David Nicholson: My Journey to Trisutto

David Nicholson: My Journey to Trisutto

David achieved a new Ironman PB in New Zealand this year.

Ironman champion or bike mechanic?

When Jo Spindler emerged from his workshop with a metal file in his hand, oily clothes, face and hands, it was hard to tell.

It turns out he’s both: In pursuit of the perfect bike for his partner – fellow Ironman winner Diana Riesler – Jo was busy filing a new seat stem, determined to improve her already astonishing performances, having won IM Lanzarote and Malaysia.

For me, this was an excellent sign; The restaurant manager should know how to boil an egg. And I really like the way Jo understands not just what to do, but how and why. For someone like me with a million questions, Jo is fantastic. Here is someone who had competed at the highest level, triumphed, and now tells age group athletes how to do it.

With Jo and Diana in Mallorca

I began competing in triathlons in 2013, starting at Olympic distance, then 70.3. In early 2016, I was training for my first Ironman in Austria later that year. In fact I already had a coach, who sent me daily schedules, but didn’t pay much attention to any other part of my training life. I was looking for someone or something different.

Training with the Trisutto Mallorca Camp was dramatically different. The schedule was demanding, intense, fast and serious. I remember making porridge every morning, because each day felt like preparing for a 70.3 race. I would order a double espresso between sessions, to be sure I had enough energy for the next challenge. I loved it! The fellow athletes were different to those I’d met before. Mostly German and Swiss, several were high caliber, age group winners or Kona qualifiers, but not all. The standard was high, but there was no sense that slower athletes were less valued, everyone was doing their best and Jo was encouraging everyone equally.

Among the many highlights of that camp were the important lessons on swim technique and training (particularly the underwater hand and arm motion), on riding up hills in the big ring, and on whether to shave my legs. ‘Yes!’ said Jo. ‘You’ll save 10 watts.’ On a practical level, ‘Jo-the-bike-mechanic’ gave me and my Cervelo S5 a new set-up which cured my back problems and significantly increased my speed. It was like getting a new, faster bike.

Riding the quiet Mallorquin lanes and spectacular mountain passes with Diana was another treat. It’s always a thrill to train with an elite athlete, to see them at work and learn from them.

Summer Camp in St.Moritz

Later that summer, after completing IM Austria, I signed up for another TriSutto camp, this time in St Moritz Switzerland, run by the group’s founder and head coach Brett Sutton. This time, there were several Trisutto coaches helping us through the sessions. Brett would make a speech about swim, bike or run training, and the other coaches would add their comments and ideas. Then we’d go off and train in the superb mountains above the town.

Among the coaches was Rafal Medak, a London-based Polish triathlete who is one of the world’s best 40-45 age groupers: He’s competed at Kona for seven consecutive years and finished 22 Ironman races. Like Jo, Rafal is a great student of the sport. He has a sharp analytic mind and is always looking for smart ways to improve training, preparation and performance. Soon after the summer camp, Rafal agreed to coach me and we’ve now had more than six months together, including an excellent result at Ironman New Zealand, where I overcame terrible swim and bike conditions to set a new PB.

Meeting up with Andrea and Roberto at various locations around the word!

Meanwhile, some of the people I’ve met through Trisutto have become friends: Roberto and Andrea Cagnati, for example, are also crazy about the sport and love travelling to exotic locations. We’ve met in Phuket, Mallorca, New York and London, always having a run or a swim together, or competing in events.

When I came back to Mallorca this April, a year after meeting Jo and Diana. It was a real pleasure to see them again, to race with Diana at Porto Colom and to train with them at the BEST Center in Colonia Sant Jordi, a few km away from their home in Felanitx.

These days, Jo has shaved off his beard and I’ve not seen any oil on his hands. But his engineer’s mind and his huge passion for triathlon are as sharp as ever. Thanks for welcoming me to the Trisutto family, Jo, I’ve loved every minute.

David Nicholson joined Trisutto in October 2016 and currently trains under Rafal Medak. Since then he has achieved impressive results at IM New Zealand, Laguna Phuket, and Ironman 70.3 Phuket.


Jo Spindler is Trisutto’s Head European Coach and also a multiple Ironman winning coach. He bases his training squads between Spain and Switzerland
Join Jo at his next weekend camp in Sursee, in May.


