Olly Simon – Wales’ Ironman

As well as being a member of Team PedalCover, Olly Simon is a winner of the Long Course Weekend and a Welsh Ironman record holder.

Looking to the season ahead, Olly’s first early season target is Ironman South Africa on April 10th 2016. We’ve caught up with him to see how he’s preparing and what tips he has for you if you’re preparing for your own Ironman.

How did you get started in triathlon?

I have loved sport since I first kicked a ball and have always wanted to be a professional sportsman. I have a background in swimming and surf rescue up to a Welsh Standard and have competed in triathlon for the past 16 years on and off. In my first year I qualified for the World Age Groups in Perth 2000 where I came 12th in the 20-24 age group and I’ve been able to progress from there.

In 2010, I won the Long Course Weekend (LCW) in Tenby over the Ironman distance and I have won it another three times since, the other two were hindered by injury. It is a multisport festival on my back door in Tenby, so I really enjoy taking part.

Competition is much tougher and the sportive is more like a time trial than a group ride, like it used to be. I have to gain minutes on the swim to be comfortable for the rest of the weekend but I’m looking forward to defending my title this year and whatever new surprises the event throws up.

How does it feel to be a Welsh record holder?

The Welsh Ironman record had been in my sights from my first Ironman, but I just didn’t get it right. Richard Jones’s record was a perfect demonstration of good pacing from an athlete I looked up to.

I had been in contention off the bike for it a few times but never got the run right, however, hard work paid off and in Barcelona 2015 I got through the swim and bike so fast that it didn’t matter about a slow marathon. I got the Ironman Welsh record there in a time of 8:34.

Having time to spare shows me that if I get it right this year, I can take a lot more time off my Welsh record and get closer to the 8 hour mark.

How is your training for the season ahead going?

South Africa is my first race of 2016. I picked it as it is a race that’s not too hot, the time difference isn’t much and the new course should be fast, which suits my style of racing.

South Africa being a regional championships brings with it a high classed field and to get in to the top 10 would be a massive improvement on last season’s form. I think I have made some significant gains and should race well.

Training has gone well, I have managed to get to two training camps this year to get some cycling mileage in. The first was supported by Sands Beach in Lanzarote and the second was with Cycle Specific in Mallorca.

These camps have been crucial for my development, as the weather has been terrible for getting out on my race bike at home. I can swim well and get most of my runs done but cycling generally relies on the indoor turbo trainer for consistency.

I feel I have made good gains on the bike, which is my weakest discipline compared to the top pros, and my running has improved as I have dropped a few kilos from last season.

Cycle Specific has been helping with nutrition and I can test myself regularly with their facilities.

Olly 1

What does a typical week of training consist of for you?

On average, I train for around 15-20 hours a week.

A typical week of training consists of three to four swim sessions of about 3km, which either work on threshold or strength and speed, no time for long distance sets.

For cycling, I use the turbo quite a lot for threshold sets and usually do 1-2 hour sets three times a week. If I can get outside, I will try and get in 3.5 hours plus. I would love to get consistent five hour rides in but the weather or time usually gets in the way.

I run off the bike a lot to save time, so I can be home in the evening to spend time with my family. I run on average probably four to five sessions a week and I use the treadmill after core sessions to make some of those up.

How are you tapering?

My taper will start from Friday before I fly on the Sunday, so I won’t be too tired for the travel. I tend to race well with a bit of work in my legs so I don’t want to ease off to early.

I have still got some good bike sessions to do but I got my last big run session in on Easter weekend.

I have been eating healthier this year and I hope to continue that in and around races to keep the weight off to be able to race to the best of my ability.

Once I get out to South Africa I will try and get on the course as much as possible and get used to the heat with some steady sessions. The good thing about Ironman is that you can do race pace sets fairly easily for short periods of time as it’s such a long distance.

I will swim in my wetsuit a few times and get used to all my new race kit. I have just got a new Ceepo Viper, Zipp wheels, 2xu race suit and wetsuit, which will be tested properly in my first race of the season.

Any tips that you can give others as they prepare for their own Ironman events?

– Don’t feel you have to get big mileage done in the last week leading up to the event. You’re better off getting some quality sessions in and feeling fresher in between.

– Visualise race scenarios so you deal with them more efficiently. Mechanical problems, transitions and aid stations all need planning for.

– Have a nutrition plan for the build-up and during the race and stick to it. Don’t change to something new just because someone said it worked for them.

– Test your race kit in training.

– Train hard to race easy, which when you get to an Ironman means you should have trained at your race pace or above and don’t expect to be able to hold an unfamiliar pace for 10 hours plus.