Last week I made an honest attempt to defend those developing pro athletes who train every bit as hard as the champions. They have the right not only of our respect, but for the sport’s leaders to provide a pathway for a sustainable career that will benefit both sides.
That aside, the pros do need a sharp reality check – as their predicament is largely self inflicted.
There is still a way to make a small living in triathlon if one is prepared to be disciplined in one’s training and racing schedule.
With the proliferation of new races worldwide – I find it quite concerning the amount of underperforming newcomers who ask about coaching, but then talk about sponsors and fulfilling a travel schedule that looks like a Contiki tour so they can ‘get to Kona’.
That’s all before the standard ‘I can’t afford to get a proper coach’ – despite the coach having a proven track record of delivering exactly what their goals are.
Many are disappointed when instead of producing a magic wand, I suggest they focus on improving their performance to be good enough to earn a pay cheque in the first place. Living out of a suitcase in an airline transit area, competing at races that you are not good enough to be at is the worst possible way to move forward if one’s goals are to be good.
If you have serious flaws in one or two of the triathlon disciplines – ‘joining the circuit’ for 12 months will leave you right back where you started. No money and no improvement.
Sarah Crowley justly rewarded for a long term, professional approach to the sport. Photo: Korupt Vision
Over the past 12 months we have seen the meteoric rise up the professional ladder of Sarah Crowley. Sarah left a well paid corporate job to follow her dream – and I’m proud to say followed a different path to the majority of the inquiries we deal with.
Realising rather quickly that being ‘good’ was more important than the holiday circuit, she got an excellent coach and paid not to go to races but training camps to improve her weaknesses.
A former solid runner at ITU level, she engaged her coach Cam (Cam Watt) who is a bike expert, and they also flew to Jeju, South Korea for swim focussed training. For a month she trained with Daniela Ryf to see how the very best worked.
With improving performances she had the opportunity to get sponsored products – but instead followed her coach’s advice:
“Do not take on inferior products – it will cost you performance and money!”
Losing two minutes over 180km because you’re endorsing slower equipment can be the difference between a win or a fourth. Sarah again wanted what is best for performance. Not to be able to say ‘I have a sponsor’!
Such long term thinking has paid off very handsomely. She is now the current holder of the Ironman 70.3 Middle East, Ironman Asia Pacific and Ironman European regional Championships. For those who were at Sarah’s level two years ago, the improvement is not luck.
Taking The Plunge
It is not to say everyone can make the huge leap she has, but I can identify many others who with professional attitudes have made the step from very good age groupers to real “pros”.
The greatest of them is the legend called, Chrissie Wellington. She took a one week trial with yours truly and then gambled her savings on coaching and camps that would make her the best she could be. She was going to the top or back to a ‘real job’. No grey area.
Similarly, last weekend James Cunnama destroyed the field at IM Hamburg. Writing this I remember James contacting me some 10 years ago and asking what is the best way to become a “real” pro. He was advised to get on a plane and come to camp, so he could get the best possible judgement. Like the others he made the difficult transition with two training oriented seasons – and since then has had eight years career professional athlete with more to come.
For those considering making the jump, please understand it is totally different when you’re racing for a pay check to pay the bills each month. The pressure of racing without a safety net is not for everyone. Though I’m happy to give some free advice for those looking to make the transition from good amateur to hard bitten pro.
1) It takes time. I ask people joining Trisutto for three seasons to be the best they can be. If you come into the pro ranks with the ‘I’ll give it one year’ mindset I can help you right now.
Stick to your day job.
2) Invest in quality coaching and in training to improve and develop all three disciplines. Weaknesses that you can get away with as a good amateur will be brutally exploited when you run into the real thing.
3) Pick races that you can access easily and economically. Ensure after a race you are always able to return to base and get on with the most important agenda – training to make you better.
A professional, long term approach will get you to where you want to go much faster than you’d think.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Following on from our previous article on motivation we had a lot of message and feedback from athletes identifying themselves as being in slump.
And the group with the most inquiries asking how they can get their motivation levels back?
Age Group Kona Qualifiers.
I kid you not. It sounds ridiculous that after all the hard work, investment and planning to achieve their qualification, you find many with their motivation going missing a few months out. How is this possible?
It is totally normal to go into a psychological low after after obtaining a goal one has planned for years trying to achieve. The euphoria post-race in Ironman typically lasts about 72 hours – when we are mentally on a high, but the body is physically tired. As the mental buzz wears off to be more closely aligned with how our body feels, there is often an extreme feeling of emptiness.
There is no solution. Over 30 years I’ve had 20+ world champions go through the exact same thing. After achieving major milestones high performance athletes are warned of the oncoming wave of felling like:
‘I’m done now’.
Why? Because they are done.
And recognizing this is the key to overcoming it. Once you have attained a goal you must compartmentalise it and say ‘that is done’. I’ll now start something new.
Too many age group athletes having achieved their goal of ‘making it’ and qualifying to the Big Island, try to mentally ride their post-race achievement high to the race. Instead they are dumped into mental funk hole that is so deep they can’t see a way out of it.
To these people my advice is this:
Stop, recalibrate, begin a new adventure. Even now it is not too late.
