This is the second in an occasional series where I'll share conversations with athletes in the world of adventure and endurance sports.
Long-course triathlete Chris Stirling is based in the English Lake District, in Ambleside, where he works for the Climber's Shop. With a successful background in mountain running, climbing and mountaineering, Chris migrated to the world of long-course triathlon in 2012 when he entered the Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon (an ultra-distance 247.8km race in the Scottish Highlands). Since his first race at the Celtman (which he finished in 20th place), Chris has been using the Lake District as the ideal proving ground for the training regime he follows to help him peak at the right time for the events that he competes in.
- 1st place - 2014 Wasdale Half Ironman
- 2nd place - 2014 Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon
- 2nd place - 2014 High Terrain Off-Road Duathlon series
- 5th place - 2014 Coniston Triathlon
- 3rd place - 2013 Wasdale Half Ironman
- 20th place - 2012 Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon (first ever triathlon)
I spoke to Chris as he relaxed at home after competing for Northern Ireland in the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships on Pike's Peak in Colorado.
Q1: What made you choose triathlon as a sport?
Chris: I was first inspired by triathlon as a sport about 12 years ago. I had seen a magazine article about Ironman and the first 70.3 in the UK (Llanberis). I instantly loved the idea of training for 3 different endurance sports. I tried training for one but with no proper kit or knowledge of how to train I quickly got serious over-training syndrome. So I went back to climbing. 12 years later after an injury I remembered the dream and thought it was the time to do something about it. A quick internet search and I found the Norseman website and some cool videos of Stuart Macleod by Cloudberry Media (cheers Stuart and Robby!) and then the Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon popped up! Might as well do it properly, eh :)
2. Can you describe a typical training day?
Chris: I love being in the outdoors and the mountains so I try to base as much of my training as possible in terrain and conditions specific to the races I am training for. First thing though is a good cup of coffee to wake up and prepare for the day!
First off is a 15min cycle to the local 'pool', Rydal Water. We have a 1.2km triangle that I use, varying the intensity and length of efforts from 200m to 1km. It's an indoor pool interval session taken outdoors. Home for breakfast, big bowl of yoghurt, nuts, fruit, honey and some oats with a cup of tea.
Then it's stretching, foam rolling and mobility work, about 30-40mins. This is something I am a big fan of, I don't like being injured!
My second session will be a long bike (3-6hrs) with a short brick (30-45mins) or a long run in the mountains (2-4hrs). On the bike I have a goal or aim for the session, such as a race pace / terrain specific TT. For example, I might do 10min below, 10min at and 10min just above race intensity. I use feel and HR to monitor the efforts and keep track of times, etc. Then I get a good idea if the training is working. Again the brick will mimic the terrain of the race. For example, I ran uphill off the bike in the lead up to Celtman as that is exactly what you do in the race.
Evenings usually involve a bit more foam rolling and stretching. Dinner will be something simple like chicken stir-fry with a load of veg, and a little sweet potato. I like to limit the carbs before bed so go heavy on the veg. My girlfriend Jo makes an amazing Thai, even better after a hard day's training.
3. What do you feel is your best achievement so far?
Chris: This year's result at Celtman, for sure. In 2012 it was my first triathlon and I finished in 14hrs 13mins so to come back in 2014, finish in 12hrs 03mins and in second place made all the hard work worth it. I had set myself a dream goal of 12hrs back in October and it almost seemed impossible but that is how I like it. It's nice to achieve the goal but I love the process of slowly working towards something that's really going to stretch you. You learn so much along the way.
4. Who has influenced you most?
Chris: I get inspired by athletes like Rob Jebb, Ben Bardsley and Morgan Donnely. They have been performing at the highest level in mountains for a long time. Fell running, road cycling, mountain biking, they do it all and just get on with it. One of the best bits of advice / insight I've received was from Stuart Macleod, talking about swimming, I think he said 'I just swim hard', it was more the way he said it and the look in his eyes! Keep it simple and train hard, I think is the most important thing at the end of the day if you want to improve. All these athletes do just that.
5. What's next for you?
Chris: Next season I am going back to Torridon for the Celtman, I can't get enough of that race, it's so special and I think I could go a little faster so we will try and find out. I will be entering the Norseman Lottery and have the Full Brutal on the list for September 2015. I will do the High Terrain Off Road Duathlon series over Winter 2014. I am super excited about next season so it's time to start getting in the winter miles.
Chris Stirling is supported by;