So, you’re keen on doing an epic challenge this year. And you fancy a late season race in an iconic venue? But you’re worried that the Braveheart Triathlon (as sponsored by this magazine), with its run up and down Britain’s highest mountain is a step too far?
Well, we can help. Over the next four editions, we’ll give you a training plan to allow you to not only take on, but successfully conquer the race. We’ll also provide you with expert insight into all aspects of the course and what to expect.
For now, it’s time to “start the engine”. With the longer evenings and better weather, now’s the perfect time to pick up your training. So what should you be doing for the next four weeks?
The plan is actually pretty simple; you’ll do two sessions a week for each discipline, but always keeping things flexible. Work, family, bugs and a host of other factors all impact on our ability to train, so focus on not stressing if you miss sessions. The next four weeks should primarily be about awaking from your winter recess and beginning to think about the challenges ahead, notably the one on the 3rd October!
When picking up your training, it’s always important to do so gradually. I’ve lost count of the many people who tell me that they’ve all too quickly pulled muscles when they’ve started to dust off the winter cobwebs. Backs and knees tend to be the main victims so build up sensibly. Food is such a fundamental so start to think about fuelling yourself properly – a quick look through back copies of this magazine will put you on the right fuelling and re-fuelling track.
Make sure you keep things fun. We all have friends and family who tell us how they’d love to get out a bit more, so now is the chance to call their bluff and get some new training partners. They may not last through until October, but be sure to make use of their early season enthusiasm.
More info: bennevisbraveheart.co.uk
The Braveheart Swim
The swim is a two-lap affair with competitors following a line of buoys on each lap to turn anti-clockwise and come back. The sea floor is visible throughout so that does help. High tide on race day is at 8.56am with the start scheduled for 8.30am, so the effects of the tide on your swim should be minimal. Perhaps the key aspect of the swim will be temperature. The water is normally 13 degrees at the start of October, however, this cold spring has led to sea temperatures being significantly lower than normal, so colder water temperatures may be possible. For many of you, this will represent a colder than usual swim but make no mistake this is perfectly achievable. But there’s no escaping that this race is in Scotland at the start of October, so the combination of the cold water and crucially the expected low air temperature need to be carefully considered and prepared for. So what does this mean for race day? One word – transition.
The weather in Fort William in early October can frankly be anything, so prepare for the worst. Make sure your transition to the bike is prepared to do the key job required here – warming you up quickly. Take the time in transition to make yourself as comfortable as possible for the bike. Dry off and get warm as quickly as you can.
Next month we’ll go through the bike course in more detail, but do note for the moment there’s a gradual climb for the first half, so you should warm up quickly. Nonetheless, always err on the side of starting the bike with too much clothing on rather that too little. Just make sure you can store any unwanted layers as you ride. If you get wet and cold early on, this can have a dramatic effect on your body’s ability to process nutrition. Even if you finish the race warm and dry, that’s not a sign that you’ve gotten the best out of your body.
SEAN’S INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE SWIM
I’ve swum this course several times in a variety of races over the years and here’s my insider’s guide on how to get in and out as quickly as possible:
1. Don’t be concerned by the inevitable cries of how cold it is from other competitors as they enter the water. Yes, there is undoubtedly a significant temperature drop from the Brighton shore to Fort William and someone will no doubt remind us all of this in a very loud voice just prior to the start – this person gets everywhere and we all know him! The water will be cold but perfectly fine for a 1.9km swim.
2. It will be a mass start (in the water but shallow) so place yourself according to ability. It’s going be a long day for everyone and the last way you want it to start is by being swum over. The field will very quickly spread out.
3. Given the nature of the course (a straight line of buoys you go around twice) make sure you’re entirely happy with being able to distinguish the buoys from swim caps. You would think that this should be easily enough done, but when you’re swimming it’s more difficult to distinguish things along the line of the water, particularly if there’s any roughness in the sea. So take time to look at both the colour of the buoys (perhaps from transition which sits above the water, rather than during the start itself) as well as the swim caps. As with any open water swimming race, sighting is vital.
4. Also on the issue of sighting, beware of the one inevitable problem with out and back swims – head on collisions! In theory it shouldn’t happen but it does and probably will do to the unlucky one or two. Just make sure it’s not you. It’s anti-clockwise loops.
5. For most, including me, the swim at this race is really just about getting wet and then trying to get out as quickly and in as good a shape as possible. Then the real race starts. So treat it as that. Focus more than anything on swimming your own swim. The cut-off time on the first lap is a very generous 45 minutes, so as long as you get through that, you’re fine. Others by then may well be on two wheels on the outskirts of Fort William, but you’ve got plenty of time to catch them. In short, settle into your rhythm as quickly as you can and just enjoy it!
Braveheart Training Plan 1
Here’s your Ben Nevis Braveheart triathlon training plan for the next four weeks. As you’ll see there are alternative options and additions, so just do what you can.
WORDS: Sean McFarlane PICTURES: Andy McCandlish
Save £20 on race entries before 27 June 2015 with this code at booking: Flash June bennevisbraveheart.co.uk