Cozumel World Champs Review

Cozumel Tri Worlds Review:

Ir rápido! 

Wow that was a trip and a half! Great memories are now deeply etched into my soul. For me it was a far bigger 13 days than I could have imagined – & that’s significant given the number of World Champs I’ve been to and times I’ve raced in Mexico. Simply put, life as a coach is complex, colourful and often exhausting but at the same time wonderfully rich.

Team photo, the night before the event

Team photo, the night before the event

We traveled with a large NZ contingent however I had the responsibility for coordinating the 10 Team Traction athletes before, during and after each of the 3 events. We had long days of action under intense heat, humidity and competitive stresses. Our athletes arrived in Mexico in different phases of preparation – some trained without a hitch and others gradually realised they were not in the best form possible.

It doesn’t really matter how you arrive on the scene; what you want on event day is your absolute best performance under the circumstances. In these harsh climes the way you manage your day makes all the difference. If you overheat you will cook yourself, however if you under-perform you will wonder if it was all worth it.

Another hot session in the heat lab

Another hot session in the heat lab

We had trained in the Medical School’s heat lab before leaving & in hindsight everyone thought this was incredibly useful exercise. Each one of our athletes stood on the start line knowing just how tough it was going to be to complete the event without fainting from heat exhaustion. Watch this video of Jonathon Brownlee falling apart – this happened to a number of athletes and is an example of the negative effects of mind over matter and ultimately poor judgement.

This was the World Champs in a very hot, humid and unforgiving land. To boot the coach is not exempt from sickness and I was struck down with ‘digestive issues’ over the key event days, which added to the multifaceted management of my days.

My main concern was ensuring that each athlete was managed in a way that worked for them - some athletes require a considerable amount of reassurance and others prepare more independently. There is no single unique way to prepare two different athletes; however the coach must have each athlete stand on the start line feeling as comfortable and confident as possible.  

I’ve bigger expectations on myself to perform as a great coach than I have expectation on any athlete to be a great athlete.

The event is ITU’s premier event and we’d trained very hard over many months in preparation for it. I was also well aware that we had travelled to one of the World’s premier tourist destinations and that we needed to enjoy this opportunity. For many, this trip to Cozumel would be a once in a lifetime event & a very expensive one at that. As an elite athlete I had put too much pressure on myself on several occasions & I’d made a pact with myself, at that time, that I would never squirrel myself away at key events focusing on the outcome at the expense of the journey. As a coach I believe that a happy relaxed athlete is more likely to perform than an up-tight pressured one.

Julia with a local 

Julia with a local 

I believe our team had the right balance of fun and function about it.

This was the typical race mornings’ process for me:

-      Collect athletes staying elsewhere & take to event

-      Meet athletes & supporters at transition to ensure preparations were complete

-      Provide ice, water and flannels to lower pre-event body temperatures

Wet cool towel over Bayley’s shoulders pre-event

Wet cool towel over Bayley’s shoulders pre-event

-      Reassure athletes as their events rolled closer

-      Encourage & capture images of athletes during the event

-      Find athlete & assist post event

By the end of the 2nd event, we all needed a few days rest before the final standard distance event on the Sunday. We had a bit of down time to explore the island. It was during this period that Amy and I had the great fortune to bump into the turtle conservationists and had a unique experience of releasing turtles into the sea.

I’d like to congratulate every one of our team – athletes and supporters – we had an awesome time and everyone went about supporting each other and the other Kiwis. We made new friends and have returned to NZ much richer people for the experience.

For individual results the link is HERE.

Personally I’d like to thank Viv and David for providing me support over the week. Logistically the team benefited immensely from having Viv act as the travel manager in difficult circumstances. The Hitchins also provided a team vehicle which made our lives so much easier.

I’d like to thank Amy who logistically organised me to get to the event and back safely and cheaply. Amy had to put up with a roommate who was unwell for most of the trips, whilst at the same time manage her own 2 events. Thanks a million!

Many thanks to all the supporters who made my life easier during the week by managing their athlete’s health so well.

Thanks to the team of athletes who put their heart and souls into delivering their best efforts each event and under extreme conditions. You all did yourself proud and I’m rapt with you all – great fun to be around, great athletes and superb teammates.

Finally, I’d like to thank Ange who supports me each and every day and allows me the stability to bring energy to every session, as well as being a central part of our team.  







Self-Talk & Triathlon - Removing the Monkey from your Back

Self-Talk & Triathlon - Removing the Monkey from your Back

How many times do you hear an athlete who has just done something very cool, respond when congratulated, that it wasn’t really that good and they weren’t really that happy with it? You know those athletes that no matter how well they do they turn the situation into a negative or at least not really a positive. They don’t recover quickly after disappointments and really aren’t that much fun to be around. Often you will see them ‘choking’ when the pressure comes on.

