Training for the Triathlon: A personal coach – and now for the programme

Karl Holbrook with Ian Murphy at the Footprints Clinic in Kirkham
Karl Holbrook with Ian Murphy at the Footprints Clinic in Kirkham
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It was once the preserve of masochists but triathlon is the UK’s fastest-growing sport. This week, KARL HOLBROOK continues his journey from his settee to taking on the sports’ toughest challenge

When someone first suggested I get a coach to help accomplish my crazy Ironman challenge, I thought they were nuts.

I’m not Alistair Brownlee (current Olympic triathlon champion) and I’m certainly not looking to beat the land speed record.

I just don’t want to keel over and make a show of myself in front of the spectators along the 140-mile route.

Well, the truth is, I do need a coach. And as a novice, I will need more advice than most experienced triathletes to get through my Iron journey.

So, Ian Murphy, of IMTC Coaching and TriPreston’s head coach, agreed to give me a steer. But before he could work out a plan for me, he’d have to find out exactly what he was dealing with. Eek!

That meant heading down to Ian’s clinic based out of Footprints Chiropody and Podiatry Clinic in Kirkham, which is run by fellow TriPrestonian Emily Rhodes, for a Wattbike test to look at my general fitness and cycling ability.

The test involves cycling on a static bike linked up to a computer that tests 
everything from my maximum heart rate to whether or not one of my legs is lazier than the other. (I hope it can’t tell if both are lazy!)

While on the bike I was able to look at my stats beamed onto the wall in front of me. The graphics on the wall, which were pretty alien to me, allow Ian to monitor cadence, left and right leg symmetry and to check out the force I apply to each pedal throughout each revolution.

So far so good. But that was just the warm up. Next it was time for an all out three minute maximum power test.

Three minutes, I thought. Piece of cake, I can do anything for three minutes. (You have a dirty mind!)

I started off hard but was warned it would soon get tougher. 30 seconds gone, still feeling good, pedalling harder, 45, 50, past the minute mark and things are still feeling good. I pedal faster and faster as Ian ramps up the resistance. Feeling good, past the one minute 15 mark, 20, then 30 seconds to go and my world caves in, like pedalling to the summit of Mont Ventoux.

“Keep going,” Ian shouts. “Keep it up. 15 seconds to go, 10, 9...”

It was over and there was nothing more I could do– the stats were locked into the computer. It is all pretty scientific and there is no fooling it. Using the stats, Ian can now tailor a plan specifically around my ability – not my perception of my ability, but my actual physiological limits.

Well, considering he didn’t immediately tell me to abandon my dream of completing the Ironman and go back to eating crisps in front of the telly, it can’t be that bad.

Fingers crossed!

Find out next week how I get on with the programme Ian worked out for me.