Ironman 70.3 rapperswil-jona

The bike was tough and climbs long, with some  lasting over a 7km and at places a 13% gradient.


Apologies for the delay in posting up this race report but work has been pretty hectic although that has not resulted in any reduction in the training. So back to race…

Switzerland…Always sounds beautiful but I had a shocker getting there. It was an very early flight out of the UK, so had to leave the house at about 3am – so everything packed and had airport parking at the terminal.

However, arrived in plenty of time but on route from the car park to the check-in desk, a few hundred meters I had dropped my wallet. PANICK stations. Its 5am surely no one would have picked it up and kept hold of it especially with only about £10 in there. But sure enough in the minutes of realising and going back to the car pack the wallet was gone and no one had handed one in. As you know the headache is the loss of all your cards.

I needed the wallet to pay for the bike check-in and of course no one was awake at that time to bail me out and I needed to cancel all my cards. That was the start of the day. Next one of the guys I was with was overweight for bike check-in so we had to try to sort his case and time was ticking.

Enough of the drama, we eventually made it to the hotel but could not check-in for a few hours so decided to put our bikes back together. One we checked in we would go for a ride to shake out the legs. Only 20mins out and there was a thunderstorm – it was so heavy we had hide under a garage from the lightening. Was someone trying to tell us something?

Next morning one of the guy’s bike was not right and an issue with the headset would mean no race start unless he could get it fixed. So needed to try and get the race mechanics to fix it. They could not so he was in search of another mechanic and that would mean wandering about in the 30oC sun for a few hours. Then just to add more insult later in the day for bike checking we had didn’t have all the bags we needed so had to do another 40mins round trip on the bikes to collect 2 empty bags from our hotel so we could rack the bikes. What crap race prep, lots of dehydration and stress all what you don’t need pre race day.

By the end of the day we had checked in and the bike was fixed, so we would all be racing the next morning. That left some panic re-hydration and not much time to sit with the feet up.



Race day was going to be hot peaking at >30+ oC, and as an old guy I would be going later in the day, but in our group we had age ranges from 21> up so we still needed to be at the race early. Race morning bike check and warm up all went great so a big relief.

The swim was wave starts and you self selected within your wave for time (I selected sub 30mins). My swim was just OK but again not fantastic at 31Mins. Not sure what’s going on with my open water swim in these early season races as not reflecting the improved pools times. But will keep at it and make the weekly outdoor session a regular thing from now until Kalmar.

Transition is longish but pretty straight forwards but I am typically sluggish on transitions and this one was no different where I was about 1min down from top age-groupers. Once onto the bike it was head down for what was going to be a tough race with climbs and the heat and also lots of early age groupers out on the course to get around.



The bike was tough and the climbs where long with some for sure lasting over a 7km stretch and at places 13% gradient. However, I paced it well and as planned just slightly under a NP of 240w with the aim of a strong low 1.20s half marathon run on the cards. My bike as a 2.33 and the T2 was also fine as usual.


Off the bike felt pretty good then 1-2km at race pace (4min/km) in I got cramping in quads and hamstrings. This is very rare for me as pre-race prep and nutrition is normally on-point; so I can only put this down to all the time spent in the heat in the days leading up to race day. Unfortunately, the situation did not improve as the run progressed so it was a case of managing it by continuing with nutrition and keeping pace just under where the cramps would kick in.



To be honest the run was brutal and ended up running the whole run with severe cramps. I knew if I stopped I would not be able to start again so just kept on at circa 4.25/4.30 pace. The only exceptions was at what is know as the ‘stairway to heaven’ a series of steps in the centre of town you have to climb twice during the run.


There are maybe 50/60 steps and when you have cramp that’s some painful shit. After the steps you have a slight downhill and that allowed me to force the legs to get going again and just grin and bare the pain.

70.3 SWISS


My run was a 1hr 32min, which was about 10mins short of where I should have been and would have given me around top 5 in the age group. But you have what you have on the day and I was proud of myself for pushing through when I could have so easily walked. I learned some good lessons from the race:


  1. Make the day before the race a true rest day
  2. Stay our of the heat
  3. Make sure you hydrate and fuel pre-race
  4. Always have another plan or 2 ready in case your day becomes a hard one.
  5. Never give up. You can be surprised what you can put up with if mentally your willing to go all in and visit some mental suffering.


My 4.44 was almost 20mins slower than a 70.3 just a few weeks before but I was still pretty happy with the result as I had given my all. The only downside was what had I done to myself regarding recovery time. In the end these 70.3s are only sharpeners for my Ironman races, and there is the choice of how hard to push and how quick you can get back to solid IM sessions.


bite the lip

This was a good few weeks ago now and I am fully back into IM training in the UK heat wave. At the time of writing I have 5-6 weeks before IM Kalmar one of the A races for the year. Although I hate that term as when you toe the line of any race you should be giving your all – I see A/B/C race categorisation more about what sore of form your in at that point in the season than the importance of the race.

I can recommend IM 70.3 Switzerland to anyone it’s a real honest race and tough – you earn you post race goodies for sure and no one get over those climbs easy.

For me it’s back into the final few weeks of long bikes, brick sessions and some final dieting for Kalmar. I am really looking forward to the race and enter it in best shape since getting into this sport.

Whatever, your plans for the season I wish you the best!



Evidence suggests there is a limitation in the amount of ketones that the muscle can actually use as a fuel source


The big discussion over the past year for endurance athlete’s diets have been around 2 subjects. Firstly, we have low carb/high fat diets and secondly, ketone supplementation. Although related in many ways these are distinctly different issues when it comes to diet, therefore this article will layout the pro’s, cons’ and darn right lies about these dietary interventions based on the latest ‘Hard Evidence’ rather than pure opinion.


What are Ketones & What do they do?

Ketones are generated from the partial breakdown (oxidation) of fatty acids, and include acetoacetate (AcAc), Acetone and Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). These are produced in the liver (ketogenesis – Main Ketone is AcAc) primarily as a result of fasting but also nutritional manipulation of carbohydrate intake e.g. low carb intake = increased ketone production. Although the main source material is free fatty acids from body fat (Ketolysis – Main Ketone is BHB) we also have a small percentage (<5%) of circulating ketones from the ketogenic amino acids leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, tryptophan, and tyrosine.

The response of producing more Ketones is to provide an alternative fuel for the loss of glucose (low carb intake) from the diet.

In those taking on board a normal (non carb restricted) diet the contribution of Ketones to energy production in the muscle is small (<5%). However, this can increase during fasting to 10% after an overnight fast and 20-50% after 72hrs of fasting but declines after 24 days. This suggests there is a limitation in the amount of ketones that the muscle can actually use as a fuel source. As such this is important and will have implications for discussion later regarding Ketone supplementation.

Although there has been research into the impact of training much of the trials have been difficult to interoperate due to athlete’s individual dietary practices as well as variations in training. However, some early data gives us clues as the where ketones are most used as defined by the levels of enzyme (BDH) that transform BHB to AcAc (See above). Research from back in 1974 (Winder et al.) has shown that the highest levels of activity in BDH are in our TYPE 1 muscle fibres – that’s our endurance muscle. With the lost levels of activity in Type IIb – our sprint fibres. The same author demonstrated 12 weeks of running in these rodents increased BDH by 3 fold compared to untrained controls. Similarly, the protein that transports ketones into muscle from the blood is also highest in Type 1 muscle fibres (Bonen 2001). It is therefore likely that the clearance (take up) of ketones from the blood are greatest in those that are aerobically trained and thus have a higher proportion of Type 1 fibres and related oxidative capacity (Svensson et al. 2016).

