Podcast, Training

Vasco Vilaça | EP#401

 July 31, 2023

By  Bernardo Gonçalves

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:

Vasco Vilaça - That Triathlon Show

Vasco Vilaça is a short-course triathlete from Portugal. He is the current leader of the World Triathlon Championship Series, third-place finisher of the Super League Triathlon Championship Series 2022, and second place finisher in the World Triathlon Championships (standalone sprint distance race) of 2020. In this interview we learn more about Vasco's training, his background, and goals for the future.

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • Vasco's training structure overall, and details about his swim, bike and run training
  • A detailed breakdown of a full week of training
  • How Vasco has improved his swimming
  • Spending important developmental years in Sweden
  • Training with the Joel Filliol squad
  • Goals for the rest of the season, for Paris 2024 and beyond

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Shownotes

Vasco's background

03:43 -

  • I began my triathlon journey at a young age in Portugal in 2006, enjoying the sport with friends and having a lot of fun. 
  • 2013 my family moved to Sweden due to my parents' professional decision. 
  • Triathlon in Sweden was different, with Olympic or short-distance triathlons being less common. 
  • I had to work hard initially, but then I got to attend Rikstriathlongymnasium, a high school for top triathletes in the country. 
  • There, I found a great coach and team, and my performance improved significantly, making me one of the best junior triathletes in Europe.
  • After finishing high school in 2018, I was unsure of the following steps but knew I needed to transition from junior to elite level. 
  • I joined a university in Sweden and continued training with my high school coach, Joachim Willén, who had been instrumental in my triathlon development. 
  • The high school provided comprehensive lessons about triathlon, nutrition, and training, which built a strong foundation of understanding for my athletic pursuits. 
  • I learned to question why we were doing certain things, which helped me to further improve and progress in the sport.
  • In 2020, during the COVID pandemic, I had the opportunity to undergo extensive training, which propelled me into the elite world of triathlon. 
  • My success in Hamburg, where I won a silver medal, elevated my ranking in the triathlon world. 
  • Due to COVID restrictions, the Hamburg race became the sole event determining the world championships, and I earned the title of world vice-champion.
  • As the Olympic Games approached in 2021, I did not meet the national team criteria due to my age and lack of points during the qualification period. 
  • However, my coach, Joachim, encouraged me to plan for the future and consider my long-term goals for the upcoming Olympic cycle. 
  • Although I missed the 2021 Olympic Games, my coach emphasised the importance of setting targets for the next four, eight, and twelve years to ensure continuous growth and progress in my triathlon career.
  • After contemplating becoming a professional triathlete and committing to giving my best, I decided to leverage my knowledge about triathlon and explore various options. 
  • Eventually, I joined Joel Filliol's squad in Girona, where I have been for about one and a half years. 
  • Last year marked my first year racing in the World Series, and while I performed well in some races, I lacked the consistency to maintain that level throughout the year.
  • Working with Joel Filliol gave me the stability and guidance I needed. 
  • Although I didn't achieve podium results, I was a constant presence in the top 10. 
  • This year has been even more promising, starting with a podium finish and adding two more podiums since then. 
  • While the competition is improving, I aim to sustain my podium results to further solidify my position in the sport.

Finding a new training environment with Joel Filliol

09:40 -

  • Joachim was the one who brought up the idea of exploring other coaching options, despite being willing to continue training me. 
  • He acknowledged that my ambitious goals required more than he could offer and suggested I look for someone better suited to help me reach those heights.
  • I appreciated his honesty and that he wasn't holding on to me to keep me as his athlete. 
  • He genuinely wanted me to find the best path to achieve my dreams. Although the conversation was initially challenging, I now realise he was right.
  • Transitioning to my current coach, Joel has been an incredibly positive experience. 
  • I value the vast amount of knowledge and experience he brings. 
  • Training with him and being surrounded by other high-level athletes has accelerated my learning process and provided invaluable insights into navigating the challenges I face in my sport. 
  • The combination of Joel's expertise and learning from athletes in similar situations has been instrumental in my growth and development.

