Looking back at 2021, Great Britain’s triathletes will be remembered for their Olympic medals in Tokyo and for Lucy Charles-Barclay’s big year—including her first world title after a gun-to-tape triumph to take the Ironman 70.3 crown in Utah.
But simmering just below this list of big, boiling British moments, Beth Potter—a former track runner and latecomer to tri—has been plugging away to continue her development in the sport and post some eye-catching results.
A Busy Season
Fast-forward to September and a consistent month of Super League Triathlon racing where she finished fourth overall, before flying to Korea to win back-to-back World Cups over the past two weekends, as she prepares to start her 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series campaign in Abu Dhabi this Friday.
Her Recent Breakthroughs
What’s even more encouraging is that Potter came out of the water in a front pack of four triathletes in Haeundae and then with just two other athletes in Tongyeong, showing that the swim training she’s been “working hard on all year” with the Brownlee brothers in Leeds is paying off.
It also helps when the scenery provides a distraction from the pain. “It was a really cool place,” she explained. “The first race started from a big city beach, where the water was gorgeous, completely untouched. Busan is the place to go for a party holiday in Korea.
“In Tongyeong, it was completely different. An island, a lot quieter, and really pretty. It was in the middle of a national park and every 5K we’d come across a new town and then nothing.”
While Potter clocked a rapid 9:02 and 9:04 respectively for the two 750m swims, she was grateful for the clear water afforded by getting out in the lead. “When I can swim, I’m good, but I find it difficult when the races are just a fight,” she said. “I think it’s better when I’m out of the melee and with faster swimmers, such as in Leeds WTCS. I was next to Flora [Duffy] at the start and got on the Lucy Charles-Barclay train. [Fingers crossed] it works in my favor [in Abu Dhabi] this weekend as I’m next on to the pontoon after Jess [Learmonth].”
The Next Step
After victory in Valencia in late 2020, the two successes in Korea mark three straight World Cup wins for Potter—form she hopes will now translate to the top-level Championship Series. “It took a year to get to grips with World Cup racing, so maybe the same with the World Series. I’m close, and really want to do it on the bigger stage.”
While the running is a given, her cycling is also starting to turn around, after having been a complete novice when she first hopped on a road bike in earnest at the start of 2017. “I feel so much more confident and at home on my bike now after a month of Super League,” she explained. “I knew that would be the case, as it’s a fast-track way of learning triathlon. I know I’m good enough, it’s just doing those little bits right. For the Olympic distance, I still need to find the last 400m of the swim and first three minutes of the bike, but in the grand scheme of a two-hour race, it’s not much—and it’s a work in progress for the winter.”
As for her running, a consolation of the fastest run split is no match for breaking the tape first. “It doesn’t matter if I have the fastest run split if I’m winning, and in the last two races I didn’t need to push the run. I’d rather be in that position than not making swim packs. The run will always be there, but there might be a bit of an adaptation phase where it takes a back seat as the swim and bike catch up.”
Potter can be confident of being selected to represent Scotland for her third Commonwealth Games next summer in Birmingham, England, and Paris 2024 remains the long-term goal. If she gets there, she’ll also have the Twitter wisdom of running coach and author Steve Magness to thank—her timeline showing a flood of re-tweets for his musings.
“It’s like he reads my mind,” she said. “He tweeted recently: ‘After a tough loss or poor performance, reflection is crucial.’ It’s something I actually do! After every race, I fill in a spreadsheet with positives, negatives, and any actions. I’ve been doing it for the last year. The negative in Haeundae was messing up T2—I took my feet out [of the bike shoes] too soon.”
It’s one of the few negatives Potter has had in 2021, and alongside seven other British women, including Charles-Barclay, and a loaded field in the Middle East on Friday, expect plenty more positives as her star continues to rise.
Beth shares two up-tempo training sessions that she has been undertaking to get herself into race-winning shape for short course.
Session 1: Swim threshold sets
Total Distance: 3,000m
Easy swim, drills
(All at threshold pace)
800m (on 10:15 for Beth; 9:45 for the Brownlees)
400m (on 5:15)
8 x 100m (each rep on 1:25)
5 x 200m (each rep on 2:40)
Easy swim, pull
“My aim for the session was to finish faster than I started because that’s where I need to work on my Olympic-distance racing. I’m fine with my get-out speed, but struggle on the back end. The first two 200ms were 2:26, and the last three were 2:23 as I tried to pick it up a bit.”
Session 2: Dropdown run sets on the track and the road
Total distance: ~6 miles
Easy 15 min. run, drills
1km (Beth runs approx. 74 sec. per lap)
200m jog recovery
600m (72 sec. per lap)
200m jog recovery
400m (70 sec. per lap)
400m jog recovery
(Repeat x 2)
Easy run 10 min.
2 miles, drills
2 miles (at 5:50min/mile)
2 miles (at 5:30/mile)
2 miles (at 5:10/mile)
“For the track sessions, the aim is to get faster through the intervals and also quicker with each set. The progression run on the road is similar, but without the breaks. It’s all high intensity with the aim to get so good I can just do it off the bike!”