The 3 keys to triathlon success

Posted by Alex Skelton on Aug 22, 2011

The 3 keys to triathlon success

We’ve just had an update on how Team Dillon’s Christy McKee has been getting on over the past few months which includes a significant amount of training on a Wattbike. Her triathlon results have been very impressive and it’s clear from what she says below that a combination of high quality training, a great coach and proper nutrition are the 3 keys to success.

It’s been a busy past few months since my last update. After taking a few weeks off work to train, in April I did TriStar Mallorca. Thanks to my regular Wattbike sessions the day before the race I rode the 50k course familiarisation loop with several pros (who of course were riding at an easy pace for us normal human beings). I am proud to say that by the end of the loop not only was I the only non-pro girl still in the group but one of only five that managed to keep up. Yeah!

I’ll focus on the bike leg of my races as it relates more directly to my training sessions with the Wattbike. Given I’m not the most impressive runner, I depend on having a strong swim and bike to give me a little more lead time on the girls that are better runners than me. In the TriStar Mallorca race the bike leg was 100km long (run was 10km long) and there was one steep 6km hill we had to do twice. I managed to keep a good strong pull despite some mechanical difficulties which meant I was stuck in one of my more challenging gears. Ultimately I finished 3rd in my age group as the bike gave me enough of a lead to hold off the other women on the shorter run.

A few short weeks after TriStar, I competed in the inaugural Mallorca 70.3. The race is in very familiar territory around Port Pollenca where I’ve ridden several times in the last few years. I know the route and the 10km hill (there is only one long hill on the course) went well and I felt comfortable racing on my tri-bike. Although I only came in 13th in my age group out of 59, my bike was strongest sector and if I had been 4 minutes faster in my run leg (and/or cut that time out of my transitions) I would have come in the top 5 in my category.

The bike course splits were at the 35.5km, 70.4km and 90k points. The 35.5km split was at the top of the long hill, and I was very excited to learn that out of the 219 non pro women competing in the race, my time in the first bikesplit was good enough for 19th place out of the 219 demonstrating my power up the hill. In the second 35km split, I was 39th out of 219 which is still reasonable but can be explained by my hesitation to descend the 10km hill at full blast and taking risks. Over the final 20km flat sector into the wind, I was 28th out of the 219 non pro women. Overall I was the 22nd fastest non pro woman on the bike compared to the 25th and 45th fastest on the swim and run respectively.

My biggest feat of the year was Ironman Nice, this was my first ever Ironman and a huge challenge as its known for having the toughest ride profile of all the Ironman race series. I spent a lot of time after work on my Wattbike and even more hours on my bike outdoors over the weekends trying to emulate same power on the road. Ultimately on race day I had the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike course – I got everything right, the amount of training, the nutrition, etc. I also had one of the stronger bike splits in my age group and this was despite the 36 degree weather which I had no way of preparing for being a UK resident! In Nice, I was the 7th fastest woman in my age group out of the 29 that finished the race.

More recently I did the Hyde Park Triathlon – I will definitely be doing it again next year as the race organisers did an excellent job. The day of the race I was still recovering from a bad cold, but I rode my tri-bike fresh with brand new Hed3 wheels and managed to rank 19th out of 183 other lady racers in the bike leg. I was pleased with this as I’ve been more focused on distance training rather than shorter power sprints and because I lost a lot of time in the turn around points (there were 5 laps which translated into 10x 180 degree turn around points) which are not exactly fun on a stiff tri-bike with toe overlap.

Finally, this past weekend I raced in the Germany 70.3 Ironman. Before I get into my race performance I have to say that I had hugely underestimated how tough the bike course would be as the race profile didn’t look too intimidating. I therefore made the very novice mistake of only taking 2 gels and one energy bar – what I’d usually take on a milder, relatively flat course. I had a great start to the ride, it was the first time I’ve felt able to push the pace since the Nice Ironman in June, and I stayed with the faster riders.

Around 40k I was getting worried because I had already gone through the two gels I had brought. I was holding off on eating the energy bar because I forgot to open the wrapper before the race and knew I’d loose time playing with the foil. At 70k I could tell I was losing power and some of the girls I put behind me early in the race were starting to catch up. I waited too long, and with the rainy weather I dropped the energy bar on what was a pretty steep hill.

At that point I had no intention of getting off my bike to get it – thinking of the time I’d loose - and in retrospect it turned out to be an enormous mistake. My fate? I suffered through the last 20k on the bike and my legs were shaking as I descended down the huge hill back into Wiesbaden – not an ideal way to start a 21k run. So a note to all those reading this – even a well tuned car won’t go anywhere if you don’t put fuel in the tank. So despite having a great coach like Michelle, a great training tool like Wattbike, and a great training partner like my boyfriend, if you don’t get your nutrition right you might as well stay in bed – in a longer race it will make or break your performance.

Thanks for the update Christy! Don’t forget we have our free Triathlon Winter Training Plan if you’re looking to take the next step in your own training.