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
• 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
Congratulations Steve, an inspiration to so many people. Photo Credit: James Mitchell Photography
This weekend saw Stephen Bayliss racing his last Ironman at IM Lanzarote, his home race. Stephen picked up an injury last month that had restricted his training to hard swimming, easy bike riding and no running. We decided to start the race and see if he could finish a distinguished career on a high. But with Ironman you can’t fudge performance; Stephen after a great swim, found there wasn’t anything in the legs. Then the supporters of Stephen got to see why he is admired not just by me, but all his peers. After a 20+ year career and with his legs completely gone, he decided to carry on as only the truely courageous know.
Stephen was disappointed in his performance indicating to coach he went out on a low. This coach put him straight. He went out on the biggest high you can in triathlon. His body, his training, the race course were all trying to break him but Stephen Bayliss gritted his teeth and showed the triathlon world what being an Ironman is all about.
From step one he hobbled, limped, walked in pain. With everyone encouraging him to stop, what makes Stephen Bayliss the man’s man that he is, is he wouldn’t allow himself the luxury.
The best accolade I can give to his career is a phrase used by Mohammad Ali when he was once asked what in his mind made a champion. The reply: ‘When a man is knocked down and he can’t get up – but somehow does!’
On Sunday Stephen finished his career by displaying the very qualities that has me saying
Stephen Bayliss, Champion person, Champion Athlete and A True Ironman
Thank you to: James Mitchell Photography
Have a bad race? Jump straight back in the saddle and carry on.
From time to time athletes will have what they perceive as a bad performance. This can lead to a grasping at thin air, trying to decipher, or come up with a reason for what is or was a possible cause.
As an example, I have seen athletes swimming the best they have ever swum prior to a race, but then have a poor swim on race day. Whether through self doubt, or discussions in a group environment, this can lead to doubt in their training program, and a desire (by the athlete) to throw everything out and make random changes based on their insecurities following this one poor result.
As a coach talking with athletes I often heard ‘X told me this is what they do’, or ‘Y says B also had this problem and how they worked on it’. In the above example of a poor swim, common suggestions include
- Bad wet suit – lets get another one
- Swim training not right – lets change the swim program
- Swim technique not right – lets change swim technique.
Any, or all three have the potential to wreck a whole race season!
In the sport of horse racing there is a very specific thought, before any changes are made –
‘Forgive a horse a bad run’.
There are so many reasons for a single poor performance, and a knee jerk reaction, after what could well have been an anomaly can have dire long term effects.
There’s always the next race to line up for!
Even in sports where one would think are played under controlled circumstances, we can observe anomalies. In Snooker, played on a perfectly flat table, small imperfections or dirt on the ball, or in the playing surface can affect the direction of the ball and the outcome of the game. Similarly in Golf, even with a perfect putting stroke, slight anomalies in a green can change the game, and if allowed to affect the players confidence then also the match, or even the players whole season.
The lesson is this –
Stop trying to take away good form because of an occasional performance that you are not happy with. If there is something wrong, you will be the first to have your coach questioning it. If he / she doesn’t, then show courage and stop doubting.
As doubt may indeed be the biggest problem for you.
Don’t let the numbers determine the success of a workout! Trisutto Campers training in Mallorca.
What is an awful workout?
How do we categorise a good or bad workout? Is it a great workout when we hit certain times after we have had 3 days of rest to get ready? Is it awful when we are training hard, start a workout tired, and by the end are going just above a walk? How important is hitting ‘the numbers’?
An athlete I used to coach, Tereza Macel found her best form winning Ironman Canada followed by a fourth place at Ironman Hawaii after learning not to look at, or define herself by numbers. Instead when tired the advice was to focus on completing all workouts she started, never missing one or cutting one short. Instead a new motto was adopted –
‘You start. You finish.‘
Sometimes the finish may be ugly, and the time a slow terrible time, but is this awful training? Or is it a source of inspiration?
Ask how much confidence can grow by not leaving a workout defeated? Can we put a score on the discipline to cope while not hitting our numbers, and instead to keep going? How many points do we score for telling ourself that consistency will pay us back later, even if we can’t see it helping at this moment?
Likewise, our Trisutto Coach Lisbeth Kristensen was another champion athlete who learned the benefits of a no numbers approach. As an athlete and new mum, she had to overcome the little voice that said – ‘I can’t train like I used to’ after missing or cutting short sessions if her daughter was sick or had to be taken to creche.
This lead to self doubt and questioning of ‘I don’t know if I can still do it?’
Trisutto Coach Lisbeth successfully managed training, racing and being a Mum!
However, this was always the subjective side of super mum, as all in the squad marvelled at her antics. Super mum with a baby stroller would run like a maniac through town for up to 2 hours at a time, she’d ride her trusty mountain bike furiously baby on back and swim short but sharper sessions.
Let’s not forget being a mum is training in itself, and who can decide on how to score that? What I can tell you is the score that counts and the only score that means anything is race day. And on that count Lisbeth raced very, very well long into motherhood.
Quality of session or time is not always everything. Sometimes it is just about getting it done. It can be extraordinary what one can achieve when the focus is training to race as opposed to racing to train.
What is good training? What is awful? Like most things, it is in the eye of the beholder!
Lisbeth brings her 10+ years of professional racing and training experience under head coach Brett Sutton, to help athletes of all levels, to achieve their goals.
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.