To be honest we all can give ourselves a hard time however if we had friends that treated us the way that many of us treat ourselves, they wouldn’t be our friends for very long. Imagine a friend who calls up just to complain–about you. Imagine your mate saying things like “I told you so” when you make a mistake on course, or someone who encourages you to give up instead of encouraging you to do your best.

Everyone has experienced performances that are not up to scratch – the question is have we undermined our performance without knowing it; why have we allowed it to happen; and what can we do to avoid it?

Anxiety is part and parcel of any competition and in the right levels it’s useful however many of us start building our anxiety well before the event and it becomes increasingly out of control as we get closer to the event start. With increased anxiety our confidence levels plummet and we start sabotaging our performance with negative self-talk, but internally and externally to others. The mental anguish physically leads onto constricted muscles and shallower breathing which is akin to putting another obstacle in the way or monkey on your back. So you start off with the monkey and as the event breaks down the monkey tightens it’s hold and if you’re not careful you end up completely smashing your confidence and any sense of enjoyment. Sport is physically and mentally tough but we don’t need to make it harder by putting road blocks up for ourselves. I want you to be enjoying triathlon and not coming to training sessions thinking “I’ll never get better” or “this is a waste of time”.    

Negative self-talk gets us down and needs to be worked on to the same degree that physical skills are. Our head is the CEO of the body and needs to set a can-do and stable environment for the body to excel within. We need to remove unneeded and unwarranted mental distractions for our own personal health.

What do Sports Researchers say about self-talk & performance

There is overwhelming empirical evidence that positive self-talk is an important cognitive component related to motor performance or in other words how we view something will affect how we undertake the task and its outcomes.

Conversely negative self-talk is more likely to lead to disappointment and loss of confidence and enjoyment.

There are different types of self-talk which can be used for different functions within a sporting situation. I’ve categorised from the most common to least common in the table below:

Types of Self-Talk

Self-talk can be used to improve:

Focus …… “ no thoughts, just concentrate”; "focus on the present"

Technique/Instruction …… “bend your knees”; “swish”

Calming/Relaxing …… “ I love competition”; “I feel good”

Motivation …… “ You can do it”; “You’re on fire”

Self-confidence …… “I’m mentally tough”; “I trained well for this”

Interestingly research has confirmed that you don’t even have to believe the self-talk statement and that just saying the statement leads to a state in which performance is improved. 

Challenging Negative Self Talk:

Learning to dispute negative thoughts takes training - time and practice. Once you start looking at it, you'll probably be surprised by how much of your thinking is inaccurate, exaggerated, or focused on the negatives of the situation.

1.      How much of your self-talk is negative or not useful? Think carefully back to situations in which you are under pressure to perform – what are you saying to yourself and those around you? Is it, “I can’t do this” or is it “I can do this”? The first step to changing patterns of self-talk is recognising you are using negatives.

2.      Will I accept the thought or replace it with another thought and/or statement?

Replacing Negatives – what with?

1.      Focus on the process and not your emotions, and certainly not anything that is going to take your focus away from the process at hand. Give yourself the best physical and mental platform to work from.

2.      Start developing cues that will help you in situations you find difficult.

Example 1: When you are at a start line think about a can of baked beans to represent the “I can” statement – you may say “can of baked beans” out loud repetitively

Example 2: If you have a habit of dropping your hips when getting tired running visualise a cheetah or say “cheetah”, as representing you

Developing a Self-Talk Plan for Your Tri Event

Self-talk is designed to strengthen self-confidence through focusing on the positive and eliminating the limitations of negative thinking. 

You don’t want to have a long sentence when you can have a couple of key words or a symbol that crystallises where you want your mind and body to be. You need to practice these words when training for the event – there is no use turning up on event day with training. Develop a plan and start practicing.

Examples of key words:

Fire – use at the start line to remind you to take off quickly

Push through – to remind you to push water through under your body

Can – to remind you that you can do your best

Breath – encourage you to breath deeply and calm down in the final 60 secs before the start

Cheetah – encourage stance when running


1.      Identify the times you become anxious and need to alter or include a self-talk plan. These maybe times when you are likely to lose your technique or times of competitive stress within the event.

2.      Develop a plan for these key times. You may divide the event into different parts chronologically as follows -  

a.      Pre-competition (before getting to the event)

b.      Pre-start (in the final 10 mins before starting & when standing on the start line)

c.       Start of the swim

d.      Mid Swim

e.      Pre-transition

f.        Etc

3.      Write down your key words somewhere you can see them and start ingraining the new way of approaching sports practice and events.

Good Luck! 


