Who had the best Triathlon series and why?

Who had the best Triathlon series and why?

Sutto Squad enjoying Alpe d’Huez (Sylvain, Luke, Marc, Ben and Chippy). Photo Credit: 220 Magazine

Every athlete asks me at some stage should I do the Ironman races or Challenge? What about the newer ones such as Outlaw, the older independent races, or the ITU series races that have both short and long races. Coach what’s your favourite?

This blog is for the real Triathlon tragics. It’s not for mass appeal, but for those who want a window of what Triathlon used to be. Just join me for 5 minutes and I’ll tell you a true story of the greatest race series the world has known, but that few know of now.

Last weekend family circumstances had me traveling back to Dijon France. This region of Burgundy was a big deal for not just France but the whole of Europe in the ‘Middle Ages’ period of history. It also played a major role in the European start of Trisutto back in 1992, a long time before anyone thought about Triathlon being in the Olympics.

From our Australian squad we had sent Shane Johnson as a scout to the French race scene. He had joined a club he was invited to race for and then sent back all the information he could regarding the practicality of our full squad following the next year.

Shane’s reconnaissance seemed completely surreal to us, his excitement and stories of races and prize money just didn’t seem possible.

To sum up his words in a sentence: “Coach, I’ve found the promised land. 4 races every weekend, with great prize money, and at least 2 mid week races with money during the August holiday month!

We went about, putting our own club races on in Australia to raise money to fund our squad members to get their shot at the promised land. No money, no French language, but a huge hope that we could indeed make a living with Triathlon in France.
Our first bit of luck was we were introduced to a French athlete and his brother Sylvain Dafflon, and his brother Herve. In 30 years I have yet to find a Frenchman with a more Australian attitude to life.Sylvain organised our group to join his club in Macon, which is just south of the Burgundy region. This is where we make the first part of the greatest series start. The club provided us with two apartments to house 8 athletes, and paid for all athlete French licenses.

Our Shane Johnson group did the same with two clubs in a different region. Each club housed and provided race suits and bikes if needed for our guys.

Dylan brought out the race schedule for all of France. It was like nothing we had ever seen. 400 races all broken down into races with stars next to them. All with prizemoney. This took place in a 7 months season. 1 star race had 1000, 750 and 500 Francs in prize money. This was almost 30 years ago with no Olympics on the horizon. Five star races had more money, and paid deeper that we could even imagine.

We decided that we would concentrate with the slower athletes on the Burgundy region, while our best two men and women would travel French wide and take on the best. The next point that amazed us, was Sylvain said ‘you pick the races and who is going and I’ll contact and make arrangements’. We thought this is about getting free entry? No, every race even the one star offered us hotel for 3 nights, food during the trip, and an allowance for travel – unless we wanted to travel by train. That was one reason we selected Macon as we could get to anywhere in France by TGV, and the club provided the tickets!

As we travelled across France recently I started pointing out races that our athletes had won. After 30 minutes I was told, ‘these little towns could not have all had triathlons with money? Some of these towns are too small?’

Indeed they did! In fact, we planned out our attack on this area pouring over the map like Napoleon before a battle. Each athlete was designated races according to their ability and riding strengths. Every race had prize money and some larger than today 26 years later. Dijon had a great half iron distance, then we had our local races Macon, Le Chaplin, Chalon-sur-Saone which I remember well because Sylvain was shocked when we turned up with juniors Ben Bright, his mate Lach Vollmerhaus and Marc Allen.

Ignoring the advice that ‘they will get killed racing pro, stick to the small local races, it might help their chances‘; Ben just destroyed the field. Out of the water minutes in front and then put two more into them on the bike. Sylvain was in the race, and he never again worried about our feeding ourselves, more about don’t send these boys to my races! We were away, Auxerre, Dole, Troyes, Besançon, Epinal, Pontarliar,  Baule-Escoublac, St. Louis, Nevers, Vesoul.  All had money races, all in this one region and we won them all  – it was the Aussie invasion.

Mulhouse where the great Craig Alexander spent a season honing his skills then on to the bigger ones in the area. Belfort Half Ironman where the great Hamish Carter during his time in the squad just destroyed the best in the land, and I still remember the bike ride from the future Olympic champ. And we will apologize to the other races in the area that I’ve forgot to mention that were equal to any race in the world. Still going strong is Gerardmer triathlon, a fantastic Triathlon test of skill over half distance, has 6,000 triathletes racing over a week.

