Training for your First Triathlon Step 1: Choose an Event to do

Often I find that people get inspired and motivated to do their first triathlon by either watching their friends and family complete in an event, or a group of people will challenge each other to do an event with them. These groups are usually workplaces or a group of female friends. A triathlon is a very rewarding activity to do. It will challenge you both during the event and as you train and prepare for it. However these challenges are easily over come, especially with a group of supportive friends and family, including your official coach (or the support of Coach Ray through here). There are a number of great events to do as your first event. A few of what I believe are the best first timer events in the country (if not the world) are:

  • Jules Taylor Wines Marlborough Women’s Triathlon (late November in Blenheim);
  • Any of the Scorching Triathlon series events (most of the summer months in Wellington); or the
  • McFadden, McMeeken, Phillips Lawyers Nelson Women’s Triathlon (April in Nelson).
Ange heading out on the bike leg of the Marlborough Women’s Triathlon

These events are all very supportive environments that are based on encouragement and having a go. Low key events such as these place less pressure on you.  Often you will find yourself swept along with support to the finish line. You need to pick an event that is far enough away to give you time to properly prepare for it. I typically recommend at least 20 weeks, but you can get away with a bare minimum of 12 weeks.

  • For the Jules Taylor Wines Marlborough Women’s Triathlon you should have already started training for it, but if you haven’t make sure you do so by the start of September;
  • For the McFadden, McMeeken, Phillips Lawyers Nelson Women’s Triathlon you want to kick start your programme by mid-November.

You will increase your chance of success if there is a group of you doing an event together.  A group can provide valuable support to each other. You are more likely to do the session if you are doing it with a buddy. No one likes to stand up their mate. Even if you are doing the training by yourself, being part of a support network you can bounce ideas off other people. These support networks can be virtual (i.e. Facebook group) or the real world (i.e. a coffee group) were you can catch up and discuss the challenges, how to over come them and how you are feeling after various training sessions.

As part of the Qwik Kiwi Tribe who are training for various events, we have a closed Facebook group so members of the ‘tribe‘ can hang out and talk about what is working for them and conversely what isn’t working. It can be reassuring to share experiences.  You may find that others are in similar situations and facing the same challenges as you.  Solutions can come easily when you discuss them in supportive environments like this. We also arrange regular get togethers as well, for both training and the social side of things.

Molina completing the opening leg of the Marlborough Women's Triathlon
Molina completing the opening leg of the Marlborough Women’s Triathlon

What you need to do now is get a group of friends together and pick an event to do. Create your own support group and start preparing. If you would like further advice feel free to contact Coach Ray.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

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Christchurch Marathon and Half Marathon

Gerard is training hard as he prepares for the World 70.3 Triathlon Championships, this involves swimming 1900m then cycling 90km prior to finishing with a half marathon. As part of his goal setting for the world champs he set a number of goals, one of which was to run sub 1:20hr for a half marathon. We targeted the Christchurch Half Marathon to achieve this goal. This is his story about how it went for him: Continue reading “Christchurch Marathon and Half Marathon”

Welcome to Qwik Kiwi: Measuring Intensity

For those that are using either power for cycling, pace for running, or heart rate. Your training zones can be found within Training Peaks. If you click on your name in the top right and select ‘Account Settings’ a new window will open. On the left of this window select ’Zones’ within this section you will be able to see your respective power zones, HR zones for each sport and your pace zones.

Load these zones into your Garmin or HR monitor, so that you can set your workouts and have alarms to advise you when you are going too fast or too slow (if your model has these features).

Determining Training Zones

Above a certain point or intensity of exercise your body will not be able to remove lactate acid fast enough. Depending on the literature you read this point or a similar point with a subtle difference in the scientific definition is known as the Lactate Threshold, Onset of Blood Lactate or a raft of other names that for all intense and purposes for a lay person is effectively the same thing. What you need to know is that this is the pace/effort that you can maintain for about an hour and your training HRs are based off this.

Your coach will periodically set you Time Trials (TTs) to complete as an assessment of your current level of fitness. This ensures that your training zones are based on what you are currently (or recently) capable of achieving, rather than relying on what you did last year, as your fitness may have regressed or advanced since your training zones were last set.

Once the data from your respective TTs is uploaded, your coach can then review the information (it helps if you text or message them advising that the data has been uploaded). Reviewing the data will enable your coach to see if your ability has changed and if this is significant enough to alter your training zones. If it is only a small change it is often not worth changing the training zones, especially if we are only talking a bpm or a couple of Watts or a few seconds per kilometre.