COMMENTARY: Just as a note here we are providing a distinction between ‘FAT’ use during exercise and ‘KETONE’ use. These are 2 different fuel sources and in the media and posts by so-called experts on sports nutrition they are often confused.


Fuel use during exercise!

So what about Ketone and Fat use during exercise? Most of the existing literature has focused on Carbs and Fat and the general consensus is that as exercise intensity increases the contribution of not only shifts towards carbohydrate but also from peripheral (blood) stores to central sores of fats, intramuscular triglycerides, and muscle glycogen.

However, this pattern is readily altered by nutritional manipulation such as high carb intake, low carb high fat and periodization such as carbs morning and fats protein later in the day or indeed intermittent fasting (Robinson & Williamson, 1980; Laffel, 1999). The latter has been well known to result in increased Ketone use (Owen & Reichard, 1971; Elia et al. 1990) as has exercise (Johnson et al. 1969; Johnson&Walton, 1972;Rennie et al. 1974; Rennie & Johnson, 1974a).). Indeed there has been shown a five-fold increase in ketone use during exercise (Evens, Cogan & Egan 2017).

Despite these issues when looking at any research or guru articles suggesting increasing ketones by supplementation or other dietary manipulation you will need to also consider that other factors such as metabolism, training status, and exercise intensity, which will all impact our ability to use ketones as a fuel source.

So lets look at some actual ‘evidence’ rather than ‘hearsay’ on how the body can use ketones but more specifically the differences between ‘supplementation’ (Ketones taken in a concentrated dose form from a drink, food or capsule) versus Ketonaemia (increased ketones in the blood) that occurs from their release from inside the body as a result of fasting or a low carb diet.



One of the key issues of ketone use by the muscles (we are taking about muscle here as that’s what moves us during exercise) is our ability to use them. If there is not limit great then matching intake to utilisation is a simple issue. However, this is not the case and research suggests some significant limitations to the ability of working muscle to use ketones as an energy source.

The removal of ketones from the blood is an indication of how the muscle can use them as a source of energy. In technical terms this is know as the ‘Metabolic Clearance rate (MRC)’. At low levels of ketones in the blood (such as achieved during an overnight fast) we see resting (rest not exercise) MCR is higher then achieved during prolonged fasting (Fery & Balasse, 1983). In fact overnight fasting results in a 2-10% contribution of ketones to energy production (Hagenfeldt & Wahren, 1968; Owen & Reichard, 1971).

Importantly during exercise at low to moderate intensity (post fasting) MCR increases 5-75% (Fery & Balasse, 1983, 1986), suggesting exercising muscle has an ability to increase its ability to use ketones as a source of fuel. However, where ketone exceeds 2.5mM (5 time that of a resting level) as achieved from 72hr of fasting ketone contribute a negligible amount to energy provision. This suggests a limit to the contribution of Ketones to energy contribution and as levels increase the ability to use them as an energy source (oxidise them) is diminished i.e. a threshold level.

However, these are acute studies relying on fasting over a few days. There is an argument that changes in the level of Ketosis brought about by dieting or by supplementation may impact this ‘threshold’ however, the data is week but lets explore.


Dietary Ketosis: Low carb

A lesson I learned from my PhD professor was to consider the ‘normal dietary’ experience when looking to interoperate how the body may adapt to a certain intake of a nutrient, the amount of that nutrient and importantly what the physiological rationale could be as to why we use nutrients in a certain way. This form of thinking is not new we have all heard of ‘evolutionary’ theory of Darwin and to that end the human body is an amazing thing and adapts to its surrounding (diet, exercise etc).

So when we think of low carb diets we should consider if we are physiologically cut of for such a diet. What is clear is that at rest fat is dominant fuel representing circa 50% of our energy needs (Owen & Reichard, 1971; Elia et al. 1990). Similarly, as we become glycogen (carbohydrate) depleted through reduced dietary intake of sugars or prolonged low-intensity endurance exercise (where sugar intake does not meet demand by the bodies muscles) then the body increases its utilizations of fats to compensate.

It would therefore seem that as an evolutionary mechanism the body has adapted to effectively utilise fats as a fuel source when carbohydrate rich foods are scarce. However, since the increase in agricultural (rather than hunter gatherer) sourcing of foods there has been an increasing shift towards sugars and carbohydrates as a proportion of daily food intake, exacerbated by government guidance on what foods should be consumed. The result for the most part can be argued to be increases in obesity and high sugar consumption related diseases such as diabetes. One hypothesis maybe that the body is better adapted to a higher fat consumption from the diet as we spent more of human evolution eating meats and fats than we did refined sugars – simply put the body has not evolved to process a high sugar diet.

One of the major issues in the wonders espoused by many converts of the low carb diets we must consider such comments in context. In that regards I see context s meaning, “what is low-carb”? Is it simply <20-50g per day of carbs (Very low calorie diet – VLCD)? What about levels of fat? What about protein – protein being important as its insulinogenic (causes the body to produce insulin just like when we use carbs). This is important as looking at carbs alone in the general population an intake of 50-150g/d (Low Carb Diet – LCD) would not result in urinary ketones a marker use to suggest adaptation or ‘metabolic switching’ from carb use to fats. We then should also consider are these levels <50g / d suitable for the exercising athlete? Such low intake could result is the equivalent to a negative carb intake as we use carbs to fuel exercise, so would a 100-150g or more be equivalent to a <50g/d LCD? It should also be noted that circa 200g of glucose per day could also be manufactured by the liver and kidney from dietary protein and fat (some from their breakdown and use of carbon skeletons).

In my own view the jury is out as we do not have enough published studies to demonstrate what levels of carbs are allowed in competitive endurance athletes training intensely, whist still entering into a state of ketosis and/or achieving the suggested benefits from being on a LCD. In sedentary controls, there are circa 8-10 studies that look at metabolic changes from low car/high fat diets but these studies have very small subject numbers (5-24 subjects) and over a short duration (2-14 days). More importantly they are not in athletes, which is the focus of this article.

In athletes, we have perhaps relevant research spanning 40years but still very limited in its application to real life performance. These studies have included exposure to VLCD (<20g/d Carbs), high fat (80% of dietary energy) (Phinney et al. 1983) or a restricted CHO (15-20% of energy), high fat (60-65% of energy)(Lambert et al. 1994; Goedecke et al. 1999) as well as short-term adaptation to a high fat diet and 1 day of high Carb availability ((Burke et al. 2000, 2002; Carey et al. 2001; Havemann et al. 2006).

