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Irish Times interview Planet X triathlete Aileen

Irish Times interview Planet X triathlete Aileen

It's something of an 'Aileen special' this week at Planet X. Earlier this week we brought you news of her 2nd place at the Ishigaki ITU World Cup in Japan, now here we bring you an interesting piece from the Irish Times.

The Irish News writes...

Aileen Morrison's Olympic year got off to a terrific start a fortnight ago when she finished second in a European Triathlon Union race in Portugal – but the Derry woman will get a better indication of her early season form in the first ITU World Triathlon Series race of the year in Sydney this weekend.

“I was happy with the result, coming second in Portugal, but maybe I’m being a little bit harsh on myself as, for me, I think I should have won,” she said.

“Sydney will be a better yardstick as Portugal was a European Cup but Sydney is a World Series race so it’s the cream of the crop and all the top girls will be there.”

After a consistently superb 2011, Morrison is currently sitting 11th in the Olympic rankings and cannot drop out of the top 55 required for Olympic qualification, although the list won’t become official until the end of May.

What it has allowed Morrison and Triathlon Ireland high performance director Chris Jones to do is plan ahead so she knows what she’ll be doing and where she’ll be every day until the start of the Games.

“It’s an advantage, but I have plenty of races in my calendar, it’s not a question of picking and choosing races,” she said.

“I could just train all day and just do one or two races but I’m still learning a lot about racing and tactics. I’m happy to be going to these big races and gaining experience and hopefully I’ll be able to put those experiences to good use when I get to London.

“You have to be good at racing, not just cycling, swimming and running, so I do have races but hopefully it is an advantage knowing when they are and that I’ll be going to London anyway.”

Despite being assured of going to her first Olympics, Morrison is still a little reticent to talk about it.

“I knew by the end of September last year I was going because I knew 35 people couldn’t overtake me. But I could fall off my bike the day before the race and I’m not on the starting line yet so I very much take each day as it comes,” she said. “I’m not an Olympian yet bt people are calling me an Olympian and saying I’m going to the Olympics and they tell me about buying their tickets and booking their hotels. I’m just a little nervous.

“I still have to get to that start line and when I’m 100 yards away from that blue carpet and the finishing line is when I’ll know I’ve competed in the Olympics.

“Sometimes you can’t get across to people that the Olympics isn’t the be-all and end-all.

“After they’re over I fully intend to keep racing this season and try to reach the top 10 in the world over series of races. The Olympics means a lot, but it’s one race. I would like to do well this year and next and at the Commonwealth Games and I don’t want all the attention on one race.”

On her journey, Morrison has the support of her family and the man she calls “her other half” – Davy Reid – as well as her coaches in Triathlon Ireland and the staff at the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland [SINI]. She works closely with SINI’s lead of performance science, Declan Gamble.

“Most of my work involves monitoring Aileen’s responses and adaptations to training,” said Gamble.

“A typical Monday morning begins with an early morning swim at 5.30am at the LeisurePlex in Lisburn. During this aerobic endurance session, Aileen might swim 10 sets of 300m. At the end of each set I take a little finger-prick blood sample and get a heart rate reading.

“From this I can see how hard Aileen is working and how much the actual training set is taxing her body.

“After breakfast and a short sleep, Aileen would then travel across to SINI for a combined 90-minute bike and 40-minute treadmill session in the sports science laboratory. These sessions allow me to chart Aileen’s progress through training phases.

“All of this information is passed on to Aileen’s coaches Chris Jones and Tommy Evans and it can be used to confirm that she has improved her fitness, or to highlight that we may need to ease off a little with the intensity to allow more recovery if she is showing signs of fatigue.

“As we approach the London Olympics, my main priority to is to help and ensure that Aileen remains healthy and fit to compete. “Therefore, monitoring her performances during training is an important aspect of her overall programme of support services that she receives from SINI.

“Aileen is the highest profile female endurance athlete in SINI, and she is an outstanding role model for any aspiring young athlete.”

Morrison added: “What Declan does is totally integral to everything I do and without him I couldn’t do what I do.

“His analysis of my training helps Chris and Tommy decide what I should be focusing on or not and it’s all about putting those little things together that can make such a big difference.

“I’ve been working with Declan for four years and I totally trust him and everything he does. If Declan tells me I should be doing something I’ll go and do it.”

And while it may be difficult to quantify in percentage terms how much all this work helps to improve her performance, Morrison said: “I have everything here that I need and I couldn’t do it without the work Declan and SINI does. I have the swimming club, a brilliant cycling club at the Maryland Wheelers as well as SINI down the road and Chris and Tommy as my coaches, so it’s all there.”

Check out Planet X's high performance triathlon bikes.

26 April 2012

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