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.
The gracious Ed Whitlock broke another World Record when 85 years old. Photo Credit: Todd Fraser/Canada Running Series
Last weeks news of the passing of Canadian running legend Ed Whitlock, prompted the following reflection – Robbie.
In 2003 at age 72 Ed Whitlock become the first person 70 years or older to run sub 3 hours at the marathon, with a 2:59:10 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. At 73, he lowered that to 2:54, and last October, at age 85, he ran 3:56:33 at the Toronto Marathon, becoming the first in person over 85 years old to break 4:00 and taking 28 minutes off the previous 85+ record.
How was Ed able to achieve such amazing feats? As with champions from all walks of life, The Magic Comes From Within
Whitlock did practically all of his training in 5-minute perimeter loops of the Milton Evergreeen Cemetery, a short jog from his house. When asked why he chose that venue for training runs of up to four hours, Whitlock replied, “I would prefer not to run around in small circles day after day, but overall, taking everything into account, it sort of suits me. If it’s windy, I don’t have to face the wind for too long at any one time. If something happens, I can be home immediately. There’s nothing perfect in this world.”
Whitlock also defied convention in his approach to non-running activities, in that he did no stretching, strength training, or cross training. When he was injured, he simply stopped running until he felt able to resume his high-volume training. He followed no special diet, other than to eat enough to keep his weight up. Whitlock mostly ran in old shoes he’d won at races or had otherwise received; he said the racing flats he wore to break 4:00 at Toronto were 15 years old.
Whitlock said, “I realized in my late 60s that this silly objective of being the first person over 70 to get under 3:00 in the marathon was just sitting there waiting for someone. I thought it should have been done long before, but there it was, so I thought I should make an effort at it.” Runners World
Incredible feats are not the sole (or soul!) domain of sports. When trekking in the Himalayas, visitors are sure to experience local sherpas / porters carrying towering loads on their backs, their packs sometimes heavier than their bodies. A 150-plus pound pack on a 125-pound man, and the sherpas carry their packs up and down mountains, day after day, year after year.
How do they manage such feats of strength and endurance? Lengthy scientific experiments and study offer little light, and can only conclude:
What these sherpas are doing, from our perspective, is sort of unimaginable, even for athletes. In Western society, we no longer have a real handle on what humans can do physically because we’re so far removed from this level of daily work that we physically can’t do it anymore. They simply go. And they keep going. npr.org
Returning to the sporting arena, two coaches of champion runners that greatly influenced training methods, are Arthur Lydiard of New Zealand and Percy Cerutty or Australia.
‘It’s just a matter of understanding what’s necessary and to discipline yourself to do it.There is no need for a separate mental training program of affirmation and visualisation if it is inbuilt into the training program. There is nothing more confidence-building than the knowing of thorough preparation.’ – Arthur Lydiard
(left to right) Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Barry Magee and Alan McKight training on the 22-mile Waiatarua Loop in NZ.
Likewise Percy Cerutty, who’s ‘Stotan’ philosophy sits at the core of his coaching philosophy –
‘I do not seek champions. I cleave to ‘triers’ who are sincere. The ‘lessor’ trying to become ‘more’ appeals to me more than the ‘arrived’ wishing to go further. It is the ‘overcoming’, not the ‘success of’ that is important. It is not the winning, it is the journey. It is not the ‘doing’ but the ‘trying’. All the world admires a ‘trier’ – and that is something we can all exceed at – to be ‘tops’ in being a sincere and punishing ‘trier’.
One must have tenacity, loyalty, be able to withstand physical hardship, know oneself, remain un-influenced by trends and dogma, and have informed intelligence.
To live this way of life is hard. It is not for weaklings. It is the way that is travelled by all the truly great ones. It requires strenuous effort of body and mind. Fail, is not in my dictionary. I’ve got a good dictionary and the words ‘fail’ and ‘failure’ have been ruled out for years. I don’t know what people are talking about who use that word. All I do know is temporary non-success, even if I’ve got to wait another 20 years for what I’m after, and I try to put that into people, no matter what their object in life.’ – Percy Cerutty
Percy Cerutty – Maker of Champions!
Returning to Ed Whitlock, one additional characteristic is also to be observed. Ed was renown for his modesty and simplicity.
“I never know what to say to people who say, ‘You’re an inspiration.’ What do you say to that? I’m not an inspiring person at all.”
Truly an example of The Magic Comes From Within
Athletics – How To Become a Champion; by Percy Wells Cerutty
Why Die? The extraordinary Percy Cerutty, maker of champions; by Graeme Sims
Robbie Haywood is Director of Coaching at Trisutto.com.
Inquiries about Trisutto Coaching Certification can be made to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
During our off season, many of us ask ourselves what our priorities are for the next triathlon season.
Different people have different priorities. For some it may be improving their swim, learning more about different training methods at a training camp, or perhaps upgrading their equipment. Sometimes this can lead to buying new equipment we don’t really need (or want), although another jersey or a new bike may provide motivation to train harder. 😉 Priorities all serve a similar purpose – to help us to be faster in the next season.
Every year there are ‘breakthroughs’ in new equipment, training protocols, recovery methods, and nutritional products. However, we should not forget the basics, of what actually makes us faster. It is training and common sense…, so often forgotten or over shadowed by the promises of improvements without effort or commonly called ‘free speed’.