Although these iterations of higher fat, lower CHO diets result in increased rates of fat oxidation during exercise of varying intensities, evidence that this substrate shift translates to a clear enhancement of sports performance in athletic populations is lacking (Burke&Kiens, 2006; Burke, 2015). As can be noted these diets are not really low carb but are in fact low carb and high fat (LCHF), commercially known as the ‘keto diet’ as they result in an increased reliance as fat as fuels and elevated levels of blood ketones (Noakes et al. 2014; Volek et al. 2015). [note. this paragraph take from Burke et al. J physiol, 2017]

In endurance athletes, irrespective of all the claims made on social media regarding the benefits of Keto diets there have only been 2 interventional studies (Phinney et al. 1983; Burke et al. 2017) and two cross sectional studies comparing ultra-endurance runners/triathletes who have chosen this eating style with similar athletes following higher CHO diets (Volek et al. 2016; Webster et al 2016). The only one of these studies to measure performance or where undertaken at an intensity relevant to endurance completion was that of Burke et al. who investigated a 3-week intervention of a LCHF diet for 3 weeks in world-class race walkers ( vo2max ‘Personal correspondence with Dr Burke – please note these are pre-season values so not peak’).

I will discuss the Volek et al. study as it is well referenced as evidence of the benefits of the LCHF diet but let’s for now concentrate on the only performance assessing study. In the Burke study, there where 3 groups studies – these comprised of high carb group (HCHO -8.6g/kg CHO & 20% FAT), a low carb high fat (LCHF – <50g/d CHO & 70-80% fat) and periodized diet of high and low carb intakes (PCHO – 8.3g/kg CHO, 2.2g/kg Protein, 4.7g/kg FAT) conducted during 3-weeks of intense training with performance and blood tests take before and after the 3 weeks. The tests included a 10km race walk and a 25km standardized pace test to look at how the body uses fats, carbs and oxygen as well as blood levels of ketones, glucose and lactate (calculated from pre-diet walking test). All groups had the same level of calories.

The results of the study showed an increase in the ability of the body to use fats as a fuel source in the LCHF group, however this came at an increase cost of oxygen uptake (i.e. use of a high % your aerobically capacity at X race speed). In essence the athletes became less economic whilst on the LCHF diet yet in the HCHO and PCHO the oxygen demand decreased suggesting these diets resulted in the athletes becoming more economic. However, the important factor here is ‘performance’ and the results from the 10km walking race demonstrated faster times for the HCHO (6.6% improvement), PCHO (5.3%) yet no improvement in the LCHF (-1.6%). There is an issue here though as the high fat group where provided high fat during pre and during the performance tests. However, its likely in most LCHF dieting athletes they still use cabs pre and during the event as such it could be argued that the study in this regards set up the LCHF group to fail in performance improvement.

So what can we take from this other than low-carb high-fat does not enhance performance and hi-carb does? Well a few interesting bits of information stand out, 1. High Fat diets make racing ‘feel’ more difficult, 2. High Fat results in greater levels of fat oxidation than high carb and periodized groups, 3. Athletes had to work at higher percentage of their maximum to sustain higher speeds whereas the high card and periodization groups did not.

The down side for applying this research to triathlon (half and full distance) is the testing in this study was 10km and 25km, both of which did not exceed circa 2hrs in duration. For most age groupers and elite triathletes we are around the 4 hr mark for half and 8hr> greater for Ironman. As such given our natural Carb stores (blood glucose, muscle and liver glycogen) can last for 2-3hrs (at race pace for most top end age groupers 3hrs> at high intensity) then this study would be examining subjects during an event where glycogen depletion does not occur. As such what happens to the fat adapted athletes in Ironman racing? Is there a benefit to tap into fats as fuels? Another issue is body composition? These days there are a lot of fat triathletes sitting on Pro value bikes. Shedding some lard would be invaluable. I will talk about this are a little later on but there is no doubt the LCHF diet results in massive weight loss especially around the mid-section.


What bout long-term adaptation to High Fat?

One of the criticisms of the research on high fat diets so far has been the fact most look at only short term <4-6 week of a high fat diet. However, in 2016 one of the most active researchers in this area Dr Jeff Volek published a study that looked at Ultra-endurance athletes and great for us also Ironman Triathletes (Known as the FASTER study). In this study, they looked at subjects who had been following a high carb (>59% CHO) vs. low carb (< 10% CHO & >70% Fat) diet over a 9-36 month (20 Month average) period.

They had these athletes perform a max test, then following a high fat (81% fat, 5% CHO) or low fat (36% Fat, 51% CHO) drink a 180 minute sub-maximal (64% Vo2 max ‘that’s about 74% Hr Max) and looked at rates of fat use and contribution to energy production, levels of muscle glycogen (our stores of carbs) pre and post exercise (fat adapted took fat drink, carb adapted took low fat drink). The results are very interesting with come important implications for age groupers and Pro athletes.

The results showed at rest the fat adapted athletes had 95% of energy contribution from fats and carb adapted only 47%. Similarly, peak levels of fat use where 2.3 fold higher in fat adapted athletes, which also occurred at a higher (70.3% vs. 55%) percentage of the maximum vo2. Similarly, during the sub-max test fat oxidation was 59% higher in the low-carb / high fat group than high carb. The most interesting part of the study was that resting and post exercise muscle glycogen was not different between the groups, and there are a variety of chemical pathways that could be utilised to replenish glycogen such as lactate carbon skeletons.

In the latest study and 1st to demonstrate some performance benefits of the High Fat Low Carb diet is that by McSwiney et al. 2017. In this study 20 endurance trained males (4 of which were Ironman athletes) whom where currently following a standard endurance diet (50% of cals from carbs). The athletes underwent 12 weeks of training a diet that was followed following guidance from a nutritionist to follow a high carb (60% carbs) or high fat (77% fat) low carb (<50g/d) diet and both to meet daily energy requirements. A food diary was checked each week to ensure the athletes where following the diets. The training followed was the same for each group and was 7+ hours of endurance training as well as 2 strength session and 2 HIIT sessions.

The participants completed 2 performance tests of a 100km time trial to be completed as fast as possible and also a six second sprint (carried at at end of TT test to represent a sprint to the line), and a critical power test (CPT). These tests were conducted pre and post dietary and training intervention with the High Carb group consumed 30-60g per hour during the test and the high fat group water and electrolytes.

There was a significant decrease in body fat and body mass in the High Fact compared to High Carb group. There was however, no significant different in 100km TT performance but unexpectedly a greater improvement in peak power (but not average) in CPT, likely due to changes in weight to power (greater weight loss at end of study in high fat group). .

A number of interesting issues here include a 4.4kg loss in body fat in the high fat group vs. 0.7kg in high carb. Despite no significant change in performance in the 100km TT test (significance based on statistical analysis) may be due to the large variation in response between participants and with greater numbers there may have been a ‘statistical’ benefit. If we just look at actual time of the TT test the high carb group completed the TT 1min and 13secons faster than their pre 12-week dietary and training intervention but the high fat group was 4min and 7 seconds faster.

Although you could pull some positives from the study the issue here is 6 second sprint and the subject number could easily account for such an effect. In addition, the way the subjects where selected into each group could have been of issue i.e. not selected according to fitness and indeed the groups where significantly different between body fat and carb intake. Such issues could have impacted the results of the study and clearly more work is needed.