These TTs are an important part of the coach reviewing your training and optimising the future training they load up. It is important that you put your best effort forward each and every time you complete a TT. You can’t control all factors relating to a TT but try and replicate as many aspects of the TT as possible.

  • Use the same course.
  • Try and go at the same time of day.
  • Use the same equipment (TT bike with aero wheels or racing flats for running).
  • Be fueled and hydrated equally well as last time.

If you constantly change things from one TT to the next, the question the coach needs to then work out is: is the different result due to change in fitness and performance or as a result of different equipment or a different course.

Power for Cycling

The best way to measure intensity whilst cycling is to measure power. This can be done utilising any number of measurement devices: SRM, PowerTap wheels, cranks or pedals, Garmin pedals, Polar pedals and a few other options available. Most of these options will talk to your Garmin or smart phone to then up load the data to Training Peaks.

Renowned cycling and triathlon coach, Joe Friel describes the Power Meter as a powerful training tool that can potentially make you fitter and faster than any other piece of equipment. Qwik Kiwi athletes and coaches that are using power meters have made some big jumps in how they train and the results they get.

Power is measuring your effort rather than a physiological response to that effort. It is measured in Watts, the same as a light bulb is.

Utilising power for your training allows you to be very precise and use this precision to get results quicker than utilizing HR alone.

If you are training with power, your coach will set some training intensities for you to train to. There will be six zones, aiming to achieve a range of different physiological benefits. These benefits are summerised in the following table:


Zone Physiological Aim
Recovery Power Zone Recovery and unloading of muscles
Endurance Power Zone Increase muscle mitochondria density, improve the efficiency of heart and lungs
Tempo Power Zone Increase muscle glycogen storage and further enhance the efficiency of the heart and lungs
Threshold Power Zone Increase Lactate Threshold
VO2 Max Power Zone Increase maximal oxygen uptake, increase the size of the heart and maximal cardiac output
Anaerobic Capacity/Neuromusclar Power Zone Increase lactate tolerance, increase neuromuscular power

Figure 5: Summary of Physiological Benefits of Training in Various Power Zones

Pace for Running

Pace is the equivalent for running that power is for cycling. Data is recorded on a GPS training tool such as a Garmin. You can see on your wrist exactly the pace you are currently running at.

Just like power, pace is a measure of your output, not your response to an output like HR is. However to get the most out of your GPS training tool, it needs to be combined with HR data.


Advantages of using a GPS training tool include:

  • Maintain target pace in workouts and races,
  • Develop a sense of pace,
  • Design and execute pace-based training plans,
  • Get encouragement to train harder,
  • Track training workload,
  • Track changes in performance, and
  • Analyse and assess workout and race performances.

There are a couple of limitations of a GPS training tool. The resolution of the GPS tracking (which is compounded if running on an athletic track as you are always going round in circles) is not perfect. It is typically within ±5m, if you stand still it may pick you up 5m ahead of where you are and a moment later pick you up 5m behind where you are and determine that you have moved 10m backwards when in fact you haven’t moved. It’s not too much of an issue when moving as it will sense the direction and speed moved and predict where to try and find you. The other limitation is when running on hills and it isn’t so much of a limitation of the device per se, but more of the training methodology.

Garmin is the world leader with GPS based training technology and it interacts very well with Training Peaks. Other options include Nike, Polar, Suunto and Timex.

Pace is measured in your time per distance (usually a kilometre or a mile) and is expressed as min/km eg. 5:00 min/km.

Heart Rate

HR is how much your body is working to achieve the output it is working at (whether cycling, running or otherwise). It is measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM).

If your heart is beating at 60 Bpm, there is one second between beats. At 120 Bpm there is only half a second between beats. Because of this decreased time there is less opportunity for blood to move into the chamber of the heart. At higher intensities this is more pronounced. This means, less blood will get pumped around the body. Less blood transporting less oxygen therefore the body isn’t getting what it needs to maintain that intensity.

HR can be affected by a range of things from how hot or cold the day is to how well hydrated you are or if you have consumed caffeine. This can have an influence on how your heart responds, meaning there is a massive limitation when relying solely on HR data to plan and conduct training session. HR data works best in conjunction with power or pace data. 

Borg Scale

The Borg Scale is a subjective self-assessment of how hard you are working. It is very unreliable and isn’t always the same level as it is influenced by your mood. It can’t be stored and then uploaded onto Training Peaks, but if there is no other method of describing the intensity of training then this is the best option left.