Vasco's training partners

11:36 -

  • Our squad has two coaches, Joel Filiol and Drew Box. The athletes on the team include Vincent Luis, Jelle Geens, Bence Bicsak, and Alois Knab. 
  • From Australia, we have Jacob Birtwhistle and Brandon Copeland. 
  • On the girls' side, we have Emma Jackson, Kira Hedgeland, Jaz Hedgeland, who competed in the Tokyo Games, and Natalie Van Coevorden, who recently joined our team. 

Alternatives to Joel's squad

12:44 -

  • Joachim had been working with Joel Filliol, and I learned a lot about training from Joel's approach. 
  • I considered two coaches, Paulo Sousa and Joel Filliol, who had experience building squads of athletes with similar goals. 
  • Both coaches had squads not directly connected to federations, demonstrating a commitment to their work.
  • Initially, I trained with Paulo Sousa in Monte Gordo, and the experience was positive. However, at that time, the squad in Girona, where I was considering training with Joel, was unstable, with only Vince and Jelle and no coach. Joel encouraged me to stick with Paulo if I felt it was a good option.
  • Ultimately, the decision to train with Joel in Girona was influenced by Drew Box joining the squad and Emma planning to come. 
  • Despite facing challenges like slippery roads and two crashes, I stay with Joel. 

Goals for 2023

17:59 -

  • I am ranked number one in the World Series, which comprises seven WTCSs (World Triathlon Championship Series) races. 
  • The races in the series include Abu Dhabi, Yokohama, Cagliari, Montreal, Hamburg, Sunderland, and the test event in Paris. 
  • The grand final is also part of the World Series and is essential as it contributes to the final standings. 
  • The four best race results are combined with the grand final to determine the overall ranking.
  • The current standings are closely contested, with Hayden Wild ahead due to missing one race and having a subpar result in Abu Dhabi. 
  • If he finishes in the top five at Sutherland, he will surpass me in the standings. 
  • However, I am still fighting for the podium, and my main goal for the season is the test event, which holds a critical position in the world ranking. 
  • The Olympic distance events hold more points than sprints or super sprints, making them crucial for World Series rankings.
  • Despite aiming for a win in the sprint distance at Sutherland, I acknowledge that it would not significantly impact my world ranking as much as a strong performance in the test event, which is an Olympic distance. 
  • Therefore, the test event and the grand final in Pontevedra are my main focus for the season. I intend to use these two Olympic distance races to prepare for the Olympic Games, where the course and distance will be the same.
  • As a relatively young athlete, I seek to gain more experience in Olympic distance races to improve my performance and familiarity with the distance before the Olympic Games. 

The impact of the Super League Triathlon on Vasco's development

22:02 -

  • Since 2019, I have been racing in Super League events, participating yearly. 
  • However, I am uncertain about racing this year because two races are scheduled between the Test Event and Pontevedra, which are my primary goals. 
  • I want to focus on training for Pontevedra to perform well in the World Series.
  • As a young athlete, being part of Super League races provides a unique opportunity to race alongside the best athletes in the world. 
  • It allows me to socially connect with them, learn about their experiences, and gain insights into what it's like to compete at such a high level. 
  • Even though I may not win or compete directly against them, being close to these elite athletes helps diminish the overwhelming respect I may have initially felt towards them.
  • In one of my first Super League races, I vividly remember Kristian coming by my side during the bike leg and asking to pass. I slowed down, letting him through, and ended up at the back of the group. 
  • I was in the last position during the transition, facing a considerable gap from the front. As I started running, I gradually realised I belonged at that level and felt more confident racing alongside those athletes.
  • This experience has helped me prepare for longer races, such as the Olympic distance, where I aim to sustain similar performances over two hours.
  • The confidence aspect is significant, especially in shorter races like Super Sprint or Super League events. 
  • In these races, the distances are much shorter, with runs often being just 1500 meters or 1km. 
  • Due to the brevity of the race, athletes don't need to worry about endurance issues or the fear of bonking halfway through. 
  • The emphasis is on giving it their all and staying in the race for as long as possible. 
  • Unlike World Series events, where Olympic or world series points are at stake, Super League events' pressure is not as high. 
  • This lack of pressure allows athletes to take more risks and experiment with their performance without fearing losing valuable points. 
  • The freedom to play around and push oneself to the limit is a significant advantage of these shorter and less high-stakes races.

