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WTC's Interview with Toby Garbett

Toby Garbett is a Level 2 British Triathlon Coach, he has won the Age Group National Championships in 2012 & 2013 and has raced in the World (coming 12th & 6th) and European Triathlon AG (coming 4th & 5th) in 2012 and 2013. In May he is returning to Wales for the third time to run his Triathlon Training Camp.

Which Training Camp - You are an Olympian and Double World Rowing Champion and multi medallist, why move to Triathlon?

TG - After I finished rowing I carried on training and tried to find a way to pay the mortgage. Working as a Personal Trainer gave me the opportunity to coach people towards their goals and it also gave me time to carry on training.

I realised that I still needed to compete at a high level and rather than suppress that need, I decided to go with it. I did some work with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust with some junior triathletes and they inspired me to try the sport.

My first triathlon was in Hyde Park and I did quite well. I was encouraged enough to race at Lake Bala which was the qualification race for the European Championship and my performance was good enough that my third ever triathlon was competing for GB at the European Championships 2012.  

I then qualified as a British Triathlon Federation level 2 coach which enabled me to turn my hobby into a job, something I’ve always wanted to do.


WTC - What is your next event?

TG - I’m racing the Ironman Lanzarote on May 17th and hoping to gain qualification for the World Championships in Kona.

One of the things I’ve noticed moving from triathlon to Ironman is that my perception of what is a long way has changed.

I’ve tried to increase my training distances but time is a limiting factor. I can totally understand my clients saying they don’t have enough time. Ideally I try to train 2 hours per day but in reality this is probably 1 ½ hours per day. I’m even more understanding towards those who have time constraints which has made me a better coach.


WTC - Were you coached for those early races?

TG - I was largely self-taught but now realise I should have sought some important tips.

During our British Triathlon Federation level 2 coaching course we were instructed on how to coach people to run with their bike, how to get on and off whilst the bike was still moving. I’d been doing that ever since I was a young boy, but for some people it wasn’t so obvious.  I had been a competitive swimmer when I was much younger, so I had the advantage of a decent swimming style.

The basics I did alright but understanding some of the elements around the 3 disciplines would have saved me minutes. So I learnt the hard way. Positioning around the start, what to eat and drink, when to eat and drink; all those things I probably needed help on. It’s not just Swim, Bike, Run.


WTC – With that in mind, what are the aims of the training camps you run?  

TG - My aim is to offer good 1:2:1 coaching so that everyone leaves a better triathlete than when they arrive. To achieve this we need to ensure a great environment. I will have finished my Ironman Lanzarote so I can focus on the triathletes at my next training camp.

This is my third year at Lake Bala, Wales. They say the water is so clean, you can drink it and last summer, the water was so warm, we swam in the lake without wetsuits.

Triathletes who come on my training camp like the fact they can load their bicycle onto a car and be at the training camp in 2 ½ hours from London. 

We also have access to Lake Vyrnwy which offers a sheltered cycling route with much better scenery than at Dorney. We cycle routes used in the earlier Milk Race so the road surfaces are very good and the climbs, whilst short, are very aggressive.

The accommodation is unique and intriguing. It’s very difficult to describe (see more pictures of the Farmhouse in Wales' see this link). The farmhouse can sleep 14 and there is a “bunk house” which can sleep a further 8 to 10 people. It’s a unique environment, completely away from it all, so the athletes can switch off from their everyday worries and focus on the training.


 WTC - Why the change up to Ironman so soon in your triathlon career?

TG - I could stay at the standard distance and I’m sure I will show further improvement. Last year at the Worlds in Hyde Park the swim, which is one of my stronger disciplines, was cut short at the last minute. I came out of water 2nd but if the swim had been the usual distance I could have been further in front of my main competition. I was in a medal position until the last 2000 metres of the run and finished about 22 seconds from a medal.

I hear others say they haven’t got the time to do the training because they have a family but at the moment I’m not in that situation so I want to give it a go when I do have time. Being older you have experience and endurance really counts.


WTC - What do you do during the day to earn money?

TG - Every day for me is different to the last. When I rowed everything was planned in advance, we knew what we were going to be doing and where weeks in advance.

My days are extremely varied nowadays. Today I talked with school children from Eton and Henley, tomorrow I’m running my 1:2:1 pilates sessions, the following day I’m working with BskyB Living For Sport’s mentoring program and  Thursday I’m going off to the Pyrenees to have a look at a potential training camp base.

I also work with Centre Point’s Sport for Change which is funded by Comic Relief via the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust. I worked on the steering committee, mentored the people who come on the courses and now work behind the scenes on the organisational side.

We use sport to motivate others, to change their lives around and become part of our society. We deal with deeply troubled people, people who abuse drugs and alcohol. They sleep during the day and walk the streets at night. They have so much wrong with their lives, so many problems, it’s hard to imagine what some of them have gone through.

These people don’t care about your medals but they do respond when you relate something to them and create a trust. We talk about the disciplines needed to succeed in sport and show how closely this relates to their everyday lives; time keeping, planning, goal setting.


WTC - You are also an ASA level 1 qualified coach. Are you going to become more involved in swimming coaching?

TG - Some of my swimmers had a real fear of swimming and now, one year later, they are out swimming in a lake. I am going to be working with the Evo Triathlon Club this year at both Heron Lake and Bray Lake.

I also run Open Water Swimming sessions helping swimmers prepare for the Henley Swim.


WTC - You mentioned that you’re off to the Pyrenees on Thursday.

TG - Yes, I’m going with some old friends from my rowing days.  We have rented a villa which looks like a great place to base a training camp, so I will be able to assess that and, at the same time, put in some long cycle rides in particular, ahead of my first Ironman. (Toby had mentioned earlier that the long rides are the hardest part of the training to fit into everyday life because of the amount of time they take, and this is why so many triathlon camps focus on cycling and swimming more than on running.)

We fly to Barcelona, then travel north to the villa, which has its own pool, is close to the sea, and has a great kitchen for self-catering. We will be using Garmin’s app to plan our cycling routes, and perhaps Strava as well.

When I move over to Lanzarote for the Ironman, I will be staying at the Hotel Costa Calero. I have been there for a camp and the facilities are great; a 50m pool and a 40m salt water one, a bike garage with mechanic, extra nutritional packs for a fixed price per week.  They have all the right ingredients for a good camp.


WTC - Hope the training goes well and good luck for the Ironman.


To read more details and book a place on Toby's training camp, read here


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