AW promotion: The middle-distance runner turned triathlete shares her training diary and lessons she has learned

Former European under-23 cross country champion Emma Pallant switched from running to triathlon in 2012 following injury struggles and has gone on to enjoy success as she combines her first love with swimming and cycling.

The two-time world duathlon champion made her Ironman debut last year and told AW about some lessons she has learned.

AW: How has 2019 started for you?

Emma Pallant: This year started out really well in terms of training. I had a great camp with my team BMC-Vifit Pro Triathlon in Lanzarote and then flew out to South Africa for my first 70.3 race of the season but unfortunately caught something on the plane and was in bed ill the night before the race.

I felt in such good shape before I was ill that I thought that I might get away with it so raced, but I shouldn’t have! I felt terrible and spent the next week really ill but managed to pick up second place. I would never do that again. When you are ill, just refocus the goal and move on to the next one.

AW: Can you reflect on 2018 including your step up to the Ironman and your world championship experience in Kona?

EP: 2018 was more of an experiment year. I wanted to step up to Ironman as this is where my long-term goals lie and it was great to qualify for Kona but we certainly learnt a lot of lessons on how to train.

My training load was a little bit too high last year. We were pushing big boundaries but my best results were coming in training rather than racing.

I think you have to have those apprentice years and I was really happy to start the process. Kona itself was a bit of a disaster as I stuck to my nutrition plan and pacing plan, saving myself for the run. In T2 I came off the bike a little bit too eager to run, put my head down to put on my shoes, stood up too fast and fainted. Low blood pressure is something that I’ve learnt to manage over the years but I hadn’t fainted for a year before that so it came as a bit of a shock. Again, you have to take the hit and put it down to a learning experience and I took so much from being at my first Kona that it can only help in future years.

AW: So far your experience of racing over 26.2 miles has come after a 2.4-mile swim and 112 miles on the bike, but would you still consider racing a marathon in future or doing more running-only races?

EP: Definitely! In my ‘off season’ in December I have no structured training plan and so I really drop my biking and swimming and go back to my biggest love, the run! I was in South Africa with my boyfriend for Christmas and we did an uphill half-marathon in Durban where some good athletes like Jenna Challenor turned out. I won the women’s race and was fourth overall and I just love the road races where everyone races together! I’m definitely keeping my finger in there and will return to a pure runner when my tri days are over.

My best friend Steph (Twell) has found love for South Africa too and I love the run culture here so will be planning on entering us up for the Comrades 90km to celebrate our 40th birthdays!

AW: You’re using the new Polar Vantage V – how does it help you to balance your training load?

EP: It is the Polar data from last year that really helped us to see the training load was too much. It’s sometimes tough to admit to yourself when you are training feeling like a rock star that you should be doing less, but just because you ‘can’ deal with the training, it doesn’t mean it’s optimal and this is where the data was key. I was so motivated to keep progressing and pushing limits and training even harder but the data showed that I was just going into races even more tired.

Also, looking at my heart rate, it went extremely low at one point when I was finding SA02 difficult and getting really light headed often so we went to a cardiologist and he explained the fatigue on the heart – that it wasn’t able to rise enough in hard sessions. The data helped up to make a change before another similar occurrence to last year where I fainted in a hard session on the bike in Lanzarote and ended up in hospital.

AW: Has your training changed now you have access to Polar’s power metrics?

EP: This year we are going to use the Polar Vantage V power data on hill reps to compare to cadence on road and treadmill running.

We often train in seaside locations because of the open water and it can be really windy so rather than trying to stick to paces where it will be super easy in a tail wind and almost impossible in a head wind, we can use power to monitor pacing effect and make sure I am getting negative splits so always running stronger at the end of sessions than the beginning. It’s all about coming home stronger and I think the power data stops any false positives that you might get, for example from a wind bonus or a downhill one.

AW: How important is rest and recovery? And how can the Polar device also help with managing that?

EP: Rest and recovery is super key! I learnt that more than ever last year.

So this year that is one of the biggest focuses to my training. I have started to measure my heart rate a lot more so we have some trends and patterns to work from. I use a Polar watch to sleep with so it keeps me accountable to the hours in bed and also using the training watch and bike computers to watch my speeds on the easy sessions and make sure the easy is super easy so we can get the hard sessions even harder.

Typical training week

During her training camp, Pallant’s week included:
Monday:
Key swim, 4-hour bike ride into 1-hour run
Tuesday: Hard hill reps into a time trial on bike, 30-minute build run-off, steady strength swim (more arm swimming)
Wednesday: Same as Monday
Thursday: Steady swim, hard treadmill session (10km of reps), steady 2-hour recovery ride on bike
Friday (easy day): Morning yoga with easy treadmill warm-up, easy swim
Saturday: Turbo session on bike into a 2-hour run
Sunday: Strength swim 3km, 6-hour bike ride, 30-minute run

» The Polar Vantage V breaks new ground as the first watch to track running power from the wrist. Find out more at polar.com/uk-en/vantage/v