There are some other details which are not clear as it states 30-60g/hr where taken in the High Carb group during the post intervention test. However, how many where on 30 and how many on 60g? Was this optional? Where both groups fully glycogen loaded pre-tests? There are still many issues not clear and need to be addressed in future study designs before we can draw any firm conclusions.

Conclusion: So at this point there only 1 real ‘published’ performance data to demonstrate high fat diets work better than high carb (McSwiney et al. 2017) and one performance study demonstrating no effect (Burke et al. 2017) as well as  a restriction in the adaptive response to training as well as subsequently performance. Yes we see in both studies from the likes of Burke, Volek and McSwiney elevations in Ketones (offering an alternative fuel source to glucose) from fat adaptation but the correlation to exercise performance still is jury out.

There is still a gap in our knowledge here for the potential of using high fat diets, and this relates to long term adaptation, its use in ultra-endurance events where fat reliance is put to the test, and also the impact of protein intake, and high fat as primary diet but carbs used during competition in this equation. In relation to the latter from what I have seen from many athletes is what they can low carb is really high protein, low fat and low carb. We need to remember protein is insulinogenic and as such can deliver many of the benefits (although not efficiently) as carbs.

Personal view: I tried the high fat diet in 2016 for 5-6months at the early part of the season (less intensity more volume and L2 work) and I have to say the effects on huger and body composition are astounding and as such as a health option and ability to alter body fat levels there maybe some significant scope for play. However, as you move into doing higher intensity work and much glycogen levels are depleted to a greater extent the high fat diet for me falls short as your either 1. Not able to carry out higher intensity interval work because your glycogen depleted (this would go against the Volek study suggesting no difference in CHO repletion rates) or 2. There are some metabolic changes that occur due to a high fat diet that inhibit the ability of the muscle to function and/or adapt to working at and above your threshold.

My other thoughts are for those in the pointy end of half and long distance triathlon is that your already highly fat adapted. Your training 2-3 times a day which often leads to low muscle / liver glycogen levels (the same result as fasting and low carb diets). The result would be many of the adaptive responses seen metabolic from the FASTER study. I would advise if you want to try this diet then try on the off season or even better try a periodization approach of high carb immediately post some higher intensity sessions, mixed in with a few fasting and longer low carb endurance rides. Care must be taken on manipulation of your diet with low carb as there are risks of immune suppression and that can mean greater susceptibility to infection/illness.


Ketone Supplementation

I want to start by saying Ketone supplementation is nothing new and in fact has more research underpinning its use as an intervention than high fat low carb (HFLC) diets. It’s been around at least since the early 1970s, where we see studies using ketones ingested as a means to bring about nutrition ketosis (high blood Ketone levels)(Johnson & Walton 1972). With more recent trials using β-hydroxybutyrate (β-HB) and acetoacetate(AcAc) and (R)-3-hydroxybutyl (R)-3-hydroxybutyrate (ketone monoester).

These lovely sounding chemical names as with the high fat low carb diets are also limited with reference to performance despite the mechanistic possibilities of an effect. So in this part of the article we again will look at separating hype from fact and if these supplements are 1. Performance enhancing, 2. Legal and if they offer any benefits to triathlon performance.


Performance Data

As we have seen with the studies above Ketosis (elevated blood ketones) can be achieved endogenously (produced by the body in response to low carb intake) but it may also be achieved exogenously through Ketone ingestion or infusion (injected directly into blood stream). There are 2 potential ways Ketones maybe beneficial to endurance performance from an energy standpoint. First, its an alternative fuel source as to be used to spare muscle glycogen (however, there is a view that this may indeed result in decreased capacity for high intensity exercise), secondly, it has the potential to be an more efficient in supplying energy than from the breakdown of carbohydrates. However, these are primarily theoretical consideration and or based on rodent models (trials). There are also a number of metabolic effects that maybe of use such as increasing the rate of glycogen replenishment post exercise (i.e. faster recovery), and improving recovery through increased protein synthesis.

Again there are studies both for and against such mechanisms so lets look closer at performance.


Diet & Performance

Despite a significant amount of papers on possible mechanisms and biochemistry of supplementation with Ketones, as with high fat low carb diets there are almost no studies on human performance. To date there are 3 studies relevant to triathletes and endurance exercise.



The 1ST study is not even peer reviewed (i.e. not assessed by another independent academic and them published in a science journal), and was indeed part of a patent submission back in 2013 (Clarke et al. Patent Application. June 18, 2015; 20150164855 A1).

In this study a solution containing circa 230kcal from ketones where taken prior to 30 minute rowing test. Performance outcomes included distance in m, and seconds to complete 2 km trial. The improvements where modest at best in this group of elite and sub elite rowers, with a reduction in times of 1-2% according to the patent (see figure 1).


clarke light weight and heavyweight rowers performance results

Figure 1.  The effects on rowing performances from ketone drink in heavy and light weight male an female rowers.




Accepted for publication in May 2017 the next study (O’Mallet et al. 2017) took 10 healthy males (note healthy i.e. not trained) undertook some lab sessions to get use to the tests there where going to do (i.e. you get a big jump in FTP test results in second test than 1st as you learn to pace better rather then physical performance increase).

Subjects reported to the laboratory in the fasted state and consumed either 0.3 g/kg ketone salts (beta-hydroxybutyrate) or a flavour-matched placebo at 30 min prior to engaging in cycling exercise. Subjects completed steady-state exercise at 30%, 60%, and 90% ventilatory threshold (close to lactate threshold) followed by a cycling time-trial.

The respiratory exchange ration (a measure of fat use the lower the great fat contributes to energy) was 30% and 60% lower at VT in the ketone compared with control condition. Total fat oxidation was greater in the ketone versus control. Average time-trial power output was 7% lower in the ketone condition. Ingestion of ketone salts prior to exercise increases fat oxidation during steady-state exercise but impairs high-intensity exercise performance.



In October 2017 a paper was released which is more inline with triathlon performance and was actually peer reviewed (Leckey et al 2017). This study took 10 elite male cyclists and had them complete 31km lab based time trial (tria lasting circa 50mins). The cyclists consumed on the evening and morning of the trial a meal containing carbohydrates of 2g/kg bodyweight. The morning of the trial cyclists also consumed 200mg caffeine with their meal.

Prior to the trial they where then provided either placebo or 2 x 250mg/kg (dose 20 mins apart) ketone (1,3-butanediol acetoacetate diester) drink and 200ml of diet cola 30 mins before a 20min warm up then the TT. Participants also ingested 250mL of commercially available 6% CHO drink (Gatorade) at 15.74 km. The trial was conducted again and the intervention was swapped (i.e. those who had ketones the 1st time around would have placebo and vice versa).

The results of the trial demonstrated a 1-3% decline in performance that was associated with gut discomfort (all subjects given ketones reported this and none on placebo) and a higher perception of effort.

There are a number of issues here and it seems the researchers have jumped ahead of a more logical approach to investigating ketones. Because the trials involved what is in effect a multi-nutrient mixture i.e. taking on board carbs and caffeine as well as ketone we don’t know if the issue of GI distress was ketones alone or due to the combination. Similarly, we also do not know what impact ketones alone would have on performance. What the study does demonstrate is that utilising current dietary race strategies and dumping a new ingredient into the mix has consequences (negative ones) on performance.

