October 2017, Lucy Charles prepared herself for the toughest challenge of her life: IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii. Alongside prestigious company including Swiss legend Daniela Ryf, who won the event for the third consecutive time, Lucy, a rookie, stood at the start line to cross the finish moments behind the Swiss veteran.
After a 10-year competitive swimming career, that included Olympic trials final for team GB, Lucy looked to enter the toughest triathlon disciple of all – Ironman. She was an immediate hit. In 2016 she became a double world champion in the female 18-24 category winning both IRONMAN and 70.3 titles in 2015.
She turned pro in 2016 and got her first victory under her belt in Lanzarote 2017 with a brand new course record. Her success in the Canaries earned her a spot in the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship race in Hawaii.
In her Hawaiian debut, Lucy took the pack by storm and came in 2nd place with a time of 08:59:38. With her continuing rise to IRONMAN superiority, we spoke to Lucy about her top tips for triathletes and current or aspiring IRONMAN competitors everywhere.
World Champion triathlon tips: Lucy Charles’ guide to becoming a better cyclist
“No one discipline in triathlon is more important than the other. But out of swimming, cycling and running, it’s on the bike where competitors really have to put in the long hours.” – Lucy Charles
In an Ironman-distance triathlon, the sport’s most extreme format, competitors swim 3.8km, run 42km… but bike a massive 180km. Move your cycling game up a gear with the help of one of the UK’s top triathletes.
Cycling requires skill, balance, strength and determination in order to power through and get it done well.
“Knowing and trusting your kit is important especially when you have fast descents and tough climbs. One of the things I swear by is a power meter in my cranks which gives me all the numbers I need to see throughout a day in the saddle. It means I can make sure I am not going too hard on the climbs or freewheeling too much on the descents.
“For long rides, you need to make sure you are comfortable and aerodynamic. I use pads on my handlebars which help me with both of those things. Padding in your shorts is crucial… otherwise, you are in for an uncomfortable ride.”
“You want the bike to be an extension of yourself so that you can control the power you are putting through the bike. If you are new to cycling, like I was in 2014, it may take a lot of hours in the saddle to feel comfortable. Every week I will do at least one long ride which is a minimum of three hours but it is good to mix up your training with a spin class and a group ride as well.”
“You want to make sure you are supplementing your riding with specific gym work that will help you see improvements when you are out on the bike. I typically spent 1-2 hours in the gym solely dedicated to cycling. These exercises include leg extensions, hamstring curls and squats.”
The other key is single leg work because you need to have a good left-right balance. – Lucy Charles
“Using turbo trainers – a stationary bike – can help with your cycling strength and if you throw in things like Zwift to the mix, you can make training more exciting by racing in a virtual world. Time spent in the gym is time shaved off your bike split.”
“In order to get the right output, you need to get the right input. Nutrition is key – and entirely unique to each person. It is a case of trying something, seeing if it works for you and then sticking to that formula. I typically have 60-90g of carbs per hour during a ride which makes sure my energy levels are topped up and I don’t have any flat points at any stage during a ride. If I do feel like I need that little bit extra then I top up with caffeine.
“Once you have found that perfect balance of what works for you nutritionally, it is great to focus on other parts of your training like max interval training between 10-60 seconds. It is also good to find a nice loop and really perfect your cornering skills, doing time trial races can really see what you are capable of and put down your max power output. There is always a percentage to be gained.”
“Riding on the road is really gruelling, particularly if you’re out in the saddle for up to six hours exposed to the elements, it can be very exhausting. It is really important to get that relaxation and recovery going straight away after a ride. You need to stretch out the leg muscles and your back so that you do not stiffen up. Get your nutrition on board within the magic 30-minute window to replace all that you have spent on the bike.
“It is not enough to go out and just train, you need to reflect on the data that you have collected and review what you have done to learn from it for the next session.” – Lucy Charles
World Champion triathlon tips: Lucy Charles’ guide to becoming a better runner
“Ensure you are wearing the correct shoes for your run. If you are running off road, trail shoes will give you that stability and grip that you need on the more uneven terrain.
“The other shoes that I have are r