The aim of this piece is to highlight the progression that comes with time and commitment to a goal. The goal is made from a way of training presented by Martin Kirwan of focus on fitness and the commitment comes from both sides, Martin and Me; Eoin Lyons. Three years ago I started triathlon and training with Martin and each year I have made a generous progression through the ranks. Below my year so far and some details about the work I have done with Martin and the super series races I have completed:
The 2014 season was not long ended when Martin and I had a chat about what the goal for 2015 was going to be. At this stage I was not aware of qualification for the super series. I finished 23rd in the national series for 2014 with inconsistent racing and a packed august (4 races). We talked at length but didn’t make any concrete goals; that was for me to do in my own time.
My goals were simply and straight to the point:
- Get climbing and increase my power and skill on the bike
- Swim more often
- Go under 80min in Waterford half and 60min in Dungarvan 10mile
- Finish in the top 10 in the national series (NS)
I wrote down my goals and placed them up on my wall along with a sheet of paper in a small red frame with the words “Carpe Diem” on it. For a while I didn’t really do much about it until Martin and I took those goals and formalised a plan to achieve them.
The plan was easy, it was straight forward and at times I felt I could be doing more. This made me nervous because I sometimes fall into the trap of listening to what others are doing but at some stage you have to give in and realise you are following a plan, do your part and just follow the plan. Martin put key sessions on an online training system called “Training Peaks”. Training Peaks can be viewed through an app on your phone to view sessions on your way or in the gym and it works with Garmin Connect to upload your training session directly for review by Martin. It really is an honest way of training, there is no hiding and no pretence, if you want to get the most for the amount of time you put in this is the way to go. My winter hours are very small but I ran 79min in the half marathon and 59min in Dungarvan, thanks to Monday night track session, longer interval or hill repeat session and a reasonably long run, the plan was working. Post Dungarvan the announcement of the new super series format came about and I had qualified. I felt like this was a good opportunity to really motivate myself and achieve my top 10 finish in what was now to be known as the super series. My running had improved from the previous year but my biking was my downfall in the NS for 2014.
We broke down a plan of sessions that would bring on my bike. At the start I used the WATT Bikes in Kingfisher Waterford and followed prescribed power, cadence and HR sets from Martin. Then onto the Turbo classes based in Focus on Fitness headquarters where Martin pushed the tolerances and was there to observe the outcome when I was pushing too hard and losing my rhythm and technique. The addition of a power meter to my TT bike and a cadence sensor allowed us to take what was practised on the WATT bike and Turbo onto the road. We did a MOTO bike session where Martin followed behind on his scooter radioing instructions to me on the bike; you think you know how to cycle until you do this session. My power increased by 40 WATTS with a 2 beat lower HR over the same distance on the same route as 6 days earlier with the same weather conditions. I was becoming more efficient on the bike and learning how to use the bike to benefit me rather than hammering myself for an hour and thinking I was improving.
To get up to peak fitness for the Tri season I entered some duathlons to focus my bike-run and put into practice what I trained. The result was one DNF due to a fall, one second place (with a fall) and two wins, my body was adapting back to tri fitness. My first triathlon was Carlow, a NS race so plenty of competition, I was nervous to get things right, particularly my bike; this would then determine my run. The course was an issue as the 10km uphill out of town bike was hard to judge in terms of power, I was cautious and didn’t push hard enough. The following 10km downhill was a disaster with no gears to push on. A good lesson learnt prior to getting into the swing of the super series. I finished in a disappointing 4th place. To say I took this badly is an understatement, I feel sorry for my Girlfriend Marianne at times like this, I don’t mind 4th place, but underperforming is a major issue. Any under performance is a major issue, training/racing whatever; I just don’t take it well.
Athy, the first round of the super series, Martin and I had focused on a plan that would see me get my bike splits in order and also improve my pace on the run particularly over the first 1-2km and still leave me with a kick for the finish line. The race itself was fast and the bike completely different from what I am used to, non-draft but with definite pace setting and people pushing off the front to try and get a break into T2. For the first time in my triathlon career I was able to answer the attacks on the bike. Previously strong bikers would come from behind and pass with ease, now I was able to answer. I’m running faster than ever off the bike but I’m short of the really fast pace (40sec) over 5km would see me podium. I finished 7th overall and was really happy with the result.
Kilkee, after training through Dunmore East Hook or by Crook and hard into Kilkee I was pushed to the limits in training. Kilkee is a battle from the swim start to the end of the run. My training needed to reflect that. I relaxed and stuck to the plan on the swim, kept to the numbers on the bike and ran the run in a controlled but punishing manor. This time around I wasn’t passed at all on the bike but I passed three by gradually pulling them in an racing my own race. I came back to T2 in 3rd place and felt good. You have to find your legs fast in Kilkee and work up the 4km climb. I ran well and was happy but with 1km to go I was passed by two fast runners to finish 6th overall in a very competitive field. Probably my best result in a triathlon.
Sligo, what was meant to be my buffer race before Dublin City Tri (Worth 1000 points instead of 700 as a National Championship race) turned out to be much more important. My training had changed slightly to edge towards the upcoming Dublin Ironman 70.3 but my main focus was still super series. I wasn’t happy with the position I was in out of the water, at one stage I took a breath and someone was running next to me, it was a shocking swim. The bike was similar to swimming in choppy water, you could never get in the rhythm and my power was up and down like a yoyo primarily because of all the 90 degree turns but the rolling course. Coming in off the bike I was passed by a train of 3 guys which also didn’t go down to good. Onto the run and well back in the field I knew I would either say this is a buffer race don’t worry (and right it off) or just drive on and push the run. Thankfully I pushed the run on a though bog, sand, gravel, grass, hilly course to finish up in 6th. Not ecstatic but happy. Reviewing the results I felt I good have got 4th.