This is one region in France only. So is this why I think it’s the best ? No not really. Let me finish by explaining a French race at every level, from our experience. During our first race, we were all very excited, but with no language skills it was difficult. We were told the race starts at 3pm ‘just like football’. Sleep in we were told. Now in Australia, a late race at that time was 8am start. We couldn’t believe it. How do we prepare for a 3pm start? How do we eat? All was new to us.

So on race day about 8:30am, one of the athletes come charging up to me after he had been out for a jog shouting “We have missed it. The race is on now!” I tore out and down to the race sure enough there were athletes everywhere. Finding the race director, he assured me, no no no, 3pm is the pro start. This is the clubs race, the age group race, and the kids race. So be here at 2pm to set up in transition. He answered “if you want lunch come down early between mid day and join us all.“

So, I wandered down early, and this is what I saw! A field completely covered with picnic blankets baskets, and food everywhere. Families having baguettes, cheese and wine. All the French Pros were mixing with the fans. I thought great for us, but the director said, they will all stay for the pro race, and they love to mix with the pros. Before the main race, bring your guys down. They don’t have to eat but it creates an atmosphere for the town.

We raced in towns of 200 and on race day there were 1000 for the picnic. It was surreal, and every race we went to at the provincial level this was a tradition, not a one off, I will point out. Viva la France!

Before the onset of the political power, and joining the Olympics, the French racing circuit, from kids race to ironman races was the greatest race series in the sport.

I’m equally sure that some of our long surviving triathletes, the veterans of  30 years, will confirm how in their part of the world, there was a vibrant Triathlon racing community that provided a great diversity of Triathlon experiences in their area. It could be well argued, that only a few professional athletes yet many administrative personnel have benefited in ITU racing, and that the proliferation of Triathlon would have grown just as much as it has under the Olympic Rings. As in France there were also many half iron and iron distance races. In France today, if we take out Ironman Nice, the major long races are all thriving. Still there after 25 years without an IM brand or Challenge sticker. All still provide a better race experience, and spectator experience.

We finish the observation that when one asks, what happened to Nice? It went from the greatest true test of the complete Multisport athlete with a unique experience, to just another Ironman. If that’s progress you can have it.

 

Should I do the Birthday Set?

Should I do the Birthday Set?

The posting of Nicola and Celine’s birthday party set brought a number of enquiries from members of our trisutto family? Coach why didn’t we join the swim party? How come I had my birthday set and you gave me 48x100s?  I wanted to do The Birthday Set!

So let’s look at what it is, and the reasoning behind the different programs for different athletes.

The set is an old swim session primarily done by some great distance swimmers back in the 1970s. I used to watch Stephen Holland (1976 Olympic Games bronze medalist) in awe as he punched out 100 x 100m all on 1 minute 10 seconds long course. This created a bit of a craze with distance swimmers of the time. The hardest set of this type that I saw was done by Bobby Hackett (1976 Olympic Silver medallist). He swam 100 x 100y leaving on 1 minute (short course yards) in the USA, then told his coach it was a piece of cake. When his coach then asked ‘the tough guy’ to do a 1500y fly, he did so with ease, and then said ‘I’ll raise you one’ and did a second 1500y fly. He indeed was a tough guy.

So I brought the 100 x 100 set in my kit bag to Triathlon as well as a few others that were ‘frowned upon’ in Triathlon. We decided that it would be the birthday set in Trisutto.

However this is where we need to explain that it is not done for everyone and not even for all of the good swimmers if it doesn’t fit with their fitness. This session done at the wrong time can be very destructive.

  • take into consideration where you are in the build up to your program.
  • consider fitness levels. This is our third short pro training camp. We have had athletes with birthdays on the first two camps. However our fitness levels were not where we could cope with such a physical exertion to be a positive asset.
  • if you have a certain physical or stroke impediment no matter how fast you are as a swimmer, we don’t do this type of swim.