Rafal Medak is a Trisutto coach based out of London.
Having just completed a serious of camps in Maspalomas, Rafal is currently planning further Camps in St.Moritz over the European Summer.


Trisutto in Guam

Trisutto in Guam

Coach Rob and Manami at the recent Trisutto Camp in Guam.

Manami Iijima began a string of impressive racing with the Subic Bay 70.3 last month, finishing her first race at that distance in 4:53 and placing 1st in the 25-29 age group, and 5th female outright. Two weeks later at the Guam marathon she finished first in 3:23. Another two weeks later the half marathon, 2nd female 1:28.
It is great being here at camp in Guam to see how well Manami is progressing…she is better than I expected….

Having just completed our 2 day camp here in Guam I am very impressed. The training facilities have been superb, and the campers have been so welcoming and enthusiastic. Thank-you for having me, it has been a pleasure.

Well done to all campers in Guam, a superb 2 days.

Race Recap from Coach Mel Mitchell:

Laura (second from left) and Manami (right) celebrating terrific runs in the recent Guam Half Marathon with their friends.

I would like to congratulate Laura Nadeau on a super personal result in the Guam Half Marathon. Laura came on board with me after completing a 16 Week Trisutto Half ironman Program. Upon its completion Laura raced her FIRST 70.3 distance and surprised herself by coming second and earning a place on the start line for World’s 70.3 in September.

Last weekend, Laura competed in the Guam half marathon. She felt confident going into this race, and really wanted to see what time she could do, so I asked her, “what is your plan?”  she said she thought she could run a 1hr.33, holding 4.33 for the first part and dropping down to 4.26’s if feeling good. I thought to myself, hmm, I think closer to 1hr.40 with what her training was showing but who am I to stop her! so I said, get after it, if it all falls apart, don’t worry, we learn more from having a go and failing miserably then going softly and never really knowing!

So with that Laura went out and gave it her all and achieved an amazing 10min PB by running a 1h.36 Half marathon Laura didn’t  hit the 1.33 time she was after, but she was extremely happy with a 10min PB!

Well done Laura, I am super excited about training Laura to see how I can help her going into a world championship event. Laura has just experienced the Trisutto philosophies first hand at the Trisutto Guam Training camp with the awesome Rob Pickard over the past 2 days which will only strengthen our coaching relationship and she will come away a better athlete because of it.

Race Recap from Coach Carson Christen:

A confidence boosting win for Jappas to start the year.

2 races, 2 wins on my side!
Jappas Du Preez had his first race of the season in Southhampton, UK, taking to the start line of the Fast Twitch Sprint this last weekend. This was going to be a good test coming off a bit of a naggy running injury about a month ago, and Jappas didn’t disappoint! Coming out of the 400m swim in the top 10, Jappas then moved to 2nd position off the bike, just a few seconds behind the leader, and was able to produce an excellent test of his leg on the run to take the win! The body is healthy again, the training is consistent and now starting to add some volume ahead of the bigger goals this summer. Great work, Jappas!

Bill Knoedel raced the season opening Elkhart Time Trial Series in Iowa, USA. Not only was Bill able to take the win, but also set a huge 30sec PR over 12km at the first race of the year! With smart and consistent training on the turbo this winter, using a Reverse-Periodization Approach, with low mileage, Bill has already shown he is stronger than ever before! Great job, Bill!

Race Recap from Coach Edith Niederfriniger:

A great test race for Andrea in Cannes.

After knee surgery in December, Andrea Cattabiani (M40-44),was back into regular run training for just a few weeks, but the healing process was excellent and so we decided to give it a go: Cannes International Triathlon! The race has great reputation, beautiful courses and especially the bike course is very though with over 1300+ climbing. Race distance is 2 – 95 – 16km and Andrea finished in 5:44.47 putting together a very constant effort in all three disciplines. So we are very happy with this first test and looking forward to the next races.

Race Recap from Coach Andrew Wright:

Proud coach with his charges in Morocco; Well done Team!