Women are not small men: Gender dictates nutritional needs & recovery

by Dr. Stacy Sims

August 17, 2015

We consider it a major coup to have landed Dr. Stacy T. Sims, MSc, PhD, as a monthly columnist for Ella CyclingTips. Sims has contributed to the environmental exercise physiology and sports nutrition field for more than 15 years as both an athlete and a scientist. The chief research officer/co-founder of Osmo Hydration, Dr. Sims served an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist in the human performance lab at Stanford University from 2007-2012 where she specialised in sex differences of environmental and nutritional considerations for recovery and performance. Her personal interest in sex differences and performance has been the precedence of her academic and consulting career, always looking at true physiology to apply innovative solutions in the sport nutrition world.

Not only an elite athlete herself, Dr. Sims has extensive experience working with athletes at all levels: from beginning recreational athletes to the Olympians and Tour de France-caliber cyclists. In 2012 she left her full time academic position at Stanfard to become a mum, launch a start up (Osmo Hydration ) and start her own consultancy practice – all to disseminate science into real world applications for athletes, coaches, educators, and colleagues.

Future topics from Dr. Sims will cover: the menstrual cycle and menstrual dysfunction, what menopause and perimenopause means to the female athlete, why popular diets often don’t work for women, how hormones affect hydration recommendations and why GI distress is more common in women than men. If there’s other topics of interest you’d like to see Dr. Sims tackle, feel free to let us know in the comments section

Jessi Braverman

I’ll let you in on a little secret. My career is based upon one question: “Why?”. As a female athlete, I was always given training, nutrition and recovery information based on science, but that science was always from a population of 18-20 year old college-aged males. Until the 1980’s, it was widely assumed that the physiological responses to exercise did not truly differ between men and women. This explains why all the training, nutrition, recovery schedules I’ve seen, and for the most part still exist, are recommendations that have been generalised to women – without really questioning if this direct transfer was viable.

So as an athlete, I began to ask “Why?” in response to what I was observing and experiencing. Why did women have less heat tolerance when they were just about to have their period? Why did my female crew teammates recover less quickly than the guys after a heavy intense workout? Why does it seem harder for women to “lean up” when following the same advice as their age- and fitness-matched male counterparts? These are just some general questions, but throughout my career I have always asked: Why is this different for me and my athletic female friends and clients?

There are many angles to address here, but I want to specifically focus on the physiology and nutritional aspects of recovery. Regardless of gender, if you don’t recover, you won’t achieve your performance potential. In this vein, I want to give as much correct information to all you women (and the male coaches!) so you can start recovering properly.

First, let’s look at the differences of fuel utilisation during exercise, which may help explain why women need a bit less carbohydrate per hour than men. This allows us to create specific recovery nutrition guidelines for women.

Estrogen decreases the reliance on liver glycogen, increases the use of fat and decreases amino acid breakdown during exercise. These fuel responses have been attributed to a sex difference between catecholamine responses during exercise. Men release a larger amount of catecholamines at a given moderate-high intensity exercise load than women who have similar training status. This glycogen sparing, increased fat use is even greater during the high hormone phase (luteal phase) of the menstrual cycle when estrogen is at its highest concentrations.

How does this translate to every day practical use? Women have a greater capacity for burning fat and sparing glycogen (both in the liver and the muscle) in the high hormone phase. To maintain the capacity to hit intensities, women should look to stay on top of carbohydrate intake during exercise (e.g using glucose tablets before each high intensity interval), but during the low hormone phase, women can afford to ingest less exogenous carbohydrate than her age and fitness matched male counterpart (think: 45-55 grams per hour as opposed to the 65-80 grams per hour).

So does this mean women need to eat more fat? Actually, no. As long as a women’s current intake is approximately 30 percent of her daily caloric intake, adding fat is not necessary. When fat intake is 10-20 percent upping intake of “good” fats will ensure rapid restoration of fuel to muscles.

Researchers have looked at the recovery phase in men and women. Although women metabolise and use more fatty acids during prolonged exercise and have greater fat stores than men, women have a greater ability to maintain energy substrate stores during exercise and during recovery. Three hours post-exercise, men still have higher rates of blood glucose fluctuations and lower glycogen stores, whereas women are relatively close to the pre-exercise state (side note- this also contributes to the harder-to-get-lean factor many women face as they have less of a window of elevated metabolic state and fatty acid use at rest; this is something I’ll discuss in detail in a future column).


It is well known that carbohydrate is the predominant energy used for continuous endurance events with fat oxidation playing an increasingly important role over two hours; however amino acids (from circulation and muscle protein breakdown) can provide up to 10 percent of total energy during endurance exercise. The use of amino acids can be increased during higher intensity, longer duration exercise, but also if there is low glycogen availability and/or a habitually high-protein dietary strategy.