Vasco's overall training description

25:27 -

  • Our training philosophy revolves around maximising performance with the least stress, aiming to avoid overtraining. 
  • The goal is to balance achieving top performance and minimising injury risk. 
  • While some athletes might run 150km per week to excel in a fast 10km race, our approach seeks to identify how little training is necessary to achieve the same performance.
  • We are conscious that each additional kilometre run per week increases the likelihood of injury, and every second gained in training paces raises the risk even further. 
  • Injuries can set us back significantly, impacting our progress and performance. Thus, we strive to find the optimal training volume and intensity to avoid unnecessary strain on the body.
  • Despite this caution, our training volume is still substantial, often ranging from 28 to 30 hours per week for most athletes. 
  • Depending on the individual and their age, some athletes like Jelle and Vince might train slightly more, up to 30 to 32 hours per week. 
  • However, we maintain a sense of respect for appropriate paces and give due consideration to the body's energy levels. 
  • We never push the body to exhaustion, which can easily lead to injuries and illnesses.
  • Our training approach emphasises substantial easy work to complement the hard sessions. 
  • For each sport, we typically have two intense training sessions per week. 
  • I train six times a week for swimming, but only two of those sessions are considered hard swims, with the rest being more relaxed, aimed at covering distances. 
  • Similarly, we run five times a week, with two runs focused on intensity, while the rest involve steady-paced runs to accumulate kilometres. 
  • On the bike, we train six times a week, and just like swimming and running, only two of those sessions are intense rides with intervals.
  • Our emphasis on easy training also extends to the intensity sessions, where we primarily focus on threshold work. 
  • We're cautious about incorporating too many high-intensity sessions, mainly those close to race paces. 
  • Instead, we introduce race pace training only in the four weeks leading up to our target main races. 
  • Throughout the majority of a long training block, we intentionally stay below race pace, allowing us to build up and improve our threshold capabilities gradually. 
  • This approach ensures that our bodies are well-prepared to handle different efforts and intensities.
  • Our training plan doesn't include rest days or easier weeks, except during taper weeks. 
  • We are cautious with the intensity and efforts we put in because, without rest days, proper recovery becomes crucial. 
  • We carefully manage our daily efforts to ensure we can recover for the next day's training. 
  • This approach prevents exhaustion from building up over four or five weeks, which could lead to the need for an extended break.
  • Our approach remains consistent weekly, with developments mainly occurring in hard training. 
  • We focus on predominantly long sessions with minimal intensity during the early months, such as December and January. 
  • As the season progresses, these sessions gradually transition into longer, slower thresholds before moving on to shorter but faster thresholds. 
  • The bike training advances from hill work and power-based exercises to pace line training.
  • Although the training develops, our weekly schedule remains remarkably similar, providing a sense of routine that I find beneficial. 
  • I expect Mondays to be free of any intensity each week, while Tuesdays become our most intense training days. 
  • This consistent schedule spans several months, but I appreciate the structure and routine it brings.
  • Having a set routine and knowing what to expect each week helps me navigate the demanding training without rest days.
  • By creating habits and preparation strategies before significant training days, such as improving sleep quality and consuming more carbohydrates, I can adequately prepare myself for each day.

