Tom Bishop on the challenges of moving to middle distance

British pro Tom Bishop talks through the changes he's making to his training to be competitive in middle-distance races

Tom Bishop racing at Leeds

Since my race in Swansea, I‘ve spent some time planning the second half of my season. It’s been quite a strange period, to be honest. I had a short break and then went straight into full training in preparation for some upcoming half-distances races.


I entered Challenge Sanremo, Ironman Venice 70.3 and Challenge Peguera, and have also been nominated for a wildcard at the US Open in Dallas.

Learning on the job

I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading and listening to podcasts, as well as reaching out to some triathletes who’ve already made to progression from short-course racing to long course.

David McNamee was especially a great help. We used to be housemates and he’s someone I respect a great deal. Plus, I can’t think of many who made the transition to long course better.

I’ve also been fortunate to have the opportunity to train with Aaron Royle, who recently came third in the Canadian Open. That experience has been really insightful, as I really had no idea of the volume or intensity you had to train to be competitive.

The truth is, I’m used to short course training, which is very intensive and polarised in relative comparison. It’s really struck me how patient you have to be in training for long-course races.

Making a plan for success

I discussed some ideas with my coach and training partners in an attempt to figure out the best ‘bang for buck’ training I could do in preparation for the next few races. I knew I needed to address certain areas of my physiology to narrow the performance gap to the top competitors.

Strength endurance was a big area we identified, as well as bike speed. To address these, we planned mostly longer strength endurance rides on the bike and run, as well as race-pace sessions that were strictly in the aero position.

Examples of these were over-gear tempo rides and also over-gear short intense efforts. Hilly tempo runs also became a feature and we also focused on just spending time at race pace, though the latter was more because I needed to train my efficiency and technique at these effort levels.

I also had the idea to do some under-over paced efforts, which would simulate the surges in racing, as this was something I was really surprised by during my first middle-distance race at Challenge Wales.

Putting things in practice

After figuring out the content, it was then time to look at fitting it into a racing block. We planned a condensed period of work right up to some French Grand Prix races in early September.

The volume of training was reduced slightly, but it meant I was able to commit to the specific sessions with a bit more freshness. The time in France would be relatively relaxed due to the nature of the racing out there.

As long as I could hit some key sessions and use the Grand Prix races to practice my race tactics, I’d be prepared as well as possible for the upcoming races.

Halfway through my training block, I received some rather scary but exciting news. The PTO had offered me a wildcard slot for the US Open. I couldn’t turn it down, but it somewhat threw a spanner in the works.

I‘d planned my travel from France to Switzerland for an altitude block, then onwards to Italy and Mallorca, as I‘d assumed my wildcard nomination hadn’t been successful! After a few flights and hotel bookings, I had a new race plan.

A spanner in the works

I’m actually finishing this article as I fly to Dallas, and it’s now race week. My time in France was great. I was warmly welcomed into my new French team, Saint-Jean-de-Monts and we raced hard, securing a win and second place in the team standings.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to count for the team because of a minor injury, but I was making myself as useful as possible working on the bike for the guys.

I tweaked my calf the Tuesday before travelling to France during a long tempo session. The session was going really well up until that point and the pace felt quite manageable, but I think it may have been a little too much in the last block of work.

The coaching and medical team recommended a short layoff from running to give me the best chance of being able to finish in Dallas. Without a scan, it’s hard to diagnose exactly what the problem is, but I’ve had a few of these injuries in the past of varying severity and this is the mildest yet, so I’m optimistic for the recovery time.

It isn’t ideal preparation, missing 2-3 weeks of running before one of the biggest races of my career, but it is what it is.

To compensate for the missed run sessions, I’ve been able to add an extra bike session in per week, but I’m hoping years of high volume will help me finish 18km of running this weekend.

Managing expectations

There are going to be a lot of factors to consider in Dallas, the heat being one, so I’m hoping that will take the sting out of the run pace. The reality is that I can only deliver my best on the day, and I’m convincing myself that the freshness I’ve gained from resting my legs a bit will help in the race as well.

This year is all about learning as much about long course racing as possible, so Dallas will be valuable for that, even if the race isn’t going to be entirely what I’d hope for.

After the US Open, I plan to head back to Europe and base myself at altitude in St. Moritz (Switzerland) and Livigno (Italy), then travel to my final races of the year. But the reality is these are still uncertain as it depends how I pull up from this coming weekend.


Top image credit: Ryan Sosna-Boyd/Getty Images