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Mark Kleanthous - Lake Tahoe Ironman Lessons

WhichTrainingCamp - You’ve just come back from completing your 36th IronMan; this one at Lake Tahoe seems to have been one of the toughest. What was causing so many drop outs?

Mark Kleanthous - The course was very tough, the climbs went up to 7,300 feet, it snowed the night before and there were large areas you couldn’t practice before the race because they went through private property.

The terrain showed that some competitors hadn’t trained for or lacked the experience of handling altitude.

WTCYou finished the swim in 528 place but after the first 1.8 km of the bike you were 277. How did you achieve this? 

MK - Athletes hadn’t planned how they we going to get through the swim/bike transition. A lot of guys handed their full bags in the night before but didn’t check the weather. It snowed heavily so their bags (and kit) got wet and stiff as cardboard. They also packed without care, their layering was all mixed up.

Having checked the weather, I put dry kit into my bag the morning of the race. I packed in reverse order, base layers on top, outer layers at the bottom. The third thing I did was pack a towel. I spent 10-15 seconds drying myself and then the cycling clothes slid on easily.

I always spend a lot of time in the months before the event visualising the transition stage and other parts of the race. I try to cover all the “what ifs” so if there is a problem I remain calm and composed.

WTC - Looking at the splits you climbed 220 places during the run. Is running a strong discipline for you?

MK - My running is strong, I’ve come from an endurance running background. But I also out thought many of my opponents.

Competitors hadn’t worn enough clothing during the cycle so they were burning up their bars and gels just to keep warm. They began running out of fuel. It was fun passing all those runners. A few overtook me but I saw them before the end when they were walking as I ran past.

WTCI see that you were one of the founders of British Triathlon Association. What changes have you seen over this first 30 years of triathlon? 

MK - My membership number is 41, so I was there right at the start, I competed in the UK’s first triathlon. There were no recognised courses or distances, no triathlon clothing (it took a few years before we discovered lycra), the bikes were antiquated without the specialised equipment you see nowadays.   

Nobody knew much about training, there were no technical sessions on open water swimming. 

There weren’t many events. The results were typed and sent in the post several weeks after the event. Now the events are professionally run. You get your splits instantly. Even your competitors know your splits as you’re going around.  

WTCDid the introduction of Triathlon into the Olympic program help increase its popularity?

MK – Yes, but now the events are so much better, there are more triathlon specific magazines out there which raises the sports profile and helps athletes to increase their knowledge base.

WTCYou also offer a coaching service, how do monitor athletes’ training?

MK – The plan is set out in a format that the client’s comfortable with, it could be an Excel, word document, an email or they can down load into Training Peaks, Polar or Garmin.

Garmin Connect is my favourite because it is easy to access. 

But I also have my own unique training system based on stress levels. It is explained in my book, “The Complete Book of Triathlon Training” or you see it on my web site.  You put in your age, the amount of sleep you have, the number of restless nights you have, emotional & financial stress levels etc and it comes out with some points at the end of it. So if you’re a professional athlete you get 200 points. Points are taken away when stress levels increase through extra training or lack of sleep, home life etc. At the end of the week, providing you don’t use all those points you will remain healthy and you will improve. 

I speak to my clients daily, weekly, monthly depending what training plans they’re on. I use Skype a lot or talk with them on the telephone. 

The more information I get, the better help I can be to them. The hardest athletes to train are the highly motivated ones. You have to make sure they’re not doing too much. The others may need motivation, but once you’re motivated them, they stick to the plan. 

Clients can still come to me and do one-to-one sessions. If these are open water swim sessions I have access to a private lake but for all the group sessions we use places local to me. 

WTCWhat are your immediate plans? 

MK – I’m looking to do the Marathon des Sables so I’m going to look at a possible training venue with Tri Sports. 

Some of my clients are also looking at the Marathon des Sables and are wanting do a camp somewhere like Morocco for hot sunny conditions. I make sure their training prior to the camp is preparing them for the camp. Key sessions would be done using Heart Rate or perception of effort or time or even a combination of those. It depends on how best each athlete operates and what they want to get out of the week. That information is valuable for when they come back and we plan the rest of their training up to April next year. 


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