Women oxidise less protein and leucine than men even though there is no sex difference in the muscle enzyme that controls the intramuscular use of branch-chained amino acids. Although endurance exercise does lower the activity of the enzyme responsible for amino acid use, female endurance athletes run the risk of being in a negative leucine balance. During the high hormone phase of the menstrual cycle, progesterone (or a lower estrogen to progesterone ratio) increases the use of protein during exercise. This phase difference is important to note for recovery. Amino acids are key to immune function as well as muscle adaptations to stress.


In men, mixed muscle and myofibrillar protein synthesis rates are enhanced post-exercise with a small ingestion of protein of around 10 grams of protein, but further enhanced after the ingestion of approximately 20 grams protein. Greater quantities (up to 40 grams), do not increase synthesis rates, but increase amino acid oxidation and urea production.

In women, estrogen inhibits muscle protein synthesis, progesterone enhances muscle breakdown and a sex difference (of hepatic origin) exists in amino acid oxidation. With these additional factors, research findings indicate muscle protein synthesis is enhanced in women post-exercise with the ingestion of approximately 30 grams of protein. The leucine content is the contender here. Muscle protein synthesis is reliant on tissue-leucine concentration, and the effects of estrogen on protein synthesis inhibit the oxidation of leucine within the muscle.


Dietary proteins differ in their amino acid composition as well as rates of digestion and absorption – all which have measureable effects on post-exercise muscle protein synthesis and whole body protein synthesis. The Essential Amino Acid (EAA) content of the protein, in particular the leucine content, can dramatically affect muscle protein synthesis. For example, compared with casein and soy sources of protein, whey protein has distinct anabolic characteristics (and anti-inflammatory properties) which result in a greater synthesis of muscle protein both at rest and after exercise. When the overnight fast is taken into consideration, casein provided before sleep is absorbed more rapidly than casein provided during the day, increasing rates of muscle protein synthesis by approximately 22 percent as compared to a placebo and 10 percent as compared to whey.


Plasma volume is the watery component of blood that reduces the thickness of the blood and allows blood to flow quickly to working tissues. When we begin to sweat, it is the plasma volume that is lost first because this is the fluid that helps make up the sweat. We sweat to remove heat.

As women, we have an elevation of our resting core temperature in the luteal phase of the natural menstrual cycle and in the last 15 days of oral contraceptive pill (OCP) due to elevated progesterone concentrations. The increased progesterone stimulates the phrenic nerve, increasing respiration, and it also acts to increase sweat production later than in the low hormone times of the menstrual cycle. So, with elevated progesterone, there is a natural re-setting of the baseline body temperature by as much as 0.3 -0.5 °Celsius. Coupled with an increased time to sweat during the luteal (high hormone) phase, it can be seen that athletic performance is compromised in the luteal phase due to higher body temperature and less ability to get rid of the heat.

What’s more is that high estrogen and progesterone act on the kidney’s hormones to reduce plasma volume, a drop of up to eight percent from ovulation to the mid-luteal phase, and this fluid goes between the cells. This causes the bloating often associated with PMS. In general, during the luteal phase and the high hormone phase of the menstrual cycle, women are less able to cope with the heat and have a reduced ability to sweat to remove the heat from deep inside the body.


Before training: in the 90 minutes leading up to your training session, you need to drink as much as comfortable (~500 millilitres) of low-carbohydrate fluid and/or eat watery fruit and vegetables (salted tomatoes or salted watermelon). This is also good time to use a sodium-based fluid load drink (look for a sodium citrate + sodium bicarbonate mix rather than sodium chloride) to maximise body fluid and sodium stores.

During training: Similar to baseline needs, what you drink during your ride depends on several factors including temperature, environment, time of day, intensity of training, sex differences. It is important to go into a race or training situation hydrated. Remember it is much easier to come back from a low sugar ‘bonk’ (a few minutes after a bit of food) than it is to come back from dehydration (several hours for the kidneys and hormones to kick in for fluid balance)! Your fluid intake during training should allow you to maintain power towards the end of your ride. I recommend drinking a “functional hydration” (three-four percent carbohydrate beverage/three-four grams carbohydrate per 100ml) and basing your initial fluid needs on drinking to thirst.

Keep in mind here, drinking to thirst is not THE answer, you must start your session hydrated, then use thirst as a guide for the first three or four hours. Don’t become too thirsty (not drinking then all of a sudden needing to gulp copious fluid; instead sip sip, nibble nibble). If you are concerned that drinking to thirst is not optimal for you, the most recent scientific consortium guidelines recommend not exceeding 800ml/hour in temperate conditions and not to exceed 900ml/hour for hotter and/or more intense rides. Remember this is based on generalised guidelines. The best way to tap into what you specially need is to objectively measure your hydration status using pee sticks.