As such in the real word a more cautious approach should be taken to trial any product starting at lower doses taken alone and graduating the dose up to allow for tolerances and possible adaptation. Example you would not give a new athlete unaccustomed to caffeine 4mg/kg bolus as caffeine sensitivity and tolerance can be markedly different. In addition the ability to use and deliver a performance benefit can be dependant on the intensity of the exercise and its duration so what may not work for a 50min time trial may not be the situation overview a 5 hour sportive or Ironman competition.


Supplementation & performance – Time to ‘ReTool’ metabolically?

Although Ketone supplementation may not yet have been demonstrated to enhance performance as an ergogenic substance within training, there maybe other benefits metabolically to their use. There have been at least 3 very interesting studies that may suggest some benefits to endurance athletes outside of a direct performance enhancer.



Firstly, A study providing high dose ketones plus glucose and measured change in muscle glycogen levels versus a placebo following glycogen-depleting exercise (Holdworth et al. 2017). The results demonstrated the ketone drink increased muscle glycogen levels 50% higher than after the control drink. Whilst these are very interesting the study design is not externally valid i.e. its not representative of the real world. Firstly, all we are looking at here is recovery from total muscle glycogen depletion and for most athletes this level in normal training would not be reached. In addition the change in muscle glycogen was not mealy a result of drinking ketones. The study gave the drinks then intravenous glucose was provided compared post ketone use or following placebo (glucose) or saline control. As such we do not know if actually taking ketones plus glucose orally would enhance glycogen levels, would compete against each other in the gut for uptake or as per the time trial study above in cyclists cause significant gut stress.




In another 2017 study (Vandoorne et al) researched investigated the effects of a protein/carbohydrate mixture plus placebo or a Ketone drink on the nutrient sensing protein complex MTOR (rapamycin complex 1). This molecule directly impacts muscle growth and recovery so enhancing its activation suggest improved muscle protein synthesis (growth and or repair). The researchers also looked at muscle glycogen levels following intense one-leg glycogen-depleting exercise (knee-extensions).

The results demonstrated no effect on muscle glycogen levels in direct contrast to the study above. However, there was activation of MTOR and also associated muscle protein synthesis. These are interesting findings but again the issue is the study did not measure recovery that has direct bearing in the real word – but that I mean improved recovery time before next training session, increased muscle mass etc. Finally, these where just health subjects and not trained, and the difference in how nutrients are utilised can be very different.




This month a study from researchers from Oxford University (Stubbs et al. 2017) looked at the impact of taking a ketone vs. a glucose drink on reported feelings of hunger and hormone levels known to be related to perception of appetite. The results of the study demonstrated increased blood ketone levels may directly suppress appetite, as ketone drinks lowered plasma ghrelin levels, perceived hunger, and desire to eat 1.5hours after consumption. Again this study although interesting to demonstrate a real impact would be to look at its use in a free living diet and if it can help you eat less and thus maintain or loose body weight. These studies are still needed to draw any conclusions.



Conclusions & Recommendations

I would start by saying please don’t believe the hype over any diet or food supplement until you have reviewed the evidence. People can become almost religious in their beliefs that x diet or supplement can work. However, take a view 2-3 years later and 99% of those suggesting it was the next miracle product don’t follow/use it anymore.

Most that suggest a high fat (80% fat) low carb (<50-100g/d) base their views as evidence on historic diets i.e. what we consumed during prehistoric or Neolithic times. Again what was our historic diet that our genes and bodies adapted too. Well that depends on where you would have lived i.e. near the ocean, access to meat, fruits etc. Outside of Inuit populations there is little evidence that dietary fat intake exceed 35% of daily caloric intake. There is also no evidence to suggest such populations where healthier or lived longer.

I would refer you guys to some interesting free articles on these areas:


However, in this article we are talking about performance rather than health and there is no doubt reducing calories and indeed simple sugars from the diet impact health and specifically bodyweight and blood glucose control. From my own experience there is a place for higher fat and lower carb diets but this is very much dependant on the phase of your training cycle, the amount of training you do and even your own individual reaction to foods. It’s clear in my mind higher fat and lower carb diets reduced appetite and help greatly with body fat levels. My own view is that much of this is a result of the fasting component of such diets. Try such a diet for too long, whilst you have multiple training sessions a day, training involves very high intensity intervals or during competition and performance will be reduced and the most recent well-controlled intervention studies support this.

In relation to Ketone supplementation we need to separate it out from high fat low carb diets, as there are not the same. High fat and low carb diets result in prolonged (Chronic vs. acute) ketosis as well as other effects from reduced carb intake. The studies on ketones although very interesting from a biochemical point of view simply have to date not stood up to scientific rigor when it comes to delivering performance benefits. The studies are also a mixed bad as they use different subjects (trained vs. untrained, rowers vs. cyclists) as well as different types of ketones.

As such I could not recommend that a high fat low carb diet is used as a permanent diet change but early season during endurance build it may have its place in the control of bodyweight and enhancing the aerobic biochemical machinery in our muscles. When it comes to later in the training cycle periodization would be advised at best.

As for ketones I would just not recommend for anyone looking to enhance athletic performance, the evidence is poor for benefits, and indeed the gut issues associated with their use can be a significant issue.








Ironman Florida 2017: Take 2

It has been sometime since my last write up but it’s been a really tough few months…


End of September I was involved in a bike accident where some idiot decided it was ok to reverse around a blind bend at the bottom of a hill with no signs or warnings he was doing so. I was out for a 4-hour ride and was the one who was his victim…

The result of the crash was double compression fracture of my spine (something I didn’t fund out until 3 weeks after the crash) as well as all the usual niceness of whiplash and bruising. I guess it was on the cards given the arseholes on the road and never been involved in a ‘real’ accident;  but when you’re building for an Ironman, accidents are a true disaster. In addition to that as a stress I have just moved to the other end of the UK and unfortunately for the family I was as much use as a chocolate fireguard in helping move.


Figure 1. Enjoying the removal of neck brace before finding out I have a compression fracture of T4/T5

Figure 1. Enjoying the removal of neck brace before finding out I have a compression fracture of T4/T5


Needless to say I have been and continue to have lots of issues with my back and neck, which has not fully healed so next stop, will be a MRI. In the interim I have been trying to get back into some training (approved by the orthopaedic consultant) after almost no training for 3-4 weeks post-crash. As I write this part of the blog I am 4 weeks out from Florida and have been trying to regain some lost form and have put in a few good rides and painful runs and swims (I have issues taking a deep breath due to injuries).

I have 4 weeks and ideally squeeze in 2 big days over the next pre-taper 2 weeks. Tomorrow and the following weekend will be big days and got to say am nervous as anything over 90mins (and any swim) has been leading to sleepless nights due to back and neck pains. However, as we all know once you have signed up for an Ironman the lure is difficult for reasons of costs (flights, entry already all paid for) and in my case I wanted to make the season worth it as had not beat my IM best despite spending a big winter and early summer getting in very good shape pre-taper for my main race at IM Frankfurt. I know I’m not the only one who feels the pressure to validate a season of hard training but maybe not the best idea.

