Challenge Roth: For The Record

Challenge Roth: For The Record

As we get closer to Challenge Roth we’d like to pass on to our followers and Daniela Ryf fans some inside knowledge of our preparation and a common sense reflection on the hype now being generated around a supposed ‘World Record’ attempt.

Can Daniela Ryf break the record this year?

Yes, but so can whoever crosses the tape first in two weeks.

Let’s leave aside questions of form or injury for now. Or the fact Challenge are naturally doing their best to promote their event – it still staggers me that with a new course we would have such conjecture from commentators within the sport.

There will be a significant change to the DATEV Challenge Roth course on July 9th, 2017. For the first time in the more than 30-year history of the Roth Triathlon, a new two-lap run course has been designed to be more athlete and spectator-friendly. The new route links the towns of Roth and Büchenbach, together with the canal in a T-shaped course, which is completed twice.

It’s my personal hope that the new run course will be a smash hit with both the public and participating athletes. I also believe the changes will enhance the overall race experience .

But it doesn’t change the pretty basic fact that whoever wins, there will be new course record holders on July 9th.

With each out-and-back section of the ‘T’ at 10.2km, runners pass each point of the course four times. With an additional 1.4km of connecting routes at the bottom of the T, the classic marathon distance of 42.195km is reached.

It is both a 2 lap course with extra hill component. If it is the full distance then there is every chance it can be as much as 4 minutes slower than the old course. Who knows, it may one day still deliver a killer performance. But Chrissie’s record as well as Jan’s will stand in perpetuity as the fastest on that course.


Very pleased to see Challenge reach out to the great Chrissie Wellington. As for whether she will be there ‘to see her record fall’ – let’s get back to reality.

It has been made very clear and public that the Angry Bird has been dealing with a nagging back injury over the last four months.

The good news is there is no bone damage and of late has been improving each week within a light training schedule. We decided to test the back in a race situation at Ironman 70.3 Rapperswil two weeks ago. Any real triathlon followers would have noted that the Bird was anything but flying as she posted a time 15 minutes slower than her usual very high standards.

So while it was a reality check fitness wise, we were very encouraged that the effort didn’t affect the injury at all. This has encouraged us to give Dannie the challenge of participating in Roth. But chances of records falling, even if it was on the old course disappeared months ago.

Coach has now set the program on being a 100% ready for her to defend her Kona crown on the 14th of October.

With all things carrying on in the right direction we will use three shorter races leading in to get her fit before Kona, with one of them being the 70.3 World Championships on the 9th of September. While we don’t expect the Bird to be at her 100% best there, we do anticipate she will be very competitive. So for all her fans, with no further problems and continued improvement we will hope to see the Angry Bird flying high for Kona.

Thank you to all our supporters.

Swim Benches for Triathlon

Swim Benches for Triathlon

After our blog on the humble turbo trainer, we received requests for my thoughts on swim benches, and other swim tools used out of the water. As we have quite a few online athletes who work not only  shift work but in remote places, I thought we could pass on a little history with swim benches.

Let’s first answer the burning question, do you believe they are beneficial? The answer is an unequivocal yes. However, it depends what kind and if you use it to:

  • replace a swim workout
  • incorporate it with your training session
  • because you don’t have a pool alternative .

Then there are the many different swim benches available. Before I discuss some of them in detail, let me list them in my order of merit:

  1. isokinetic swim bench
  2. pulley system swim bench
  3. weighted pulley system swim bench
  4. own body weight resistance swim bench
  5. stretch chords. Or a bench set up with chords

Each of these apparatus can be improved further with a small tool, called the swim halo. With this device on your machine it can promote an arm position that mimics the correct position of the arms in the water.

Halo Swim Bench

Done properly swimmers who drop their elbows can be taken through the correct movement on the swim bench out of the water, so instruction can be very effective indeed.

As far back as 1978 I was using isokinetic boxes to develop my own swim benches. As I became a little more sophisticated around 1986 I was making them on the walls of our gym to be specific for breaststroke as well as butterfly. My squad would do a swim workout from 9am – 11am but I would still add between 2 and 4 workouts a week on these machines. These swim bench workouts being a minimum of 45 minutes of work.