After Training: After you exercise, as a general rule, you need to slowly rehydrate over the course of 2-3 hours. Don’t gulp fluid. This is counterproductive for rehydration. Instead consume a combination of an protein-based drink (the amino acids help with rehydration) and watery foods for optimal rehydration and recovery


There are several key points presented here that you can take aboard and apply to your training, racing and recovery.

1. Women have greater fat stores and access fat to a greater degree during exercise, sparing liver glycogen, but during the high hormone phase of the menstrual cycle, this carbohydrate sparing mechanism can work against intensity and performance. In this phase, have extra quick hits of sugar in the form of glucose tablets, jelly beans or energy chews to maximise your interval sessions, racing and other high intensity events.

2. Women don’t oxidise as many branch-chained amino acids during exercise as men, but in the high hormone phase of the menstrual cycle, there is a greater reliance on protein during exercise (and at rest). Ideally, post exercise ingestion should comprise around 20-30 grams of high-quality protein within 30 minutes of exercise. Any delay compromises tissue leucine concentration, and enhances muscle tissue breakdown. Equally important is consuming subsequent doses of approximately 20 grams of protein across the day. Meal content should be around 0.25g/kg with one last dose of protein before bed. This strategy will support muscle adaptation, body fat loss (with negative energy balance) and lean mass preservation.

3. The post-exercise recovery phase: three hours post-exercise, a woman’s metabolism is pretty close to pre-exercise/baseline levels, so the two-hour recovery window after the first of a 2x day exercise session needs to be carefully planned in order to restore the muscles’ fuel stores

4. The quick return to baseline metabolism also contributes to the reduced ability to “lean up” in women. Again, women need to take advantage of the two-hour window to promote body composition change and glycogen/fat store recovery.


Further readings:


  • Hausswirth C. and Le Murr Y. Physiological and Nutritional Aspects of Post-Exercise Recovery: Specific recommendations for female athletes. Sports Med, 2011; 41(10): 861-882.
  • Tarnopolsky MA. Sex differences in exercise metabolism and the role of 17-beta estradiol. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2008; 40 (4): 648-54.
  • Roepstorff C, Steffensen CH, Madsen M, et al. Gender differences in substrate utilization during submaximal exercise in endurance-trained subjects. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2002; 282 (2): E435-47.

How fast do you lose your run fitness?

Hit this link to take you to an article posted by Jack Daniels on this topic. 

Summary points:

Research shows you shouldn’t be too worried about losing significant fitness if your break from running is less than two weeks.

You’ll lose some conditioning in your aerobic system and muscles, but pre-inactivity fitness will return quickly. Again, this assumes that you have built a healthy and consistent base of training of 4-6 months prior to taking time off. It’s not the end of your career if you haven’t been training for this long; it simply means that the reduction in fitness will be slightly more pronounced.

After two weeks of not training, significant reductions in fitness begin to occur and you’ll have about 2-8 weeks of training (depending on the length of inactivity) ahead of you to get back to your previous level of fitness.


Swissman Extreme Triathlon - how did the coach go?

Swissman Tri – how extreme was it, really?

The Swissman is the newest addition to the ‘extreme’ series of triathlon events that make up the Allxtri events - you may have heard of the Norseman and/or Celtman. Each of the events has a distinctive local style about it. Previously I’d heard a little about the Norseman including diving off a boat into cold fiords and something about uphill marathons. I’d never thought seriously about doing another triathlon, let alone an ironman length event. Besides, hadn’t I done enough in my youth?! I’d only ever participated in one ironman – 1996 NZIM – in which I’d finished as 2nd elite female, but it was in a totally relieved state as the long distance training simply wasn’t my cuppa tea.  


So how did I get caught up in competing in another IM distance event, and especially in one that could arguably be considered one of the toughest and most extreme in the world?


As some of you will be aware I spent 10 years racing as a professional triathlete with highlights including ITU World Cup Series Champion (won 4 World Cup events) and ITU World Long Distance Champion (4kS-120kB-30kR). Of the 10 years living internationally I spent 7 seasons based in Paris and racing throughout Europe. I loved the variety of events and especially the tough hilly courses. I have spent the last 12 years as a happily retired & somewhat chubby coach with great tri memories.  


Early in 2013, with my 50th birthday fast approaching, I started to think about an appropriate celebratory activity to undertake. I couldn’t ignore the fact that undertaking a triathlon would be appropriate so I made a decision to enter the 2014 Wanaka Half IM. Shortly after entering this event, my friend Paula Drew pointed out an event she’d seen online – the Swissman Extreme Triathlon. I had a look at the video and course photos – love at first sight!! All I could think was ‘wow’, mountains, mountains, and more mountains. Not just mountains but finishing alongside the mighty North Face of the Eiger! What a challenge that event would be, I mused! Another lure being that a support team was required to assist the athlete throughout the event and it was compulsory that a supporter completed the last 10k alongside their athlete. It must be extreme!