Sometimes I feel the whole thing is madness as if the event was low cost and in UK I would have dropped out, as health is more important. I would never advise my athletes to do what I am doing in continuing to train when I should be 100% focused on recovery and getting my injuries resolved. So with making that decisions let’s turn back to Ironman Florida.


FLORIDA – Turn that frown upside down

In 2014 on a road bike, on the early stages of my Ironman journey and on the heels of a major storm I completed IM Florida. Back then there was no swim (a first I think is 14 years of the events history) due to the very bad weather. The race from recall was OK as it was pretty flat and not too hot, and despite a few punctures I enjoyed the ride and the marathon.

Flat and fast is what I love and given this time I will be a stronger biker (my race pace was my FTP back in 2014) I hope to at least crank out a better bike than my 5hr 53min bike from 2014…



In the run up to IM Florida I had my issues as above. However, in the 4 weeks prior to IM I managed to get in some good sessions although only 1 bike lasting 4hr 30mins I was ready to at a minimum get around the course.

In the run up to the race felt pretty calm and had a great shortened taper thanks to Dr Garry at SportsTest and made it through without any sign of a cold which has always been an issue. I was checked in and all prepped for race morning no problem. Come race morning I was up at 4.50am food in and then off to drop transition bags and make sure bike was in one piece and fully loaded and race ready.

Figure 2: Up and adam ready for the day ahead!

Figure 2: Up and adam ready for the day ahead!


Check in was fine and made it down into the swim start and slotted into the sub 1-hr group. Swim was always going to be a bit choppy and it’s a strange old swim as the level of the water remains shallow for a good 100-150m from entry so you have a few meters where you can dolphin and the rest your wading out. The 1st lab was fine and I was a little cautious on my effort as swimming had been causing the most issues in my back (t4/t5) where the fractures had happened from the crash. Although I had done bike to run brick work during training I had done no swim bike and was just hoping all would be OK. After getting in for lap 2 the orange markers had significantly shifted.

Figure 3: The start of the day and end of lap one.

Figure 3: The start of the day and end of lap one.

I don’t know if they had become untethered but a lot of people had began to swim out very wide away from the direct line to 1st turning buoy (was red). I asked a few others who where also lost wondering what was going on but no one knew so I decided just to head for the red buoy and if the wrong line the refs in the water would tell me. It was the right choice but the dicking abut burnt some time but as long as I got out and the back was in one piece it would be a thumbs up.

Swim [1hr 05mins].



I don’t often talk about transitions but Florida is 100% on the ball – yes it’s a long transition from beach to change to bike and you cannot have your shoes on the bike but the staff are all over ready to make sure your get to your bike. In my situation I was very near the transition exit making finding the bike easy and when you get to the change tent the volunteers are waiting for you with your bike change bag. No mean feat with 3000 athletes. Similar, getting of the bike you had over your bike as you cross the line and the volunteers rack and also hand you your run bag making for a super smooth transition. Other IM events could learn a lot from Florida.



Following the weather it was forecast to peak at about 3 hours into the bike at 80of but very little wind so real feel of 90oF. For me I was not concerned but I knew if would be a factor on the run, so hydration pre and post swim as well as on the bike would be key. Got to say I felt good on the bike on the lead out and perhaps a bit to over eager with exceeding my race watts by 10-15watts. That would be fine in a cool European event but given the heat in Florida I wanted to ease off to make sure I was leaving some in the tank for the run. I also had done only one long bike in 12 weeks leading up to the race so what was in the legs I didn’t know.

Figure 3: Time to hold the aero and get head in the game.

Figure 4: Time to hold the aero and get head in the game.

After the 1st hour I had settled in and from where I was after the 1st hour I didn’t see any drafting, which is what Florida has had a reputation for. I don’t know if this was due to increased marshalling or some change in the way age groups are now approaching races but it was useful and allowed me just to think about my own performance without to much surging etc.

Out on the course my mind was on 2 things .1 holding aero position and 2. Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. I try to get in at least 1000mls an hour although I know I will sweat more than this. I have been up to 1200mls/hr previously but just not had enough time to get in the sessions to adapt. However, as long as I can hold my aero position I can get away with lower watts for a better return in speed (note: my CDA for Florida was 0.223 m^2).

Over the last 30Mins I was beginning to feel the ride become a bit more of an effort than the ease the rest of the race so held back another 5watts, hoping it would leave me with some legs for the run.

Bike time [4hrs 53mins]



Dam, Dam hot…That’s the summary for the Florida run. I jumped of the bike out of transition and have to say felt ok and tried to settle into a 4.40-4.45mi/kg pace of running and until about 14/15k (See Figure x.x) I was bang just under a 4.35average (to get me under a 3.15 marathon and circa 9hr 20Min IM based on the days swim/bike– p.s. that would have given me second or 3rd in age group and kona slot) then the heat (or maybe just the lack of training) started to kick in….

Figure 5: Feeling good on the run well at least to 14km ha

Figure 5: Feeling good on the run well at least to 14km ha


The rest of the run was ok high and lows but manageable but could not hold the speed and hard to keep body temp down despite lots of ice at aid stations and remaining hydrated. I had not done anywhere near enough the acclimatisation work I had done for Frankfurt and I could feel that on the day. Frankfurt’s peak heat was higher than Florida but I felt easier at Frankfurt heat wise so something I can cope with but need to do the right preparation.

Figure 6: Hot hot hot...even from the start.

Figure 6: Hot hot hot…even from the start.

So the run became a case of grinding it out but with no real walks of shame only walking the aid stations after about 15k I was pretty happy to make it through, given the last few months of not even knowing if I would make the start line.

So come the end of the run there was the lovely finish shoot and unlike in 2014 I finished in the sunlight and was great to see the family and my Mam who had come over for her 70th birthday. Despite nipping under the 4Hr mark for the run I was well away from the 3hr 27min run I did in 2014, which if I could have put together on the day would have given me my goal of a Kona slot. But these things are here to tease but a sign for me that I have it in me.

Figure 7: Not long after this one the shit hit the fan.

Figure 7: Not long after this one the shit hit the fan.

Post analysis I improved from 2014 but a poor run and lack of training let me down on the day and although I didn’t aim for Kona on this race but a finish holding together my run from 2014 would have got me to the island. There have been improvements since 2014 results but the only number that really matter are 1-4 i.e. the finishing slots guaranteed to get you to Kona and that’s got to be the goal again for 2018.

  • 16th Age group (Up from 52 in 2014)
  • 96th Overall (Up from 275 in 2014)

Overall IM Florida 2017 [10hr 6min]

Figure 8: On the way to ice-cream and beer

Figure 8: On the way to ice-cream and beer


SUMMARY – A Year to forget or remember!

I have had a great year of training but a crap year for results. I am sure everyone has them but you always are looking for validation of your efforts but you have to look to your long-term goals, evaluate and fix what maybe broken in your strategy. You will always get those looking to the failure in a result or you not achieving x but every season and indeed every race brings new insight. The application of that insight to you micro, macro cycles in training, your diet and recovery are all key.

The pro’s for this year for me is I have finally understood how to acclimatise for the heat that’s to Frankfurt. 3 weeks having a mix of steam/sauna and hot baths post training do the job. I am never going to be an optimal athlete in the heat as I carry too much muscle and simple thermodynamics come into play here. However, managing and still performing to ‘my’ best ability in hot conditions is key to a good performance if not the fastest race.

