Three Try a Tri

Last year three RW guinea pigs took up the total-body challenge of the Michelob ULTRA London Triathon


Posted: 13 June 2006

As runners, we tend to consider ourselves among the fittest people around. We have strong legs, powerful cardiovascular systems, and keep our body fat well under control. So we have nothing to fear from anybody when it comes to fitness. Or do we? We tend to neglect our upper bodies to avoid unnecessary bulk, and many of us secretly think that running itself gives us enough of a leg workout. Swimmers, on the other hand, have supremely powerful arms, backs and shoulders, while cyclists have unparalleled power in their thighs.

To take the benefits of all three sports, and enjoy the ultimate total-body workout, it's difficult to think of a programme better than triathlon training. The question is, which sport would produce the best triathlete? We rounded up a specialist from each of the three disciplines to see who would come out on top after following a three-month training programme, tailored by Joe Beer, an elite triathlon coach and former Iron Man competitor. All three were trained towards the Olympic distance Michelob ULTRA London Triathlon last year.

Heidi
Age.... 29
Strengths Running
Weaknesses Swimming
Triathlon experience... None
PB's
10K - 39 mins
Marathon - 3:13
Favourite Races... Ultra Marathons
My training programme

The Runner

The runner among our trio of guinea pigs has what may be the hardest task of the three. She will only have the chance to strut her stuff in her favoured discipline once she has driven her body to the limit in the unfamiliar swim and cycle sections.

However, if her attitude is anything to go by, we can expect Wilson to be in good shape come the final transition. "I like having new focuses and learning new methods and techniques," she says. "When I started distance running, the best thing about being bad at it was improving at it. So I am really keen to learn the right techniques and improve on my swimming, cycling and running."

The running will clearly be the easy part. For the last five years Wilson has regularly been running five or six times a week, and she took part in last year's 175-mile Marathon Of Britain. Although an experienced ultra-runner, she is no stranger to shorter distances and has very creditable PBs of 19 minutes for 5K and 39 minutes for 10K, along with a 3:13 marathon.

Although she cycles to work regularly, Wilson has never tried it competitively, and she confesses to only swimming "once a month, if that." So she knows she has a challenge on her hands, but relishes the benefits - expecting an overall improvement in her fitness. On top of that, she reckons her running will gain from the more varied training. "I hope that it may also force me to do some speed training, which I don't do enough of at the moment; therefore hopefully my 10K and 5K times should improve," she says.

When asked what she expects from the race, she reveals a steely resolve. "To beat Dan and Daniel," she jokes, and, while she may be jesting, you'd think twice before betting against it.

You can follow Heidi's progress right here.

Daniel
Age.... 23
Strengths Cycling
Weaknesses Swimming
Triathlon experience... None
PB's
10K - 44 mins
10 mile time-trial - 25 mins
Favourite Races... Cycling time-trials
My training programme

The Cyclist

As the only international athlete on the team, we expect great things from Benson. His elite career was brief but glorious: at the age of 17 he represented the British schools team on a stage race in Holland, but Benson is still never far from the saddle, riding time trials to test his mettle. His love of cycling was inspired when he was in his teens: "I remember watching the Tour De France in 1996 on Channel 4 and I was instantly hooked on the sport," he says. "I guess I love the individual and endurance elements, as well as the fact that it keeps me fit. It's the greatest sport on the planet."

The decision to mix his love of cycling with the challenge of two other disciplines, however, was an easy one: "As soon as it was suggested to me, I knew that I had to give it a go. I find the thought of competing in such a massive challenge really enticing."

Benson admits that the prospect of a structured approach to his training is attractive. He has a 10-mile time trial PB of 25 minutes, set in his competitive heyday, but has not always followed a programme. "I've never been given a rigid training programme, so this is completely new territory for me," he says.

It won't only be the training that is a new experience. Benson confesses to something of an aversion to swimming. "The fact that I've been swimming three times in the last three years, says it all," he says. "Oh, and those three times were all last week, once I knew I was doing this." The running will come a little easier, though, as Benson has a 10K PB of 48 minutes.

And at the end of it all? "The race itself is going to be great fun," Benson predicts. "I see it as the culmination of three months' training, and it's when all the hard-work will pay-off. By the end of it I'd like to be able to call myself a triathlete."

You can follow Daniel's progress right here.
Dan
Age.... 29
StrengthsSwimming
WeaknessesRunning
Triathlon experience... None
PB's
100m freestyle - 57.44 secs
Favourite Races... Short distance swimming
My training programme

The Swimmer

Emerging from the water of the Victoria Docks ahead of the game should be no problem for Blakemore, but the 10K run at the end could be troublesome. The merman among our guinea pigs has been swimming since he was a toddler, but long-distance running is not a hobby: "I play football, so I do quite a bit of running," he says. "Nothing like 10K though. Also I have dodgy knees so try to do all my running on grass."

Blakemore's knees have been problematic in the past, and a long spell away from sport inspired his triathlon ambition. "A couple of years ago I had a nasty knee ligament injury," he says. "I was pretty much sidelined from all competitive sport for two years, and it makes you appreciate what you have. So when a friend suggested a triathlon, it seemed like the perfect challenge I was looking for."

Blakemore is more of a sprinter than an endurance athlete and has PBs of 57.44 seconds for the 100m freestyle and 1:03.29 for the 100m butterfly, so the 1500m swim will be longer than his usual competitive distances. But he will be prepared as he frequently covers the distance in training: "I find it quite a stress reliever: knocking out a mile alone with your thoughts is good thinking time," he says.

There is more to training than stress relief, though, and Blakemore relishes the effort the triathlon will demand and upping his training from his current four times per week. "There is a certain satisfaction in feeling pain when you know it is doing the job," he says. "When I notice improvements in my performance, then it will become totally worthwhile." And the race? "It will be hard, I'm sure, but I know I'll enjoy it. In terms of a target time, I'll let you know after three months of training."

You can follow Dan's progress right here.


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