Swim training

31:43 -

  • As we approach race season, our swim training sessions typically consist of around 4 kilometres per session. However, during the winter period, we increase our training volume. 
  • The winter training phase sees us swimming closer to 25 kilometres per week, and occasionally we might reach up to 30 kilometres. 
  • The exact volume can vary based on specific training phases and our overall training plan adjustments. 
  • The swim sessions vary throughout the training week. During a typical volume week, a hard swim session may consist of 40 sets of 50-meter intervals, progressively increasing in difficulty with short rest periods. 
  • Rest intervals may start at 45 seconds and gradually build up to 50 or 55 seconds to provide more rest towards the end.
  • On the other hand, the rest of the training week swim sessions are described as monotonous, consisting of back-and-forth swimming. 
  • For instance, a typical session might include a thousand-meter warm-up, eight 50-meter intervals with sprints (25 fast, 25 easy), and ten 300-meter intervals with short rest, like 10 seconds between each repetition. 
  • The focus here is on maintaining a consistent pace and accumulating distance, often totalling four to five kilometres of swimming.
  • To keep things mentally refreshing, some sessions are designed to be slightly faster, not necessarily in terms of speed but to ensure an active approach. 
  • For instance, we may aim to get in at 1 minute and 20 seconds for certain intervals instead of going easy.
  • Other swim sessions include one day of easy swimming covering three kilometres at the athlete's discretion regarding effort and pace. 
  • There are also two easy days where we can adjust their pace depending on our feelings, focusing on completing the required distance.

Vasco's swim improvement

35:52 -

  • My breakthrough year in triathlon came in Hamburg 2020 when I won a silver medal. This success was partly due to the change in my swim coach. 
  • After joining the swim club in Linköping, Sweden, I was coached by an iconic Swedish swimmer with vast experience and knowledge. 
  • Under his guidance, I significantly improved my swim performance.
  • Our training involved intense swimming sessions, some weeks reaching 35 kilometres. 
  • Although this high volume meant reducing bike and run training to accommodate, it laid the foundation for my current achievements. 
  • I started moving closer to the front packs during races and had the energy to chase and catch up to them after exiting the water.
  • Initially, I was apprehensive about joining the triathlon group, as their swim volume was lower than I was accustomed to. However, the consistent volume and training philosophy prioritising swimming over technical drills helped me progress. 
  • The coach emphasised the importance of swimming more and letting the body adapt naturally.
  • The focus on volume and repetition, rather than technical changes, has been crucial in my development as a swimmer. 
  • The coach's approach of putting in the kilometres proved effective in pursuing a world title and competing at the world series. 
  • Spending ample time in the water automatically allowed my body to learn and optimise energy-saving techniques.
  • My coach's philosophy and training methods align, emphasising hard work, dedication, and putting in the volume. 
  • The approach has continually contributed to my swimming improvement, and my skills have evolved significantly since I started training with him.

Cycling training

39:58 -

  • In our training schedule, we ride six times a week, with Saturdays being our day off from riding. 
  • Our weekly cycling routine comprises four easy days and two intensity days, each designed to target different aspects of our performance.
    • Monday: Easy ride lasting one to one and a half hours.
    • Tuesday: Hardest day with intensity in every session. The ride is one and a half hours long, and we do eight to ten times 15-second hard sprints. We take two minutes of recovery between sprints, but they still have a noticeable impact on our energy levels. Often, we incorporate U-turns into the sprints to simulate the need for power when coming out of turns, which is crucial in our technical crit bikes.
    • Wednesday: Long and easy ride, but not overly relaxed. It's considered a basic ride, and we maintain a steady pace without pushing too hard. Depending on our location, the duration can vary between two to four hours.
    • Thursday: Intensity ride lasting two to three hours, involving hills, paceline, or crit sessions. We begin with a warm-up and then proceed to a substantial session with a lot of intensity.
    • Friday: Another easy ride, similar to Monday but sometimes slightly longer, lasting one to two hours.
    • Sunday: The most challenging bike session of the week. We engage in a long and intense ride, lasting around four hours, where we may include intervals. This session often serves as the last hard session of the week.
  • Our training volume during the winter may be between 15 to 17 hours on the bike weekly. 
  • Our Sunday ride might extend to five hours if Wednesday's ride is also four hours.