It is fair to say that in triathlon I have not used them, as time becomes critical training for swim, bike and run inside the one Triathlon program. However as a teaching aid, or a replacement for lack of pool time availability, they are excellent.

Why do I prefer the isokinetic over the other 4 types of benches?  With this devise the power output lifts with the effort and acceleration of the stroke. This is crucial.  Benches that do not do this are counter productive as the weight or resistance is static along the full movement, and hence is dictated by the weakest point of your stroke.   The power phase of the stroke does not then have the necessary resistance to be developed as it could be. This is a massive problem. I have experimented with just strait isometric exercise on some of my lesser loved machines and I have found that I get a better result doing that in 3 or 4 static positions rather then doing the full swim stroke.

The second reason I ‘love the isokinetic movement’ is that once accustomed to it there is zero muscle pain the day afterwards – none. This is so important when doing multiple sports. We can do very very hard workouts for 1 hour 30 minutes on isokinetic machines and the next day zero soreness.  I have done only 25% of the work on other benches and athletes can’t lift their knives and forks at meal times for 3 days, they are that sore, and impedes training in the other disciplines.

One last point I’ll make on the execution of technique, is when using a swim bench, and trying to include the proper swim arm recovery. After the initial first ever session I personally abandoned that procedure. We recover the arm just by letting it swing back normally. I’m positive not doing a full swim recovery is not impeding improvement.

In summary,  if an athlete has pool access and only swims 3 times a week would I replace one of these swim workouts with a swim bench workout? Just the same answer when I’m asked should I replace one of these workouts with a gym session that will make me stronger. The answer from me is no.  And just if you miss-understood: No.   No.    No !

However, it is a legitimate tool to improve swimming if used correctly, and a great piece of kit for any level of swimmer




Greg Bennett: What Every Triathlete Should Know

Greg Bennett: What Every Triathlete Should Know

Multiple Lifetime Fitness Champion. Greg is the longest serving and highest ever pro earner on the circuit.

On Friday Greg Bennett announced his retirement from professional triathlon. For those who don’t know the history of the sport it’s important that his career is acknowledged for the legacy it holds. I won’t focus on Greg’s results, which include titles over three decades, but instead provide some insight as to why I believe he is the very essence of what makes this sport so special.

I first laid eyes on this bull of a man in the very early 90s as a young, ambitious guy. My first impressions were that he was not a natural swimmer, strong on the bike, but could only run ‘OK’ for 3km. In fact I vividly remember thinking ‘this guy should be a rugby player, what’s he doing in triathlon?’

But there was a character and determination that came through very clearly of ‘I want to make myself something great’. And in our sport that’s still the biggest talent there is.

Over the next couple of years he got better, putting that big frame to use in turning a strong bike into an uber one and joining the bike axes of Australian triathlon. He still didn’t swim like the top guys at this time, but he now had a weapon and in the short, explosive races of the Formula One he put it to work. Many a time one would see Greg blasting off the front laying it all on the line only to see the ‘Big 4’ of Bevan (Brad), Welchy (Greg Welch), Miles (Stewart) and Macca (Chris McCormack) run him down in the last 800m.

At that time I saw something too, here was a man of enormous courage and conviction.

It was a pair of very fragile bonds that brought us together for a period of time in 1996 through to 2000/1 season. As Greg noted in his thank you post, he still remembers (or has night terrors) of my remedy for being run down too many times around the 3km mark.

If he wanted to run a strong 10km and be a world class Olympic distance athlete there was a way. It would come down to whether he wanted it badly enough. Did he want it?

He craved it. We decided that constant speed and sets at race pace over race distance would be his medicine and Greg drank bottles of it. Some weeks we did nothing but 200s at race pace on the treadmill. As he recalled:

In the late 90’s I learned how to train hard and how much more my body could take even when I thought I had nothing left. I’ll never forget setting the treadmill to 22.5km/hr +1° and Brett saying “35sec run, 25sec off… until you drop!” (I managed 150 until he said enough).

And when most around him thought that was enough, he would keep on. It was not me that kicked his arse, but Greg who kicked his own.

