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Improving my cycling speed

Pictograms of Olympic sports - Triathlon. This...

Pictograms of Olympic sports – Triathlon. This is unofficial sample picture. Images of official Olympic pictograms for 1948 Summer Olympics and all Summer Olympics since 1964 can be found in corresponding Official Reports. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year I have done my first 3 triathlons individually, I have completed these triathlons, I did not excel. completing them in itself is already awesome. But my time is lacking. Now, I want to complete a triathlon at an average triathlete’s pace.

My first triathlon was the ABDB triathlon, my swim was fast, I took over a lot of people, but in the cycling leg, around half way was overtaken by a lot of people, I ended my run when the the closing ceremony was taking place. Second triathlon was the Panaga Triathlon, the race was in waves, and the winner was decided on the total time they took. I started early, so I finished early, despite having a lot of the late wave cyclist and runners passing me by. looking at the time list, i was the bottom 5. and I realized the average speed of the cyclists were about 30kmph. Third triathlon was in Miri, due to weather the swim leg was replaced with an extra run leg, the cycle was on a single road to a point and back. Halfway to the halfway point, I began to see the elite cyclist heading back. With every passing pack, I noticed their position and speed, this was the first time I tried to use the drops (the lower handle bar on a roadbike), to my surprise my speed improved by that simple act, it was uncomfortable but I was faster.

Recently a fellow triathlete asked if I was interested in joining the 70.3 ironman at Putrajaya, KL. A 70.3 ironman is a half ironman. 2km swim, 90km bike, 21km run. I thought about it, and I signed up. The way I see it, the main time I improve myself is when there is a big event or a competition, I may not win the race itself, but I always improve myself for it.

There are often a few questions in order to improve.

  1. Where am I now? what stage am I in.
  2. Where do I want to be?
  3. When do I need to achieve it?
  4. What would it take to get there?, what do I need to do? How do I get there?
  5. Why do I want to improve? why do I not want to stay where I am? Why do I want to get to where I want to be. What will motivate me in achieving this goal.

1. I already know my average speed, being 18-20kmph.

2. I would like to run with the cycling pack. an average of 30kmph.

3. I would like to attain that speed, and maintain that speed for 90km in the 70.3 Ironman on the 13 April 2014.

4. I asked the other triathletes and cyclists, I read books and magazines, I referred to websites and youtube. generally the advice ranges from:

  • Interval Training – a start with low intensity, then repetitions of short bursts of high speed, with moderate recovery time. This is fast and tiring, but I find it works not just as speed work, but does improve stamina as well.
  • Hill Rides – which provides a sort of interval training, High Intensity going uphill, recovery going downhill. But the intervals are set by the hills, not by the rider.
  • Long Slow Distance – to go as relax as I can, at low gear. This is volume training as well as aerobic training. getting the body used to the distance. I find it is the perfect time to immerse myself in my bodies actions, to feel whether I am doing something right or not, whether I am efficient or not. but added with brunei’s hilly rides, I take advantage of the downhills with a high gear when I can… just not too hard.
  • Get into a cycling group, you tend to push yourself when you are in a group, especially those who are better than you, that you feel you can match. I am personally not ready for this yet. I am afraid that my current speed is too slow for most packs. I’m waiting till i get 28-30kmph before I join one.
  • Measurements, using a gps watch or smartphone app, keep track of your improvements. Robin Sharma said “What gets measured gets improved”, I started with 18-20kmph, with the last few weeks of training, I am now 26kmph (I might be faster if not for the traffic lights), and I will know that I am successful when I reach that average of 30kmph mark.
  • Practice, practice, practice. the more often you train, the better you become. This is what most cyclist/triathletes tell me. regardless of the technique. It is a matter of doing it, and improving as you get along.

5. I am bored and tired of being past by almost everyone (I am the last few, if not the last at times). I enjoyed the feeling of completing the triathlon, but the feeling of completing is not enough anymore. It is easy, it is doable, it is done. I need to know and feel that I am getting better, faster and stronger. Not just good, fast and strong. Which is good enough, I just want better. It is either I become faster, or I go for longer, or both.

So my plan now is as follows:

  • train as much as possible, looking at my time, I need to allocate at least 3 times a week for each discipline. easiest I can do it is by cycling for 1 hour every morning before work, do a brick run when I can, or do a run later in the afternoon. Do a swim at night, or if I’m up for it, or night is unavailable (due to weather or events), then consider a lunch swim.
  • Do a mini or full triathlon at the weekends, twice a month. unfortunately, swimming pools opens at 8:30, so I have to do do it in the order of cycling, running, swimming. It is okay I think, considering swimming uses different sets of muscle. and assuming I had enough rehydration and nutrition during the cycle, I actually felt better and relax after the swim.
  • Do a long cycle or run in the weekends. doing 100km cycle (done but slow), or a 42km run (I haven’t done this in a while), the run part I can do 10km relax, I haven’t done a 42km since 2007. But I feel that I may be able to do it again, its only a matter of rehydration and nutrition during that long run.

Difference between Pool Swimming and Open Swimming

Pictograms of Olympic sports - Triathlon. This...

Image via Wikipedia

I have been practicing Total Immersion Swimming for a few months now, and I have become faster and longer lasting. I have only been practicing in a swimming pool. Last friday I saw an article about the RBAF Triathlon this 31st July 2011, and they had a group category, If it was only individuals then I wouldn’t go, I don’t have enough training or equipment for 10km run and 40km cycle. So I signed up with the intention to just do the open swimming. I subsequently have found my team members.

Having been practicing total immersion based on time per lap and total time, I had no true idea how far I could actually swim, so yesterday, I actually counted my laps. I found I could do 30 laps easily. (1 lap is 2 lengths both ways), so I could actually swim 3km! This morning, there was an open swim trial run at the watermanship centre at pantai serasa. and I rediscovered (I did one in 2005, but i was then too tired/weak to realize most of this) the difference between swimming in a pool and swimming in the open. Here are the things I found out.

  • The water is salty! – it stings the eyes, mouth and nose! The discomfort slightly distracted me. Reminder to have some mouth wash in the bag.
  • The water was muddy! The place is more like an estuary rather than the ocean. this has its pros and cons, I don’t see anything strange, but I don’t see where i’m going either.or whether i’m swimming straight. it also made the next issue worse.
  • There are no underwater lines! – there are only buoys that are the turning points. I think there should have been floating lines on the right, just so I could track my location. In this case there wasn’t. I thought I could just use 1 swimmer on my right, even then that was difficult to see. Initially I stopped after 40 strokes (yes I count them, what else am I do underwater? sing?) and found that I was often off course, and had to stop for a while to locate the buoy. The waves only made it worse, it kept pushing me in either direction. I finally found 10 to 20 strokes were best times to look up and see where i’m headed. So unlike pool swimming, I often had to do correction above water.
  • initially there will be crowd, and facekicked or facekicking is a possibility – this one i didn’t experience, but the experienced triathlete share it with me. I guess i’ll be experiencing this on sunday. His tip was swim faster initially to avoid the traffic.. I think I’ll just swim at the outer edge.

So the lessons I learned about open swimming is basically, withstand the pain/discomfort and move on, (also bring mouth wash), Focus on the turning points/buoys, unfortunately constantly focusing on the goal itself is not efficient if you swim while looking at them, it is more efficient to do what you need to do (swim) , and frequently/occassionaly check whether you are on the right course, and do corrections if necessary.

Last but not least, I’d like to share that I was the first one to finish out of 5 people at 31 minutes. 2 were military, 1 is an MOE officer who is an avid triathlete. 1 person knew of the total immersion technique, but has yet to master it, he was 3rd place. Some thought that I either had strong legs or hands, but I’d like to emphasize that the total immersion technique is practically effortless for me, and I believe that a person who has mastered the technique would find that out as well. Finally, I would like to add that I may have beaten 4 guys in swimming, I’d like to acknowledge that they would definitely kick my ass in cycling and swimming. I’ll be working on that after raya. I heard there will be a national triathlon held at the end of this year.

For more information on the RBAF triathlon go to

For more information on total immersion search for it on youtube or this linkes

Now where is that mouth wash…