We may also use swim tools including large pull bouys to protect the shoulders from possible over use strain when swimming this (and other) sets. The ability of the swimmer doesn’t need to be a factor in not doing such an arduous session. However if one is a slow(er) swimmer then this is more than a swim session, it is an immune system test, much like a race. You will need to give yourself time to recover from it. Just as if 4km is your normal swim session, this session has also got to be treated like a race experience, and that smart rest is needed to help it be a positive to your work and not a negative.

Can it be a beneficial workout?
Of course. However it needs to be done when you are fit enough to cope, have a technique to cope with the physical strain, or use tools to alleviate that problem and help assist to make it manageable.

Happy birthday.

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, and St.Moritz in June/July, 2018.

Know your Sport!

Know your Sport!

After our last blog, Am I missing out, I have received feedback from several people who have been around Trisutto for a long time  asking….,why the change?  I would like to pass on the answer in more detail to not just them, but all of our regular readers.

Why the change from group to non-group training?
Up until 2006 my Triathlon squads were primary ITU Olympic distance athletes with a few exceptions who competed over long distance. However since this time, when I decided to go after the Ironman distance, our squads have been primarily long course athletes with the exception being a few short course athletes.
Last year we introduced age group athletes to our program also, thus thus adding a third category to our training regimes.

As previously stated it’s my conclusion that the longer distance events need to be trained at intensities that suit the actual athlete. Going outside that personal range has no benefit when racing from 4 to 12 hours. In fact I find it quite harmful to performance; thus there is very little need for head to head training, nor the psychological impairments that at times it brings.

So to with older athletes even going short, bashing oneself into submission. I find this gives a very short term and artificial improvement that can not be sustained long term. There are many reasons for that, however I’ll stick to laying down the motor patterns in a controlled environment for each discipline is superior and longer lasting than being one of the white knuckle brigade….‘because I’m tough’

The good news for me, is short course or long course and now age group athletes, don’t seek me out unless they are courageous. Those that are not, don’t last long in my squad, just as the ‘short term in a hurry’ athletes also don’t last long with me.

No pain no gain..? 
We teach athletes to use their courage on race day, to have the courage at training to read their own body and listen to it, not override it because I can gut it out better than most.

‘No pain no gain’ is one of the stupidest mantras in sport, especially if one is training for a multi hour sport.


Short Course athletes have to adapt to the numbers to be competitive. 2003 ITU Triathlon World Champion, Emma Snowsill. Photo Credit: Triathlon.org

Know your Sport
When considering elite pro short course athletes, it is true that back in the day, just as it is now, we consider what levels need to be met to be competitive. Unlike our long course training where we train at paces that adapts to our bodies, in the short version we do the opposite, we have to adapt our bodies to the numbers that are required to be competitive.

Yes, I hear you saying that makes no sense, but in reality short course is not Triathlon.
Know your sport…, it is a wet run. Thus the first 200 metres of the swim is very, very important.  You won’t swim your way into the event if you are not there at the first bouy. Just as today if your not a 29 min 10 km runner in the men’s race, you are not in the top 10. If you can’t crack 34 mins in the women’s, you too will be fighting it out for 11th.

These are facts not fiction; the realities of ITU life. So short course athletes need to work at speeds during the week that are above that pace to get adaptions. Being there from the start of the drafting races and having coached many of the champions of their generations, I have documented evidence of what it took on a weekly basis to win a world title. The speed needed in 1997 didn’t cut it in 2007 and 2007 doesn’t cut it now!

Adapting to the Realities
At Trisutto we have always adapted to the new realities of what it takes. I discovered early on that when we were training as a group for ironman the results were not as I wished. Sickness, tiredness, more injuries brought on by I’m sure the fatigue of going long, but also going head to head,  This had me rethink our approach, along with the so many other differences needed between long course and short course racing.

Having people ‘doing their own pacing’ was a huge break through for me. Just as throwing away the stop watch or asking people for more effort when training also resulted in massive steps forward in the actual performances.

I know that for at least 5 of my great champions, taking off the power meters all the time and the heart rate monitors for most  (the Angry Bird still uses a heart rate monitor), made them from good if neurotic athletes, to absolute kick arse champions.  But how do I sell that to you budding triathletes against the wall of marketing Triathlon has become!

“Sutto , you got to move with the science “ …., but the science is killing the majority of the performance. It’ hindering.ones ability to know where their levels are. The reality is playing pinball on your bike trainer (which is the ‘new’ thing I’m told) is going to give you a short term hit and then burn you out completely.

