Meet a triathlete friend – Neil Clelland

One day and two ‘Meet a triathlete friend’ posts.

Neil is another triathlon friend who I met at the Wednesday morning STC swim sessions several months ago.

Neil has recently completed in Ironman 70.3 Mallorca earlier in the year and you’ll read more about his amazing experience below.

As with the other posts in this series, I’ve asked Neil to answer questions related to his triathlon history, experience as well as asking him for advice.

What do you do when you’re not competing or training?

I enjoy wasting time with my wife, which usually means chatting in coffee shops or getting absorbed in Game of Thrones. I also play guitar in a local punk band.

How long have you been a triathlete?

I did my first triathlon in 2009, but due to circumstances I then didn’t do any for a couple of years. I started to get back into it in 2012.

What got you hooked on triathlons?

I was hooked as soon as I crossed the finish line of that first race in 2009. I had some friends who were signing up for a triathlon and asked me if I wanted to join them, so we could train together and have a bit of fun. Whilst I knew I could run 10km, I could not imagine swimming 1500m or riding 40km – let alone doing them one after the other. As it happened I signed up and then the race sold out before my friends had entered, so I ended up doing the training and everything on my own. It took a lot perseverance, but I have never forgotten the feeling of pure joy and satisfaction I got from finishing. Entering that race was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Who are your triathlon inspirations?
I get inspiration from the achievements of those around me. Within Southampton Triathlon Club and around Southampton there are many people who are competing on the world stage and people, like yourself James, who are making a massively positive impact on those around them with their help and support through various clubs and parkrun etc. These are all down-to-earth, humble and “normal” people who are achieving extra-ordinary things – it is a privilege to be around them.

What have you been particularly proud of achieving in triathlon?

In 2012 I did a number of events for charity raising over £2500 in the process. The idea was to do a total of 500 km across 4 running events (Exbury 10km, Wiltshire 10 mile, Reading half marathon, Gloucester marathon) and 4 triathlons (Crystal Palace sprint, Steelman Olympic, Marlow Half distance, Midnight Man Full distance). I was definitely proud of myself for completing this, especially as I’d never run a marathon or done a triathlon that was longer than Olympic distance.

What does your typical training week consist of?

Swim: STC swim sessions on Mon, Wed and Sat; Bike: turbo trainer on Tues, long ride on Sunday; Run: try to get a couple of lunchtime runs in during the week, mixing recovery; tempo and hill sessions. This year, I’ve also been adding in 2-3 specific core and strength sessions per week.

What’s your favourite triathlon discipline and why?

I am enjoying my bike at the moment. This is the area I’ve improved the most since starting triathlon, so it is satisfying to see that.

What’s your least favourite triathlon discipline and why?

This would have to be the swim. If I didn’t do triathlon, I would only splash about in hot countries on holiday.

What triathlon targets do you have in your sights?

In 2012, when I did the Midnight Man, I hated the training and I hated the race. I think this came down to the fact that I did not have a good enough fitness base to build upon. I feel I did not give the distance the respect it requires. Having said that, I would love to have another go at it, when I feel I am more ready. In fact, I have it provisionally planned for 2021 – so it’s definitely a long-term target!

What’s your favourite triathlon event (e.g. sprint, Olympic, Half or Full)?

Half. You can’t fake a half, you have to put the training in – but it is not quite so life-consuming as a Full.

What’s your favourite triathlon event so far?

I’d have to say the IM 70.3 Mallorca that I did this year. The bike course was just stunning and with it being Julian’s stag do, there were a lot of friendly faces on the course.

If you could share one triathlon tip or secret to success, what would it be?

It would probably be to find a training program or approach which has a rationale that resonates with you. There is a lot of contradictory information and advice flying about, but I think if you find something that you believe will work, then the chances are it will work for you.

What’s your favourite triathlon related gadget, piece of equipment or web site?

It would have to be my Garmin. I have the old 310XT and it is a bit like having a an old desktop computer on my wrist, but it comes with me everywhere – I love the data and the analysis.

What’s your next triathlon and what are your goals for that event?

I am doing the Swashbuckler at the start of July. It is the first time my inlaws are coming to cheer me on, so my goal is to be sprinting up the final hill through Bucklers Hard as a vision of power and strength. Seriously though, as naff as it sounds, my primary goal for every event is to try and enjoy it and feel that I have given the best of myself. If I can beat last years time of 5:33 as well, that would be great too!

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