Last week Zwift, the virtual cycling and running platform, revealed the line-up of its new Specialized Zwift Academy Tri Team – a handpicked group of age-group athletes targeting Ironman in Kona. Amongst them was 35-year-old former pro cyclist and swimmer, Bex Rimmington, from Lancashire.
Fresh from the news she’d won a place on the team, I quizzed the Ironman-in-training on her Zwift experience, pro cycling background and Kona training plan.
Congratulations on joining the first Specialized Zwift Academy Tri Team – how does it feel?
Thank you – I’m still in shock. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be selected so when I got the email I was just absolutely gobsmacked! I am unbelievably excited about being part of the Academy. It’s going to be a great year ahead!
Tell me a bit about your background – you’ve swum competitively and you’ve been a pro rider, as well as raced triathlon, is that right?
I used to do a lot of sports when I was a youngster, but decided I wanted to be a swimmer around the age of 12 – I swam nationally until I was 18, which was when I went to work full-time as a swimming teacher. It was through teaching swimming that it was suggested that I should give cycling a go – as luck would have it I was teaching the British Cycling talent team’s daughter to swim!
So I headed to the local club, borrowed a bike and really enjoyed it. With my swimming background, triathlon was a logical progression and coupled with discovering the Ironman event in Lanzarote I had my heart set on it. I had a brief stint racing [triathlon] in 2005 and had some fairly good results, but then it was suggested I should go to the British Cycling headquarters in Manchester to do a lab test and see what my numbers were like – it must have been okay as they said if I focused on cycling I could be alright. Within 6-months I was representing GB as a tandem pilot for blind and VI riders! Crazy!
I did all of this whilst balancing working full-time and training/racing until last January, when I was offered the opportunity to represent Team WNT on a UCI professional team. It was an opportunity that was never going to happen again and whilst my boss at the bike shop has been unbelievably supportive and flexible with my racing, being away for 4-6 weeks at a time wasn’t realistic, so I took the opportunity to go full-time [as a cyclist] and live the dream which was absolutely fantastic!
You’ve competed in paracycling as a tandem rider for the blind. What was this like?
I medalled at the World Paracycling Road Race Championships in 2009 and also ranked no.1 in the world on the road in 2010. I absolutely loved racing on the tandem – there are some fantastic adventures and stories that can be told, like the time I may have accidentally ridden off without the stoker (the para rider) on the back of the bike! As a pilot, you not only have to think about yourself, but also the person on the back as well. You can read a lot through the pedals and the more you ride with someone the more you develop “tandem telepathy” where in a race situation you instinctively know what you have to do without saying anything. It’s a bit spooky!
How long had you been using Zwift before you signed up to the Specialized Zwift Tri Academy?
So, unfortunately I had a bad crash last July at a stage race in the Czech Republic, which meant that I broke my right wrist and left ankle. I was pretty devastated, as that was my season over, but with the help of my physio they worked really hard to get me back up and running again. As part of the rehab as soon as I could ride my bike, I signed myself up to Zwift. It was great to be able to ride with people in the online community and as the weeks progressed and my strength returned I was spending a fair few hours on there!
What was the Specialized Zwift Triathlon Academy competition process like?
The application process was fairly straight forward – we just had to provide details of our best triathlon performances and goals for 2018, and as a prerequisite we needed to be above Level 10 on Zwift cycling. The final part of the process was submitting a video on why we should be selected. I guess they must have had a look at some of the data on Zwift as well, as I don’t think it was my video editing skills that got me the place!
What kind of riding do you typically do each week on and off the turbo?
I currently work full-time so during the dark nights of the winter I tend to do 2-3 turbos a week and then get out onto the road at the weekend when time allows it. Now the clocks have changed, I’m able to venture outside a lot more and then supplement this with key turbo sessions. The turbo sessions are more interval based, and then when I’m out on the road this is when I get the duration and also the hills in – we can’t really avoid them in Lancashire.
Do you like to train by power on the bike?
I’ve used power for quite a few years now, so personally I’m a big fan. I like quantifying what I’ve done and analysing the data afterwards; it really helps to build a picture of where you are at.
What type of running sessions do you currently do?
The running element of my training is one that’s in progression, so normally it’s 2-3 sessions a week. Having not run for a number of years, and then with the injury last year, building things up slowly and progressively is key to staying healthy. I tend to work off hours rather than miles, but within that there is content. I tend not to do too much speed work as I’m still in the early days of running. Gaining a nice foundation is the key for me at the moment, however I still like a good race at the local park run!
