Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity

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

Forgive a Horse a Bad Run

Forgive a Horse a Bad Run

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

  1. Bad wet suit – lets get another one
  2. Swim training not right – lets change the swim program
  3. 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’.

Why?
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.

You Start. You Finish.

You Start. You Finish.

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 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.

 

Project Ironman: The Fundamentals Part 2

Project Ironman: The Fundamentals Part 2

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.

Mindful Training
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.

Recovery
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.

Pacing
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
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 Magic Comes From Within

The Magic Comes From Within

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

 
References
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: robbie@trisutto.com