Congrats to Oscar Coggins and James Tan; 24th and 27th at Morocco ITU in the elite men. Boys went fantastic against a stacked field of European athletes. When we bring more intensity into the programme next month they will fly. Full results at this link: http://www.triathlon.org/results/result/2016_rabat_atu_sprint_triathlon_african_cup/308670

Race Recap from Coach Mat O’Halloran:

A run to be proud of! Congratulations Jong. Photo Credit: Leimomi Pacursa

This past Monday, at the 121st edition of the world-famous Boston Marathon in the USA, top Filipino age grouper Jong Sajulga was in action, competing in his 2nd consecutive Boston marathon. After a solid run focus block, with little racing, Jong once again executed his race very well, and accomplished his target, of running sub 2h50, more specifically, 2h48:56. This resulting in a ~5 minutes PR, established here in Boston last year.

This result is very encouraging for Jong who has been steadily and gradually making progress, over the past few years. Running each of his 4 marathons, slightly faster than the previous. Now, this makes the rest of the triathlon season very promising!

Congratulations to all our athletes competing this weekend.

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Rescuing an Interrupted Off Season

Rescuing an Interrupted Off Season

Athletes in training at our Cyprus training camps.

It’s the beginning of April and already we’ve received correspondence from some very worried age groupers that their race season is going to be ‘not so great this year’ because of a winter preparation that may have been hindered by either injury or a sickness.

‘I got a cold that I just couldn’t shake!’

Unfortunately though it’s an excuse that we don’t buy at Trisutto. As I point out with regularity:

‘It’s only April, you have plenty of time to be ready.’

Being concerned that you don’t have the base miles to be able to complete an Ironman by July is a complete myth. And if you are an over anxious age group athlete let me put your mind at rest:

We at Trisutto never look to put base miles in during the middle of a cold European winter – when conditions are least optimal for training and most conducive for picking up illnesses. Instead, our squads are busy working on their weaknesses while training for shorter races. We build up and only start attacking mileage from April for the early June races and in May for those taking on the distance in July or August.

So if you have had a rough winter, but were still able to complete bits and pieces of training then rest assured that you haven’t ruined your race season at all. At this stage only negative thinking can do that. One must instead concentrate on turning a disappointing winter into a kick ass summer!

Trisutto season preparation camps are available throughout April and May:

Rafal Medak Maspalomas, Spain: 17th – 21st April, 2017.

Edith Niederfriniger & Irene Coletto Tuscany, Italy: 29th April – 1st May, 2017.

Mat O’Halloran Iskander Puteri, Malaysia: 29th April – 1st May, 2017.

Brett Sutton Mallorca, Spain: 1st May – 6th May, 2017.

Brett Sutton Paphos, Cyprus: 8th May – 13th May, 2017.

Michelle Barnes Vernon, Canada: 20th – 22nd May, 2017.

View all Trisutto.com camps and packages here.

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

Total Body Force Swimming – Part 3  Cadence for Women

Total Body Force Swimming – Part 3 Cadence for Women

Our recent blogs and discussions about Total Body Force (TBF) swim techniques have highlighted the need to find a stroke that we can replicate over and over, that withstands fatigue so we don’t ‘fade’ in the second half of the race day swim; a stroke that enables rhythm and balance and which is determined on an individual basis.

Whilst we do take a very individual approach to defining a swim stroke, those who have attended our Trisutto Camps would be aware that generally we tend to encourage a different level of cadence between women and men. We have added a Part 3 to our TBF Swim Series to specifically highlight the need for a fast cadence for our female swimmers. We also introduce an alternative TBF swim stroke exclusively for women.

Most men tend to already have sufficient power, however my most common observation is that they are applying it in the wrong places. We see so many guys thrashing through the ‘Place’ and ‘Press’ phases of their swim stroke that by the time they reach the ‘Push’ there is no acceleration at all. For many it is often just an adjustment in timing that can lead to very quick improvements. We use our TBF swim methodology to adjust the swim stroke, and more often than not, the timing of the stroke falls into place.