So I immediately proceeded to get in touch with the event organisers to ask if I could enter the 2014 event and bring some other Kiwis with me. I was told that they hadn’t actually tested the course as yet but given it proved safe, they’d run an event in 2014 with a field of 250 and entry by lottery.


I watched with interest as the first event was completed and proved a success. Time to start training for this super event! The organisers opened the 2014 edition to 250 athletes and I managed to get my entry confirmed. That’s when the real work started ….


Anyone who knew me during the last year will have known that I was training for the event but probably didn’t realise what a challenge that was for me. I’m sure everyone considers that a former World Champ would have no issues completing an event with a year-long lead up. People may feel that ex-champions don’t feel the same stresses and strains as other people – it simply isn’t so. I’m understating things when I say that it was hard to get in the mileage. I never actually ran after a long bike ride - I was never motivated enough! I spent an awful lot of money on sports specialists and masseuses (when I couldn’t con my partner into taking pity and giving me a massage).


The Wanaka Half came and went – I really wasn’t very fit, but managed to get through the event without walking! I finished the event knowing I had a lot of hard training ahead of me if I was going to complete the Swissman.

Fast forward five months –  shortly before the Swissman, even though I only managed one 180km bike ride (thanks Peter Kane) and even though I didn’t ever run off a long bike ride I was sure I’d manage OK and would probably produce 5:15ish per km pace for the run.


So Swissman event day snuck up – forecast to be settled weather. Conditions turned out to be beautiful - 22 degree lake temp; 20 degrees over the high alp passes; and 30 degrees during much of the run leg.

We all got onto the boat that took us to the swim start at 4:15am. At just after 5am the hooter went. The swim was going really well until I got my first ever cramp, within an event, at about 400m from the end – ouch. That wasn’t in the game plan - however I was the first woman to exit the water in around 55 mins. On the bike I rode the first 50k with the eventual women’s race winner. At the 50k point, and very suddenly, my body decided it was 50 yrs old, going on 100yrs, tired and wanting a break ….. perhaps a little early in the day but there was no denying it was going to be a challenge! For the following 50k,  until the top of the first major climb, I was really in a nasty dark place where monsters and serpents lurk. It felt like the entire field rode past me in that section! Not only did the terrain tilt up to around 10 percent gradient at times, but the first major climb - The Tremola - had about 14kms of cobblestoned road surface. I rode around 9kmph up that climb with short spurts, riding in the concrete gutter, at 12kmph. With so much of the event still in front of me, I was fairly worried during this stage. However I gained inspiration from the cows that rang their bells in support as I continued forwards and upwards to just over 2km vertical altitude.


Most riders stopped at the top of each of the 3 cols to put on extra clothing - at 20 degrees there was no way this Kiwi was doing that! I sped down the descents, loving every twist and turn along the way. It was mind-blowingly exciting and worth every hard rotation spent on the upward legs. By the way, the climbs were taking around an hour, or more, each – nothing in the Wellington region would have prepared me for this terrain. When the organisers called this event an extreme triathlon, they clearly meant that it was both extremely beautiful and extremely difficult. The second climb up Furkapass was 2400m, and the 3rd climb to Grimsel pass topped out at 2100m.


In the final massively long descent we traversed numbers of tunnels and in one I came close to seriously damaging myself – I’d taken note of the tunnel during the course reccie and had rehearsed in my head that I’d have to take it easy through it and out the other side. There was a corner in the tunnel and a large lump in the road just coming out of it. So I stormed into the tunnel and had forgotten I was going way faster than we had been in the car – what was a tight corner in a vehicle turned into a death trap at speed on a bicycle,  especially as Murphy’s Law came into play - I was met by 2 cars and 2 motorbikes coming in the opposite direction in the tunnel. I knew I was likely to cross the centre line and was fortunate that the motorcyclist saw what was happening and swerved out of the way. Thank you Mr Motorcyclist.


Some 40km later, I transitioned to the final marathon leg. A fortunate coincidence meant that my nephew Linden was based at Kandensteg International Scout Centre a few kms away at the time of the race. He rode a MTB beside me for a large portion of the marathon, providing me with drinks and much needed moral support. The first 2km gave a sense of what was to come - straight uphill (like Tip Track), then traversing behind a picturesque waterfall before slowly descending through leafy forests to run alongside Brienzsee lake.


I was jogging along relatively well until we got onto the flat and into the open sun. At that point, and in temperatures of 28-30 degrees, every cell in my body was saying “walk …. walk …”. So I did and for a very long way - in fact, until we got way up the valley and closer to Grindelwald.  At this point, my brother David had joined me on the journey and he endured stints of jogging and walking as I worked at maintaining a reasonable level of effort. Number one supporter, Ange, was managing the support logistics and was preparing herself for the final 10km uphill slog – the section of the course that climbs 1000m  in altitude and requires that the athlete’s supporter accompany them to the end of the race.


