Elite secrets: Behind the scenes with British Triathlon
This week is a real cracker, something completely different that you won't hear elsewhere as I take you behind the scenes with the British Paratriathlon team at Loughborough, to find out what it really takes to be at the elite level of the sport.
You'll meet Paralympic medal hopefuls George Peasgood and Claire Cashmore along with Guide Nikki Bartlett as well as members of the coaching and support team around them.
I also reveal the winners of the Kristian Blummenfelt signed Super League Triathlon Malta trophy, in support of MOVE Charity.
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If you enjoyed the exclusive look behind the scenes at British Triathlon's elite training hub in Loughborough, then let us know on social media. Find out more about George, Nikki and Claire and British Paratriathlon.
Thank you to everyone who donated to the raffle for a chance to win Kristian Blummenfelt's signed Super League Triathlon Malta trophy. You helped to raise nearly £850 for MOVE Charity, which supports young people affected by cancer by helping them to keep moving. MOVE are hosting a fundraising evening with Steve Cram on March 20th 2020 in Leicester.
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INTERVIEW TIME LINE*
*Interview times, not the whole episode
0:00:40 – meet George Peasgood introduction to his swim set, a typical Thursday, a typical week.
0:02.15 – George says he never has a day off as that is what works for him. 18-high 20hrs a week. But there is really no such thing as a typical week.
0:03:00 – George explains how he has developed a love for cycling and that he continues to work on his run
0:04:20 – Lead coach Adam Elliot – most of them will swim 5 times a week – around 25km/week, some add a 6th session in. If they are injured they might add a 7th or 8th swim in or put a couple of double swims in. There is a session in each week which ticks one of the mental, physiological or mechanical demands of race day of what they have to deliver on race day. We would either split lanes on ability or necessity of what someone is working on, so we might have more of a speed or strength orientated set.
0:06:45 explains what a typical day looks like for him as a coach
0:07:55 Adam explains the nature of the swim squad at Loughborough.
0:08:30 talks through the land based conditioning room, that athletes often go into 15 minutes before their swim session.
0:09:20 George reflects on his swim session and explains what he eats before and after swimming
0:10:45 Interview with Jonathan Riall – Head Coach of the British Paratriathlon programme. Explains the idea behind Thursday Breakfast club, which they have held every Thursday since 2014- it’s an opportunity for everyone to get together, integrate some of the younger athletes and builds good relationships.
0:14:30 explains why George does a lot of his training with the Olympic programme, rather than the para tri programme.
0:16:00 Talks about the guides and how much bringing the guides in has helped everyone to raise their game.
0:16:40 perceptions and funding has changed massively since London 2012. In the past para sport was almost treated like a charity case, but people are accepting that the standard is really high.
0:18:00 Reflects on the Rio Paralympics, and says that athletes like Lauren Steadman and George Peasgood have had to up their game and improve.
0:19:30 Explains the heat prep work. It can make people feel really flat and we only did a tiny bit before Rio, but it wasn’t enough. So we are working really hard on it now.
0:21:30 The Tokyo test event wasn’t a shambles, but it was hugely disappointing. They are planning on having 3 screens next year to stop dirty water getting in to the bay (there was only one during the test event)
"We woke up at 0400 in the morning and the athletes found out that it was going to be a duathlon. But it would have been more of a concern if it had gone really smoothly. “I was pretty resistant to go and do a duathlon”
0:25:00 Talks about the changes to paratri categories for Tokyo 2020. The categories that were picked offer the biggest international fields. PTS2 Andy Lewis’s category hasn’t been included for Tokyo, but PTS4 is in. VI men didn’t compete in Rio, but the women did. “Dave Ellis had won World Championships ‘it’s superb for him being able to get a chance to go and excel next year.” You don’t appreciate that in Olympic sport, but it’s quite normal in para sport.
0:29:00 On the para guides for the VI category. We shifted the roles around “It’s a really tough job” and the role we expect of them across three sports. The training guides are some of the unsung heroes here.” But we have given the race guides some more flexibility and it's been exceptional. We are in a good place and it benefits the whole group.
"I came to a talent ID day in 2011 and found out I was classifiable and after A Levels, Loughborough seemed the obvious choice. For as long as I am a Paralympic triathlete, I will be here."