When discussing female swimming we differentiate into three categories:

  1. Those that have come from a swim background; we try to change as little as possible. Most trained swimmers will have executed their technique over many years. The motor patterns are well and truely laid and digging them up to follow the Trisutto TBF technique is not advised.
  2. Those that have come from a swim background but use an extensive six beat or leg dominated kick. Again we don’t change without a thorough studying time to try to assert  a) if the stroke they have is natural to them, or b) if their stroke is causing them problems over longer distance swimming (i.e. those coming from a short swim background can really struggle over longer distances, not because of cardio capacity or lack of it but because their stroke is far too energy sapping to replicate over the longer distances).
  3. Non swimmers. By this we mean athletes who have started to swim seriously since taking up triathlon. Our next chapter is devoted to these athletes who struggle to attain the desired biomechanics of conventional swim dogma.

Non swimming background
Our approach for women coming from a non-swim background is a little different to the men, in that we generally encourage a high frequency of stroke. Whilst the majority of women have less muscle mass then men, more significant is that they have a huge deficit in testosterone. Therefore a lesser likelihood that they will be able to hold the power required for a longer stroke when compared to their male counterparts. However women can compensate for this with a faster cadence. Just like pushing gears in cycling, if we use a smaller gear with a higher cadence and less amount of power, we can still maintain a fast overall pace.


Paddle Boarders competing in Surf Life Saving Events; my inspiration for developing a suitable stroke for female athletes in Triathlon. Whilst in a flat position lying on the board on their bellies, the athletes are able to maintain a terrific arm turnover with a flatter stroke, without an over emphasis on power. I want to emphasize how short the strokes are but because of the fluid dynamics of the board, how fast these athletes are traveling. Also look at how wide their arms are during the stroke, supporting our TBF methodology that getting your arms under your body or down the centre line is not a fundamental to swimming fast. Video Footage: Round 1 NutriGrain IronWoman Series

Using TBF technique with butterfly hip motion
After observing the positions, cadence and fantastic speeds of Surf Lifesaving paddle boarders through the water, it seemed plausible to me that these techniques could be transferred to freestyle swimming also. A very fast arm turnover that can be repeated continuously over distance.

Combining the paddle boarders arm motion with a a butterfly hip movement, is a combination I have experimented with extensively and have found these two together can in fact provide a more natural and effective freestyle stroke for many women. We still apply TBF, generating force from the hips, but instead of turning the hips sideways, we encourage an ‘up and down’ dolphin’ing / movement, vertical to the bottom of the pool. Thus is very similar to the movement of the hips seen in the butterfly swim stroke.

This stroke also allows us to focus on the finish and the explosive acceleration at the end of the stroke, rather than the extension at the front. The stroke is thus short at the front and long at the back, using the vertical motion of the hips and a higher stroke rate to create the power.

To be able to accomplish this we advocate less body roll for the women than men. To maintain a higher cadence a flatter body position is required with less overall roll. The amount of roll naturally occurring when turning to breath is sufficient with this stroke technique.


The male paddle boarders demonstrating the same concept; fantastic speed generated by fast arm turnover and a wide stoke. Video Footage: 2003 Australia Ironman Final

Distance per stroke
Focusing on a maximum distance per stroke is a notion held by many age group athletes which is a great inhibitor to their progress. The general impression that less strokes is better is a complete misnomer when training for triathlon swimming. Remember the swim leg of a triathlon takes place in open, moving water with currents and swells, while also fighting for space with other competitors. A long slow stroke is counterproductive to swimming in these conditions. The stroke needs to be suited to the environment you will compete in.

Gender, physique, natural body position, swim background, race distance and even mentality of the athlete are all important considerations when advising on best stroke for each individual athlete. With so many of us from a non-swimming background there is also one other important consideration – to enjoy, or learn to enjoy swimming! Technique, workout structure and correct use of ‘toys’ all contribute to improving, as well as to enjoyment – and if you enjoy your training, then you will enjoy the results too!

If you would like to experience TBF swim training and advice on the best stroke for you, we offer this at our Trisutto camps, including with Brett Sutton 1-6 May in Mallorca, and 8-13 May in Cyprus. 

What is ‘Winning’?

What is ‘Winning’?

As 2017 rolls on, I’ve already had the pleasure of working with a variety of age group athletes attending Trisutto training camps. I find it truly a blessing to be able to work with diverse groups of interesting athletes from varying backgrounds, all with a wide variety of reasons for attending our camps. Some are new to the sport, while some are looking for the magic or secret ingredient in their training to achieve their race goals.

