once you have your bike left in an appropriate gear ready to go, it’s time to walk the transition area. Find the “run in” banner which indicates where you will enter the transition area following your first run. Walk the route you’ll take to your bike to commit it to memory. Then look for the “bike out” banner, which is where you’ll start the bike leg. Repeat the process for “bike in” and “run out”, there should only be one of each.

The start line

Runners Begin the 10KM Run. Image credit London Duathlon.

Get to the start line with at least 10 minutes before you’re due to start. You will be placed in a holding area, then called forwards into a small black marquee where a pre recorded race briefing will be played, followed by three beeps which signify the start of the race.

Run 1- 10KM

Map of the 10K run

You will start your run on a short grassy section heading towards Sawyers Hill. Yes the race start with a hill. The adrenaline will be pumping and you’ll be excited for the day ahead of you, but remember, you’ll unlikely to finish any faster than two hours, so don’t get carried away. This event is hard on your legs, and going hard on the first 2.5KM up a hill is a good way to kill your legs for the rest of the race.

Once you reach the top of the hill you’ll take a left onto a slightly undulating section, followed by a notable downhill which will allow you to pick up the your feet again after the long slog of Sawyers. This doesn’t last forever however as you then make a left to cut through the middle of the park on a flat section, passing some large ponds on your left. After the ponds, you’ll then make a left hand turn onto a short out and back section which is there to bring the distance up to a nice round 10KM. Here there has traditionally been a water station for you to replace water lost through sweat, which I recommend you take advantage of unless you are carrying your own water. From here you are treated to a final downhill section before you make a left at Robin Hood Gate roundabout and run the last 2KM to the transition area where you’ll begin the bike.

Bike- 44KM

Map of the standard distance event, the bike course is the purple section

As you exit transition you will merge onto the bike course. It’s VERY important you give way to other cyclists who may be travelling at speeds in excess of 30MPH, as you really don’t want to have to cause them to swerve, or even crash into you. Once on the course, it’s important you stay left at all times except when overtaking yourself, and always make a check over your shoulder before you make a change in direction, just like you would with a mirror in your car.

You are treated to a nice section of flat to help you find your cycling legs, before you make your way up the steepest hill on the course, Broomfield Hill. As you approach this, make sure you’re in your smallest ring at the front as you’ll need it, and change down gears slowly as the road kicks up to ensure you don’t find yourself pushing unnecessarily hard. You will run out of gears on this hill, as it kicks up to over 12% at its steepest point. The good news is you can see the top of the hill from the bottom which allows you to pace it appropriately, and remember you have to climb it four times, so riding up it as fast as you can to show off is unlikely to set you up for long term success. If you find the going really tough, you can always get off and push, but please don’t weave around to try and reduce the gradient. You can have up to five riders side by side on the steep sections of the hill, so don’t take up more space than you have to.

Once you summit the hill you pass a car park on your left, before a short downhill. Your lungs may be screaming at you, but it is worth pushing a bit here to get maximum speed on the downhill and carry it into the short uphill which follows. From here you follow a long flat section before you approach a right hander into some dense tree cover. Change into your big ring here if you haven’t already as you’re approaching a decent down Dark Hill, a steep, gently sweeping downhill towards the roundabout at Kingston Gate. Don’t leave your braking too late here as you run the risk of locking up your brakes and taking a one way trip into the hay bales at the bottom of the hill. If you are a nervous descender and like to ride the brakes on the way down, ensure you stay to the left as it’s a technical fast section of the course.

After making a right at the bottom you start another long, but gentle hill. To start with your barely notice it, until you reach a short, steep downhill followed by a short, steep uphill which I recommend you try to carry speed into. From here you will see runners on the 10K making a left down the middle of the park. This means you are now sharing the road with runners, so you only have 50% of the road to ride on. This makes it very tight, and you can find the road blocked by slower cyclists passing even slower cyclists, so keep an eye on your speed and be aware of the possibility somebody may swing out in front of you with very little notice. This uphill continues until you pass another car park on your left, which is followed by a short downhill to a roundabout at Richmond Gate where you’ll make a right.

After turning right, you’ll have a very short, gentle uphill until you descend the hill you ran up at the start, you may even see some of the runners suffering up it as you descend past them on your way down. The biggest issue here is that the runners are still taking up one side of the road, and this is a very fast downhill where some riders will hit 40MPH, maybe even more in a few cases, with very little margin for error. This is the most dangerous part of the course, so I recommend you treat it with respect and check twice over your shoulder that there isn’t another cyclist about to overtake you before moving right to pass a slower rider. The steepest section is at the top of the hill, it starts to slowly flatten as you approach a roundabout, before dropping down again taking you back towards the event village. Do a right at the roundabout at the bottom of the hill and you’re more or less back at the event village, now repeat this three more times!

Pacing is very important here, as it’s easy to get carried away, especially on the hills, and find yourself really suffering on the last lap, losing all the time you made up on the early laps. It may only be 44KM, but with 330M of vertical ascent and four 90 degree turns a lap, you may need to think of it as being closer to the equivalent of 50KM. I can push 4 watts per kilo at FTP, but every time I’ve done the race it’s taken me around 1:20 for the bike. That does’t take into account the bike, weather, aerodynamics or how I paced it, but it should give you a rough idea of the challenge that lies ahead of you, especially if you are relatively new to cycling. There has been no nutrition or water on the course when I have done the race, so make sure you take some with you to avoid running out of gas.

Run 2- 5KM

Once you finish your fourth lap you will be very happy to rack your bike and start your second run. The bad news is, your legs will likely feel like lead, and the run starts with a series of uphills. Firstly you will run up the first half of Sawyers Hill, make a left at the roundabout, then make your way up the Ballet School Hill, which is a relatively steep hill taking you up to the water station you visited on the first lap. It’s highly likely that you’ll develop a stitch or have to walk at this point if your fuelling strategy wasn’t spot on. This can be very disappointing, but focus on your own race, and acknowledge that it won’t cost you more than a minute or two.

Once you get to the top of the hill you can grab a drink from the water station and head back down Spankers hill towards Robin Hood Gate, which puts you within touching distance of the finish line. As you get closer the sound of the PA system and the buzz of the event village should push you on to dig that little bit deeper before you make a left hand turn to the finish. You will have finished The London Duathlon!

Post Race

By this point you should have a medal around your neck and a big smile on your face. There will be water and snacks which I recommend you partake in to refuel and repair your body following your effort. Once the adrenaline has worn off make sure you have something proper to eat that has high protein content, whether this is food you have bought from home or one of the vendors. Once you’re ready it’s time to collect your bike from transition and head home to tell your friends about your achievement and plan your next event.

Looking for a training plan to help you achieve success at The London Duathlon? Check out our Duathlon training plans here, including plans specifically for The London Duathlon: