Tom Bishop on adapting to middle distance racing

It’s been a week since Swansea 70.3 and I’ll happily admit that I’m still completely knackered!

It wasn’t just the race that left me feeling out of breath. I had a huge moment in my personal life that also exhausted me, but in a good way…

I got engaged a few days after the race and we spent several nights in the Peak District enjoying some time off. This little break was necessary after a non-stop start to the year.

It seems like it was only last week that I was lining up for my first race of the season in Portugal. This little break will, I hope, revive me for the second half of the year.

The benefits of a break

Sian Rainsley shows off her engagement ring after Tom Bishop pops the question

Mid-season breaks go against all the emotional habits you develop in the middle of training. You worry about losing your physical shape and feeling lazy, bloated and weak. But I find it useful to imagine that you advise someone else to do it and the benefit they will derive from it.

Breaks are a good time to process what you have already accomplished this year so far and what you want to do or change in the future.

I took the time to review the races I had already done and look at my year as a whole. I turned 31 last month and am one of the oldest pros to line up on the pontoon.

That’s not a problem, because some of the greatest athletes we’ve ever seen were dominating well into their 30s. Most importantly, I still love doing what I do and that means I want to get the best out of myself now and use the experience I’ve gained to run smarter and plan the year in a way that make the most of myself.

I remember being able to go straight back to full training after a race, but now the recovery takes a bit longer. This probably means I have to reduce the frequency of races and make sure I’m really ready to deliver at the next one.

It’s been my instinct for a while, but the schedule and responsibilities I’ve had in the federation for the past four years have encouraged me to run a little more than I think I can handle, to where the decline in form lately.

Climb in the middle

Tom perfects his aero position ahead of his first-ever half Ironman. (Jamie Tyerman)

Third at Ironman 70.3 Swansea was a great result and I’m always happy with a podium because they don’t come back as often as I would like.

But what I actually delivered was not me at my best. I suppose this is partly explained by the fact that I did not follow any specific training for the long course.

I barely got my TT in position and all the running training I’ve done is geared towards speeding 5-10k which is less than half the distance we run in middle distance triathlon .

Luckily, swimming isn’t changing too much for me, but cycling and running really need to be considered if I’m going to reach my potential in the next few years.

In fact, I’ve already set a few things in motion. I did some aero testing with WattShop on the Sunday before the race and changed my stance quite a bit.

I still need to get used to the change and train my body to produce power in the low position, which will take time, but I felt the benefit of my speed right away.

The biggest changes that saved the most watts were getting narrower and lower.

Improvements in equipment and clothing have also saved energy, and all of this has resulted in quite a big change. But like I said, now I have to train in position and find a balance between power generation and aerodynamics.

Learn on the job

Tom takes the podium with Alistair Brownlee (first) and Antonio Lopez (second) at Ironman 70.3 Swansea. (Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for Ironman)

What I found out about cycling in Swansea is that you have to make sure you have everything ready to go, including your bike and your legs. I spent the first 10 miles on the bike distracted by things, while Alistair disappeared down the road.

I hadn’t loaded the bike course, lost half my nutrition and had to force my bars back into place after they fell on rough terrain. It’s easy to waste a lot of time when you’re not focused.

Luckily the chase caught up with me and I was able to focus on this group and follow their running lines. I could only really keep up and hold on because I was on the edge.

My rear tire was very soft. During the racking in the morning, I had noticed that it was flat. The sealer had worked, so I inflated it and twirled it around hoping it would seal, but it didn’t.

Luckily I had foam inserts that held some pressure in the tire so you could keep riding safely. That said, I could feel the rim touching the road on every rough pass of the road or the cattle grid.

Coming off the bike, I was quite exhausted and had to manage my fatigue and consume my emergency nutrition quickly, without overdoing it and affecting my stomach.

The race was a pretty lonely affair once I caught up with Maurice Clavel and Liam Lloyd, who had both been in our bike pack.

I had a cramp scare after 15km and had to walk a bit but luckily it calmed down and I was fine for the last stretch. We’ve all seen how a cramp can end a race for someone at the Canadian Open.

And after?

In the meantime, I have some ideas with what I want to do. There are a couple of French Grands Prix early next month that I’m looking forward to, and then I’m watching what’s next.

There are World Cups in Asia and also middle distance events, so it’s choosing what suits me to prepare for next year.

Top image credit: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for Ironman

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