Barry’s training and racing Immortal Half

Posted on: July 30, 2019

1. Triathlon is a big part of your life, when did you first venture into the sport and why?
I had watched a couple Ironman Triathlons on TV but had never considered doing one as all the athletes on the programme looked amazingly fit, young, lean and fast, none of which I considered myself to be. Plus of course there was the little matter of me barely being able to swim, a few lengths breaststroke was my limit. In 2005 the very first Ironman race in the UK took place at Sherborne, Dorset which is only a few miles from where I live, and the run route was passing very near my house. I took a chair and settled down to watch a bit of the run for an hour or so, but I ended up watching for over 6 hours. It was totally inspiring to see that the race wasn’t just for young, very fit athletes but all ages, shapes and sizes were taking part. It really was a case of “Well if they can do it then why can’t I”. So, a couple of months later I entered Ironman UK 2006 and signed up for some swimming lessons.

2. How many triathlons have you raced to date – approximate if not known?
Ha, probably more than my wallet is happy with, that’s for sure. I did my very first Triathlon in June 2006, it was a Half Ironman as a practice race for the full Ironman in September. Since then I’ve had a go at lots of distances but for the last few years I have concentrated on just long distance races, usually doing one Half Ironman and one or two full Ironman races each year. So far, my total is 17 Sprint, 4 Olympic, 16 Half Ironman and 17 full Ironman.

3. Over this period, you must have clocked up hundreds of training hours! What have you learnt about yourself, what have you found works and what doesn’t work?

a. Learnt about yourself:
Now that I have a Coach who prepares my training plans, I have found I can be very disciplined with my approach to getting the sessions done, following the session plan and I have very rarely missed a session. I think my discipline has been one of the key factors in getting me to the Ironman start line with the best chance of performing well.

b. What works:
Having a structured training plan that evolves as your training progresses towards race day and sticking to it. Having a good Coach will always be a helpful bonus.

c. What doesn’t:
Making it up as you go along, chopping and changing plans to copy the ‘latest trend’, too many sessions done at a very hard effort level. Any of the above will stop you getting the best out of yourself.

4. Recently, in the last 2 years, you have been coached by Matt from Masters of Tri, how has this changed your approach to training? Were there any surprises?
It has made a big difference to my training. Having a coach takes all the guesswork out, it takes away all the time I used to spend trying to work out a plan, the time spent compiling it and updating as needed, it just makes it a lot easier. Now Matt from Masters of Tri gives me a plan for each training week in a clear easy to understand format, and most importantly it is built around my busy lifestyle ensuring I get the best use out of the time I have available. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my best results have all come since Matt has been helping me.

I was surprised at how detailed my plan was, each session is clearly broken down into specific sections with specific goals for each session. This also makes the training far more interesting than my old “just go and swim for a 100 lengths, or ride for 3 hours etc” approach. My plan is geared towards my Ironman races, but I was also surprised at how few really hard sessions there were each week, not that I’m complaining of course !

5. You play badminton to a high level and so spend part of the year training for this; do you find the variation of sports helps you physically with triathlon training / racing?
Badminton and Ironman Triathlon are very different sports. Badminton has lots of short, explosive 100% effort bursts, lots of twisting, turning, backwards movements and most of the time you are instantly reacting to what your opponent has done. Ironman is hour after hour of 80% effort in a straight line, you are having to make your own decisions not reacting to what somebody else has done. The two sports really don’t mix well. However, Matt has been able to utilise some of my badminton matches to compliment my Ironman training by using them as speed or strength sessions. Luckily the two sports have different seasons and I can move from one to the other. I find the transition from badminton to Ironman much easier than the other way around. Slowing down and extending the duration of the sessions is far easier than going from several months of 80% effort to suddenly needing full on explosive movements.

6. How about the mental side – the sports are very different, but have you found carry over traits that have benefited you?
Nothing really springs to mind. I think the ability to concentrate and focus on the task in hand is equally important in both sports. Having a determined and focused attitude to training, matches and races will always be a help.

2019, so far…

7. The early part of your year (most years) is spent competing in badminton, how did you get on this year?
For the last few years I have been travelling a lot to play in different leagues to really stretch myself, so all of my games have been very hard. I was very pleased that one of my teams has won a doubles league title and the other came 3rd. I’ve not entered many tournaments this season as I’ve mainly been concentrating on Ironman training. I also played in all the Somerset County matches both at Senior and Veterans level.

8. Moving back to triathlon, what are your goals for this season – your “A” race and any supporting goals leading up to this event?
To do well at my warm up race, Immortal Half, in May and then to prepare as well as possible to give me my best chance at performing well at my ‘A’ race which is Ironman UK on 14th July. I never give myself any finish time targets as there are so many variables between course and on the day eg. the weather, but I do always set myself the target of finishing in the top 10 of my Age Group.

9. As part of the journey you took part in the Stourhead Immortal Half. This is an event you have done a few times – how many times now?
My first couple of years on the Immortal half course were as the bike and run sweep person, basically I rode / ran with the back markers to make sure nobody was left out on the course. Then I decided it’s such a nice race that I wanted to have a go, so I have raced the last three years. I’ve been lucky enough to finish 3rd in my Age Group the first year and have won my Age Group the last two years

10. What is the best part about the Stourhead Immortal Half?
It’s a well organised, very friendly race in a lovely setting, with nice quiet roads for the bike section. There is also the big bonus of an ice cream van right by the finish line 

11. Any useful advice about the Stourhead Immortal Half? E.g Trail shoes or road shoes, TT bike or road bike?
I’ve always used a TT bike as for most of the route you can get down on your bars and zip along. A lot of the run is actually off road, gravel paths and across fields but the paths have always been quite firm, and I’ve found normal road shoes are perfectly ok.

12. The last few years at Stourhead it has been really warm (for May in the UK), how do cope with the heat and what advice would you have for anyone who struggles in hot weather?
I do tend to struggle more in the hot weather than most people. So, if it’s going to be a hot one, I make sure I have sun cream on, keep as hydrated as possible on the bike sections and take extra electrolytes as necessary. On the run section I take water at every aid station, usually a cup to drink and a cup to pour over my head. If it’s really sunny a cap is always a good way to keep the sun off your head and out of your eyes. When the race is over get you fluids topped up as soon as possible, a good post-race sport recovery drink is ideal.

13. Recently you have been spotted in a Hi Viz helping marshal at some of the Immortal Sport events, is marshalling a sprint distance Triathlon more tiring than racing one?
Ha ha, yes it can be depending on what marshalling role you are doing. I have done quite a bit of marshalling from registering athletes at the start of the day, being on a junction directing cyclists and runners and working on a water station. However, for me the most tiring but satisfying jobs is working in the transition area. Checking in the athletes with their bikes, checking they have all their safety gear, helping newcomers set up their bikes on the rack, answering all the ‘where do I, how do I?’ questions, checking all the athletes and their bikes back out after their races and then dismantling all the racking at the end. The last sprint triathlon race I did I completed in 1 hour 12 mins; the last sprint triathlon race I worked in transition I was on my feet from 3:15 in the afternoon to 9:30 in the evening!

Going forwards

14. Looking ahead to 2020, will you be returning to Stourhead, or heading to one of Immortal Sport’s other half distance events?
At the moment Stourhead is certainly part of my plans to return in 2020, I enjoy the race and it’s quite local to me. Plus of course I will want to try and defend my Age Group Title …

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