Run Training

43:25 -

  • My weekly training schedule involves five running days, with Mondays and Fridays as rest days. 
  • On Tuesdays, I focus on intensity running, which includes a track session of 16x400s or a hill session. 
  • The goal is not to accumulate high mileage but to maintain intensity and prepare for the subsequent training days. 
  • Wednesdays and Thursdays are easy days, where I run at my own comfortable pace, usually for 45 minutes on Wednesday and one hour on Thursday.
  • Fridays are another rest day from running, allowing my body to recover and receive a massage. 
  • However, I use gym sessions on Fridays and perform foam rolling to aid muscle recovery. 
  • Saturdays feature the most challenging session of the week, the one-hour build. 
  • This involves a 30-minute warm-up, followed by running at 3min40/km for 20 minutes, then at 3min30/km for another 20 minutes, and finally at 3min20/km for the last 20 minutes. 
  • It's a demanding session that tests both speed and endurance.
  • Sundays are for recovery with a 45-minute run, while the more advanced runners in the squad go for an hour. 
  • This run allows me to recuperate from the intense Saturday session and conclude the week with an easy-paced run.
  • I typically cover between 75 to 85 kilometres in terms of weekly mileage. 

Gym work

48:03 -

  • On Mondays and Fridays, our training includes gym sessions, where we don't run but focus on various exercises tailored to each individual. 
  • The gym program is quite flexible, allowing athletes to choose their preferred exercises, but there's also an option to seek guidance from our coaches, Joel or Drew. 
  • Additionally, many athletes have physiotherapists who provide specialised exercises for injury recovery or follow the gym program closely.
  • Interestingly, I stick with the same program I did with Joachin, which I've been doing for a long time and feel comfortable with. 
  • It has proven effective in targeting the areas I need to work on. 
  • Sometimes, I adjust specific exercises to target my weaknesses, such as working on hip strength with side plank variations and other exercises focused on hip stability, even though I might not know their official names.
  • The gym program revolves around using low weights and emphasises balance and stability throughout the body. 
  • This approach is valuable because running, swimming, and biking already significantly engage the larger muscles. 
  • Therefore, we focus on activating smaller muscles in the gym, ensuring no weaknesses could lead to long-term injuries. 
  • We also incorporate stretching to complement the training regimen.

Brick workouts

50:01 -

  • In discussions with my teammate João Pereira, we debated the concept of a brick session and its structure. 
  • Our Thursday training sessions often include brick workouts, where we progress from hills to paceline, and eventually, the main focus becomes crits sessions. We typically finish one or two of these crits sessions as races draw near with a short transition run.
  • Our approach to brick sessions differs slightly from Pereira's. 
  • At the end of the last interval during our crits sessions, we transition from the bike to a short race-pace run, typically starting with a two-minute run and progressing to a one-kilometre run closer to race day. 
  • The focus here is not on perfecting the transition or achieving optimal performance in the run segment but instead on getting the feeling of running with heavy legs after an intense bike ride. If you are a proficient biker and runner, you can still perform well in the run, even with tired legs.
  • On the other hand, Pereira's approach involves repeating bike intervals followed by run intervals, switching back and forth between the two disciplines. 
  • We prefer to keep the main bike session intact and add the transition run at the end. This allows us to focus more on the main biking component.

Weekly training details

52:09 -

  • During the week from the end of February, my training focused on volume training and base training. Here's a detailed breakdown of my training schedule:
  • Monday:
    • 5km easy swim
    • Gym session with extra exercises
    • Easy 19-minute bike ride
  • Tuesday:
    • 5K swim with challenging sets: 40x50s, alternating hard and easy segments
    • Bike session with sprints (8 by 10 seconds or ten by 10 seconds)
    • Running session: 18km with eight by 45 seconds hills at race pace and eight by 1-minute intervals at a fast pace
  • Wednesday:
    • 5K swim with a cruise pace (between easy and steady)
    • Main session: 8 sets of 500 meters in the pool
    • Easy bike ride (basic pace) - 80km over 2.5 hours
    • Easy 45-minute run covering 11km
  • Thursday:
    • 3km easy swim for arm recovery after the previous challenging swim sessions
    • Bike session with hill repeats: 10 sets of 4 minutes uphill with recovery downhill, building intensity gradually.
    • The focus is on gradually building intensity. Starting under the threshold and building up allows for better control and prevents overworking, making adjusting the intensity according to my fatigue level easier.
    • Easy one-hour run covering 14km
  • Friday:
    • The main event is a hard swim, a 5km session.
    • The swim consists of three sets of 650s, followed by 4x150s, and a final 200-meter recovery.
    • Gym training is done directly after the swim.
    • In the afternoon, an easy two-hour bike ride is scheduled.
  • Saturday:
    • The day begins with a challenging 30km run, divided into three 20-minute intervals building the pace over time.
    • In the afternoon, there's a 4km swim, sometimes with accelerations, considering the fatigue from the morning run.
  • Sunday:
    • The longest bike ride of the week, a four-hour session, focuses on hill work with five sets of 10-minute hills.
    • The wattage starts around 250 to 275 W and builds progressively, reaching around 350 W.
    • The week concludes with a 45-minute easy-paced run to cool down and recover.

