Triathlon Training in a Time of Covid

By | March 16, 2021

It has now been over a year since we were first forced in to lockdown by the Covid-19 pandemic. The last twelve months have seen an unprecedented change in the way we all live our lives. This can be seen in the associated knock-on effects in many aspects of those lives, from work to education to maintaining human connections in a time of isolation. For the members of The Blackwater Triathlon Club, trying to stay fit and motivated for the eventual return of races has been very challenging. Most of last year’s races and mass participation events, such as Ironman Youghal, the Lee Swim or The Ring of Kerry charity cycle, were cancelled or postponed. Our own club race had to be called off after over a decade of uninterrupted races. Training plans were thrown into disarray by extended lockdowns. Motivation became harder to maintain and the joys of home-working, home-schooling and home-delivery made getting on the bike or out on the road increasingly difficult.  Usually, at this time of year, our members are to be seen swimming countless laps in the nearest pool while waiting for outdoor temperatures to increase to the extent that a dip in the river, reservoir or sea doesn’t guarantee hypothermia. However, the pools are closed and for most of us the nearest we can get to swimming is to resort to lying on the kitchen table with some resistance bands trying to mimic the strokes we use in the water. (Apparently some even go to the extent of donning their hats, goggles and wetsuits for these sessions. Whether this is for added authenticity or as a result of an unusual relationship to neoprene is not for us to speculate upon?) At this stage we must give credit to the brave souls from the club who have been swimming in the reservoir throughout the winter months, some even venturing in without a wetsuit! For most club members having to break the ice before getting in to the water is just a step too far, but for those in training for an ice-mile attempt later in the year it was an ideal opportunity. March is the month when some hardier souls can usually be seen venturing out on the roads on their bikes again as the days get longer and the weather improves and the turbo trainers lose their appeal. The prohibition on group rides and the 5km limit has curtailed that activity somewhat. Cycling around a 20km loop multiple times on your own lacks the allure of a group ride on a cold spring morning with the associated chat and promise of a coffee and a bun along the route. Fortunately, for many of the club’s more ardent two-wheelers, technology has provided a replacement in the form of smart turbo-trainers and the joy of Zwift. Gone are the days when slogging out the kilometres on a turbo trainer was the cycling equivalent of watching paint dry. These days with a suitable smart trainer and an internet connection, cyclists can enjoy cycling around the cobbled streets of Paris or through the forests of California, all without leaving their own home. They can arrange to go on socially distanced group rides with fellow club members or even compete in virtual races! While providing an efficient and safe way to train alone, it also provides all the stats and information that even the greatest cycling nerd could wish for. Endless conversations about FTPs and watts per Kilogram and the best cadence sensors help while away the hours until we can once again venture out in to the real world. At least we can still run within our 5 km limits, albeit mostly alone again. Most of us don’t have access to a treadmill at home, so it’s all about getting out there and pounding the roads, no matter what the weather brings. There is light at the end of the tunnel now though and many of us check the news every day to see how long it will be before the country will be opened up again and whether the events we’ve signed up for this year will go ahead or not. For many the main focus of attention is Ironman Youghal on August 14th/15th. Between the half-Ironman event on the Saturday and the Full Ironman race on the Sunday, the Blackwater Triathlon Club has 40 athletes hoping to compete that weekend. Following the postponement last year, some of the athletes have been training for this event for over 18 months and the thought of having to wait another year is not a pleasant one. It’s now a race between the vaccinations, the virus and the lockdown levels to see whether the races will go ahead. In the meantime we have no choice but to continue training as if it’s on. So, while challenging, triathlon training doesn’t stop for a pandemic and hopefully we’ll all be racing again later this year.