Tri-ing my Best: Training for a Triathlon

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Tri-ing my Best: Training for a Triathlon

April 25, 2018

Friend of Evergreen Life, Matt Jackson, is embarking on a gruelling fitness journey to push himself to his physical limits. He’s training for some upcoming triathlons and we’re supporting him all the way! Before we get to know Matt a bit better, let’s learn about triathlons and what he’s putting himself through!

What’s a triathlon?

From the ‘tri’ part, you may guess it’s got something to do with three. Yes – there are three separate and very distinct disciplines to master in a triathlon. That’s swim, bike and run. Phew!

There’s a lot of different types of triathlon events, such as the Ironman, sprint and middle-distance. But, the standard Olympic-style triathlon involves swimming for 1500m (either in a pool or open water), followed by a 40km bike ride (sometimes on pretty busy main roads); then you finish that off with a 10km run. Sounds tiring, right? Well, you’ve got to train hard and for a long time – so let’s see what Matt’s fitness journey’s been like.

Matt’s fitness journey

Although he says he’s always been active, Matt started running back in 2006 when he began training for the New York marathon. Talking about the event, he said he “found it both fun and rewarding, whilst also raising money for the Marie Curie charity.”

As for the cycling, Matt got into that when living in Geneva. “My first road bike was just for commuting really, but I couldn’t stop riding in the mountains.” Just imagine the views … and the uphill climbs!

It isn’t all fun and games though – Matt decided to enter the Lausanne triathlon in 2013 but dropped out following a nasty bike accident … “I actually broke my elbow falling off my bike in the hotel car park. I was so embarrassed that I just jumped back onto my bike and cycled into work! I did go to the hospital at CERN shortly after.”

Matt’s swimming abilities weren’t always as good! He says: “I was a strong breaststroke swimmer, but I couldn’t even do one full 50m length front crawl!” But after a ton of practice, he’s now managing over 3000m in every training session. Go Matt!

Matt’s first tri

His first race was the Slateman Sprint in Llanberis, Wales. Matt remembers being excited more than anything: “me and my friend entered together, and we drove over after work with Jess [my wife] in support. Unfortunately, the only place to get food that was still open when we got there was the Chinese takeaway. Being a true athlete, I enjoyed some chow mein with chips!” *Evergreen Life doesn’t endorse this kind of pre-race meal!

“It was my first triathlon and first open water swim, I had no expectations other than enjoy it. I wasn't expecting the water to be so cold, it was about 8 degrees which was a bit of a shock! I had focused a lot on the bike up Llanberis pass thinking this would be the 'hard part' and I was relieved when it was over. I’d neglected to look at the run course which was even worse … up and down the trails around the old slate mine. Having said all this, the Slateman is an amazing race in a beautiful location. After finishing I couldn't wait to enter my next race.”

Getting serious

Over the past few years, he’s decided to take his fitness journey to the next level. He’s been trying to qualify for his age group championships. His group (male 25-29) is one of the most competitive categories; some of the athletes are almost good enough to go semi-pro!

Matt recalls a race in Bala, Wales – his last chance to qualify – saying that “after a terrible swim, I really struggled to get going on the bike (which is usually my best discipline), but I just kept thinking every second counts. In the end, I overtook a competitor by running a personal best!”

And what an achievement – he’s qualified for the Olympic distance in Tartu, Estonia and the Sprint distance held in Glasgow (both happening later in 2018). Well done!

The final stretch

“So, to get myself ready for these events, I’m training 12 to 15 hours a week at the moment,” Matt points out. A triathlon is clearly a huge commitment, and it’s very demanding on both his body and his time. But what’s his main motivation? He said: “when I’m struggling in training, I always imagine finishing on the blue carpet at the end of the race. It always helps having Jess and my family in support, be it the 5 second boost it gives you when running past them, or having someone at the end to hold me responsible if I gave up!”

Evergreen Life are sponsoring Matt to help him complete his triathlons. We’ll be following Matt on his training and progress before the big events this summer, so stay tuned for updates!