Case study, Podcast

Case study: From Blowing Up on a 250 m Swim to Prospective 70.3 Worlds Qualifier | EP#135

 June 25, 2018

By  Mikael Eriksson

Case study: From Blowing Up on a 250 m Swim to Prospective 70.3 Worlds Qualifier | EP#135

Case study From Blowing Up on a 250 m Swim to Prospective 70.3 Worlds Qualifier

Brett Amos is an Australian age-group triathlete currently looking to qualify for 70.3 Worlds. When he started doing triathlon 7 years ago, he blew up after 50 meters of a 250 m swim in his first race. Some of the key reasons for his improvements have been swim video analysis, joining a swim squad, and getting a triathlon coach.

Discuss this episode!

  • Let's discuss this episode and the topic in general. Post any comments or questions in the comments at the bottom of the shownotes. Join the discussion here!

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • The importance of getting a swim video analysis done and joining a swim squad
  • The value of having a triathlon coach
  • How Brett fits training in around family and work with "invisible training"
  • Brett's top tips for other age-groupers

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About Brett Amos

  • 47 years old, living in Perth, Australia
  • Has got four teenage kids.
  • Career-wise, he runs a research and development laboratory
  • Got into triathlon seven years ago, from a background in mountain biking.
  • Current triathlon level is about 4:50 for a half Ironman.

How Brett got started in triathlon

05:38 -

  • It was getting a bit time-consuming to get to the good mountain biking trails, so I thought I'll try a triathlon.
  • My first race was a 250 m swim, 10k bike, 2k run. I thought, how hard could it be?
  • I almost drowned! The first 50 m I swam freestyle and then just blew up and breast stroked the rest. I got on the bike, I had a mountain bike. I think it was the only one in the transition area. The rest were these fancy tri bikes with aerobars and all that.
  • I got the bug then and just kept progressing to longer distances.

" The first 50 m I swam freestyle and then just blew up and breast stroked the rest."

Progressing from first triathlon to Ironman and improving the swim, bike and run

07:10 -

  • I did a couple of the super sprints / enticer triathlons first because I just couldn't really swim a lot. Then after maybe 6 months I doubled the distance and moved up to the sprint distance.
  • Then I also decided to upgrade from the mountain bike to a triathlon bike. 
  • My training was very random and inconsistent. I might have done one or two sessions during the week and then blast myself on Saturday and Sunday and do five or six hours on the weekend
  • My swim was hopeless. I was probably a 2:30 / 100 m swimmer, and din't really progress from there. 
  • I had been swimming for 6 to 8 months and was getting really frustrated, so then I went and got a swim video analysis done with Paul Newsome. 
    • Just seeing yourself swim, you just shook your head.
    • Paul gave me two drills and said, just do them and that should get you on track. I did them for about six months and dropped from 2:30 to probably 2:00 per 100 m. 
  • On the run I was probably running about 5:45 / km off the bike in those sprint triathlons, and on the bike 30-31 km/h back then. 
  • That's when I stepped up to the Olympic distance. I did my first one in about 3 hours.
  • My running sort of stagnated, probably because I had no consistency in my training. I might do 10 total hours of training one week but then 5 hours the next, and I had no structure to my workouts. I just went out and rode my bike or went for a run. 
  • After the Olympic, once I had been in the sport for 2.5-3 years or so, I decided to step up to the half Ironman. And then I thought, it's not working for me, so I'm going to have to actually get some sort of plan in place.
    • That's when I got Joe Friel's book "Your Best Triathlon", and followed his half Ironman plan.
    • It really helped hold me accountable and not skip workouts easily. It gave me more motivation to get the workouts done and helped me get consistent. 
  • I completed that half Ironman in about 5 hours 30 minutes. 
  • I did 3 or 4 of these races according to this plan over a two-year period without actually getting faster. I was only getting 7 to 9 hours per training per week even though the plan had a minimum of 10 hours for any single week. Then I'd sometimes try to make up for missed training which is probably not the best thing to do.  
  • The next target  was the Ironman. I grabbed Friel's book again and did the Ironman plan and barely survived it. 
    • I did 7 or 8 hours per week of training and finished the Ironman in about 12 hours. 
    • I did two Ironmans this way, but it didn't feel good coming across the finish line, whether it was nutrition or pacing or something else. I decided that the 70.3 is the distance I like the most. 

Setting the goal to qualify for 70.3 Worlds and getting a coach

18:22 - 

  • I set a goal almost two years ago to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships. 
  • I thought, right, okay, let's get serious about this. I followed the plans in Friel's book to the tee for the first 12 months. I was probably doing up to 15 hours a week and my 70.3 race times where around five hours.
  • So I chopped off 30 minutes just being consistent and actually not missing any workouts at all.

" So I chopped off 30 minutes just being consistent and actually not missing any workouts at all."