Expectations of joining Joel's squad

1:04:21 -

  • When I first joined the squad, I didn't have specific expectations from them. 
  • Instead, I approached the experience with an open mind and saw it as a new adventure. 
  • Having travelled and raced for Portugal from a young age, I learned to be independent and ask questions. 
  • So, I continued that approach and remained open to conversations with my new teammates.
  • Being part of the squad allowed me to ask questions and learn from others' experiences. 
  • I was curious about how athletes handled sponsorships and various aspects of the sport. I sought advice on reaching this level in the sport and what to do or avoid.
  • While I didn't expect to learn much about training techniques, I found the most valuable lessons related to the lifestyle of a professional athlete. 
  • The squad members shared insights into the business side of triathlon and how to balance private life with being a professional athlete. 
  • They helped me navigate the various aspects of life around training, which proved incredibly beneficial.
  • Interestingly, I discovered that racing and training were relatively straightforward. You show up, do your best, and apply what you've learned during training. 
  • The real learning experiences happened outside of the races and training sessions.
  • The culture within our training group is fantastic. We have a supportive and encouraging environment, and everyone helps each other out. 
  • When someone achieves a podium finish, we celebrate together instead of feeling envious. 
  • We genuinely thrive on each other's successes and accomplishments. 
  • Witnessing someone else's good results makes us believe in our training and builds trust. 
  • This positive atmosphere eliminates doubts and uncertainties about our training methods. 
  • When we see others achieving success with the same training approach, it motivates us to continue on the same path and aim for similar positive outcomes.

Things Vasco would have done differently in his career

1:08:58 -

  • In hindsight, I feel fortunate with my choices in my triathlon journey. Joining Joachim in Sweden was a life-changing decision for me. 
  • If I had continued training alone in Sweden, I might have abandoned the triathlon altogether. 
  • Similarly, if I had stayed in Portugal, I might have settled for joining the national team. 
  • Being with Joachim and his open-mindedness allowed me to learn and grow as an athlete. His willingness to learn from other coaches, like Joel, encouraged me to be open to changing coaches when needed and always seeking better solutions to improve my performance.
  • I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunities that came my way, and I wouldn't change any specific decision. 
  • Of course, there have been small details that I could have handled better, such as making more intelligent decisions about equipment or nutrition. Still, those experiences have been valuable lessons for me.

Paris 2024

1:10:54 -

  • Regarding the Olympics, I'm not putting too much pressure on myself. My first goal is to qualify, given that I missed the opportunity for Tokyo. 
  • Qualification is looking promising, and I'm focusing on achieving that first. 
  • Once I secure my spot, I don't just want to participate; my dream is to win a medal. 
  • It's a big goal; only three athletes out of the 55 or 60 who compete get that honour. 
  • Regardless of the outcome, I'll be content knowing I did my best to get there and perform at the highest level. Winning an Olympic medal would be a dream come true for me.

Goals after 2024

1:12:18 -

  • There may be some changes within the squad due to potential retirements or athletes transitioning to long-distance events. 
  • However, the current focus is on keeping the squad intact, investing in new athletes if necessary, and further developing the existing ones.
  • The plan for the upcoming Olympic cycle is to maintain the current training setup with a base in Girona, attend a few more training camps, including Font Romeu, and geek towards the next Olympics. As a 23-year-old athlete, my primary goal is to focus on the Olympics entirely until 2028. 
  • Looking ahead to 2032, the primary aspiration remains centred around the Olympics.
  • After the short-distance career, culminating at the 2032 Olympics, decisions will be made regarding the future path. 
  • Options to consider include transitioning to long-distance events or exploring different endeavours outside of competitive athletics. 
  • There is ample time to focus on other aspects before reaching that pivotal decision point.

