This October, Haseeb Ahmad, a British para-ti athlete will attempt to become the first blind athlete to go under 10 hours at Ironman Barcelona and I'll be his guide. We'll swim tethered, ride a tandem and run tethered. You can read the first part of our story HERE.
This Sunday will be our first race together as a duo, as we take part in Ironman Staffs 70.3 and last week, myself and The Endurance Coach head coach and bike fitter Nick Thomas, drove down to Leicester to meet up with Haseeb for some much needed planning!
Our first job was to bike fit the tandem. Nick attached it to the turbo whilst me and Haseeb pedalled away on the driveway, much to the amusement of the gardener. We made a few tweaks to Haseeb's position, but mine was the bigger challenge as the tandem was a large size and I'm 5'8 and quite small (but particularly buff). We were also conscious of making the tandem as aero as possible to give us some free speed and soon found the right position. Our extensive training session involved 4 laps of the housing estate with me wobbling to a halt at every junction, then mounting the kerb each time we pushed off. As long as you don't have to stop, it's pretty straight forwards really. We discussed race nutrition and hydration, the tandem has it's own complications in that I have to get all the bottles at aid stations. Many of you will know that riding through an Ironman aid station and coming out with a bottle and still alive is a skill in itself. Me having to grab 2 is probably not going to happen so we'll have to come to a halt and reload the bottle cages.
We talked a fair bit about training and both myself and Nick have very similar views in terms of Ironman performance. You need to be a strong swimmer and biker or your running will fail. Haseeb is a particularly strong runner, but we know that the correct work has to be done on the swim and bike for us to be successful. If we get the swim/bike fitness correct, get the swim/bike pacing correct and get the nutrition right, then our marathon target of 3:30-3:40 should be achievable.
We headed to the local pool to practice swimming tethered and the guys there were really helpful setting out a separate lane. The tethering works pretty well and we swam a block of 100m reps whilst Nick looked on. One of the biggest issues we see with triathlon swimmers, is a complete over-focus on technique. Most age group swimmers will never have perfect technique and they would be far more successful if they realised that fact. With most age group swimmers, you could pick 100 things wrong with their stroke, but there's probably only 4-5 key things which would make a huge difference. There's little point chasing the other unachievable 95 things, you can go a long way with actually solving the basics then doing some hard swimming and decent volume.
It's difficult giving swim coaching to someone who can't see demonstrations, but Nick got the point across which was basically to 'keep it simple, forget the technical, relax and swim'. I could feel us getting quicker each repetition so we're hoping for a swim close to 35 minutes at Staffs if things go right.
So the plan for this weekend is to keep it simple. It's our first ride out on the tandem (I have ridden them before... relax people) and we just need to race well and gather as much information as possible. We're not going to go 100% as there's little point being smashed for 2 weeks, when we have bigger fish to fry. I'm learning as we go and often it's the things you don't think about which present the biggest challenge. Riding the tandem will be easy, going through transitions less so.
Enjoy your weekend wherever you are and if you see us at Staffs, give us a shout.