Draw a line under what you have done, give yourself a little pat on the back and take this weekend easy to relax. View Monday as the first day of getting mentally and physically back on the job.
The good news is that despite hype, the reality is that Kona on a good day is one of the easier races on the circuit. It’s why so many Europeans go there and have great first time races. Because while everyone else are suffering from Kona-itis, they play the conditions and the course for the reality.
So if you have already qualified for Kona – you have nothing much to worry about, but much to look forward to. Bring it on.
Life Gets In The Way
We also have a second group of Kona qualifiers suffering the qualification blues:
Those that since the time of qualifying have had life circumstances change which have made training difficult.
I’ve had to take on a new job which has given me no time …
Kids and I are moving house in the middle of August! …
I’ve got an injury, but I’ve already booked the flight and hotel so won’t be at my best …
My advice for those who have lost motivation because of any of the above ‘catastrophes’ is less sympathetic. It’s time again for bathroom mirror treatment:
Give yourself a good slap.
You’re off to one of the most beautiful places in the world, participating in one of sport’s most unique events that you worked your ring off to get to. The last time I checked the prizes for age groupers were not million dollar cheques, but sunburn and a finisher’s medal.
Wake up! You have proven you can make the distance; it might not be your fastest race, but it may be one of the best experiences of your lifetime. Understand and embrace your circumstance. Relax, enjoy and appreciate how lucky you are.
If looking for a motivational boost, join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Gill Fullen’s 2017 season so far stands at:
- 1 British Duathlon Age Group Title
- Champion Outlaw Half
- 3rd Outlaw Holkham
- Champion Outlaw Full
And let’s not forget the Outlaw Full course record 9.44.48! Gill is the first athlete in the UK to hit the Double for Outlaw race wins.
For me this is an impressive CV of racing results by anyone’s standards on the UK Triathlon circuit. When you consider the fact Gill is 53, those results are phenomenal. Now what’s beyond phenomenal is that less than 12 months ago Gill was battling Breast Cancer!
It’s obvious Gill is a special individual. Back in may I wrote about her Journey when she won the Outlaw Half.
Now she’s just broken a course record and won the Outlaw full on nothing more than 70.3 training. How good could she be? While Gill is talented and impresses me week in week out, it’s amazing to think there is still room to improve!
She does the training, I just conduct a plan for her. And believe me there was a LOT of questioning of the plan leading into this race. Even up until the day before the race we had a good debate about how it might go. My message has always been to put herself in a position where Gill can use her natural mental and physical strength – draw the others into trading punches then the fight is on.
And what a fighter she is! When she listens her application is second to none and the run in to the Outlaw Full has been about learning and listening. This lady is one special individual and for me is an inspiration for not just women in sport, but people in general. I feel honoured and blessed to work with such a character.
A Swim PB and a Bike PB and an Overall PB for an Iron distance race on 70.3 training is amazing. We’re not going to overly push and will train according to what the body can handle. But watch out people for if Gill is at 100% strength to pack her real punch it’s going to be something special.
Perry Agass has been a professional coach for over 10 years and has worked with some of the best coaches and athletes in the world. He is a passionate, motivated and very thorough with excellent results.
Perry regularly holds camps in Cyprus for all levels of athletes.
Swimming in a group can be more fun! Trisutto age group camp in St Moritz.
Age group athletes listen up!
As we head into the business end of the season, I have been asked by three different cross sections of athletes struggling with motivation at the very time they expected themselves to be at their most enthusiastic. What are these three cross sections of athletes?
2/ Age group athletes who have, or are trying to qualify for Kona.
3/ Age group athletes who have taken on triathlon as their sport to help with improving their lifestyle.
With each group having a totally different solution I will address each section in separate blogs. We will start by giving the most important group the first response. Triathlon for the newbie can be very exciting, empowering, frightening and frustrating in equal measures. When I’m asked to address diminishing motivation after an exuberant start; or the age group athlete who has been doing the sport for a few seasons and although super competitive their late start curtails podium finishes in their age group; I always point them in one direction.
Back to the future!
When you first started what were your thoughts?
Why did you get into triathlon?
What were your initial goals?
I advise not to brush off the very best thing you can do, which is to break down the problem to the basic truth. You are overlooking all the benefits triathlon has provided, have started to think too far forward, and maybe also too competitively.
The sport begins very encouragingly, but has a propensity to take over from the reality of why we should be doing it! We start out looking to build a healthier lifestyle, to improve our physical condition, to help build improvement in oneself. At Trisutto whether you are a champion, a pro or an elite age group athlete, you are not hounded about winning. Try to let the sport help you grow as an individual – your only competitor is yourself.
Winning does not mean success. We place so much emphasis on individually being a success, however in a world that is built on more is better, faster is optimum, we tend to lose sight of what success is. To me the lack of motivation mostly comes from the results one looks at, rather than the most important part, which is the journey. This is the element where success is built, and self satisfaction can be found for all levels.
I point out on a weekly basis to some athletes who are not happy, that they are failing, and can’t see it. They dispute this very quickly, saying they are now 30 minutes faster, have gone from 30th in their age group to 10th but still want that podium. It’s driving them nuts.
