Ask the Experts: Racing Strategy Q+A with Mark Threlfall

Hi everyone,

Pro triathlete Mark Threlfall will be live in our forum today between 1-2pm to answer your queries about triathlon training and racing.

Last year Mark was crowned Castle Triathlon Series Champion and he came third in the ITU World Cross Triathlon U23 Championships. This year he demonstrated middle-distance potential, coming fourth in his first Ironman 70.3 in South Africa. With many more accolades and titles under his belt, he’ll be ready for all your training and racing questions.

If you’re tempted to go long, looking for training advice or not sure how to plan your racing diary, Mark can help.

We're opening the discussion now so Mark will be able to get stuck in straight away at 1pm - so get posting!



  • Hi Mark,

    Did my first triathlon recently and when working particularly hard on the cycle, I found myself rocking from side-to-side pushing the bike out in the opposite direction to balance me out. It felt like this enabled me to work harder/have a bit more traction (especially on hills) but a friend said that this was actually detrimental and that I should keep sideways movement to a minimum, comparing it to good posture in swimming and running. Is this true?



  • Hi Mark,

    I will be taking part in my first olympic tri in September, and am currently bike-less so my training has been gym based-not ideal. Are there any sessions/drills you would recommend that would be good to do on a gym bike?



  • There's been a lot of bad press recently about sports nutrition products. A Panorama programme reckoned we'd perform just as well on a balanced diet and water. What do you eat and drink in training and racing, and do you think there's a place for sports nutrition in triathlon?



    Hi Graham,


    Congratulations on doing your first triathlon. I hope you enjoyed it. It’s not uncommon for people to get this rocking motion on the bike, but your friend is right. On the flat you should aim to have everything running in straight lines, like pistons, pushing all force and energy through the pedals. Any side motion is a loss in efficiency and often a sign of a weak or under-activating core.


    I would suggest doing some core stability and hips strengthening exercises combined with working on keeping everything in line when cycling. Simple exercises like ‘Side Plank Leg Lifts’ and ‘Bridges’ will really help this. If you need any more advice or help on this don’t hesitate to contact me through my site:


    You will generally get more movement on the hills if out of the saddle, in fact this is the best way.  But if it is just a slight gradient and you are in the saddle then you should still aim to keep everything straight and solid.





    Hi Julia,


    Stuck using the gym isn’t the end of the world. In fact being in the gym you can work on a lot of things that help improve power and efficiency on the bike that most people neglect.


    On the bike start off with a warm up that mixes in some single leg drills. Aim to be as smooth as possible and not move about on the saddle. Then try introducing some intensity in to the sessions, such as 30seconds all out, 1min easy x10. You can vary this with longer intervals at slight lower intensity.


    I have found great benefits from using the rowing machine in the past when I have been injured. Try combining this with some core work like I mentioned above and some strength work with weights.




  • Other than the Brits, who would you be chancing a cheeky tenner on for the Male/Female tri at the Olympics, please?

    I have my "Corals" account open on another tab image.

  • Hi Alison,

    Everyone has their own views and opinions on Nutrition, and it is very hard to say who has the answer. One thing I have learnt over the years is that everyone responds very differently to training, nutrition, etc. So, what works for one person may not necessarily work for another.

    I swear by a good balanced diet, but I do combine this with energy drinks and gels for racing.  I use High5 Energy Source during races for fluid along with High5 Isogels (2 for Olympic, 5 for 70.3).  I use the Energy Source drink for hard training sessions, and also a 4:1 drink for long rides as it contains protein to help muscle recovery.

    I hope that helps somewhat.


  • Haha, well Bryukhankov is a definite contender along with Gomez.

    Womens; maybe Riveros, Norden or Spirig

  • Nice one, Mark. Thanks. I fancied Bryukhankov myself and got 20:1 for him. I'm going Densham for the Womens.

    Can you tell us how you manage your bike pacing, please, on longer distance races? If you can explain by HR rather than wattage, that would be more interesting for me.

  • i have just got into triathlons. but after being a reasonable swimmer as a kid, i find that 30 years later i have the technique but i cant get my breathing right to survive a 400m swim, so i have to do breaststroke. i find breathing every 2 strokes and i am hyper ventalating and every 3 or 4 and i am screaming for air after 100m.

  • No worries, Densham is a good bet too!

    It might surprise you, but for racing I actually go by feel. Not everyones cup of tea, a lot of pros use powermeters, but at the moment I just enjoy going by feel.

    I use a powermeter in training, and get used to the intensity, effort and feel at the set wattage I reckon I need to be hitting for races. You can do the same with HR. So, I know on race day if I am pushing too hard or easy because it's ingrained in to me. Another key is nurtition. Do not neglect nutrition over the longer distances. A good energy drink and I work by a gel every 20km.

  • Interesting answer. Thanks. As a noddy part-timer, doing things by feel tends to result in ridiculously over-ambitious pacing.  

  • Hi Rob,

    I have come across a lot of people that have experienced the same problem. It is hard to say without seeing you swimming, but it can often help by exhaling steadily whilst your head is in the water.

    As soon as you face submerges just trickle your breath out steadily until your next breath. By holding your breath you can actually cause a lot of tension and breathlessness. You should just see a constant stream of bubbles from your nose/mouth under the water.

    Also, don't be ashamed about breathing every 2. I do, as well as many top swimmers.

  • Hi Mark,

    I have had to take a break in training for an Olympic distance triathlon due to illness. With only 7 weeks to go and a target to finish ahead of last years time- do I concentrate on improving one of the disciples rather than all three? My run is not overly fast but is this where I can make my time up?

  • thanks Mark,

    good point, so i must breathe slow and steady rather than hard and fast, because my timing is exactly as you describe. that might be the case whether i breathe every 2, 3 or 4 strokes.

    i am already addicted to triathlons, after 1 race. getting the front crawl means i can try an open water race.

  • If you are still struggling with illness, then I would suggest backing off until you are 100%. You will be surprised how little things like gym work, stretching, and running drills can imporve performance. These are low intensity and allow the body to still recover from illness.

    Once you are back feeling better, I would just suggest building all 3 disciplines back up. If you can; little and often will be the ideal way to get back in to it.


  • Thanks Mark, I'll start with low intensity and go from there.
  • Hi all,

    Thank you for such great questions - and thank you Mark for answering them! We'll be back soon with another triathlon webchat, but until then, happy training and racing!


  • Thanks everyone. Great chatting with you all, and I hope I have helped you a little. All the best with your training and racing.


  • Yup.... I agree kk

    Why not ask for Qs now and invite him to answer in a week..... (it's all virtual after all)
  • Hey kittenkat and O.randCannon I came, I saw, I knitted,

    Sorry to see you missed the webchat. We had a carousel on the on the homepage and a blog up all week to let people know about it.

    However, we have lined up several more webchats this summer and we'll start opening the forum for questions a day in advance, so that should give everyone more opportunity to get involved.


  • Dominique I think the problem there is that most people who use the forums regularly will come straight here and bypass the front page .. I know I do    image

    What kind of topics are coming up in the summer then ?

  • Hi M...eldy,

    We'll hopefully have an Ironman, cycling and swimming webchat - but we'll confirm more (and open the threads a few days early) in a few weeks. Thanks for the feedback!


  • I liked him. Nice bloke.

    Maybe you could get Meldy to do the one about swimming.... and KK could do one about nutrition?

  • @Dominique

    can you make sure that the experts have their own user name and login set up?
    Some user logins seem to have been reycled, which adds a little frisson of uncertainty if reading back old experts' threads.

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