It was with delight that we finally made it to Grindelwald and the compulsory gear check-in. The 10km ascent alongside the North Face of the Eiger was to be the event highlight for me. It was ‘hands on knees’ stuff for the first half of the climb but it eased off slightly as we got higher. Ange and I even helped a farmer move his calves (each with a baby bell) on the way up! It was absolutely quintessential Switzerland – pastures of wildflowers, cows chewing grass and the most stunning alpine scenery surrounding us. I had read a lot of mountaineering books describing murderous climbs up the North Face, and here to my delight, we had unobstructed views of the vertical stone face for the remainder of the race. It was sublime to watch the colours change on the rock slopes as the sun limped lower in the sky


I can’t explain how wonderful the whole thing was. The final feelings of elation at the finish line in Kleine Scheidegg were a combination of numerous things: being in a stunning location; the satisfaction of a goal achieved; the sheer delight of rising to a challenge and the utter relief of achieving that challenge. I felt overjoyed and thrilled with the achievement and the event itself – more satisfaction than I’d experienced when winning any of my World, European or National titles.

I felt the euphoria that comes from an awareness of having experienced great fortune and great health on the path to creating great memories with friends and family.


I have to remind myself that these feelings only come by setting significant, personally meaningful challenges for oneself – I plan to set more challenges and push my boundaries to create some more outstanding memories in my 2nd 50 years that replicate those of the first 50!


Thank you Ange, Paula, Swissman organisers and all friends and family who’ve supported me along the way. My achievements are your achievements.


Are you swimming straight?

Have a look at this excellent video from Adam Young of Swim Smooth which shows triathletes coming to the end of the Western Australia IM swim. This sort of navigation is not unique to this race ... it's likely that you can improve your swimming. Come along to my swim sessions and we'll look at your navigation ... 

The Ten Most Common Mistakes Made By Triathletes, Wayne Goldsmith

Working with triathletes is a very rewarding coaching experience. Triathletes are on the whole committed, enthusiastic, work-orientated, goal focussed athletes who are a pleasure to coach. Over the past ten years however, working with triathletes of all ages and levels, I have found that there are certain mistakes commonly made by many triathletes in their first year or two of training and competition.

These mistakes are often made purely because the triathlete is so enthusiastic and determined to do well in the sport, that they often take short cuts or make poor training decisions based on anecdote rather than on intelligence and logic.

Fore-warned is fore-armed, so here are the ten most common mistakes made by triathletes so you can avoid making them!


Increasing training volume too quickly. When many triathletes take up the sport, early improvements in performance come from improvements in aerobic fitness associated with increased physical activity. This is particularly true of senior age group triathletes who may have not exercised regularly for some time. The danger is that often a "SOME TRAINING IS GOOD, THEREFORE MORE IS BETTER" attitude develops and before you know it you have an overuse injury. Try to limit increases in training loads to 2-3% per week and every four weeks have a week of rest and recovery.


Ignoring stretching and injury prevention. When your triathlon training and racing is going well, you can be confused into thinking you are invincible. Talk with triathletes who have been involved in the sport for some time and they will tell you how tough it is to be injured. Take time to develop flexibility around key joints. Develop a strong core of abdominal and lower back strength. See a qualified and experienced sports physiotherapist and ask for a musculo skeletal screen. The MUSCULO SKELETAL SCREEEN is a simple physical examination conducted by a skilled sports physiotherapist, which measures your flexibility and stability in key muscles and joints like your back, hips, ankles and shoulders. The physio can then give you some ideas on injury prevention and performance enhancement through the right stretching and strengthening program. We call it a CD-ROM program, which stands for CORE DEVELOPMENT-RANGE OF MOTION.


Relying on technology instead of technique and skills. Triathletes are among the most committed, hard working athletes I have come across. Many are in a great hurry to increase training volume (how much you do) rather than taking time to develop technical excellence first then increasing the training kilometres. When commencing a triathlon training program, take a few months to get some coaching in all three areas. See a swim coach for some technique work and stroke development. Work with a cycle coach on bike set up, cornering, gear selection, pedaling, bunch riding, (AND not forgetting bike maintenance). Consult a running coach on speed development, running with correct technique, etc. Be wary of gimmicks with promises of fast improvements. The short cuts you take this year, you will pay for next year.


Spending too much time on your strongest leg instead of working on your weakest. An old coaching friend once told me, "work on your weaknesses, your strengths can take care of themselves". Triathletes from a running background find long slow distance running work easy, so if given the choice they will often run rather than swim or cycle. Every training session is an opportunity to gain a competitive edge and to improve an aspect of performance. Take advantage of every opportunity to improve weaknesses whilst maintaining the edge you have in your strongest leg.