For me, I ask really? Who for? What for? Why for?
They look at me rather strange.
Are you unhappy, never satisfied, having personal family problems because of an insistence on more training time, and find work now a hindrance to your new obsession? Personally does Brett Sutton find this success?
No. This loss of perspective is what is hurting our motivation.
The ability to use triathlon to enhance our lifestyle should not be measured in numbers. Instead how our new hobby enhances not just our fitness but our lot in life. So when you guys get a little stressed about a missed work out, or the need to have an easy day, look back to your original reasons for starting the sport.
Are you enhancing your lifestyle or hindering it?
It takes courage to back off and say this is not about next months competition, but is a plan for the rest of my life. It can’t be defined by such short term thinking. I advise to take a good look in the mirror. Then give yourself a good slap and say wake up! Go back to your original thoughts of what you first wanted out of the sport, and I’m sure your motivation for the future will be secured.
If looking for a motivational boost, join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Any person who has studied project management in the Information Technology field will be familiar with the 1975 bible on the subject titled ‘The Mythical Man Month‘ by Fred Brooks.
The premise of Brook’s text (known as Brook’s Law) is that adding additional resources (people) to a project speeds up the delivery of projects, but only up to a point. Once past this tipping point, every additional resource added actually has a negative affect on the outcome (delivery date) due to the additional overhead.
What does this have to do with Triathlon? Many of us want to succeed so badly, that we are always on the hunt for new ways to improve – ‘free speed’ of buying a new bike, $4000 wheels, a $400 carbon rear derailleur cage to save 1 Watt, or their third $400 bike fit in the last 18 months! The promises of super human recovery from sitting in compression boots between workouts, or enhanced skill acquisition from wearing a $700 pair of headphones prior to training!
However, just as complex programming projects cannot be perfectly partitioned into discrete tasks that can be worked on without communication between the workers and without establishing a set of complex interrelationships between tasks and the workers performing them; the constant ‘looking for clues‘ and the resulting never ending changing of training methods, workouts, equipment and recovery methods by Triathletes has a similar affect on their own ‘project management’ – i.e. themselves as athletes, and their race results.
Assigning more programmers to a project running behind schedule will make it even later, because the time required for the new programmers to learn about the project and the increased communication overhead will consume an ever increasing quantity of the calendar time available. A Triathlete constantly examining workout ‘data’ in minute detail, chopping and changing workouts, weekly structures, training methods and philosophies finds themselves in the exact same dilemma.
They are in a constant state of flux, never being able to ascertain what is working for them, and what is not. They never stay with one program long enough to understand their body and to see how it responds to training stimuli. When things are not going as they wish, they are lost. They have no standard routine to retreat to. Six pairs of cycling shoes, 3 changes of bike position, another new saddle…
Instead of ‘Looking for Clues‘, our TBF Training methodology directly combats this out of control approach with an emphasis on ‘Pick and Stick! Taking what so many triathletes consider is a very complex sport, and boiling it down into a simplified method. A repeatable plan that when given time and shown to be working, does not change for the sake of change. Losing 20% by looking for an additional 1% is rife in our sport – at all levels.
Brooks wrote: “Question: How does a large software project get to be one year late? Answer: One day at a time!” It is no different in the triathlete community. Triathletes who after years of ‘looking for clues’ suddenly experience huge improvements are the norm at Trisutto.com
Just as in this classic book on the software development process, persistent myths never quite go away: every new generation just has to learn them over again. Triathlon is no different.
Robbie Haywood is the Director of Coaching at Trisutto.com.
Join Robbie and Brett Sutton at one of their remaining training camps in 2017 in St.Moritz, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
In response from a recent request from Labosport Polska, Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton gives his advice for those new to our great sport and looking to start in their first Triathlon!
1) For whom is triathlon? Do you need special predispositions to train triathlon?
I believe triathlon is for every one. Over the next 5 years the sport will broaden its base enormously.
2) What`s important before you start your triathlon training?
If it’s been some time since one has exercised, or the first time, one should have a medical, to make sure the body is ready to start training.
3) How do you have to plan your training to make sure you are well prepared for all of triathlon competitions?
At Trisutto we believe that training for all distances starts with the same backbone. This is consistency. This is the key for all distances. Unlike exams, cramming for endurance sports is not a proven strategy.
4) Do Triathletes need a special diet?
I am one of the few that believe we don’t need to change diets greatly. We need extra calories as we lift the training load.
5) How important is regeneration during triathlon training?
Resting or regeneration is so important we view it as a big part of improvement. Without proper attention to rest, performance at all levels is hindered.
6) Do you have some gold thoughts/tips or hints for those who want to try their hand in triathlon?
If you are considering starting in triathlon, don’t be frightened by the technology or the belief that all the expensive equipment will help you improve faster. The keys to quick improvement are proper supervised training, done with consistency. The old saying of “no pain, no gain” is so misleading. Enjoy your new sport by training consistently and at a level you find enjoyable. Then it will be an amazing experience, and enhance your life.
Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help all levels of athletes from Elite to Beginners.
Check our coaching packages here.