0:36:00 On going through the classification process. It’s a positive process and an adaptive process. But in para tri it’s absolutely fine and for me it’s been quite simple. And explains the idea of “racing up” so if you are good enough, you can try to race up a category.
0:38:30 George talks about cycling – it is where he is least impaired compared to his able bodied opponents. Did the national champs in 2014 on the road and raced a UCI World Cup and was able to race at the track UCI World Championships. "I’m clearly quite naturally good at. I would potentially go into it in the future. I won’t be focussing on the track at Tokyo but I would like to give the Time Trial a go. if I can get selected, then I will try."
0:41:00 His relationship with Huub and the work he has done with the Huub Wattbike time. "A Lot more triathletes are becoming more aware of being aero on a bike. My position between TT and triathlon isn’t actually that different. "
0:43:30 At the gym with George. I do the gym twice a week, there’s a functional side to it and strength and conditioning side to it. Over winter it’s more strength based, then going into the season it’s more about movement and endurance.
0:45:00 On the mental side of the sport and when things aren’t going right and the benefits of working with a sports psychologist. Your life can’t just be the sport, you have to have something outside of it. it can be mentally damning.
0:47:00 What his Christmas will be looking like – family morning run, lots of fun. If you can have fun with training and you can keep a bit of Christmas in your season year-round, then you can’t go too wrong.
0:49:15 – At the gym with Para Tri guide Nikki Bartlett. And how even she can feel intimidated when she is just getting back into the early season s+c sessions. The programme is heavy weight lifting, few reps. She has an S+C session which is completely individualised to each athlete. "I need more upper body to lower and I respond better to heavy weights."
0:54:00 I wasn’t on a proper S+C programme until last year. I feel a lot stronger on the bike. Last year I didn’t get injured. I don’t do crazy volume, I do more around 25-28 hours a week. It all goes hand in hand nicely. It’s very different to a lot of other pro athletes. I have two gym sessions per week and I won’t ever skip them now.
0:57:00 Nikki on working in the aero tunnel to benefit her TT bike as well as the tandem in her role as a para triathlon guide. And how her TT position has changed over time. "Small changes is the way to go"
0:59:30 Lunch and interview with 4x Paralympian Claire Cashmore who started swimming when she was 12 years old and went to her first Paralympics at the age of 16, but switched to Para Triathlon after the Rio Olympics. Admits that ‘swimming is quite boring’ but she loves the variety of triathlon and the fact you can see a lot of the countries you go to and you can actually talk!
01:02:00 – The hardest thing has been the cycling and having to wear a prosthetic limb. Trying to control the brakes with one hand has been tough, but I have worked on that a lot and I will do more than I need to, In order to get to the level that I think I need to be at.
01:03:00 – Claire talks about lacking confidence. And that starting to run was difficult because coming from a swimming background, she just didn’t have the strength.
01:04:00 I only won World Champs once as an individual in swimming, so the paratri world champs this summer was my first time winning individual gold and that meant so much.
01:05:00 The relationship with Lauren Steadman, also former Paralympic swimmer. They have known each other since school. Lauren switched to para tri after 2012 and Claire switched in 2016. "The sprint finishes are the most exciting ones, and it’s nice to be able to have that but also be friends at the end."
1:06:00 Running is my biggest limiting factor at the moment and I can run 3 times a week, but very short amounts and we are trying to work on the biomechanical side of it.
1:07:00 The intensity was a lot higher in swimming and once it goes to longer reps, I am right at the back and I am doing 4 or 5 sessions a week in the pool. I can’t ilft what I used to be able to lift in the gym, but I don’t need to.
01:08:00 – I was petrified during my first OW swim. I’m still struggling a bit with that and the transition from pool swimming into the open water. It’s the sighting, my mechanics seem to change in the open water. Doesn’t like feeling restricted in a wetsuit.
01:09:30 – Going to a 5th Paralympics. It’s addictive. I was like a rabbit in head lights and I couldn’t really absorb everything. Beijing was a disappointment , I massively underperformed and it was my first taste of failure but that’s what you need because it made me realise why I do it and why I love it. Why she is looking forward so much to going to the Games in a different sport. Her advice for younger athletes: "Be there in the moment, enjoy it. It’s the pinnacle of everyone’s sporting career. "