Great Britain’s Tim Don shares some of the things he’s learned in the leap up to 70.3 racing.
Like many professional triathletes, Great Britain’s Tim Don kick-started his career with short-course racing. But after three Olympics, the five-time British champion did not like the direction the triathlon program was going in the U.K. (athletes were chosen based on the best chance for overall medals, not necessarily the best individual athletes). Don decided he was ready for a different challenge and has moved to long-course racing. With the switch in distances, he relocated to Boulder, Colo., with his wife and daughter and a five-year visa. For the past four months, fellow British triathlete Julie Dibens has coached him.
“The short-course distance became almost mundane, like I outgrew it,” he said. “I have been doing it for donkey’s years. I still love the sport, so for me a change is better than a rest.”
And while Don enjoyed his short-course days representing Great Britain at some of the most iconic races— he even met the queen—he knew time wasn’t on his side.
“The pinnacle tip of the sword in triathlon is the Olympics, but I am not getting any younger,” he said. “The holy grail of triathlon has always been Hawaii and many professionals do well at 40 there. It was just time to begin my apprenticeship for Hawaii.”
Don did his first 70.3 for fun in 2009, placing fourth at Ironman 70.3 South Africa. With this being his first season focusing on the 70.3 distance, he sees 2013 as a year of learning. A win at Ironman 70.3 Calgary, a second at Ironman 70.3 UK, a third at Ironman 70.3 South Africa and a fifth at Ironman 70.3 Vineman lead him into his “A” race of the season—the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Henderson, Nev., this Sunday, Sept. 8.
Like many age groupers, Don had to make changes to his training routine after many years of doing the same thing. “The biggest change was just learning to slow it down,” he said. “Before it was holding 4×4 minutes; now it is 4×25 at a certain wattage.”
His biggest tip for an age grouper making the transition? Be patient. The change from short threshold workouts to longer sessions has been a lesson of pace control for Don. “I have to tell myself to wait, wait, wait. It takes discipline.”
Not using aerobars in short-course racing, Don had to work his way into time in the aero position while upping his weekly bike mileage as well. “Fifty percent of the race is on the bike, so make sure to focus on getting time in on the bike,” he said.
Don says another must is working on bike position and proper fit. For this, he has turned to the gang at Retul. “Bike position is massive along with comfort and efficiency in the aero position, so you aren’t too stiff off the bike and on to the run,” he added. “You don’t want to finish the bike like Bradley Wiggins!” On an aero bike full-time since last October, Don said that the fine-tuning of bike fit is never ending.
Not racing as much as the ITU schedule required has been a hard transition for Don as well, but he keeps it all in perspective. “Normally I would have done 10 races by now, but I have only done a few this season so far.” With the grind long-course racing takes on the body, he understands the limits on his body and that he can’t recover as quickly. “One of the biggest changes was going from recovery by massage to recovering with more rest.”
Enjoying the volume, he now looks at his power files and heart-rate profiles differently.
While ITU racing has surges—an athlete may need to cover a move or the race may be dictated by someone trying to crank—in long-course racing an athlete may be on his own going steady for longer. Not as concerned with top-end speed anymore, Don has been training to go fast for so long (speed and agility) that he now has to look at building his long-term power and looks at his files for his 20-, 30- and 60-minute power—something an age grouper moving up in distance also should begin to do.
Don is concentrating on taking some time to learn his limits before he leaps into the Ironman distance, a plan he recommends age groupers adhere to as well. Don doesn’t plan to sign up for his first Ironman until the end of next season. “I still have a lot to learn,” he said. “I appreciate the Ironman distance.”
Tim’s Favorite Long-Course Workouts
With swimming I have dropped my weekly speed set and added a strength set like below.
800m swim 200m kick w/up
5x300m band @4:15
3x500m band buoy @ 6:45
15x100m buoy paddles @1:15
A long ride between 120 to 160K with a canyon climb around Boulder.
Tempo runs or 15K build runs around the Boulder Reservoir trails.
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