The OA Inter-Services Triathlon 2016 – how the pro’s train and how you can get started

Maintaining a healthy, active and well balanced lifestyle is strongly supported by the Officers’ Association. The Grants and Welfare team of the OA promotes this message to the hundreds of beneficiaries using its services each year and advises looking after your diet, fitness, sleep and contentment to help you feel well. The OA also works very closely with other key organisations that can help the OA’s beneficiaries develop social relationships, build self esteem and gain independence.

Triathlon is a growing sport in the UK and the OA are keen to promote getting involved in the sport to all of its members. The Officers’ Association Inter-Services Triathlon is organised this year by the Army Triathlon Association (ATA), and sees entrants across the triservices; Army, Navy and RAF, competing in various categories; Male, Veterans (40-44yrs) and Masters (45+ yrs) and Female, Veterans (35-39 yrs) and Masters (40+ yrs).

Lt Col Chris Stuart, Commanding Officer of 13 Air Assault Support Regiment and Chairman of the ATA says “In order to complete a 1.5 kilometre swim, a 40 kilometre cycle and a 10 kilometre run in times circa 2 hours, the triathletes competing need to have been training hard all year in anticipation of the event.” A regular participant in this event and other triathlons, Chris will be competing in this event again this year and is currently in training at least three times a week.

Kris is pictured competing in his last event the Arundel Tri

With the OA Inter-Services Triathlon fast approaching, training is really stepping up for the athletes competing. Captain Kris Nicholson, Royal Navy (45 years) has been a triathlete for 10 years and has won several local races. A member of the Royal Navy Triathlon Club, Kris has qualified for Team GB this year and will compete in the Standard Distant World Championship Final in Mexico in September. This will be the second time Kris has represented the country having competed in a similar event in China in 2011 where he came 4th.

Kris says of his training for the OA Inter-Services Triathlon “My training is going as well as can be expected. There is always a delicate balance between work and family time. My training plan is not as structured as I would like mainly because of the flexibility I require. As an experienced athlete I invariably try to bank my training early in the morning plus a longer session at the weekend. On average I manage an hour a day in the working week plus 3 hours at the weekend. I have in mind themes of when I should increase training and will bias it between fitness and speed work. I think to be good in triathlon you need to be comfortable in all disciplines but I would say that I am relatively ‘strongest’ at running.”


The OA interviewed competitor Cpl Becky Hoare (26 years) from North Wales on how her training for this year’s Officers’ Association Inter-Services Triathlon is going.

How long have you been a triathlete? My first triathlon was in 2011, so about 5 years now.

How many triathlons have you competed in previously? Way too many to count! 6 Ironman races, 4 half ironman, and LOTS of standard, sprint and duathlon races.

What has been your top position in a triathlon previously? Finishing 6th at the World Ironman Championships 2014.

How do you feel your training is going? Generally pretty well. I had a very consistent winter this year and worked a lot on my running and swimming which needed a lot of work. As is often the case with the Army, training took a back foot for most of March and April due to an 8 week deployment to Jordan. I was able to keep myself ‘ticking over’ but lacked a lot of hours on the bike which are usually a staple part of the programme for that time of year, an hour or so on the turbo in the desert is a small consolation! Luckily on my return I was able to attend an Army triathlon warm weather camp in Cyprus and training has been fairly consistent ever since, luckily staying relatively injury and illness free.

Becky is pictured here at the 2013 World Ironman Championships

Can you give details of your training plan? The week will vary from week to week; no week will be exactly the same. But generally they’ll be based around 3-4 swim sessions ranging from an hour to an hour and a half in length, usually a drill session, a longer race pace interval session, and a shorter, harder interval session and one open water session in a wetsuit in the local lakes. I’ll do a low level strength and conditioning session most days, incorporating core and stretching work. I’ll fit maybe 3-4 bike sessions in, depending on the year will depend on how hard they’ll be. As I get closer to my A race, rides will generally become shorter but harder, targeting specific race power or heat rate. I’ll do no more than 2 runs a week, 3 at the most, which again will become faster the closer I get to key races. Of course, there will be compulsory PT thrown in there, which can be literally anything; a tab, circuit, run or sports. I usually take a rest day every 2 weeks. During race season there will also be low key races and time trials to keep the speed work and sharpness up most weeks and to keep weeks varied.

How long are your training sessions? Swimming sets are usually an hour, although longer if I’m in the lakes. Strength and conditioning will never be longer than an hour (I get bored easily when I’m stuck in a gym!). Running can be anything from 45 minute recovery runs to 90 minute race pace sessions. My favourite run session I always do closer to my big races; 4x10km runs, with 45minutes off in between. The time off allows you sufficient recovery to complete the next 10km, and allows you to run close enough to a marathon race pace without taking the toll on the body that that kind of distance normally would.

How many times per week are you training? Generally twice a day, to fit in around the working day with longer sessions of up to six hours at weekends. The average week will see me training for around 18hours.

What stage of the triathlon are you looking forward to most and reasons for this? Definitely the bike. It’s my strongest discipline of the three and usually where I can make up the time I lost on the swim!


Ex-Grenadier Guard and now experienced trainer and former triathlete, Rob Creighton set up Smash PT in 2009 and has since trained a whole range of people to get them triathlon fit. Rob has worked with military personnel, professional rugby players, extreme-sport athletes and with former World Triathlon Champion Tim Don. Rob has enjoyed competing in multiple ironman races and his best achievement within the sport was completing a half ironman carrying a fridge to raise money for a military charity.

The OA asked Rob for his top tri tips for competitors:

1. Be sure to practice your transitions prior to racing and if you are starting out, keep it as simple as possible. (Don’t run before you can walk!)

2. Rehearse your race day nutrition; do not leave it until race day to find out you do not like certain foods.

3. Flush your wetsuit out. This will get rid of any pockets of air that will bother you in the swim and will create a snug fit.

4. Elastic laces can save a lot of time. Put a set in your trainers and you will not regret it.

5. Going sockless on the run? Make sure this is tried and tested, 5 seconds extra in transition putting a pair on could save you an hours worth of blisters.

6. Don’t shy away from bad weather in training. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst when it comes to the elements!

7. Before heading off to the swim start, make sure your bike is in the correct gear for your mount.

8. Join a club. There is always a wealth of knowledge at triathlon clubs; observe, listen and ask questions.

9. Technology is a great tool, but don’t let it distract you. If in doubt, keep your racing simple.

10. Flying mounts and dismounts may look good but they must be well practiced. All too often we see people falling and loosing random shoes before they’ve even started.

11. Don’t forget the fourth discipline. Strength work in the gym can make a lot of difference to your race day results and prevent injuries in the long term.

12. Bike race numbers; instead of leaving a sticky mess after you’ve removed your race number wrap the area in electrical tape prior to application. It’ll leave your seat post tidy.

13. Worried about the melee of mass swim starts? Stay back from the front until you’ve built your confidence.

14. Brick sessions; use these in training to overcome the shock of transition two. Get used to building your speed up gradually after getting off of the bike.

15. Try to remove as much of your wetsuit as early as possible when exiting the swim. Leave it too long and you may find it trickier to get off.

16. Eye wear is essential; bugs and grit on the bike can end a race, keep your eyes protected rain or shine.

17. Attaching gels to your handle bars or top tube using elastic bands or tape is a quick and safe way of having them to hand without having to dip into pockets while riding.

18. Walk your transition routes before the race; swim exit to bike rack, bike rack to bike mount, bike dismount to bike rack and lastly bike rack to run start… it will mitigate any confusion when time matters.

Good Luck to all those competing……………….