Triathlon and the weather

Todd Leckie Triathlon

The weather has a big effect across all three elements of the triathlon. Professional triathlete Todd Leckie stays ahead of the pack by using the weather forecast to plan his race day training.

"I train on average six hours a day, six days a week... triathlon is my job. I look at the weather forecast everyday and plan my training accordingly"

On meeting Todd at his preferred training ground at Beachy Head, one thing became quickly apparent: a typical training day for a professional triathlete will put your Sunday jog to shame!

A leisurely 13 km run is often followed by 85 km on a bike then 6-8 km in the pool.

Triathlon races, after all, combine swimming, cycling and running - in that order. The event is conducted over a variety of distances: for the Olympics, both men's and women's Triathlons will consist of a 1,500 m swim, a 43k m bike ride and a 10 km run. This is completed from start to finish - with no breaks. The transitions between each discipline is part of the race, so crucial seconds can be lost or won here.

The level of physical exertion through these three disciplines means the athletes' bodies are taking a pounding, but the weather has a big part to play in how gruelling the race will become. Todd says, "When I am not training, I am recovering for the next session."

How the weather affects Triathlon events
Triathlete Todd Leckie explains how the weather affects Triathlon events.

Tod Leckie Triathlon and the weather transcript Video transcript - How the weather affects triathlon (PDF, 83 kB)

Britain's ideal weather conditions for professional athletes

He told me his ideal conditions would be cool temperatures, no rain and a favourable tail wind - always helpful! In Britain, though, he admits this is often not the case. However, there is logic to his chosen training ground at Beachy Head - as he says, "I understand Eastbourne is the sunniest place in the UK so [nice weather] is actually relatively normal."

Daily forecasts are important for training too, as the athletes want to know they can train in the most efficient way possible. Todd's set up his homepage to incorporate the daily Met Office forecast so all the information he needs is in one place - it's the first thing he sees when he fires up the laptop each morning. "I like to look at the wind direction and if I know I have a four hour bike ride I will try to do the first two hours into the wind so I have a nice two hours on the way back with the wind behind me."

Accurate forecasts are key to safety and success

However, rain is the biggest issue for Triathletes because of its impact on the cycling sector. Slippery roads and small mistakes can add up to devastating consequences, so Todd and his team mates will be taking a close look at the rainfall risk in their forecast. He says, "You are never going to get ill from doing three hours in the wet but it is quite slippery and you might fall off your bike. If it is wet and windy I would think twice about riding."

On the big day itself, though, he won't have an option. But then again, neither will the competing teams. One thing we do know - the chance of rain will be a closely scrutinised part of that day's forecast for the Triathlete team. Luckily they are supported by a team of forecasters supplied to LOCOG by the Met Office who will do their best to ensure accurate forecasts. These will then provide vital clues as to the best preparation for the race ahead for competing athletes.

You can stay ahead of the weather by downloading the Met Office iPhone or  Android apps for free, or by visiting the Met Office homepage.

More information about  London 2012 Triathlon is available from the official London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games website. Information about getting started in Triathlon, including local clubs, kit, distances and training information can be found on British Triathlon website.

Last updated: 1 August 2012

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