Dublin City Tri (Draft legal National Olympic Champs), after Sligo my training completely changed, I trained for 3 weeks into Dublin Ironman 70.3. The race went well I finished in a time of 4:28 and placed 2nd in my age group qualifying me for Ironman 70.3 world championship in Queensland Australia next year. With a two week turn around I faced into Dublin City Tri. I didn’t train much in between; I got in a rub and some light training with the aim of recovering in time. The 23rd of August 2015 was probably my worst result (in terms of what my expectations were) and my biggest learning curve in triathlon since I took the sport up. It was a blood bath from the word go. All the steady effort work I did going into 70.3 was a waste of time when it came to draft legal Olympic distance racing. I got a bang in the opening seconds of the swim after going out hard and my googles leaked, when I went to fix them I got the s**h kicked out of me. I tried to gain composure after losing good ground and began to work hard but ended up dragging a group around the swim course until the last 150-200m until the group I had brought around decided to kick the s**h out of me some more. My T1 was too slow (amateur) with me failing to watch Kieran Jackson’s T1 video for Triathlon Ireland and learning how to put my shoes on the bike. Small margins in draft legal racing all add up to huge gains. My legs just cried out on the bike, the constant jumps where just too much of a shock to the system and I simply had nothing on the run. I had nothing in the tank and being honest it put a dampener on the good result two weeks earlier. With the race being worth 1000 points I was sure I was going to be out of the top 10 in the super series.
Pulse Port Tri (Draft Legal National Sprint Champs) I learned some serious lessons in Dublin and it changed a lot of what I did between that day and my next race which was the draft legal national sprint championships in Pulse Port. I had 5 weeks to make a change. Martin gave me some of the most intense sessions I have ever done both on the bike and run. I also stepped up my efforts in the pool and changed up my stroke slightly to increase my stroke cadence for the shorter distance. My diet was even going well for once. Myself and my loyal supporters (Marianne, Alfie and Rio) headed off in the camper for Clogherhead. We parked up next to transition, went for a walk of the run course, watched a film and snuggled off to sleep. I slept well with the knowledge that I prepared well by getting the necessary rubs, stuck to the training plan, ate well was prepared for a fast race.
Certain key points I felt I had to get right were: if the first swim group was too fast I needed to be at the front of the second group to allow me some time in T1, I had to get into the chase group as a minimum, I couldn’t overly work in the group but needed to be prepared to answer any break away attempts and then run empty. A fast 3km to make anyone who wanted to chase, chase hard and 2km of mentally testing myself about how much I want to be doing this or why I’m doing this (HR 193). I like to wake up and eat my breakfast in 3 or 4 stages depending on the distance of the race, during this time it’s all about reflection. I remember the training sets I’ve done and even pull up Garmin Connect on my phone to give a sense of accomplishment in my training. You have to respect and be proud of your training to do well in a race. The race went to plan; I swam hard to the first buoy but started too far to the left to get on Chris Mintern’s feet. I eased up and checked out my options, Brian Harris came up my inside and went ahead, I moved to his feet knowing he would swim hard. Brian swam hard and dropped me but I assumed he was doing exactly what I was doing, getting a buffer into T1. I lead the second group in and had a decent T1 but was just slow getting into my shoes, Kieran Jackson was now next to me shouting “pump your legs”, after 2-3km of hanging of the back group by five metres (HR 184) I finally made it in thanks to a bend in the road and a hard break by whoever was upfront. I worked for the middle section of the bike but not so much the end. When I couldn’t stay within the power bracket I wanted and go to the front I would just slow the cycle up on everyone until one of the fast runners who had a chance of catching Chris would take it on.
I felt I could have been more aggressive at the last 2-3km and tried to break away, I knew some of the guys in the group would run faster so why would I want to get off the bike at the same time as them, this was something I questioned repeatedly since and I am just putting it down to experience. I may not have been able to break away in the first place, but shouldn’t I have had to balls to try? I got off the bike and heard Chris and his break away partner had be DQ’ed due to them cutting the 20km bike course in half. I was in a good position and just ran as hard as I could for 3km and held on. I finished in 5th place behind and ahead of some serious athletes. I was more than happy with my placing given the field I was in and the respect I have some of the guys I had crossed the line ahead of that day. More than that I had come from a beating in Dublin and proved I was able to race draft legal and non-draft legal races consistently.
The overall super series results came in and I had placed 3rd. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and was terrified of it been taken away for whatever reason. I was 3rd overall in the CAT1 Super Series in its first year and qualified for a world championship event, unbelievable feeling.
For anyone who has gone to the bother of getting this far in reading this “brief report” thank you. Everyone is an individual and you have to work with that. Martin at Focus on Fitness built a bike run programme based on that philosophy for me in 2015. You work on making you better and here’s how to do it: where are YOU now, what numbers do YOU need to produce to get better and what’s YOUR end goal. This is the basis of and effective programme. Go to www.focusonfitness.ie or Focus on Fitness on Facebook to find Martin. Also go to Swim Fast Coaching on Facebook to see what I offer in terms of swim training. Finally I would like to thank some people: Waterford Triathlon Club who have paid my entry fee to the 70.3 World championships next year, chairman of WTC Brian Slattery for being so prompt in making this donation to me, Martin Kirwan for excellent individualised coaching (picture below) and also picture below my mother Siobhan for providing the foundations for us to succeed as children and now adults and finally my girlfriend Marianne for being you.