In part-one of my blog I covered the importance of having the right motivation and training plan to achieve your Ironman goals. These are just the first steps to success, you need to practice what you will do on race day, this not only includes the obvious, such as nutrition and pacing, but also race mindset.
To achieve quality IM training with the limited time most Age Groupers have, you must invest yourself in every session, 100%. If you have a 30min easy spin scheduled as a recovery, engage yourself in the process mentally, physically and emotionally, channeling all your energy to accomplishing the aim – promoting restoration. If you get on the bike and just go through the motions, checking your e-mail, Twitter and FB feeds, then you are putting in the famous “garbage miles”. Likewise, if you do the same during rest intervals in an intensity session, you just compromised that “quality” – see my point reference the term…Use every training session to practice staying on task, focusing and concentrating without compromise. If you let the mind wander the body will follow. Ironman is an agonizingly long day. Make each moment count and you will save time and energy.
While it is essential to listen to your body for signs and cues expressing fatigue it is also important to anticipate the need for scheduled rest. Remember that recovery is training. Consider it as a discipline. The body becomes stronger when allowed to absorb the preceding training. With the higher volume demand of IM training, especially as one approaches the race itself, recovery and regeneration become ever more important. Ignore it at your peril.
Work Your TOP
Suffering is part of IM. There is no hiding from it. Therefore as part of your physical and mental preparation you need to work your pain tolerance, or Threshold of Pain (TOP). This may include a once in a while session that takes you well outside your comfort zone. So don’t wait until race day to discover it. Practice it in training to help you develop coping mechanisms.
That also means being able to endure in solitude. While you may be “racing with 3,000 of your closest friends” the fact remains that IM is a lonely, solo effort. Those in particular who need the companionship of others to get their homework done should incorporate long solo HTFU (harden the ….. up) sessions into their regime. The mental resilience and tenacity gained will help through those dark moments that will inevitably taunt you to quit or feel sorry for yourself. Likewise it will enhance your judgment and decision making when under pressure and fatigued.
This is probably the biggest downfall for some of the most talented athletes. Correct pacing in an IM is key. Rehearse in training what you will execute on race day. Then on race day, have the discipline to stick to your pacing.
Cramping is a common phenomenon in IM racing, and is always addressed under nutrition. I chose to tackle it here as it is more the result of improper pacing than dehydration and electrolyte deficiency. More often than not participants get caught up in the electrifying ambiance of race day and lose all self-discipline and sense of judgement, hammering out of the gates, pushing their muscles to work at an intensity and duration they are unaccustomed to. The muscles become exceedingly stressed subverting the neuromuscular pathways and causing spasmodic contractions. Bottom line – rehearse your pacing, groove it, execute it, stick with it.
Nutrition (including hydration) is the fourth discipline of IM. It can be quite controversial and perplexing given the regular bombardment of contradictory information from the “latest research”. For this blog’s purpose I will only refer to nutrition preparation for IM competition vice daily dietary recommendations.
Like swimming, biking and running, you need to train it. Train your gut to ingest the quantities you need, and do so often under race pace stress, not just during a comfortable rest interval. My best advice is to take in calories frequently, rather than gulping or chewing bigger portions periodically.
One thing to be attentive to is the difference between ingestion (the quantity taken in) and rate of absorption (what is actually be taken up by your digestive system). The two are not the same and what is recommended in mainstream literature may not be suitable to you. There is no magic formula, only your individual requirements. So adhere to these two simple principles – know what you need per hour based on what you can tolerate and absorb, and ingest those calories in forms that suit your palate, and satisfy you physically and psychologically. There is no right or wrong only what works for you.
Know ahead of time what will be supplied on race course and try it. If you are accustomed to Gatorade Endurance and will race in Europe where say High5 is used or Australia where Endura is used, then sample some before to ensure that your stomach can handle the formulation. If not, then you know you need to plan around that limitation. If yes, then train with it so you have the flexibility to safely supplement on course when needed.
In training practice your nutrition and hydration timing. Rehearse it. Drill it in. Make it habitual. But be flexible. Practice and assess your nutritional decisions in training (based on the road profile ahead and environmental conditions) to minimize hesitation on race day.
If you plan to race with caffeine, train with it as well. Not every session, but periodically when doing race specific (long) sessions. Caffeine can also lead to cramping indirectly. Caffeine tempers our sense of pain and stimulates us to perform. Often caffeine is only used in races, and in higher quantities than accustomed to, to get that extra turbo charge. Add this to an already over-excited environment and the risk of pushing one’s muscles beyond what they are able to handle goes up significantly.
Fuel for performance. We have control over our nutrition (and pacing). Therefore there should be no (controllable reason) that bonking occurs, in training or racing. Plan your nutrition to optimize each training session especially on multi-session days. Avoid looking at each session in isolation. Always assess what came before, the demands and aim of the actual session and, what is to come after and when. This way you remain proactive in fueling and replenishing appropriately. This habit will preserve you on IM day because when you start reacting to nutritional needs you are already behind the 8-ball.
There is a lot involved preparing for an IM. But before you focus and obsess on the sexy marginal gains promised by the latest gadget, widget or elixir, follow these fundamental principles as the underlying foundation to your Ironman training and ultimately your race day success.
Ed Rechnitzer has over 28 years experience in triathlon and has completed multiple Ironman events, including Kona. He is a Trisutto Coach based in Calgary.
Join Ed at one of his three Mont Tremblant Camps in July.
Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.