I also believe a shortened taper works best for me. I felt so much better going into Florida than any other IM, so despite the lack of long bikes I think I had a good race.

Negatives of the year have been my 1st real bike crash and I am writing this second part of my blog a week post IM Florida and another night of poor sleep due to continued back pain. I am in for my MRI and hopefully the issue is just muscular and I just need time post the fractures. I will keep up with the physio and osteopath sessions and the latter are a massive help.

Although the race times for various reasons of health have not been fantastic I have learned this season and become stronger on my bike. It’s the start of the off-season and I’ve had a week of very little post Florida so I guess its time to get back on it. It’s been a busy work year from the day job and setting up some other projects but some very exciting stuff in the pipeline for 2018.

“Wishing you guys a very happy xmas and all the best for your winter training!”




Roll on July 9th

That was the thought process in the months leading up to Ironman Frankfurt. I felt ready and was shooting out some great training sessions as well as some long training hours, effort and coin on route to what I though would be a big PB.

Pre-race blues!

One thing that seems to be common across those involved in long course triathlon is the dreaded taper illness. In 2016 I was victim and ended up ill pre-Austria making me jump into Ironman Barcelona to validate my years efforts, which I did with a PB. However, I was hoping I would be able to avoid such issues this year but for those following me on twitter (@marktallonphd) a week out I ended up with a bacterial chest and throat infection – so out came the anti-biotics. It was a case of fingers crossed that I would be ready for race day!

T-Minus 48Hours

What a week…So a week out I picked up the illness and pretty much did nothing training wise other than try to recover for race day. Then day of flying out I was told my grandmother died – so some icing for the shit cake I was dealing with. There was also a load of work stuff to deal with for both wife, and myself but maybe go into that in another blog.

As you guys know you invest not only significant time but also cash into preparing for an Ironman. Physio, bike kit, nutrition, coaching, flights, hotel, entrance fees all add up to £1000’s of cash. So many of us go against what we know is right i.e. to pull out. I would never advise an athlete to race when ill other than head cold but once on the chest and green chunks there are some real health dangers to racing like that – so I must be a bit of a nob as still raced.

48hours out and I decided I would race and I needed to get my head into the right space. Before I get into the story of the race the goal was sub hr swim, 4hr 45min bike and a 3.10run – all on the cards based off my training leading up.

Bike Check

For those who don’t know the swim start and T1 are across the city from T2 for Ironman Frankfurt. So the day before the race you need to grab your bike to get checked in by taking your bike onto a bus with the other 3116 registered athletes. The bus journey was about 40mins and as you can see by the pick the queues are pretty big and at over 30oC you’re sweating your nuts off for about 30mins before getting on-board. I have to say the operation is slick and there are lots of busses so don’t stress about getting to racking in the 1st bus to go.

Figure 1. Bike queue for getting the ride to T1

Figure 1. Bike queue for getting the ride to T1 – All around the block…

What I would say is for those of you who are staying near the city and my not get an opportunity to try out the swim is to bring some swim kit so after racking your bike you can get on the swim course. Again getting back into Frankfurt is hassle free as lots of busses on for the return journey.



One of my previous issues during Ironman was getting my ass out of bed in the Morning in enough time to make sure I was not rushing to race start and could get a warm-up in. This time set my clock early so we where out of the door 4.35am to get the bus (yes you can bring family) to Swim start (T1 opens at 5am). I got there in good time to check over the bike and load food and drink for the day and managed to get into the water for a good 10min warm-up. The lake is stunning, very flat and easy to see the markers, so I stuck my self into the sub hour group.

Swim [1hr 46seconds]

Prior to the start of the swim I felt pretty good. I was still coughing but didn’t feel to bad and had completed the antibiotics the day before the race and had a good sleep. Got into the swim which is a wave start and there seemed to be lots of space. In hindsight I wish I had been a bit more aggressive but was not sure how I would feel. In the end was an OK swim and felt pretty comfortable post swim.

The transition was a long run up to the bikes and changing area. I had already scoped it out pre race so I knew what was to come. I had no issues during transition and out on the bike in ok time (T1 = 6min 46seconds).


Bike [4hr 57min 18seconds]

The bike was short this year by a supposed 3km (My Garmin says 6k). Like all Ironman the bike is a make or brake for the rest of the event and I was looking forwards to it after some great rides in training. After the 1st 10k my power was down about 20watts from target effort and this was the concern – what impact of the illness. However, I had decided whatever happens I would finish the race and work as hard as was comfortable. Despite not being able to hold a higher power I enjoyed the bike. There was very few out on the course and that would mean I only saw one instance of drafting – so a real honest course – just how Ironman should be.

Figure 2. Out on the bike and into the fryer.

Figure 2. Out on the bike and into the fryer.

A few tips for those of you that might be interested in doing Frankfurt. There are a few places with cobbles and these are real boneshakers. I used 28c wheels for the race and 90psi to try to absorb some of the shakes but lost my chain over one of the sections. So key for the cobbles is to keep spinning the legs as your go over them as any slack in the chain when not pedalling can make the chain more likely to jump off.

Figure 3. Frankfurt cobbles, shake rattle and roll.

Figure 3. Frankfurt cobbles, shake rattle and roll.

Over the second half of the course I dropped another 6 watts but on the plus side did get in all my nutrition / fluid on the day, which was a concern as antibiotics can ruin gut function. This was key as mid bike the temp was already heating up to a toasty 32oC. I had done 10 days pre race heat acclimatisation work and got to say it worked a treat as even with a TT helmet on I did not feel fried.

Coming off the bike I was ready to get a quick transition and had feet out of the shoes ready to hand my bike to waiting staff. Once off the bike I ran to my bag (which I had market with black permanent marker to ensure it stood out from the other bags). On arriving at my race number the bag was gone from the hook (Yep fucked off is an understatement). I called a member of staff over to help out but they where as useful as a chocolate fireguard – after some running around I found it about 5 meters away under another rack. Clearly someone must have picked up the wrong bag realised it and dumped it (Thanks). Panic over but maybe 1-2mins lost resulting in a 4min transition when you could do this in 2mins.

Figure 5. Out of T2 ready to attack the sweltering run.

Figure 4. Out of T2 ready to attack the sweltering run.

Run [3hr 57min 21seconds]

Out onto the run a felt OK (As good as you can feel post bike leg) and tried to set off at pre planned 4.20/4.25 pace. After 5km this felt tough and the cough was back in full effect so I slowed it down trying to hold around 4.45min/km. Despite averaging this up until 24/25km into the run the cough was constant and the next thing I was laid on the floor then being carried of to the med tent. After about 15mins in the med tent I was allowed to go (I had blacked out due to low blood pressure from the coughing).

Figure 6. Never quit no matter what!

Figure 5. Post med tent back to work – Never quit no matter what!

By the time I got running I had lost about 20mins (Stuck the run splits at the end of the blog for those interested). However, after dropping out at Austria in 2016 I promised I would never quit another Ironman, so on I went and pushed as much as I could holding around 5min/km pace over the rest of the course. I guess without the stop I would have been around the 3.30marathon time, which would have been all things considered and OK race and a PB.