Avoiding speed work. There is no doubt that triathlon is an endurance based sport. However there are times when speed is important and being able to move really fast on demand is a deadly competitive skill. Speed is a tool that allows you to race and compete rather than just finish. It is also a fundamental aspect of successful endurance performance. The physiological concept of "speed reserve" suggests that endurance athletes need to develop speed, so that their endurance training and racing can be done at faster speeds. If your best time for one hundred metres is 30 seconds (five-minute kilometre pace) it is unlikely you can run 50 minutes for 10 k's since no one can operate at 100% for very long. Speed is a vital component of successful endurance performance.


Using training hard as an excuse to eat and drink whatever you like. What you eat today, swims, cycles and runs tomorrow. Training hard is not an excuse for eating junk. You don't put low-grade fuel or unleaded petrol in a high performance engine or Formula I car. Triathletes are Formula I athletes. Training for a tough demanding activity demands high performance fuel. And remember it's CARBO LOAD NOT GARBO LOAD.


Not taking time to rest and recover. Rest, recovery, regeneration, relaxation are all words to describe the process of allowing your body to adapt to hard training. Getting enough sleep, having a spa, getting a massage, doing some exercise for fun instead of training, eating well and stretching are all part of effective recovery. . Effective recovery has many benefits. Effective recovery techniques increase the rate at which your body recovers from training stresses. This has two main benefits:

You can train harder (quality)

You can do more training (quantity)

Training stimulates your body to adapt and improve. Everyone gets a little tired and fatigued from training. Being tired is NOT a BAD thing. Being tired after training is all part of the process of improving and achieving your best.But, being over tired, and carrying tiredness from one session to the next can cause real problems. Recovery is the process of monitoring fatigue and doing things to overcome it. 

Sleep is a key recovery technique. Everyone needs sleep; some triathletes need more than others. Get to know how much sleep you need to make you feel rested and recovered.


Training at too high an intensity. Many age group triathletes, particularly those from team sport backgrounds, often train too hard. The intensity of their training sessions is a little too high, resulting in excessive body stress and residual fatigue carrying over from one session to the next. Aerobic training is training which helps triathletes develop their endurance - their "staying power". It is usually done early in the season and prepares triathletes for the hard work and hard racing to come later in the season. Coaches sometimes refer to this as " the aerobic base".

Aerobic training is done at low intensity, with rhythm and relaxation. It gives your body the physiological characteristics to handle fast work, to recover quickly from hard efforts at training and between races and to burn fat for fuel more efficiently.

Intensity is a measure of how hard your body is working. You can measure intensity by training at a specific pace, timing your efforts, taking your heart rate, training to a scale (ie. 1 out of 10 is easy, 9 out of ten is really hard). How hard you are working AND NOT just how far you go is the key to training effectively.


Not planning an integrated, balanced training program. It is important that you find time to develop a training program for triathlon, not swim, bike and run. It sounds weird but there is a difference between training for the individual legs and for the overall sport. Recently a friend rang me. He was very frustrated with his training program. He had a specialist swim coach coaching him in the pool, a top cycling coach working with him on the road and a track and field distance coach for his run sessions. However, because the three coaches didn't share training session information, he ended doing three hard lactate type sessions in the one day! There are times to work on the specific skills and techniques of the individual legs and times to integrate and balance a training plan incorporating all three. It is difficult to make significant improvements in all legs at once. Stress is stress. A hard ride places a tough demand on the body just as a hard run or hard swim.


Copying the "secrets" of champions. Much of what we know about athletic performance we have learned from observing, monitoring and testing great athletes. The challenge is that the factors that lead to these athletes becoming great are not always reproducible or even measurable. Listen to the great ones. Learn from their successes and avoid reproducing their mistakes. Above all, take from the champions what is appropriate and applicable to you at your level of competition and suitable to your training background.

In summary:

T - Triathlon is a great sport.

R - Rest, recover, regenerate and remember to take it easy from time to time.

I - Ignore injury prevention and correct stretching exercises at your peril.

A - Avoid, tricks, cons, gimmicks and fads. Success has few short cuts and fewer rules.

T - Train as you would race, that is with a balanced program developing skills and excellence in areas of weakness and maintaining a competitive advantage in your strengths.

H - Hard work is rarely without reward. Train hard then rest hard.

L - Learn from the successful techniques of the great triathletes then improve on them. Do what the successful triathletes of 2008 will be doing, but do it now.

O - One thing is certain. Develop your training program on a philosophy of staying healthy, uninjured and with a commitment to sensible balanced training with adequate time for effective recovery and you will do well.

N - Now - get out there and do it