Iceberg Theory - Paul Clucas

The Ups and Downs of a Triathlete

For a triathlete the winter season is an opportunity to re-assess your goals, mix the training up and build for the coming season ahead. This year I took the opportunity to really mix things up, racing cross-country, mountain biking and hitting the gym to improve the strength and conditioning which helps reduce the chance of injury during the season. This included a week in Mallorca where I was able to get some great quality miles in on the bike.

On reflection this was probably my best off-season in respect of volume and consistency, whilst remaining injury free. So, all set for the upcoming season I thought! If only life was that simple! My first competition was booked in for the last week in April, which was a pool swim, (still too cold to get in the open water) that would allow me to get a bit of race practice at a relative low key event before moving on to the qualifiers for the World Championships starting in mid May.

Waking up a week before my first competition with what I have come to recognise as symptoms of Flu was a real disappointment to say the least. However, when training twice a day and upping the intensity leading up to a competition, it’s a fine balance as you push the body to its limits and beyond in order to be in the best condition possible. That balance sometimes results in the body breaking, despite eating well, sleeping well and recovering ready for the next session.

The iceberg above demonstrates some of the unseen challenges that athletes can sometimes face when trying to be the best they can be. My dogged persistence and consistency over the winter was relentless putting me in better condition than previous years. Failure during training happens frequently which is always disappointing at the time, however this is normal and what makes you stronger as you push your body harder. It also gives you motivation to achieve the numbers next time around, my coach explains that if you nail every session then you aren’t pushing yourself enough and won’t achieve the improvements you desire! Training twice a day most of the week whilst balancing life and work is difficult and requires sacrifices people just don’t see.


Don’t get me wrong this is a lifestyle choice and is what I enjoy but some people only see you competing for GB all over the world but don’t always understand what it takes to get there.

So despite my optimism that with a bit of rest, paracetamol and plenty of fluids I would be able to shake this, it wasn’t that simple! Antibiotics from the Doctors should help? By this point I had to withdraw from my first competition as the risk was too great. I started to see some improvement for 4 days and managed to start light training again, then bang, back to square one! The timing, of what I have been told is, ‘a serious chest infection’ is not the best, I am not only disappointed that again I will have to withdraw from my next event but the frustration from not been able to train and feeling like all the hard work through the winter is depleting from my body by the day.

To top it off the Doctor is concerned that I may have Pneumonia, hopefully an x-ray will discount that.

Either way, even though as athletes we are extremely impatient and have that addictive gene to train, sometimes you have to listen to your body and play the long game. So when I next pull on the GB tri-suit and post what a great experience it has been, people will hopefully appreciate that this just doesn’t happen without it’s challenges, it involves a lot of sacrifices and ups and downs along the way.

Stay healthy


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