Believe me, when you learn to read your own body and to have the courage to stick to your ‘gut feel’, you too will improve out of sight and enjoy the feeling of being free!

That’s the way I see it.

 
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, 2018 for insights into the Trisutto Coaching and Training methodologies.

Feature Photo credit: Tahni Brown

Am I missing out?

Am I missing out?

Coach, if I can’t go to camp or train in a group am I missing out?

Every off season stories permeate through the Triathlon media about how great camps are, or the need to train in a group to push to even greater heights? Their objective to create buzz and to sell products.

Now I hold camps, last year personally I ran fifteen in total. Of those fifteen, only two were camps where real work was done.  These were the camps that were dedicated to hard graft! When were they held? In September, for those getting ready for Kona, or for those with races in early November to also to be ready to go for the last blast of races in their season.

‘But coach what about the winter warm weather camps that we hear so much about?’  Well at Trisutto we don’t do that ridiculousness in the off season.
Our camps are educational. We run five comprehensive lectures that are must attend. We do six compulsory sessions, covering each of the three disciplines, so I can view techniques. We have five optional sessions that go with that. Do you have to attend? No definitely not.

‘But coach why would I go?’
We go to get out of the cold. We go to learn what Triathlon really is. We don’t do what most other camps do.
‘What is that?’  Blindly smash themselves every day thinking that it will improve them through sheer weight of tiredness.

I’m sure many of you have been on these camps, but what is not advertised is this. The amount of injuries accumulated by tripling bike mileage in camp, doubling run mileage of back home, and sore shoulder syndrome by Sunday night because whilst I swim two or three times a week at home, in camp we swam seven! Of course all done racing the guy next to me who I’ve never met in my life, don’t know his abilities, his heart rates or fitness levels. But I know one thing, we are on holidays and we are at camp, the sun is shining, so I’m going to war with anybody near me – in everything! Welcome to the normal Triathlon camp!  If you can still eat your third portion of pasta taken from the buffet with a fork then you are soft and haven’t worked hard enough at camp.


Photo Credit: James Mitchell Photography

‘But Coach, I got Kona in October’
Here is a news flash – so has the Angry Bird, and she isn’t in the kick off camp I’m running at this very moment. Why? Because I hope she is sitting at home doing normal things and resting, as this year we really going after Kona! I can’t re-iterate enough, that starting too early makes sure the last races of the season are not what you were after.

This was rammed home to me by a couple of newbies in pro camp this week. ‘Coach, you didn’t name a time and meeting point for tomorrows morning run?’  That’s right was the answer, we are all adults, we do our own thing, were you given instructions? ‘Yes coach.’ Well go and do it at your own pace!

And there in lies what I keep trying to communicate. Ironman is not short distance. Where once I trained sprint athletes they did certain sessions as a group, we still did less than most groups together but we did fast work together pushing hard. We swim together now only as a meeting point. Within that group there may be three to five different swim sessions at the same time.
I’ll point out once again, that Nicola Spirig and Daniela Ryf might have ridden together two times in any sessions requiring hard effort, or ran twice together in any session done with some zip in the past two years. Not two days. Not two weeks. Not two months, but two years. However, yes I do train both of them.

I put this caveat for people who have never been to my squad training. It’s dangerous to your health and thus performance, in reading articles about ‘what Brett Sutton’s group do’. They really have no idea, but perception replaces reality.

  • Ask an athlete that has attended any of my own camps.
  • Ask if everybody trains together pushing harder.
  • Ask is Brett Sutton on the pool deck screaming for athletes to go harder?
  • Is he with stop watches calling out times on any interval?
  • Ask someone that has been there!

Our success is about knowing when to push and when not to. It is about knowing Ironman is a personal sport. Where training outside of your numbers may make you feel good, remember pride comes before the fall, and fall you will, if you head to a camp and think drilling oneself is good for performance in 3 months time.

After the Super League Nicola was rested.  She swam every second day with us working on another new swim stroke. Two full months later she left the pool and I said  ‘Write that down as your second swim workout of this preparation as I was pleased with the stroke.’
What were all the other swims? Stroke work and preparation for when she is ready to start. That happened last Friday.
Daniela kicks off on the 1st of February.