Borg Scale Description Conversation Test
0 Nothing at all Asleep in bed
½ Very very weak Sitting around
1 Very weak Low intensity
2 Weak Able to maintain a conversation
3 Moderate
4 Somewhat strong Able to converse by catching your breath between short sentences
5 Strong
6 Two to three word sentences and needing to catch your breath between them
7 Very strong
8 Sucking in oxygen and only able to grunt or groan
10 Very very strong

Figure 6: Word picture for varying intensities utilising the Borg Scale of Perceived Exersion


Power Pace HR Borg
Recovery Power Zone PZ2 Recovery HR Zone Borg 1-2
Endurance Power Zone PZ3 Endurance HR Zone Borg 2-3
Tempo Power Zone PZ4 Tempo HR Zone Borg 4-5
Threshold Power Zone PZ6 Threshold HR Zone Borg 6-7
VO2 Max Power Zone PZ8 VO2 Max HR Zone Borg 8-10
Anaerobic Capacity/Neuromusclar Power Zone PZ10 N/A N/A

Figure 7: Comparison between Key Training Zones for Differnt Training Modalities

T-Time for Swimming

Your T-Time is a method for determining how much rest you get for a repetition of swimming. It is based on your general fitness and ability to swim a repeated 100m effort. It is not based on your maximum swimming pace or fastest swim speed.

It is easiest to explain T-Time by giving an example e.g. your coach advises you that your T-Time is two minutes flat (2:00) and your set involves swimming 15x 100m on T+15sec. Your T-Time is 2:00 plus the 15 seconds equals 2:15 and that is how often you start each repetition. If you finish your first rep in 1:55 that leaves 20 seconds rest as you wait for the clock to get back around to the 2:15, your next rep might be 2:00 which means you now only have 15 seconds rest and so on.

Rep Number Start Time Time to swim 100m Rest prior to starting next rep Start Time for next rep
1 0:00 1:55 0:20 2:15
2 2:15 2:00 0:15 4:30
3 4:30 2:02 0:13 6:45
4 6:45 1:59 0:16 9:00
5 9:00 2:03 0:12 11:15
6 11:15 2:02 0:13 13:30
7 13:30 2:05 0:10 15:45
8 15:45 2:04 0:11 18:00
9 18:00 2:06 0:09 20:15
10 20:15 2:08 0:07 22:30
11 22:30 2:10 0:05 24:45
12 24:45 2:09 0:06 27:00
13 27:00 2:08 0:07 29:15
14 29:15 2:11 0:04 31:30
15 31:30 2:07 N/A N/A

Figure 9: Hypotetical Example of a Swimmer with a T-Time of 2:00 conducting a session of 15x 100m on T+15

If the distance of the repetitions was based on 50m reps the time used might be ½T+10. For this swimmer half T is half of 2:00 equals 1:00 plus the 10sec equals 1:10. There fore they start each rep every 70 seconds.

If the distance of the rep was say 200m a session might be something like 8x 200m on 2T+20sec. In this case we are doubling the T-Time and adding 20sec, therefore 4:20.


Welcome to Qwik Kiwi: Training Peaks

Training for Triathlon with Training PeaksTraining Peaks is the software/app that we use to deliver your training to you. By now you should have received the log in information from your coach. If you previously had a Training Peaks account you should have received from your coach a link to connect your athlete account with Training Peaks to their coaching account.

Training Peaks is an online service that acts as a virtual training diary for you to receive your training from your coach, record your training and allow your coach to review your training. It has many great functional tools that benefit athletes training with devices such as heart rate monitors, GPS watches and Power Meters that load up onto a computer. Training Peaks can automatically upload this information, quickly, easily and seamlessly.

Marathon Training
Coach Athlete Relationship

Phone App

Training Peaks is available online by logging in here. For those that prefer to use their phone, tablet or iPad it is available as an app for both iOS and Android (click on the platform to be taken to the download link).

Receiving Your Training

When you first log in to Training Peaks you will view a calendar. Each day will have your workout(s) loaded onto it and from the calendar you will be able to see a summary of the session (sport, duration or distance and a name). When you click on the workout you will be able to view more detail. You will need to do this prior to conducting the workout to see the detail of the session.

Review your weeks training in advance and if you are unsure of how to conduct a particular session contact your coach as early as possible. This gives them time to review what they set for you and get back to you with an answer. Sending a text saying: “Hi Coach I’m heading to the pool in half an hour can you please explain….” Doesn’t leave much time to get an answer to you.

Recording Training

The best way to record your training is to use a training tool that loads directly to Training Peaks. We highly recommend Garmin devices as they link easily and seamlessly into Training Peaks, but products from other brands also work too. Polar has a few good options, however they can be complicated to connect up.

Alternatively you can use a phone app such as Strava to record your training on your phone and then use Tapiriik to synchronise the data from Strava over to Training Peaks. The downside of Strava is that it isn’t as accurate and as reliable as a Garmin and doesn’t record as much data. But a small amount is better than nothing.

