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After knee surgery stalled her successful GB 1500m track career, Emma Pallant made the switch to multisport endurance events and hasn’t looked back. A duathlon World Champion in 2015 and 2016, Emma added aquathlon World Champion to her title list this year and topped a season of triathlon podiums by taking silver at this year’s 70.3 Triathlon World Championship.

Here, the 28-year-old Team Dillon athlete and coach talks about bike spills, getting dropped by ‘picnic goers’ and setting 2018 Ironman goals.

Photo Credit: James Mitchell

You were a world-class track runner before knee surgery. Did the move to training across three disciplines instead of one take any adjustment?
It was a bit of a shock to the system! As a runner I was sponsored by Nike and able to go fulltime [as an athlete], but I worked as a physiotherapist as well. Only training once a day, I would have gone insane sitting around all day! Then, when I made the move across to triathlon [in 2012], I had to stop working as a physio to fit all the training in. I went from once-a-day training to sometimes training four sessions when I was double swimming – I loved it! I learnt to sleep better and, for me, keeping moving all day was the ideal lifestyle!

Was it tricky to switch your mentality from ‘track athlete’ to triathlete and duathlete? I heard the nutrition element took some adjustment?
I think nutrition was a massive factor. I started out thinking people were really greedy for bringing food out on the bike – it was a training session right, not a picnic? But after getting dropped by these ‘picnic goers’ and royally bonking a few times I learnt my lesson! I also think the way of pacing things a bit better took adjustment. As a runner I used to go full blast in most things – for everything I did I would head out hard and just try and carry on, but when you have another two sessions in the day you don’t last the week trying to race everything! The same thing with the swim, I had to slow things down to learn technique, rather than just put all my energy into the water and end up over-kicking and swimming slower.

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When you switched to triathlon did you bring with you any ‘bad’ habits from your track years?
Definitely! I would say diet would be the biggest one. As a runner I’d been on some crazy diets, cutting out whole food groups, and I really messed up my stomach by doing this – I’d trained my body to push hard on very little food which led to me getting ill a lot. When I moved to triathlon and met Michelle [Dillon, coach and former Olympian] and Stu [Hayes] they really sorted out my diet and this took time to adjust to. Michelle also changed my whole running style, which again took time to get use to but this totally fixed up my knee pain and now I can run completely pain-free. She taught me to listen to my body as well and not push through injuries but take the time to solve them, and whilst you are focus on hammering the other two disciplines.

How did you find cycling in the beginning and the tactics and technical aspects of riding?
I was a bit of a nightmare to begin with on the bike! I would corner with my inside foot down, had a couple of unclipping incidents from the cleats which must have been entertaining for everyone queuing at the traffic lights, and I had no idea of the benefits of drafting in my first triathlon – I just went for it and never sat in. My handling wasn’t the best and after a few bad race crashes in London and Bratislava I had a bit more caution in wet conditions!

You’ve achieved world titles in aquathlon and duathlon and an amazing second place at this year’s triathlon 70.3 world champs – which of these events do you feel comes most naturally to you?
I definitely feel more in control in a duathlon with my strongest event first and last. I think it really helps with race strategies and I always feel more relaxed lining up in a duathlon than on the swim pontoon!

What does your training week look like Monday to Friday?
Monday – Key swim, long ride, run
Tuesday – Brick session, swim, gym, run/bike
Wednesday – Key swim, long ride, run
Thursday – Run sesh, swim, bike
Friday – Active recovery, so I always swim, yoga and then either a light run or ride
Saturday – Brick session, swim, gym
Sunday – Long ride, swim

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Does your training include strength training?
I do three gym sessions a week and the most important part of this is my scapula strength setting circuit. I broke my clavicle the season before last and decided against having surgery on it to get it fixed – the point it was broken in would have needed plating and there were a lot of complications that could come with this. So it’s still broken and the more strength work I do around my shoulder, the more the muscles hold it in place and the less impingements I get when I swim.

What kind of mileage and hours do you tend to put in on your swim, bike and run each week?
So, I would say I do around 28km swimming, around 7 hours running and around 20 hours a week on the bike.

You’re a Team Dillon coach yourself. Is this a nice complement to your own training?
I love coaching! I work with some amazing athletes and love the challenges they give me and the balance this gives my days in terms of being less selfish as an athlete. Plus, stretching the brain as well as the muscles and writing my programmes forces me to sit still in the evenings! I train during the day and will answer the odd email between sessions, but then my main work and emails etc will be done in the evenings.

For a number of years it’s been about improving your swim. Now, your focus is more on the bike. How has this changed your training?
I much prefer racing when the bike is more important than the swim because, like you say, it gives the training more of a land-based focus and I much prefer the bike to the swim. I just find I can hurt myself so much more on the bike and I love the feeling after a big week of bike mileage!

Photo Credit: James Mitchell

Do you train by power or feel on the bike?
I use power in my key sessions as a point of focus to race and push me on, but I won’t ride to any set power or race with power; I go purely by feel on steady rides and in races.

What are your thoughts on racing full ironman? Are you tempted after watching Kona last month?
I’m really looking forward to doing my first Ironman and Kona is for sure the thing that excites me the most and [will be] my long-term goal. For the next few years at least, 70.3 will be my primary goal, but I’ll definitely be starting my Ironman career, and if I qualify for Kona then I think it’s always good to get as much experience with it as possible before you target it as the key race in the year.