At Trisutto camps there is an emphasis on thinking, observing and training for the individual athlete. A period of learning about what techniques best suit each individual. What becomes apparent in lectures during camp is that many ‘just want to train!’. I don’t shy away from emphasising the key to improved performance, which is the need to train for your own goals, within your own boundaries. Not to be driven by the group mentality.

Why? Because as many of you will have experienced, a phenomenon among age group camps is that a competitiveness between campers is often observed, each measuring themselves against other individuals, rather than assessing their own circumstances and measuring against those.

At camps when our pros have been present, it has been a wonderful learning experience for age group athletes and visiting coaches alike to observe maybe 7 athletes training, with 5 different workouts happening all at the same time – and ongoing throughout the week. We do not have our professional athletes in head to head showdowns during each session. Those are saved for race day. In recent Total Body Force (TBF) swimming blogs, we also emphasised that there is no one size fits all swimming technique for every individual. The same also applies for training the bike and the run parts of our triathlon.

I am frequently asked what is our secret? If we have one, then it is this:

  • We treat triathlon as triathlon. It is not 3 sports, it is not swim, not bike, not run;  but is the one sport of triathlon and is therefore trained as one sport.
  • We produce training for the individual athlete, not for the group.

Trisutto campers training to the beat of their own drum in Gran Canaria.

At a recent camp, I was talking with a dedicated age group athlete, who asked if I knew of a particular phenomenal age group racer, and the comment, ‘I don’t know how any of us can compete with his numbers’.

I asked, ‘if he is so good, why doesn’t he race against the pros?’
The reply, ‘He is too old…’

Well, I can think of maybe 5 boxers who fought for world titles in boxing at over 45 years of age. There are no age group competitions there.
I asked, ‘Does he work full time, or part time? Is he retired with financial security? Does he have family? Or can he train like a pro without any other responsibilities?

Sometimes being ‘competitive’ in triathlon isn’t an even playing field. By very nature, some are at a huge disadvantage. But only if being on the podium is one’s interpretation of winning. In age group sport it is my belief that being successful has nothing to do with being on the podium. Winning is something we can all achieve. I believe winning is being able to take our own personal circumstance, and working towards making it better than it was previously.

  • If triathlon helps you work towards a healthy weight goal, then that is winning, and winning big!
  • If triathlon helps alleviate stress in your life that is affecting you, your family and loved ones, that is winning, and winning big!
  • If triathlon helps to set an example to your kids, who see you persevering and empowers them to do likewise, that is winning, and winning big!
  • Improving one’s life through triathlon, and taking pride in the discipline required is winning, and winning big!

I’ll leave you with a parable.

A Herb and Percy duel!

Herb Elliot, one of the greatest 1500m runners of all time, was coached by arguably one of the greatest coaches of all time and mavericks of his era, Percy Cerutty. During an argument, Percy, who was nearly 80 years old, challenged Herb to a race and whoever wins the race is declared the winner of the argument!

So off they went. The great champion running along a few yards in front of his mentor, who was busting a gut, eyes bulging, spit coming from every hole as he pressed as hard as he could. It had an audience of fellow runners who chuckled as the old man hammered himself. They crossed the line and Percy fell to the ground completely spent, chest heaving, while Herb was pronounced the winner to all his mates. But rising off all fours, the coach boomed as he stood up like a colossus.

‘You won nothing, I am the winner! I gave everything, you did not. You disgraced yourself!’

Success people is in the eye of the individual, it always has been and always will be!



10 Do’s and Don’ts for Racing in Asia

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Racing in Asia

Asia boasts more and more multi-sport events each year, mainly due to its warm tropical climate, perfect for year round racing. Many of the events and venues are considered holiday destinations or ‘race-cations’, perfect for taking the family and a great post-race vacation.

However, with the good, comes some obstacles. Asia contains more than half the world’s population, a wide range in social classes, and very diverse cultures, many of which can be very foreign to Westerner’s. While some do have negative experiences, there are many who love to make the long-haul trip once or twice a year to enjoy unique and festive events!

Below are some of my top 10 do’s and don’ts for racing in Asia.

