How a top age group triathlete approaches off season, nutrition and hydration

By Chris Knight | 9 Minute Read

Top age-group triathlete Neil Eddy enjoyed a 2019 season to remember. He won the overall Age Group ITU Long Course World Championship in Pontevedra in May, before taking the overall AG title at IM Vitoria Gasteiz, AND he finished on the podium in the 30-34 AG at the IM World Champs in Kona.

We spoke to Neil to hear how he's learned from his past experiences to refine his training and his hydration + nutrition strategy...

 

Hi Neil, congratulations on a fantastic season. Let's start with your 2nd place finish at the IM World Championships and I wondered what you'd learned from your two previous experiences of Kona after finishing 19th in 2017 and 8th in 2018? 

Thanks guys. It was close to being the perfect season and to get those results made me feel ecstatic, particularly as I knew how much I'd put into the season, although I probably take more pleasure from making my family, friends and those who support me proud.

The biggest thing I learned was to control the controllables - ensure I had a clearer race nutrition plan and focus on what my body needs and when. 

My nutrition really was key as I didn't want to revisit the dark places on Ali drive that I had during my first visit to Hawaii!

 

What happened when you ended up visiting those 'dark places' in previous visits? And what did you do differently in 2019?

The first year I learned the hard way. I missed the last drinks bottle drop and rode half an hour with no fluid, and that was only going to end one way. Sure enough, five miles into the run and bang, I was gone.

In 2019 I really looked into my sweat rate and built a flexible plan of what I might need on course.

Pre-race I had 500ml of water with PH 1500, as well as a caffeine gel.

During the bike leg, I had PH 1500 sachets in a highly concentrated bottle, enough to mix with 4.5 litres of water on course, in my aero bottle.

I had a spare bottle at the 56-mile mark in a special needs bag. Calories were all gels on the bike (and lots of them).

I had a PH 1500 bottle in T2 and carried this for the first few miles on the course, which was great for quenching my thirst. This was combined with Clif Bloks and gels, then I used the on-course nutrition from station-to-station.

Lastly, I carried a 1500ml bottle and used Clif Bloks from the Energy Lab stations. Admittedly, I had to carry it up out of the lab, but boy did I enjoy that on the way back down the Queen K.

 

 

Sounds like you nailed your nutrition and hydration strategy, Neil! So, what are the next goals for you with the 2020 season looming large? And will you be doing anything differently in training in the coming months? 

The podium in Kona had been a long-term target that I've been working on with my coach, Joel, for a couple of years. Nothing happens overnight and it's something we've worked towards together.

I've yet to make my final decision on race plans for this year and anyone who knows me understands that I do tend to leave things until the last minute.

The off season is a good time to reflect and think about some changes or adapt the training.

Personally, I've added some Pilates as I had major issues with my psoas at the start of last year and almost missed the ITU Long Course Worlds. Hopefully this will strengthen my deep core and work nicely along the weekly hot yoga session I attend.

 

It sounds like you're mixing things up during the off season. Would you be able to give us a sneak-peak at what your training plan is looking like at the moment?

The first few weeks of winter involve any training I feel like doing that week and I just look to enjoy keeping a bit of fitness. Then I move into a routine:

Day Activity Duration
 Monday Spin 60 minutes
Swim 75 minutes
Tuesday Run session (speed) 60 minutes
Conditioning (injury prevention) 45 minutes
Optional jog or bike session
Wednesday Swim 60 minutes
Bike intervals (mainly on turbo) 60-90 minutes
Thursday Run 45-60 minutes
Swim 75 minutes
Friday Bike 60 minutes
Run or Hot yoga 60 minutes
Saturday Bike + short jog off 180-240 minutes
Sunday Run 75-100 minutes
Bike 60 minutes

 

Nice one, thanks Neil. So, what would you expect your average training hours to be during the off season and how do you fit those around your day job as a School Games Organiser?

Once I have built up from 8-10 hours in the first couple of weeks back from a break, I would then get up to 15-16 hours, including gym and Pilates.

I have a very supportive work place, which helps massively. You need to have your family, friends and work place on board. Understanding your goals and what it takes to achieve these.

The next most important thing is preparation. I have competed in sport all my life but getting your training kit, food and anything else you may need prepared the night before makes training easier to start and ensures there's less stress all around.

 

How has your approach to off season changed (if at all) with what you’ve learned during your years in the sport of triathlon?

I have always been good at switching off, so three weeks of nothing when the season ends. The first week is nice because you look forward to it, the second week you can start to feel edgy, and the third week you know you have to start again soon otherwise you'll get lazy!

 

 

And finally, are you focusing on any particular weaknesses or strengths during the off season, and will you be leaving the cold UK winter for something a bit warmer?

I'm using Pilates and hot yoga to keep my body in its best possible shape. I have regular massages during the season and a little less in the winter time due to the intensity of my training decreasing. I try to do one conditioning session each week as well, so things like single leg squats, resistance bands...

And absolutely - Easter has always been key for me over the past few years. We stay in the Sport Hotel in Port de Pollenca Majorca, which includes a 25-metre pool, mountains and good running routes.

I find that camp really helps get that last bit of fitness ready for the start of racing.

 

Superb, enjoy the sunshine Neil and we look forward to catching up with you during the 2020 season. 

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