General questions

1:14:08 -

400m swimming personal best

  • I don't typically time or race during training, but in the past, I completed a 400-meter swim time trial in around 4 minutes and 15 seconds.

Average/normalise power over an Olympic Triathlon race

  • I hadn't regularly used a bike computer for racing until recently, and there were technical issues with the data during my first season using it.

Best running performance

  • In terms of running, I have achieved a 5km road race time of approximately 14 minutes and 20 seconds. However, in Yokohama, I ran 29 minutes and 24 seconds in the Olympic distance, and in the super sprint in Hamburg, I had the fastest run but didn't have the exact distance.

Total yearly training volume

  • I don't track my swimming, bike, and running training hours.

VO2max

  • I have undergone a VO2max test, and I believe my result was close to 80. The values were slightly different for running and cycling.

Hours of sleep

  • I aim for about nine hours of sleep each day, combining nighttime and one-hour nap.

First race ever

  • My first-ever triathlon was at the age of eight in Portugal, Cartaxo. I was initially afraid of swimming in open water but overcame it in this race, where we had to swim only 50 meters parallel to the sand, allowing me to stand up if needed.

Importance of entering in triathlon at an early age

1:21:47 -

  • Starting triathlons at a young age provides several advantages for athletes. 
  • It allows them to grow with the sport and build lasting relationships with other athletes they will compete against for many years. 
  • Early exposure to triathlons helps athletes develop a strong foundation crucial for success. 
  • The work and training during the formative years play a significant role in what some may perceive as "talent." 
  • The advantage of starting early lies in the years of training and skill development that other athletes who started later may not have had. 
  • While it is not impossible to catch up, those early hours of training and skill-honing give young triathletes an edge. 
  • Even if someone does not start with triathlon initially, having a background in swimming or other related sports can be beneficial for building the necessary skills. 
  • Ultimately, the "talent" in the sport results from the dedication and fun that young athletes have while putting in hours of training, even before they consider it formal training.

Three pieces of advice to age group triathletes

1:24:45 -

  • The first would be not to focus too much on diets. Avoid fixating too much on strict diets, especially concerning carbohydrates. Enjoying the sport and not depriving yourself of the necessary nutrients is essential. Starving yourself can lead to negative feelings and impact your enjoyment of the triathlon. Eat what you like, be mindful of your choices, but don't go extremes.
  • The second would be to Find training partners. While you may have performance goals, remember that triathlon is a hobby and should be fun. Don't take it too seriously to the point of losing your love for the sport. Train with friends, be social, and create a supportive community around your triathlon journey.
  • The third is to prepare your race, paying attention to the correct details. In detail, I do not mean focusing solely on the best equipment choices. 
  • While training is essential, the small things matter too. Prioritise rest around races and ensure enough time for your body to recover. Eat well before the race and plan your travels wisely to minimise disruptions to your sleep schedule. When combined with adequate training, these factors can significantly impact your performance during the race.
  • Remember, triathlon is about challenging yourself, staying healthy, and enjoying the journey. Embrace the process, set realistic goals, and celebrate your progress.

Rapid-Fire Questions

1:27:33 -
What's your favourite book or resource related to endurance sports?
I have two different podcasts. One is a business podcast that discusses global events and their economic impact. The other podcast I enjoy the most is from a Youtube Channel, "IJustWantToBeCool", which created a podcast called "Vod", which features four or five guys who come up with unique and funny situations.


Who's somebody that you look up to or that has inspired you?
The most significant idol and inspiration within the triathlon sport is Vanessa Fernandes, a Portuguese triathlete. She won a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, inspiring a generation of young Portuguese triathletes. Vanessa Fernandes is why I started pursuing triathlon; she remains one of my biggest idols in the sport.

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Bernardo Gonçalves

Bernardo is a Portuguese elite cyclist and co-founder of SpeedEdge Performance, a company focused on optimising cycling and triathlon performance. He writes the shownotes for That Triathlon Show, and also produces social media content for each new episode.

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