Top 10 DO tips:

  • Do join events that have been run for a few years and have good reviews.
  • Do make sure the logistics are simple and clear. Navigating and stringing voyages together in Asia can be difficult.
  • Do check the weather for you specific race, and see if you are willing to race in heavy humidity and heat, or risk racing in a tropical storm.
  • Do travel in a group to share the experience, feel safer and have more fun.
  • Do be cautious while riding or running out on the roads and with any object of value.
  • Do expect to see some unusual and interesting things before, during and after event.
  • Do be ready for a non-wetsuit swim and to know the whole course well.
  • Do explore the area after the race.
  • Do bring your own personal nutrition that you would use before and during the race. It may not be available locally.
  • Do have greater hygiene than usual. Wash your hands regularly and only drink bottled water. Avoid ice in your drinks.

Beautiful race starts in Asia

Top 10 DON’T tips:

  • Don’t arrive too early before the event, training can be treacherous and difficult. Particularly with the heat and often roads are too busy to train on.
  • Don’t organise too much in advance, just the basics. Locals have this “go with the flow” attitude and over organising might slow you down or set unrealistic expectations.
  • Don’t join first year events, there is ALWAYS problems.
  • Don’t look at last year’s results and think it was a “weak race” because of slow times, the races and weather are hard. Not many PR’s are set in Asian races.
  • Don’t expect the course to be safe and straight forward. This is part of the fun of racing in Asia!
  • Don’t rely too much on local volunteers and lower your expectations for the aid stations. Ensure you are self-reliant as much as possible during the race.
  • Don’t expect everything to start on time.
  • Don’t expect to find a Western meal easily or for cheap.
  • Don’t eat local food until AFTER the race.
  • Don’t expect the culture to adjust to your every personal needs or beliefs because you have money.

With that said above, typically in Asia you have 3 types of races. Below is some information about them, and their pros and cons:

The Island Race
Usually these are the best race venues, they have the nicest resorts, with the top beaches. The courses are usually loops and maybe hilly, as there are quite a few volcanoes in Asia.
One downside is that the travel can be lengthy and once on the island, prices can be expensive and/or options limited. Trying to rent a vehicle on the island is the surest way to get the most out of your trip, as well to get ready for the race. It will limit walking around, allow you to see more of the course, and also explore the Island post-race. Often these events are primarily attended by those who have travelled from abroad, local expats or wealthier locals. Like most islands, it’s generally more laid-back compared to the mainland.

The Race Near a Big City
These are usually are the most problem prone. Often the bike course can be complicated, narrow and technical due to road restrictions, or have very rough surfaces due to heavy vehicle traffic. The swim can be a bit dirty, or the run goes through some busy areas (Often with people still partying from the Saturday night!). They are typically very convenient to access for those travelling from overseas, are the most well attended and popular events. Usually they have plenty of low priced accommodation, no shortage of entertainment and great local food. This is where you will meet most of the local triathletes in the region and possible enjoy the most colourful after party, ever!

The Race in the Boondocks
These are usually the most memorable experiences, where you will get a true local and authentic atmosphere. Away from the crowds and tacky tourist areas, you will have the chance to see the real side of the particular country. While these might be a bit difficult to access, the prices for accommodation and food are usually low. Be ready to have lots of eyes on you, even be asked for a picture. The infrastructure might be a bit old and undeveloped, but it will have a relaxed vibe, and a possible area for retirement. The courses are often on the main roads, pretty simple and straight forward. Usually the local governments are heavily involved in these events.

Racing in Asia is becoming more and more popular, as new unique and well run races keep popping up. Although locally athlete talent is still developing, there are usually some locals that possess serious natural ability and have a home race advantage. Always remember that racing successfully in Asia requires the ability to adjust to unforeseen circumstances and make the most of the present situation. Asia might be some of the most difficult races in the world, where many amateur athletes have snagged an odd Kona slot or an unusual age-group win. But these races tend to suite the “steady Eddy” athlete, who don’t slow down under pressure and just keeps on trucking.

Mat O’Halloran is a Trisutto.com coach based in Asia.
Join Mat in Iskandar Puteri (Nusajaya), Malaysia in April for his Triathlon Camps

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.