What kind of mileage do you typically cover in a week across swim, bike and run?
In a typical week I normally swim around 12-15k, then my long ride at the weekend is normally between 60-90miles with another 3-hours of turbo sessions, but that depends on which Zwift route I select as to how many miles I clock up. Then running between 20-30 miles a week.
Credit: Little Fox Pictures
What does a typical week’s training look like for you at the moment?
I normally swim Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays before work, then turbo on Monday and Friday evenings after work and a cheeky little turbo on Thursday mornings before work – I like to think this also acts as really good transition training as I normally have to sprint to get fed, showered, changed and into work for 8.30am! Weekends are normally long ride days, especially on Sunday, and Saturday is normally long run day. Then I tend to do treadmill sessions on Tuesday mornings and a brick session on Friday and Sunday
Have you started following a set programme for Ironman training yet?
When I made the decision to pursue the Ironman journey that I’d always set out to do, I knew that I needed help. I had a think about someone who had been a cyclist and also done Ironman to offer guidance, and I made contact with Andy Jackson at Peaks Consultancy to ask whether he could help – he’s been absolutely fantastic at balancing my training and working week together.
What kind of run mileage and sessions do you typically cover each week?
So, last weekend I did my longest run to date of 2.5 hours – that was a bit of a breakthrough moment for me, to be able to do that kind of mileage. Then the treadmill sessions typically vary between 60-90mins and we tend to do the Friday run as quite a short, negative split session. So whilst it’s not massive amounts at this moment in time, it seems to be what I can manage so staying healthy is most definitely the key.
You’re a former swimmer – do you enjoy indoor or open water swimming the most?
I’m really looking forward to venturing into the open water once the water temperature here in the UK warms up a bit – after a bad winter the lakes are still in single figures… brrrrrrr! It’s been great getting back in the pool again. One of my really good friends from my swimming days has moved to Manchester and so I go to swim with her squad once or twice a week. She broke the world record last year for the cross Channel relay swim so I know I’m in good hands!
What are your favourite places in the world to run and ride?
I was asked this in the office last week – and I think I went through every country that I’ve ever been to, as I couldn’t pick just one! We did a race in Islamabad, Pakistan once and that was unbelievable, they had camels at the side of the road and there were monkeys in the trees. We got to see and race in a country that had never had a women’s race before; it was truly an unforgettable experience. Then running, I think absolutely anywhere in the world. I just love being outside and exploring. It’s been funny finding trails local to me as you only tend to see the road on your bike and suddenly there are all these hidden tracks that take you to little hidden gems.
What are the next steps with the Specialized Zwift Academy Tri Team – have you met your teammates yet?
The moment that we found out we had made the selection we were all messaging each straight away on Instagram – proper cool. I think all of us are in complete disbelief! We are due to meet each other in June at the Specialized headquarters in California, where we go to pick up our kit, and then in the short term we’re meeting our new fantastic sponsors, Wahoo, Roka, Clif and also our mentors – Lucy Charles and Tim Don!
Are there any areas in particular you’re looking to improve upon in training?
This is all unknown territory for me in a way and everyone that I’ve spoken to has some words of wisdom about the event and training. I like to think at the moment that, although I have some background in the individual disciplines, I am still quite raw in the Ironman event, so I think there are opportunities to grow and improve in every area.
Kona is six months away – are you excited or apprehensive about the challenge?
I think the word I use at the moment is respectful. I am under absolutely no illusion as to what the Ironman event is about and the huge amount of work that everyone puts in to not only get to the start line, but also complete the event. At Ironman Lanzarote I watched the competitors take off into the water first thing in the morning, and stood at the finish line watching last thing at night, encouraging those outside of the time limit, which is why I am respectful – Kona takes a lot of hard work to earn a place to be on the start line.
What insights are you looking to learn from successful triathletes, Lucy Charles and Tim Don?
I am unbelievably excited to be working with both Lucy and Tim. I’m sure they have lots of pearls of wisdom that will help with my triathlon journey. It is all just about learning and taking it all on board to grow and develop in the event.
Keep up with Bex’s journey to Ironman with Zwift via her social media accounts: www.instagram.com/bexrimmington, www.twitter.com/bexrimmington and www.bexrimmington.com. For more information about the Specialized Zwift Academy Tri Team visit https://academy.zwift.com.