  • I also picked up yoga and strength training
  • I couldn't break under five hours. I was the coach and the athlete, and I think I was a bit biased. I was doing the same things in his book all the time and wasn't mixing it up. So that's when about 12 months ago I decided to hire a coach (Sarah Hunter).
  • I also joined the Swim Smooth swim squad two years ago in order to improve my swimming, and it has improved so much! I'm now around the 1:35 to 1:40 per 100 m mark.
  • Since training with my coach Sarah, we've done things quite differently. I'm actually training slightly less but my times are getting faster, which I'll take any day.
  • Some changes we've made to my training are:
    • The first week of the month is quite a lot of volume, and then it sort of ramps down. For example, I might have 15 hours the first week, then 12, then 10, then 8. Previously, I did it the other way around. 
    • I'm always doing strength training on a Monday. Then on Tuesday she'll have a fairly easy bike. Wednesday will be the main run session and that will be track work with broken broken k:s, like 200 meters, 400 meters, 200 meters type running. Thursday will be a pretty tough bike session. It'll be either sweet spot training or VO2max. Fridays probably an easy run. And then we've got another session on the bike on Saturday, which will be anywhere between three to four hours where you've got maybe some 20-minute intervals that are Zone three, sweet spot type of intensity. And then on Sunday I've got a long run. Depending on where we are in the training season, we'll throw in some 1k race efforts. And my swims with the Swim Smooth squad are on Tuesdays (endurance technique), Thursdays (threshold) and Saturday (Red Mist endurance). 
    • There's a lot of easy stuff in there, but when I've got the main workouts, it's really tough.
  • Some of the main benefits of having a coach are
    • Being able to discuss with her when a race is coming up about realistic expectations, the race plan in general, things to look out for.
    • Pacing awareness. Learning to pace yourself properly so you're not blowing up after the first rep and then going really slow the rest of the workout 

How Brett plans to get his qualification for 70.3 Worlds

28:15 - 

  • I want to qualify for Worlds in France 2019. 
  • Right now, we'll pick up the strength training because I normally do it only once a week just for maintenance. It is the off season now, so I'll hit the gym a couple times a week. I'm really getting seriously into yoga as well, because you're starting to get niggles from running and stuff like that. So we're going to work on that. And then we'll wrap up a little bit of a running block in the next month or so, just to strengthen the run leg. For now, we're looking to just maintain the swim and bike. 
  • I want to qualify in Western Australia, which is a fast course, so I need to do maybe a 4:24-4:25, where my time right now is 4:50. 
  • I'm pretty much at the pointy end of the swim leg now. I could probably chop a minute or two, but the amount of time I'd have to put in extra to chop that one or two minutes off probably is not as beneficial as doing extra biking or running where I could save more time. The bike is pretty good. I could probably chop off five minutes, but the run I could probably chop off 20 minutes because I'm running a 1:48 or so currently.

Finding time to train and top tips for other age group triathletes

30:47 - 

  • I'd say 80 percent of my workouts are first thing in the morning, so I call that the "invisible training". A quarter to five in the morning I'm up, either on my bike or running and by the time I finished my session I'm at home, a quick coffee, 10 minutes chill time, and then get the kids up and to school.

" A quarter to five in the morning I'm up, either on my bike or running and by the time I finished my session I'm at home, a quick coffee, 10 minutes chill time, and then get the kids up and to school."

  • We've got a white board setup, so we know who's doing the dinner tonight, who's doing the dishes, and so on. So there's no arguments on that. On Tuesday night and Thursday night I'm not on there for anything so I can actually do my swim workouts with the squad. 
  • We've also got these meals called Hello Fresh. It's all veggies and meals done with color coded bags, and you've got a recipe. You basically grab the color coded bag and look at the recipe and then just cook for the entire family. 
  • And also smart training. If I take one of my daughters to a drama or something, it might be a few hours there. I'll then sneak in maybe an hour and a half swim or a run and then come back and pick her up.
  • My first tip to other age group triathletes is to get a swim video analysis.
  • The other one is consistency. Make sure you get out and do your workouts. 
  • Practise transitions. You can get some free speed there.
  • Get a coach. They're worth every dollar invested.
  • Some workout types that have worked well for me are sweet spot work on the bike (e.g. 3 x 20 minutes in a long ride), threshold work for the swim, and speedwork on the track for running (200 m, 400 m, 800 m intervals). 

Rapid fire questions

35:47 - 

  • What is your favourite book, blog or resource related to triathlon or swimming?
  • What's a personal habit that's helped you achieve success?
    • Consistency and routine
  • What do you wish you had known or done differently at some point in your career?
    • Get swimming lessons and a one-to-one video analysis. 

Key takeaway

  • Brett invested in swim video analyses, in joining a swim squad, and in getting a coach, and these are all investments that are paying off for him.
  • Don't get caught up in buying all sorts of gear, gadgets and similar, when the gains they will give you are quite marginal compared to the returns you'll get on the less tangible, but much more valuable investments in yourself that swim video analysis and coaching is. 

Links, resources and contact

Links and resources mentioned

Connect with host Mikael Eriksson


Hi! I'm your host Mikael,

I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.

I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show. 

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Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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