The desire burned and he turned a rugby player body into an Olympian, World Champion, the longest serving and highest ever pro earner on the circuit. For more than two decades, until exactly last Friday, there wasn’t a competitor on the circuit who when they saw GB with a bike and run shoes in transition didn’t get a gnawing feeling in the pit of their stomach that ‘today’s going to be tough’.

And what better tribute to give than that? His whole career was built on guts, determination, desire, but also detail.

There has not been a male triathlete who has squeezed more out of what he had been given. He has also inspired race results from my athletes for the last 15 years. I’ve held up GB up as an example to every athlete that’s wanted to give me the excuse for ‘I don’t have the talent’.

‘No talent? GB’s been on a diet for 20 years! Not just food, but a diet of over training for most humans because he was willing to pay the price not many others in this sport would ever be prepared to!’

And so while his retirement for those new to the sport will be seen as another high performance pro finishing up, I want it known for our own team here and new athletes that the Greg Bennett legacy lives on. He is an inspiration for all – age group and pro. Very much in the mould of a Belinda Granger or Bella Bayliss, people who took little talent and backed it with a huge heart, a work ethic that scared most pros and then added street smarts to make themselves champions who never burned out!

Why didn’t they?

Because they loved every minute of the blood, sweat and tears. They just wouldn’t allow it to happen. Unlike most pros of today, they knew they were living a dream and never took it for granted.

Greg Bennett is an icon of our sport and every new athlete deserves to know of this journey. Champion athlete, champion person and as the last of that generation there will not be another like him!

Always respected as one of toughest on the circuit. Photo: Gary L. Geiger Photography

Championship Highlights

• International Triathlon Union World Series Champion 2002, 2003
• Olympic Games 2004, Athens, 4th
• Australian Champion 1998,1999
• Australian long course champion (Half Ironman) 2000
• Oceania Champion 1998, 1999
• USA Champion 1996, 2003
• Czech Champion 1996,1997

Life Time Series Champion

• Twice – US Open Champion 2007, 2008
• Four time – Los Angeles Triathlon Champion 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008
• Four time – New York Triathlon Champion 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
• Chicago 2007
• Minneapolis 2007

World Cup Titles

• Monaco, Monte Carlo World Cup Champion 1997
• Sydney, Australia World Cup Champion 1999
• Cancun, Mexico World Cup Champion 2001
• Gamagori, Japan World Cup Champion 2002
• Hamburg, Germany World Cup Champion 2003
• Ishigaki, Japan World Cup Champion 2003

Racing in other Sports

Racing in other Sports

‘Coach, what about racing in other sports?’

The Northern Hemisphere season has kicked off and one of the most asked questions is ‘Coach, I’ve got time before I do my main race. Can I do a race in another sport?’

My answer changes depending on the sport, the amount of time before the main race, and the possibility that doing that race could cause injury that will impact on the main goal of the season.

Let’s start with an open water swim race. The answer is nearly always a yes, great idea. Any time we get to practice open water in a real race scenerio is a big positive for me. If it is not the day before the race I’m more than happy to give it the big thumbs up.

Let’s move to the run race scenario. Again, I like this as a training aid to a better triathlon run. In saying that, we break it up into two categories:-

  • To help improve speed, choose a race that is much shorter than race distance.  If one is racing Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, then a 3 to 5 km road race is a great stimulus for future.
  • To help improve race pace for long course / Ironman athletes, then races from 10 to 21 km are ideal. My favorite is around 15 km, as I have found it gives a great stimulus of both above race pace and endurance, but without flattening the athlete, or interrupting too much their training due to needing a longer time to recover. When attempting this style of race we insist it must be done negative split, or as a build run. This ensures we don’t build up a lot of unnecessary lactate during what is a glorified training session.

Running Races can compliment our triathlon training well.

I left the bike to last, as when an athlete tells me they would like to join a cycle race, I ask if they would like a broken collarbone before their main event of the year?

In a perfect world I’d love to say yes, but rarely does this occur. Safety must be the ultimate decider of bike racing, and I just don’t see pack riding being beneficial to an Ironman racer. If they ask can I do a time trial race, I’m the first to say ‘what a great idea’.

