Mark Bayliss is aiming to be the first triathlete to complete the Enduroman Arch to Arc without a wetsuit this September.
This legendary event features an 87-mile run from Marble Arch in London to Dover, followed by a 21-mile Channel swim and a 180-mile bike ride to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Since the event's inception in 2001, only nine people have completed the challenge.
Play to your Strengths
Five years ago, Mark successfully completed the challenging Channel swim. The Channel Swimming Association’s rules forbid the use of wetsuits for official Channel swims, but a wetsuit is perfectly acceptable for the Arch to Arc. “Suddenly swimming the Channel didn’t seem so bad,” says Mark, “so I started to put the three disciplines together. All nine people who have successfully completed the Arch to Arc to date have been primarily runners and they’ve all found it hard in the water, so I’m hoping my swimming background will be an advantage.”
Eat for Success
The Arch to Arc swim is famously tough. Crossing 21 miles of choppy Channel without a wetsuit, as Mark plans to, will be even tougher. “The challenge is to refuel well on the run so that when I get in the water, I’ll be able to keep warm without a wetsuit and as comfortable as possible,” says Mark.
He’s planning to eat as much real food as possible throughout the race, and Gatorade products during the swim. “I’ll be eating bagels with honey, race cakes with strawberry jam and malt loaf. People often lose their appetite during endurance events so the challenge is to keep eating, and I know that I’ll be able to eat those foods.” Find out what works for you, and what will be available at the race, and experiment in training.
Rehearse the race
The three triathlon disciplines follow a different order in the Arch to Arc (run-swim- bike instead of swim-bike-run), so Mark’s done plenty of brick sessions to reflect that. “On a standard evening after work I might train with my running club for an hour from 7:30-8:30pm then go to the pool to train with the swim club from 8:30 until 10pm,” he says. “The key is to replicate the race conditions in your training.”
Pace Your Effort
If you know there’s a particularly tough section in your race, be sure to pace your effort accordingly. “There’s no getting away from the fact that running for a long time really takes it out of you,” says Mark. “The plan is to run for an 1 hour 50 minutes, then eat and rest for 10 minutes, then repeat. I will also walk towards the stop to take the pressure off my legs.” Mark’s goal is to complete the run expending as little energy as possible because he knows the biggest challenge of the Arch to Arc is getting through the 21-mile Channel swim.
Boost Your Confidence
It’s a good idea to cover your race distances in training, that way you’ll know you can manage them when it comes to the main event. Mark spent a weekend preparing for the Arch to Arc by leaving work at 6pm on a Friday and spending 10 hours running 45 miles. He then swam for three hours on Sunday and completed a 100-mile bike ride on Monday. “I felt fine on the bike, but swimming on the middle day was hard and made me realize how tough the Arch to Arc will be,” says Mark. “I’ve also done lots of ultra races as training.
Be in the moment
Once he sets off on his epic challenge, Mark will try not to think too far ahead. “I’m going to treat the whole thing as a normal day out,” says Mark. “I’ll try to imagine that I’m going for a long walk in the country with friends and focus on the next hour rather than the next 24 hours.
Go for a Goal
The world record for the Arch to Arc was set back in 2011 by Eddie Ette. He completed the race in 81:05:00. “I think that time’s very beatable,” says Mark, “so of course I have it in the back of my mind, but my main target is to finish. And start a trend for not wearing wetsuits.”
Reduce the what ifs
Mark suggests you start from your feet and work up. “Footcare is the most important thing in the world,” he says. Rehearse in your kit to make sure it doesn’t chafe. Check that your bike’s in perfect working order. “Imagine all the things that might go wrong, and how you going to deal what are you going to do if it does. Everyone can train hard, but you also need to work hard on the details.”