Are Camps a good idea?
Camps are a splendid idea if you get in the sun and start an easy build up to your season. Smash fests for one week only to go back home to the cold and do one third of the work in the camp may be good for your ego, but does nothing for your season.

Just the way I see it.

 

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, 2018 for insights into the Trisutto Coaching and Training methodologies.

Feature Picture Credit: Cris Solak

A New Years Resolution for all!

A New Years Resolution for all!

As we head into a new year some of our athletes ask ‘coach, what would be a good resolution for me to start the new year with?’
This starts me thinking on how many people have the same dilemma?

Why a dilemma? Let’s not delve into it too deep, however deep enough for you to have a little look in the bathroom mirror, and ask yourself, why do you need the motivation of a new year to do what you should’ve doing every day of your life? What is lacking? Am I a guy or girl that needs a motivational speech each month to keep me from losing sight of what I feel is important to me? This doesn’t have to be sport related, but if I find a stirring speech, or a New Years resolution something I look forward to, to keep me on track, then is there something wrong?

The New Years resolution Grinch says yes there is. So let’s think of some legitimate reasons that one can back slide of their self commitments.

The commitment that has been set has been way too high for ones ability level.  At its worst it’s highly unattainable or at its best is highly unsustainable over a longer period of time. This is a legitimate mistake, usually brought on by the motivational brigade who’s mantra is ‘You can do any thing you put your mind to?’. The doc, doesn’t belong to this brigade of hope purveyors or dream sequence directors. It sounds nice, and wrapped up in a  pretty package sounds almost achievable. However when reality strikes it has the reverse reaction, making your self esteem even worse than when you went searching for the holy grail. The grail of ‘give me a message that is going to make me something I’m not’.

The resolution that you have made does not produce the passion of what you enjoy in your life. I would like to do this, yes, but is it a passion? Do you obsess over this direction? Am I making a resolution because I have been pressured into it by others? This type of new resolution is destined to failure also, because the reality is our hearts are not 100% in it. While it might be good for you, and others can think it will improve you but as in most things in life, if you don’t believe in it then you can guarantee another failure at the behest of being rail roaded into something that your not passionate about.

This one, is the one I can help you with! The person that needs to have artificial stimuli to make positive things happen for them.  Nobody has ever accused me of not dishing out some tough love to help people or athletes at times overcome themselves, or the road blocks they build to undermine themselves. When we look to others, we look to external circumstances to help what is been lost in our society, that is learning to ‘carry our own water’ –  taking responsibility for oneself!

At Trisutto we teach coaches that yelling ‘go harder’ to their athlete in a race is nonsense! If me yelling go harder actually sees an athlete lift their performance, then I have failed as a coach. After being in our group all know very quickly that giving ones best is not a luxury but the basic requirement, that is not applauded, but is expected as the foundation one must have to build on for the future. If me yelling go harder is needed, then the athlete just like the new resolution crowd, need to really explore their procedure to life itself.

I am a simple man and I try to keep things extremely clear. I found my own light when it was impressed on me by a wise man – that you can only do your best with what you have at any given time. However he was at pains to point out 99% of the population, the ‘sheeple’ as he called us, have no idea what giving ones best really means! I still hear it ringing in my ears from 40 years ago, the booming voice not to me but at me –

‘you will only fulfil your potential when each day you wake up, and when your feet hit the floor, you say that today I’m going to do my very best to be better than yesterday, and you spend the next 8 working hours trying to fulfil that goal.  There will be down days, there will be artificial highs, but the bad days will disappear’.

I remember I was young and so answered back ‘what’s the difference between bad days and down days?
He quoted the American Novelist Jack London:

The man that does his best is good enough!’, and followed up with ‘if you put your head on that pillow at night knowing you did all you could there are no bad days, just difficult ones. Tomorrow you rise and fight the good fight again. That’s what life is really about’.

So if you’re someone who needs to be motivated by New Years resolution, my resolution to you is take a hard look in the mirror. Give yourself a good slap, and say ‘I need to do better on a daily basis. I need to keep it simple, and do my best with what I got everyday – not just on chosen ones’.

 

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, 2018 for insights into the Trisutto Coaching and Training methodologies.