Figure 7. The finishing shoot plays feels so good!

Figure 6. The finishing shoot feels so good!


Despite the failure in making my goal race effort, I learnt a massive amount about myself over this race.

  • 1st – I now know what I need to do to acclimatise for a hot race, which has been an issue for me in the past.
  • 2nd – Even when I am not in best form and have a disaster out on the course I can still push close to a sub 10hr Ironman.
  • 3rd – The experiences of hard races over the past few years and the failures have strengthen my mind so when the wheels come of I can find the motivation to carry on.

So despite not getting the race nor the outcome of the race I wanted I felt proud of the effort I had put in. After a few days reflection I have signed up to a race I did back in 2014 – ‘Ironman Florida’.

Figure 8. Amazing how quick you can forget the pain when you grab the gold.

Figure 7. Amazing how quick you can forget the pain when you grab the gold. Remember why we do this sport – for the love of it!

Writing this Race Blog is a bit delayed and it’s now 2 weeks post Frankfurt and still not 100% over the cough. So far I have only done a few easy sessions to keep the legs spinning. However, I have really needed the break with so much going on in personal life and being training solid for the last 7months have taken their toll.

I have loved the break both physically and mentally but I am ready to get back to it from 1st week of August and will use the next week as a run in pre training proper. So another 12 weeks of graft are ahead for me and I feel mentally recharged and ready to attack. Best of luck to all of you for the rest of the season and remember avoid the doubters as there are no limits other than those inside your mind! #believe

Best in training, Mark


Outlaw Triathlon – A lesson in quick fixes!

Here we are for the 1st tri of the season and a 70.3 is always a great way to open the account for 2017…

The Outlaw is a bit of an institution in the UK and has a super loyal following due to its fantastic team of organisers and atmosphere on the day. However, May in Nottingham (UK) can get a bit Chilly and this year was one of those, not to mention the rain over the preceding days. So, coming into the race I expected a cold morning with wet roads and a muddy run. However, despite the cold swim the weather warmed up nicely so it was a day for a good race. I had taken a relatively easy week prior to the race so felt I was in good shape for a strong race.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Early mornings pack and ready for the OUTLAW


The Swim [29mins 9seconds]

One of the mistakes last year was too much of sleep in so was late for the start of the swim (well late as in didn’t get chance to get acclimatised to the cold pre race start). The day of the race I was up and at the race for 4.45am (15 mins pre-transition opening), this gave me time to get the bike into transition, wetsuit on and a good 5-7 mins in the water before the gun started.

The Outlaw swim is played out in 4 waves. Prior to my wave (M30-34, M40-44) the 1st wave included Relay, MU24, M25-29, M35-39, and M55-59 participants. This means you have a lot of bodies to pass after 950m of the swim. So you need to get out hard and then avoid the bodies. I felt pretty good on the swim and it was the first time to try out the new Maverick X wetsuit. The suit felt great (amazing actually) and despite getting a little chilly I was only just outside my 28min target.

Figure 2. Maverick X Wetsuit felt like a second skin.

Figure 2. Maverick X Wetsuit felt like a second skin.


The Bike [2hr 31min]

Only the day before the race I made the decision with my coach (Dr Garry from SportsTest) to take some risks on the bike and looked towards 235-240watt average over the half ironman distance bike leg. I was having a great race and felt very comfortable pushing the watts out but just after an hour into the race my front mech decided it was time to f*ck up and twist in on me (See red square on bike power profile below). I am still not 100% sure what happened but the result was a twisted and damaged front mech and slightly twisted set of chain links. Its took a week to get the bike fixed with a new chain and front mech.

Figure 3. Power profile from Outlaw bike

Figure 3. Power profile from Outlaw bike.


I tried to pedal for a bit whilst looking down to see what had happened but once I realised this was not a quick fix I pulled over. After a bit of self-talk not to throw in the towel I managed to get the mech in a position to allow me to keep into the big chain ring and some movement across 4 gears of the rear cassette. This would get me to the finish if the bike would stay in one piece, which it did.

Despite the loss of 7 minutes I was 6 minutes quicker than 2016 bike leg. Without the mechanical I would have been have ridden 2hr 24Min. I had thought pre-race a 2hr 20min to 2hr 25min was on the cards and it was frustrating not to be able to achieve that, but I had to take home the positives and the main breakdowns over the ride was:

  • 54mins (204-243)
  • 40mins (244-283)
  • 10mins (284-323)
  • 7mins (>324)
Figure 4. Out on the bike.

Figure 4. Out on the bike feeling strong.


The final power value was 233w and I cannot post any heart rate data because I also made the decision not to race with a heart rate monitor. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I have been training at a much greater volume this year which I know can impact my heart rate, secondly I have been trying to move more towards training on feel as the constant looking at Heart Rate can be a stress in itself.

Figure 5. Shortly after the mechanical back on the road playing catch up.

Figure 5. Shortly after the mechanical back on the road playing catch up.


The Run [1hr 26mins]

In 2016 the run was a strength for me with a 1hr 24min half marathon off the bike (including a toilet break), so I was hoping for something similar. I was not sure how the harder bike effort would impact (never mind being about 2kg heavier) my goals but as a ‘B race’ had nothing to loose. Initially, the run felt good and over 13km I was averaging about 4min/km. I then faded to about 4.10-4.15min/km coming out with a 4.08min/km average (respectable but could be better). I have to admit I died over the last 2km, which was either the higher intensity from the bike or still some fatigue in the legs from recent training or a mix of both.

However, I guess the best test of any race effort is if you could do it again what would you change? Well I would not change much other than the mechanical and also some of the decisions made in the transitions.

Figure 6. Into the run and feeling good.

Figure 6. Into the run and feeling good.



I have to be honest I have never really paid a massive amount of attention over transitions because my focus is Ironman and at my level make little impact unless you really mess up. However, I made some major mistakes on the day especially for a half ironman. I made the decision to place on shoe covers and gloves as in 2016 my feet and fingers where freezing. I never practiced this in training in relation to how much time this would burn, not only getting them on but also off. This was a mistake and one not to be repeated if I ever make another stab at a 70.3.

The effect of my faffing about was about 2 minutes added to my 2016 transition time. In the future unless it’s going to be very cold I will not be putting on such items in the transition zone but may perhaps bring some gloves onto the course and putting on while out on the bike if needed.



The mechanical and poor transition lost me 9 mins and a potential time of 4hr 26mins, which would have gained me a podium place rather than 6th in my age group and top 20 overall rather than 33rd. The Outlaw continues to go from strength to strength and the total finishers where 1221 athletes from the 1500+ registered this year.

Figure 8. You are and Outlaw [Just not the fastest one ;-)]

Figure 7. You are and Outlaw [Just not the fastest one ;-)]

Despite the poor overall time from what I expected it gave me some great data on where my performance is after a tough winter of training to further boost the bike. Next up is the ‘A race’ for the season ‘Ironman Frankfurt’ in July and I have a real good couple of weeks of brutal training and some additional dietary control to implement. Fingers crossed no more mechanicals and I am really looking forwards to a fun race.

Until next time all the best in training!