I recently came across an article (Forget The Gadgets and Hacks: Nail The Basics) which examined these current trends in a simple but powerful comparison. Athletes who are chasing the ‘last’ 1% might have forgotten that what actually makes them faster is the ‘first’ 99%. The 99% being the basics: a sound training plan executed well, accompanied by recovery (primarily sleep) and good natural nutrition.
It is my belief as a coach that even sound nutrition and recovery are secondary to a good training plan executed well!
Avoiding the gadgets decreases distractions. Photo: The Guardian
I would like to use the example of an athlete I coach. She has a very demanding and stressful job, gets by on limited sleep, and her nutrition could be better. She has a basic understanding of equipment, and her position on the bike has room for improvement. Despite what many would see as shortcomings, she has instead focused on the 99%. The result; a 2 hour improvement in her Ironman.
Why has she improved?
She takes her training seriously, yet is not tempted or distracted by the 1%. Whilst training is a priority in her busy schedule, she still finds time for family and friends. However what she does not spend time on is reading about triathlon, researching new equipment, trying superfoods, doing fitness tests and analysing every workout! Her head is not filled with clutter. If she has an extra 30 minutes, she goes for a short swim or a run.
With permission below are extracts taken from her race feedback after her recent ‘A’ race (where she recorded her huge Ironman distance PB).
- I was so fit and felt so good. I was actually thinking the other day that one of the advantages of always eating sweets and all sorts of things is that then in the races I can eat anything on the bike with no problems at all. I ate so many chocolates on the bike that for a moment I thought I would end the Ironman weighing more than when I had started!
- Yes it is true about pushing more in the Ironman. I do not think I could have pushed more on the run, but then when I see the pictures at the finish still looking so fresh, I am wondering if I just wanted to look good for the picture, that I always keep 1% energy to cross the finish line, or maybe simply that I still had something more to give?
- My bike position, indeed, possibly loads to improve (I did not tell you as I felt embarrassed but I had not practiced with the aerobars on my bike before the race except that day in 70.3 race last month, all the aerobar position I had practiced was on the watt bike in the gym).
- My friends and triathlon colleagues were shocked by my performance in the Ironman, and started asking about the type of wheels I had as they noticed I never had aero wheels before. None asked about the training plan, the coach (i.e.you) or all the effort we have put in to make me fitter; rather it was like they credited it to the wheels only.
- We did certainly cause some sort of shock in my club as I was first female in the race and nobody expected this considering I was one of the slowest people on the bike at any distance and now many want to know about what do I do, what bike I have, etc etc. I would rather be unnoticed and keep doing my training.
- I am recovering much faster than I had expected. I have been doing 20 minutes of swim, or very easy bike every day, and that has helped a lot.
- Training for the Ironman was easy. Every day I did the training plan you sent me. I have no time to read or think about my sessions, it is your job to do all this stuff and give me sessions that are right for me.
The improvements this athlete achieved last season were great. Could she improve more? Probably yes!
We start this season with more experience, and with that we may choose to focus more on nutrition, better equipment and recovery. Last season we worked with what we had, with the time available, and what she was comfortable with. We concentrated on the first 90%, resulting in an outstanding race performance.
Happy Training and a successful 2017 season.
Rafal Medak is a Trisutto.com coach based in London.
Join Rafal in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria in March and April for his Triathlon Camps.
Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.
Trisutto coach Mel Mitchell leads out the swim at the 1998 F1 Triathlon Series. The series was a huge hit in Australia for both the athletes and spectators.
I’ve been asked a couple of times for my opinion on the launch of the new Super League Triathlon race series.
That is a very simple answer; great news for triathlon, greater news for the triathlon spectator.
While the concept itself is not new, it will be first time viewing for the majority of today’s triathlon fans and I promise will be infinitely more exciting than the current WTS short course offering.
People often reminisce with rose coloured glasses, but the Formula 1 triathlon series held in Australia (1990’s-early 2000’s) is one of those rare times in the sport that had the triathlon spectator first in mind. I can only hope the racing will be as spectacular in this new venture.
As co-founder, it appears Macca has made every effort to make that happen with as strong a roster as possible signed up. No doubt he is drawing on the days when he went head to head with Greg Welch, Miles Stewart, Brad Bevan, Spencer Smith and a host of Champions over a series with different formats and distances that suited each others strengths. It brought the best out of each other and the sport.
What makes me more excited is that Europe didn’t see the best of this style of racing.
I’m aware they’ve taken some criticism for only having a male race to begin, but they have been in strong negotiations with the best women in the world and should the men’s race be a ratings winner, the women’s race launch will be imminent.
The bigger point I’d make is this. It’s very difficult today to start something new in our sport. Between the WTS squeezing out all the independent short course races for their preferred formats, or Ironman rampaging through the existing long course scene like Godzilla, new ventures should be supported. I wish the very best to the backers, athletes and organisers. For triathlon’s sake I hope it’s a huge success.
In the starters hands at the the Super Sprint Tri Series Grand Prix in Las Vegas – a similar concept run in the USA in 2010 and again in 2013-14. Photo: Super Sprint Triathlon Grand Prix