Recording Other Data

We recommend that you record other metrics that can give your coach a great insight into how your training is going or more accurately how your recovery from training is going.

Resting Heart Rate

Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is a good indication of how well you have recovered. But this information is only good if you have been doing it for a long time and we know what your baseline metrics are.

First thing in the morning whilst lying in bed, count your pulse at your wrist for a full 60 seconds. Count full beats only, start at 0 then continue as normal 1, 2, 3 etc….

Record this by clicking on the ‘plus’ symbol on the Training Peaks calendar, then add a metric and record your RHR as Pulse.


Body Composition Scales New Zealand
Tanitia Scales can be purchased from Qwik Kiwi. Contact Coach Ray to do so.

It’s recommended that your weight is monitored on a regular basis without being the focus of the programme (unless your goal is weight lose). The best way to do this is to weigh yourself whilst naked, first thing in the morning having defecated and urinated but prior to showering, eating or drinking, preferably on the same day of the week. This creates consistency.

As with the RHR, this can be loaded into Training Peaks in the same fashion.

Percentage Fat

Your weight doesn’t really tell you much about your composition. BMI is just as bad (don’t get me started about BMIs unless we are sitting down and have got some time maybe over a beer or wine)! Getting your body fat measured is the only way to reliably see the changes in your composition.

If you weigh 80kg and try to get leaner as you train, hypothetically you may lose 1kg of fat and grow 1kg of muscle. You still weigh 80kg but without measuring your body composition you have no idea and all you can see is that you are STILL 80kg and supposedly nothing has changed.

  Weight Muscle Fat Percentage
Start 80kg 56kg 24kg 30.0%
Now 80kg 57kg 23kg 28.7%

You have made some significant positive changes but you can’t see it and therefore get de-motivated. If you are interested in getting a set of Tanita Body Composition Scales see the details below.

Load this data in to Training Peaks just like you would with Weight or RHR.

Sleep Quantity

Have a rough estimate (to nearest 15min) of how long you slept for. Usually you don’t know exactly when you fell asleep, but if you went to bed at 9pm and took about 30 minutes to fall asleep and your alarm woke you up at 5:30 then you can estimate that it was ~8hrs.

As with RHR, Weight and Percentage Fat it can simply be recorded in Training Peaks as a metric.


Your coach will prepare your training based on the events discussed in your initial consultation. As your training develops you may hear about another event that wasn’t considered or discussed at the initial consultation. This is fine and if you want to do it your coach can work it into your programme. At the very least your coach can advise you on the disadvantages of doing the event (i.e. it might totally screw up your training for your main event, however we can usually adapt the training to accommodate it).

There is nothing more frustrating to your coach than planning and preparing your training and not be aware of an event you plan to do and only finding out after the event that you did it.

Worse still is seeing on Facebook that your athlete did an event that they didn’t have the courtesy to let you know about and they also omit uploading those details onto Training Peaks.



Welcome to Qwik Kiwi: Communciation

Coach Athlete RelationshipLike any good relationship the coach:athlete relationship requires communication that goes both ways. It is important that you communicate with your coach. They will touch base with you when they need to, but to ensure that you get the best value for money they need to know what you have been doing.

The best way for the coach to receive communication with you is by updating your Training Peaks account with as much accurate information as you can. If you have a Garmin or other training tool that can upload direct to Training Peaks they will be able to see exactly what you have done. It also helps if you write some comments in the comments section about the sessions.

If you don’t have a suitable training tool, you can still write information in the completed boxes. Only worry about entering data that is accurate. If you haven’t measured it, don’t try and guess it. It might mean the only information you have is the duration of the workout. That is fine.

Skype and Phone Consultations

Phone ConsultationsAs part of your coaching service your coach will make themselves available for consultations. This is usually promoted on Facebook and the newsletter (if you aren’t on Facebook you will still hear about it in the newsletter). Book in by commenting on the Facebook post with the time that you would like. Make sure you have a read of the other comments and so you avoid booking a time that someone else has booked. If you need a special consultation, feel free to contact your coach directly and arrange something suitable.

Blog Articles

Most weeks will see a few articles related to training, racing or nutrition loaded onto the Coach Ray website. Details are often released in the fortnightly newsletter. If there is a particular topic you would like covered please feel free to ask your coach to write an article specifically covering the topic you are interested in or go to the Ask Coach Ray section of the website and submit a question to be answered.