When you’re hurting in a race what goes through your mind to pull you through?
I draw on my training and think about the hardest sessions that I’ve got through and really just embrace that pain. I always think that because you’re constantly training on fatigue, a race never hurts more than training. I also think about all the people that support and help me and the people I want to do proud – that always gives you an extra lift if you’re struggling in a race!

Do you do any training specifically to build mental strength and resilience?
I think on the deepest, darkest sessions, where you’re literally hanging on for dear life, nothing beats building mental resilience like showing and proving to yourself in training what you are capable of and the levels you can push yourself to.

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You’ve worked really hard on your swim. Are you happy with your progress?
I’m really happy with my progress and it’s literally down to the hours and patience that Stu and Michelle have poured into me. Michelle would even get in the pool and hold me up by my costume, physically putting my arm in the position she wanted it. In a way, the broken shoulder also did me a favour because when I couldn’t swim for a month it made me stop and think about technique and how to slow things down. I visualised strong swim techniques and made myself a gym workout that I could do on the land using the correct swim motor movements against resistance, but slowed down by 10 times. Something you couldn’t do in the water because you’d sink!

Now we’re heading into winter how will your training change?
I still have two races left for the season in Bahrain and the Island House triathlon (this weekend) so I’m back into a tough block at the moment but managed to sneak a funky 10-mile run road race in there which was good fun. After the races Michelle and Stu will go on holiday and I will train without structure for a month or so to give them a break, and spend some time seeing friends and doing all the things I normally have to turn down when I’m purely training. But I’ll keep fit so I can do a race at the end of January. I’m looking forward to this because it’ll be a time where I can experiment with things, spice the training up a bit and push my body in a non-structured way. Then we head to Spain for the real winter block with Team Dillon’s training camp for two months.

How has your approach to nutrition changed since you joined Team Dillon and your pro triathlon team, BMC-etixx?
It’s changed so much. I have a lot more of a healthy outlook on food now, and use it as fuel not as a cutback tool! I eat so much more than when I was a runner but I’ve learnt to listen to what my body needs. This was a massive lesson I learned when I joined the BMC-etixx pro triathlon team because before then I just wasn’t fuelling enough in races. Whereas now we write it all down and I go into the race with a clear strategy and one that I’ve practiced day in, day out, in training.

Photo Credit: James Mitchell

What do you eat for breakfast before a race?
Pre-race I eat a heap of bread and jam! It really is that simple, so I can do it anywhere and have a breakfast that doesn’t take any time. The amount [I eat] will vary depending on the length of the race.

Have you managed to get over the gut issues you’ve suffered with since your running days?
Thanks to Michelle and Stu we’ve really got on top of this. I still have the odd flare up if I’m ill or something because it always takes down your weakest area of the body, but in general I rarely have issues these days, which is amazing!

Do you get nervous before you race?
I do get pretty nervous before a race but Michelle always manages to keep me positive and relaxed – I think she takes on all the stress instead! I love to listen to music before a race, just to zone into a good tune to get me buzzing and feeling positive, and allow me to zone out of everything else.

What are your favourite items of kit for training and racing?
I love my Polar watch. I never used to run with a watch and would always blast out the door on my long runs and then come crawling back home, so the Polar V800 has defo changed that around. It’s easy to read, gives you your average pace and isn’t big! My Hoka One One Trainers are my favourite racing tool, along with the tinted uvex sunglasses or Compressport visor – both keep the sun out of your face and get you in that zone.

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You seem to have a fantastic relationship with Michelle. Do you think this has played a part in your success and enjoyment as an athlete?
Michelle has been massive in my life, as well as Stu. I really am a product of Team Dillon and they’ve done for me what they have done for so many athletes such as Jodie Stimpson and Will Clarke. They pour their energy into goals with the same passion and dedication as the athlete, leaving no stone unturned and having fun along the way. They’ve taught me lessons in life as well as triathlon, and nothing is ever too much, from cooking me a meal after a hard day of training to helping me move house. They really are more like parents to me and I owe all successes to them.

Being part of a team used to worry me; when I had injury troubles as a runner I would try and isolate myself so I didn’t feel like I was letting anyone else down, whereas Michelle and Stu have taught me that you work through the good and the hard times together, that it strengthens the team and then it makes the celebrations even sweeter because you have people around you who have lived it with you, who know what it took to get there and feel the highs and the lows with you. I would say our team motto is work hard, play harder, celebrate hardest!

Are you sponsored by anyone at the moment?
I am, by Team Dillon, Hoka one one and my pro triathlon team BMC-Etixx (who are partnered with Speedo, Polar, Uvex, Compressport, Uplace, Taxc, Shimano and fizik)

You’ve had a fantastic 2017. What’s on the horizon for you in 2018?
The 70.3 Worlds will again be another focus goal and also to do my first Ironman, but in and around that just to race aplenty and have heaps of fun doing it and aim to make my support team proud!

Photo Credit: Wagner Araujo

To keep up with Emma’s triathlon and duathlon training and races, you can follow her on social media via, and For more information about Team Dillon coaching and training camps visit