Precision Hydration are delighted to welcome Australian pro triathlete Sam Appleton onto the team ahead of an exciting year for the 29-year-old. We caught up with Sam to hear how a winner of 15 IM 70.3 races approaches training and how he's dialling in his nutrition, hydration and recovery strategies in 2020...
Welcome to Team PH, Sam! Let's start by taking a look at your training regime. Is there anything you're really focusing on to help you make further gains during the racing season?
Thanks guys. Ideally, I'd love to improve all three disciplines!
I'm always working to improve all aspects of the sport and I want to make sure I don’t become complacent. Ultimately, I'm trying to improve my run, so I want to be able to get off a hard bike leg and run closer to that 70-minute barrier for the half marathon. That’s what's needed at the top level of the sport, and that’s what I'm working on, day in and day out.
The IM 70.3 circuit is very competitive and you've been ultra-consistent at the IM 70.3 World Championships, finishing in the top-eight of the field four years running [Sam's finished 5th, 4th, 6th and 8th]. Will a place on the podium at the Worlds be the big focus for you this year?
I feel like I've raced really well at the World Champs over the last four years, but for a podium, everything has to come together for a perfect race. It's so competitive and you really do have to bring your A game.
A podium at the 70.3 World Champs has been a goal of mine for a number of years now and the idea of racing at the World Champs is what pushes me out of the door each day.
Excellent, so how does that motivation to get out of the door translate into training hours? What does a 'typical' week of training look like for you?
In terms of weekly volume, I'm doing anywhere between 20-26 hours a week.
I swim five or six times a week, with a total of 20-25km. I'll bike anywhere from 300-500km, and run between 50-80km a week. It all depends on what the focus is at the time of the year.
I have a number of key days spread throughout the week. For example, Saturday will be a hard bike session with a race-specific run off the bike, and then Sunday might be a long run or a long ride (5 hours) built as a resilience session to follow up that key day on Saturday.
Weekdays are variable. I usually have 1-2 easier days during the week, which will entail an easy bike or run and a gym strength session. I swim almost every day and I've been doing 1-2 days of double runs with some builds and speed work sprinkled in.
I understand you've got a good base for training too as your currently out in Boulder, aka the triathlon training capital of the world. How does it compare to being at home in Australia?
At the moment, I'm spending the majority of my time in Boulder because it's a great spot for training and has amazing infrastructure for triathlon.
The altitude is also an added benefit, and at 1,600m above sea level, it's high enough to reap the benefits, but not too high that you can’t get the quality training in.
In saying that, I do miss Australia a lot, and I love going back as often as I can. I have a good group of friends there who I really enjoy training with and we all get along really well. I miss that aspect and I also miss the coffee...
You'll be back 'Down Under' soon enough as you're racing IM 70.3 Geelong - a race that you've competed in four times, winning twice. What is it about that course which seems to suit you?
I really enjoy starting my season in Geelong. Even though I spend a lot of time over in the US, it's important for me to maintain a presence in Australia and I love racing there.
Geelong is always a great race as it’s the first Australian 70.3 of the year, so a lot of the athletes are going there with a point to prove. I've been fortunate enough to win the race twice, so I want to head back and see if I can make it three wins.
How do you approach the tapering period up to race day?
I will train pretty hard up until seven days and once I get there it’s mostly about flushing the travel out of the system and prepping the body to race.
Generally, my taper will start about 7 days out, but don’t confuse taper with stopping all the hard work!
Usually the volume will taper off, but the intensity will remain. I'll do a key brick session 7-8 days out, with race-specific efforts, but once I land in Australia, it will be on me to decide what I want to do.
Geelong isn’t a huge race in the grand scheme of my 2020 schedule - although I still want to do well - so the taper will look a little different than it will for 70.3 Worlds later this year.
And what does your approach to nutrition, hydration and the mental preparation around race day look like?
I try to eat a fairly balanced diet. I aim for mainly whole foods, but I try not to stress about it too much.
In terms of hydration, I make sure I'm not going into the race with any deficiencies, so I will top up my electrolyte stores by sipping on the PH in the days leading in (especially with the international travel).
In terms of mental prep, I like to bring it down to a fundamental level of what I'm doing, and how I'm going to execute it.
I do get nervous for the big races, but I also try not to get overwhelmed and I try to look at it from a level of gratitude. At the end of the day I do triathlon because I love it!
Good to hear! And so how did you first hear about Precision Hydration?
I first came to know about PH from seeing the brand out at races, and then I learned a little more from my coach, Matt Dixon.
Matt gave the introduction to Andy in my prep into IM Western Australia last year, as I wanted to be a little more equipped to handle the hydration demands of a full IRONMAN.
With these numbers I was able to know how much sodium I lose while racing, and therefore, how much I should be aiming to replace. It's telling that when I finished 4th at IMWA this year, I had no cramps or dehydration issues, although what did hold me back was my lack of muscle conditioning for the IRONMAN.
This was a great confidence-booster for me because I know we got pretty close to meeting the hydration needs of my body during the race.
I learned so much from my debut IRONMAN in December and I'm definitely excited to give it another crack. I know I have a lot of work to do, and I need to build up that muscle resilience to run a fast marathon. In IMWA, it fell apart for me in the back half of the marathon, but besides the muscle deterioration, I felt like everything else went quite well. I’m looking forward to some persistent run training over the next few months.
It sounds like an exciting year of 70.3 and IRONMAN racing ahead. You're in good hands with the man known as 'The Recovery Coach' - Matt Dixon - in your corner. What has been Matt's biggest influence on the way you train?
Those people that call Matt the recovery coach can't have seen my program!
In all seriousness though, Matt is a great coach and has taught me a lot about racing and training, and about carrying myself as an athlete.
It’s a balanced program, and Matt really knows what works for me and we've dialled that in over the last few years. Matt has influenced my mental side of the sport, and encouraged me to be comfortable having trust in the program, and being confident to take easier days when I need it. It’s not all about mileage with Matt, and I really like that.
When it comes to your recovery and downtime, I’ve read a few interviews where you’ve said you’re massively into your gaming and you enjoy microbreweries – with that in mind, what would be your perfect ‘day off’ from training and racing?
Colorado has more microbreweries per capita than any other state in the US, so it’s kind of hard to avoid!
I do enjoy having a beer or two when I can, a good American IPA is my favourite.
The same goes for coffee, that's something else I'm pretty passionate about!
I’ve become a little bit obsessed with my garage lately and I love getting in there and playing around with my bikes. I mainly just make more work for myself when tinkering, but there's something quite satisfying about putting something together and then going out and using it.
I guess a perfect day off would encompass all of these things, and maybe throw a little bit of time on the Xbox in there too!