Each fortnight we try and release a newsletter with a whole raft of information. We avoid spamming and try our best to include interesting and meaningful information. Content varies from newsletter to newsletter and will often include an article about training, recent race results from the coaches and athletes, upcoming events that you may be interested in, as well as articles from other members. If you would like to submit an article feel free to contact Coach Ray directly on, with your article and preferably with some photos to go alongside the article.


If at any stage you have any questions feel free to email, phone, text or Facebook message your coach. Alternatively you can use the Ask Coach Ray feature of the blog and I will write an article about it, publishing it on the blog for everyone to take advantage of.

Team Qwik Kiwi member finishing Taupo Ironman
Team Qwik Kiwi member finishing Taupo Ironman

The High Five-0 Challenge for Mental Health

I first met Mal Law 4 or so years ago at a running event and was introduced by a mutual friend. To be in the company of one of New Zealand’s top adventure runners was awe inspiring to say the least, but I soon realised he was a very down to earth and humble person, actually a real nice bloke.

He talked about this BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) he had in mind but wasn’t quite ready to share just yet and please watch this space. He then rang me one day asking if I could give him a ride as he was doing a “reccie” up Mt Te Aroha.  I met Mal and Steve Neary half way up the mountain and ran down with them and discovered just what this BHAG was, to run 50 peaks in 50 days, 50 marathon distances! And before I could stop myself, I was heard to say “can I run with you on this leg”, being Mt Te Aroha and my home town. I was told that I could but there were more details to come and once again watch this space.

I got home and after thinking about it thought, Geez Suzy what have you got yourself in for this time! But I had made the commitment and will just have to follow my word. Over the course of two years it took him to train for the High Five O Challenge, I was known to send Coach Ray numerous emails that read like this….. I don’t think I can do this!…..I don’t think I am going to be able to keep up!…..holy moly it is one mother of a track and I’m scared!!! ,… .to which he replied with a list of many reasons why I could and would be able to do it.

Day 45 Mt Te Aroha finally arrived; Mal was very tired after all he had just run 44 peaks in 44 days and 44 marathon distances all over the country. I was excited, apprehensive and in awe of this very normal man doing huge feats of endurance and holding it all together to plaster a smile on his face and greet each and every one of us, his support runners of which there were ten.

We set off from the Karangahake car park in the gorge, Mal set the pace and we all settled in behind him and trucked along chatting and getting to know each other. The crew were a mixed bag, a lovely girl from Ireland, a man from Germany, runners from Tauranga that could do sub 3 hour marathons, runners from Auckland and Hamilton, and then there was myself and Julie from Te Aroha. The pace wasn’t fast but it was a good steady gait to which we made the most of on the flats as there was certainly some steep stuff to come. Plenty of river crossings, swing bridges, a quick snack at the Waitawheta hut along the way, plenty of photo opportunities and some very steep climbs and there it was…the Mt Te Aroha TV Mast and trig, we had made it! We were at the top, Whoop Whoop another peak knocked off. We were met by a small group of supporters with flags and after a last minute refuel we were on the decent.

We came down the mountain at speed and were met at the lookout point with a another bunch  of supporters and a bottle of red wine, after a compulsory swig it was home James – we burst out of the bush to a good old fashioned small town welcome, local band singing, BBQ and a hundred people yelling and screaming just for us! We felt like movie stars….

There are not enough “WOW” words to describe this Epic Journey – to help raise money for the  Mental Health Foundation, such a worthy cause and to run with a group of cool people and to be a wingman for the legendary Malcolm Law,” an ordinary man doing extraordinary things!”


Suzy Monds

From Timor to Tauranga

I was posted to Timor-Leste with the NZ Army and had completed three Ironman events where I completely self-coached with no idea what I was doing and finishing results that said as much.  Two of these events I had trained and competed in whilst on holiday leave from Timor.  I quickly realised that if I wanted to be committed to the sport that had changed my life around, I needed to take it seriously and sign up with a coach.  There are plenty of coaches to look for on-line or cheekily obtain a training programme on-line, but I had already made up my mind that Ray Boardman was the coach I wanted from Qwik Kiwi. Continue reading “From Timor to Tauranga”

How to prepare for a successful Enduro Cycling Event

Cycle Training NZ

I asked Andrea Davies (helmet number 9636) to write about her experiences training for and riding the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge Enduro (2 laps or 320km) event. Here is what she contributed:

I’d always wanted to ride two laps of Taupo so in Feb 2013 decided this was the year to tick it off my bucket list.  I had reconnected with trainer Ray who set my training schedule.  All was going well until I got knocked off my bike (by another cyclist) in July, which resulted in a hospital stay due to concussion and my pelvis suffering two breaks. Continue reading “How to prepare for a successful Enduro Cycling Event”