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Triathlon Plus/ coaching editor Phil Mosley has been learning some hard lessons at the start of his triathlon season – but it’s given him an idea…

triathlon swimmingI like to think of myself as being fairly motivated, but sometimes I need a boot up the arse. That boot came in the shape of the Abu Dhabi International triathlon a couple of weeks ago. The hotel I stayed in was full of pro athletes like Julie Dibens, Chris McCormack, Faris Al Sultan and Craig Alexander and being around them inspired me. Seeing them train, race and even consume large amounts of buffet made me realise that they don’t take any shortcuts in the pursuit of triathlon glory.

For example they don’t do all their swim training at the local leisure centre like I do. They swim with a club or at the very least a group of other super-fit triathletes. You wouldn’t see World Champion Chris “Macca” McCormack swimming behind an old Granny who’s doing a stroke that resembles a harpooned octopus. Not in a million years. So why do I do it? I even recommend other people to join a swimming club, so surely it’s high time I started listening to my own advice.

So this morning I got up nice and early to attend my first club session, where the task-master of a coach had us doing drills, sprints, and dive starts. It’s a far cry from the plodding I’ve been doing all winter and I’m clinging on to the hope that my swim times will see some improvement. Otherwise it’ll be another season where I give my competitors a huge head start during the swim, before killing myself trying to catch them back up on the bike. Still, I’m not too worried because I have a plan B. I’m going to attach a large pair of authentic looking rubber feet to my existing ones, to give me extra propulsion without anybody noticing. Of course I’m only joking…or am I? It worries me how much serious thought I’ve actually given that last option. I must be desperate.

At least being in Abu Dhabi gave me more than just a hair-brained idea to invent some fake feet. It also reminded me of what it’s like to compete again. I only did the sprint distance race (750m, 50km, 5km) but it was enough to remind me of the realities of racing. In particular it made me realise these important points:

1. There is no more hideous place on earth than a Portaloo in a transition area, especially when it’s 38 degrees celcius outside. You’re already feeling nervous before the race, so the last thing you feel like doing is queuing up to lock yourself in a boiling hot bog of eternal stench at five o’clock in the morning.

2. No matter how many cones, marshals, signs and spectators there are,  an oblivious pedestrian will always block my path when I’m at my most tired point on the run.

3. Accidentally pouring Gatorade over my head doesn’t help cool me down. Wasps seem to like it though.

4. Keep your discipline the day before you race, even at the hotel buffet. Don’t under any circumstance give into temptation and have the beef vindaloo (like I did).

5. And last but not least. Don’t have too many drinks the night after the race, especially if you have to get up early the next morning to pack your  bike for the flight home. For once I didn’t do this, but my friends did and one of them left his pedals behind.

So hopefully I’ve learnt from my mistakes and got them all out of the way in the first race of the season. From here on in it’s all about professionalism, faster swimming, and generally being more like Chris McCormack. No more hot curries or pouring energy drinks on my head. And in the meantime I’ll keep you posted about my progress with the giant rubber feet.

Phil Mosley is coaching editor for Triathlon Plus magazine.