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Gross Ambition

Our Perspective on Human Performance

Gross Ambition

Gross Ambition

This is the time of year we need to be confirming what our events next spring will be, for a couple of good reasons; entrance registrations for the more popular public races open and close relatively quickly due to limited numbers. In particular events abroad have restricted foreign participants to save disappointment unless you have previously seeded or qualified, but also the fact that committing now to that race or training camp/ holiday is the motivation we need to get us through winter training and structure our approach, as soon as humanly possible (unless of course you’ve ridden the three grand tours this year, then a longer break won’t hurt as much!).

Early season targets provide the incentive to piece together what needs to happen vs random training sessions which may occur along the road to your next goal. Working backwards from an event date maximises the most amount of time at your disposal to set both general and specific sessions. Usually these events provide stepping stones to better athletic form later in the season, and should be used as a mechanism to achieve that along with other ‘training races’ to precipitate peak performance.


Training to train, training to compete and training to win is a simplistic way of highlighting the critical aspects of the  periodisation phases, albeit needing to transpose the critical targeting of energy systems necessary to invoke the relevant adaptations. Still, these are the sequential phases that we should follow every year, and in different proportions the fitter we get. It is great to sign-up for the same event every year, where you can fine-tune your race performance, your pacing and technical strategy which is crucial when it comes to playing to your strengths, but are you really addressing any weaknesses? Mixing up the types of races with both familiar and ‘out-of-your comfort-zone’ ones every year will help you breakthrough to a different level of fitness. Including newer races at the start of the year when results don’t matter so much, may assist with the different pattern of training that might be missing from your schedule, Mark McCluskey touches on this in his new book. For instance, triathletes who habitually race Olympic Distance and want to ‘attempt’ half IronMan should consider break-through training races that they can use as stepping-stones within the time frame they have given themselves. Scaling up the three disciplines with the ambition of achieving a relatively fast time (compared to their shorter distance events), for many is not practical or even realistic. Considering individual improvements between disciplines where greater expendable time can be used for training may provide better returns on performance, e.g. perhaps longer distance duathlon might be more suitable while your swim sessions are just left for training technique? Similarly, cycling may well be helped by focusing on a 25, 50 or 100 mile TT? or even longer club runs or sportives while running volume is kept  low, and vice-versa using progressively longer races (flatter or hillier?) to achieve half or full-marathon pace at Ironman. Then, each discipline can be brought together (layered) over successive months/phases or seasons, but at a much higher level, and a more comfortable for the desired pace.

Throwing ourselves into the deep-end and getting stuck into a new endurance event is the eye-opener we need, to give us a realistic insight of what it takes  to perform better next time, honing, optimising and tweaking how we train and how we execute that training on the day  is a continuous learning curve from the last event to the next. Mixing up the nature of the events helps us focus on our weaknesses so that we can put emphasis on our strengths to make those quantum leaps in training, but ideally allows us to train in a better way, giving our bodies a chance to maximise its efficiency  for a specific discipline or duration. Biting off more than we can chew with multiple disciplines or greater distance, will help us understand how to approach the new challenge if success isn’t immediate, but applying that knowledge carefully and understanding our limitations will ultimately pay dividends if we choose our stepping stones wisely and are more patient with achieving our desired goals.

As a footnote, I am continuously exposed to a plethora of endurance races which some of my clients have competed in, available to pure-play cyclists and multi-sport athletes around the world. I thought I would list just a few of the slightly more exotic ones here for you (in no particular order), that may be off your radar….and yes, even the UK is exotic to non-residents!

GranFondo Pantanissima – Cesenatico, Italy

Oetztaler Rad Marathon – Solden, Austria.

Taiwan KOM challenge – Taiwan

Haute Route – France

Cape Argus – Cape Town, RSA.

Giro delle Dolomiti – Bolzano, Italy

Quebrantahuesos – Spain

BallBuster – UK

Bardolino Triathlon –  Italy

City to Summit IM – Edinburgh, UK

Simon Clark is an applied exercise physiologist and cycling scientist, with a background in muscle biochemistry, human metabolism and clinical sciences. After many years of reluctantly messing around with radioactivity and nasty chemicals whilst chained to the lab bench, he decided to put his knowledge and experience as an accomplished elite level multi-sport athlete to good use, he now provides contemporary physiological support to endurance athletes at all levels, specialising in personalised periodisation plans and lactate threshold profiling. Which he thoroughly enjoys!

Please do not hesitate to call on 07729 729 628 if you have any queries about the services you see on this website or just have a question regarding your own training.

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