Let me be clear, if someone asked me to pick between a 1 hour criterium or a 1 hour time trial on a turbo, I would say there is no comparison. (I have only seen one, no two athletes fall off a turbo – but that is for another story!)

Racing other sports I find to be a great benefit if you put them in context with your long term goals, and can help you enjoy your fitness without breaking the bank – financially, or physically.

Get out there and give them a go!

Ruffling Feathers: Response to Macca Comments

Ruffling Feathers: Response to Macca Comments

Red Bull TV Documentary ‘2 Fast: Journey of Triathlon Legends’.

This week I was asked to comment on some of the opinions made by Chris McCormack regarding Daniela Ryf, and his view that she can no longer beat Holly Lawrence and Heather Jackson over the 70.3 distance:

It’s the first time in two years I haven’t seen her look dominating. I mean, she’s got a long way to fall before she loses. Don’t get me wrong, she’s been lightyears above everyone. But it seems to me and I’m happy to be corrected and want to be corrected, is that she’s hit the top of that mountain – in that Sutto mountain climbing thing. And he’s done it with all his athletes. And you know a lot of these Ironman’s – she had the back to back Ironman wins last year. These things slowly accumulate, right, and the fresher athlete comes through and starts to shine. I think Holly (Lawrence) and Heather (Jackson) could be those two athletes. I think they’re amazing. It’s a long way to fall, but at the 70.3 distance I don’t think Daniela can beat these two girls any more! Right, she’s more Ironman and she’s lost that speed base. She may correct me and being part of the Bahrain Team she may pull me aside for this and say ‘You arsehole, you’re supposed to be on my side’ but I’m just calling it how I see it…

Chris McCormack, MaccaX

The comments were made following a third place at Challenge Gran Canaria. Only the second time she hasn’t won a 70.3 distance race in 4 years.

Now I have no problem with Macca making his views known just like any other commentator. If I paid attention to every person expressing uneducated views on athletes the annoyance would have driven me insane decades ago. But unlike most others, Macca is supposed to be the manager of Daniela’s own Team.

And while he may well be very excited about the success of his new race project, as well as having the Prince’s ear and cheque book to sign new athletes, like many excitable people he seems to have lost a total sense of context.

First rule of being a good leader is that you take care of your own. If you have something to say about an athlete that may damage their confidence you keep it private and don’t broadcast it to the general public. Daniela has been struggling with an injury for a long period now. It’s an injury caused largely by being a team member for Bahrain in the first place. We know the extended season racing in Dubai and Bahrain may be shortening her career. But she is well paid, is a team player and has performed at those events with true professionalism.

Since joining Team Bahrain she has delivered 2 Kona World Championships, a 70.3 World Championship and kept the Triple Crown in house for her sponsors. To be disrespected by the manager on the whim of new signings doesn’t really instil a lot of confidence in the team culture.

Holly Lawrence has yet to provide anything but hope to Team Bahrain. Heather Jackson is a gutsy pro with my full respect, but I’d imagine would be similarly embarrassed by Macca’s above statements.

As to a ‘loss of speed base’ – just absolutely no idea. Unlike most Ironman athletes the Bird non-drafting is the fastest short course on the planet. If he wants to find out, I’m sure he can put the money together for a match race. Could be Daniela vs. Gwen when she’s back, head to head, as short as he wants.

Because that is where I personally believe he has found his after racing niche. The production of the Super League races was everything that the sport needs and I have no doubt Macca choreographed every step of it. It was a masterpiece that put the current Ironman and ITU offerings to shame. The potential in this area in unlimited and so I’d advise him to stick to it and leave the athletic assessments to those who know what they’re talking about.

As to the inevitable questions that will arise surrounding form and injury. The season hasn’t even begun yet and judgments are rarely made wisely off the basis of an individual race. One thing is certain though, you don’t win 4 world titles without being made of iron. Trash talk won’t ruffle the Bird’s feathers.

To put it all into perspective, here is a piece of film that shows two of the greatest Ironman athletes the sport has known. I have been one of the biggest admirers of Natascha Badmann for near 20 years. To do what she did with what talent she had is a testament to the human spirit. And I think the way both athletes go about their business is the way we should really be judging form and careers: