May 15, 2018

The Training Partner

“The Cafe-Stop,” “Procrastinator,” “Yapper,” what kind of training partner are you?

by Caroline Livesey

Triathlon can be a solo sport.  Age groupers with jobs (there are many without!) and PROs with jobs (there are many of those too) will know that when you have 70 mins to fit in a 60 min session, waiting for a friend with bad timekeeping can be a recipe for volcanic anger.

Picking the right training partner for your mood and, if we’re honest, your need for ego-massaging can make the difference between trudging round a session you don’t much fancy and flying round in double-quick time while fitting in a strategically-timed cake stop.

Sharing sweat, smiles and tears with a like-minded friend can elevate mood and performance. But just as every session has different goals, every training partner has different uses.


Sharing a love of the sport with your loved one is rewarding in many ways, but training with your partner can also be a disaster. Getting ‘hangry’, being grumpy, injured or just tired can mean arguing in training spills over into kitchen tantrums, which seriously hampers recovery! Add in a disparity in fitness, fatigue levels, or ability, and the combination can result in torrents of swear words. There is a fine line between love and lycra, and if it is bad for your relationship overall, then best not mix the two. That said, riding in the sunshine with my husband is one of my favourite things in life, especially since both of us are “café-stop” kinda people.

The Café-Stop

Every triathlete does this sport so that at some point they can eat cake, right? Don’t deny it, it’s standard.

Still, if you want to have a café stop built into your ride, you need to find the right cake-eating-coffee-swilling kinda training partner. Better still, make sure you train with someone who knows the best cafes, opening times and cake selection. This person will usually pay on account of them “dragging” you to the café and disrupting your ride. Yep, feigning the fact that ‘having to stop for coffee and cake’ is a chore means you can have your cake and eat it too. (Now all my cake loving training partners know my game).

The No-Café-Stop

If you have to dig in and get the miles done, then the ‘NEVER stop at a café’ training partner is a winner. They basically think if they stop mid-ride and intake calories that their whole season will be derailed.

Excuses like “my legs never work after a café stop” and “I just get cold” will trip off their tongue – but really they are simply cake-avoiders, and you have to question whether such a person can be trusted.

I find with the right amount of pressure most of these people can be broken, and once they have experienced the power of the “cake legs” that follow a decent slice of parkin (proper Yorkshire cake) they won’t look back.


The day you rock up to the club swimming session feeling like you have been run over by a truck, you can guarantee your one and only ‘I-can’t-lose-to-that-person-no-matter-what-happens-to-me’ rival turns up. The stakes are always high here – whether you are doing 25m of kicking or a full Ironman, you would face-plant and spark out before you lose to them…oh, and if that happens, make sure someone knows to stop your Garmin.

Procrastinator (aka faffer)

You say 11 o’clock to meet up, and at 10:55 you get a text saying “I’m running 10 mins late” – which you know really means 30.  They are not doing anything in particular- they are just skilled ‘FAFFErs’ – ‘Fucking Around For Fucking Ever’. This person is unlikely

 to be your training partner of choice, but your parents brought you up to be nice and polite to people, even really frigging annoyingly late people. So after a few turn downs, you finally agree to go training with them. If you do, just make sure you give them a meeting time at least an hour earlier than you actually mean.


Some people can talk and talk and talk and talk. And sometimes that is exactly what you need, funny stories, interesting news, family dramas, boss dilemmas- it’s different every week. They are entertaining, but only if you are fully engaged. If it’s a day for quiet reflection in the mountains, or you need to run at harder-than-chatting pace, then be “too busy” to meet the chatterbox. Or take some duct-tape with you.


This person has a coach and believes that any deviation from their training plan is a cardinal sin, so you will have to follow their training plan if you want to train together. Chances are they are a “no-café-stop” kind of athlete too.

Remember though, if you slow them down they will just leave you out on the road without a glance back. This person is great when you are too busy to plan your training, and if they can push you it’s even better. I know people for whom a 10km run cannot be 9.7km. So take a post work-out snack and you can laugh as they run laps around the carpark while looking at their Garmin.

Ego amigo

Sometimes you just need a triathlon ego lift. No matter who you are there is always someone more fit, and there is always someone less fit. Your ego-amigo is the partner to call when you are feeling unfit, lazy, unmotivated, or all three. You know you will be waiting at the end of the pool for them, or at the top of a climb, so you get extra rest and are likely to be told how strong and fit you are in return. Don’t be a selfish idiot though, they can always use tips and encouragement too.

Admin nightmare

See “FAFFEr.” Except this person has the added complication of forgetting kit, breaking things, leaving things to go mouldy, and generally relying on others to sort their admin out for them. A friend of mine told me recently that a guy had rung her up two days before a race and asked her which hotel he was staying in. He had never asked her to book his hotel and he probably hadn’t entered the race either. So, I guess he couch surfed and spectated. Pretty standard for these types, although they tend to be great after-party entertainment.

Virtual friend

Do you have someone you can text smug photos to at 0700 on a Friday morning when you have just smashed out a treadmill session before work? In return you get a torrent of “well-done”s and a reciprocal photo. You rarely get to train together, but are close enough that she knows just when to say ‘man up’ when you are giving yourself excuses the night before a 0500 start. It’s an invaluable friendship built on mutual support, motivation, and a lot of piss-taking. All good as long as no one else gets hold of those sweaty, horrid photos.


This training partner has one speed. Swim, bike, run. Summer, winter. Fit, unfit. Road bike, TT bike. Hills, flat. Intervals, easy spin/jog. They are like a metronome in the pool, chat easily when out running, spin at 90 RPM when riding. They literally never get out of their comfort zone but are totally happy just rolling along enjoying the experience of being physically active. They will never improve, but they don’t seem to care. Laid back to the extreme, you know what to expect both in training and in life in general.

As I hope you have gleaned, it is imperative to choose the right training partner on any given day. Even if that training partner is – a real tractor.

Small open-top tractors in Mallorca seem to have a top speed of about 25 kph which is not affected by terrain or wind. So, on a downhill section of road or with a tail wind you can easily overtake them as they chug along with some happy old farmer aboard.

But pick a rolling route and accidentally overtake one just before a hill and you have an interval session from hell coming up! This happened to me recently – thinking back, waving at the farmer as I sailed past may not have been the best move. I mean it’s ballsy to overtake a mechanically-powered vehicle at the best of times. Then I saw the steep hill ahead and started flapping – I could hear the tractor gaining on me.

Soon, I was pushing into the red going up this small but steep hill, with the tractor gaining rapidly. As we summited the driver and I locked eyes – and I knew the race was on. I suspect he had played this game before. The road levelled off into a slight uphill gradient and the tractor continued to half wheel me. By the time we reached the true summit I was still alongside but the pain in my legs was unbelievable. I was happy to cruise down into the next valley quietly congratulating myself for winning the fight against the machine.

I was assuming that the tractor would turn off into a field like all respectful tractors should. Unfortunately not. This scenario played out again and again for about 3 miles.  When eventually the farmer did decide to stop torturing me, I had to laugh at myself for destroying my legs for the sake of not losing face…to a tractor. It refused to stop for cake too.


Caroline Livesey is a professional triathlete and engineer. For more go to

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