As we head to the business end of the season, I want to address a big problem for not only age group athletes, but also pros. Putting unbearable pressure on oneself to perform before the race even starts.
Many who join our squad are more than a little surprised that as we enter our race preparation for the big days, how laid back and not revved up they are. Our results on getting it right on the big day are formidable! Thus, athletes looking for the big motivational speeches are duly disappointed!
We keep it calm, controlled and clinical!
As mentioned in previous blogs, we shun the word ‘win’. It has no meaning in itself. It can’t positively effect the outcome where one person or a team can beat another. That outcome only manifests itself if the preparation has been carried out in the best possible way, and on race day the focus is on the process.
We at Trisutto have had huge success with many athletes who before joining us, did not get their job done to the best of their abilities on the day they wanted. As a coach just as an athlete, I do have my process. That is about diffusing expectations and honing the athletes thoughts on having a clear head, to be able to then execute a planned strategy.
Here is a taste of what I try to achieve:
1) I emphasize that thinking of winning is a detriment to performance. We must have the self discipline to concentrate in the ‘now’ and to be able to execute certain skills and actions.
2) The strategy or actions have been laid out, discussed, and agreed well before race week. So it is rehearsed and completely understood as second nature.
3) Have check lists. This is so important, to take any last minute error that can provide extra pressure.
- Check list for travel
- Check list for race gear
- Check list for strategy
- Check list of how to think on the day
How many times have I seen athletes been destabilized because they left something at home! That creates anxiety.
How many times has a piece of race kit been left at the race hotel! That creates anxiety.
Check lists for strategy – when the nerves come (and they do), having something to remind the athlete of their procedure that is physical makes an enormous difference.
Check lists or some written word about how you should view competition is very important.
Quite a bit was made about what I gave Chrissie to settle her down at races – a copy of the poem ‘IF‘ by Rudyard Kipling hit the spot. Nicola Spirig has a different type of list, but it all has the ability to do one thing. The similar job as the other lists. The most important thing you can do as an athlete or coach, is to plan to diffuse anxiety! This is easier said than done. But if you follow the blueprint above, you will be amazed how it can clear your mind to have a positive outcome to your big races.
I wish the best mechanical luck to all Trisutto followers, athletes and coaches. For those who aren’t, we are about the best person on the day winning – it doesn’t have to be us! That is the honour of sport.
It still lives at Trisutto.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
In every race there are only three prizes. One for first, one for second and one for third. So unless there are only three people racing, there’s no way everybody can get a prize. So if you don’t win, if you don’t podium, are you not successful?
As a professional athlete it was something that was always in my mind. Am I succesfull? Am I successful to come fifth in an IRONMAN race, to come fourth, to come eight in a Championship race or to run a career personal best time ending up sixth place in the field? Was I a good athlete even though I only won one Challenge race? Do people perceive me as a successful athlete? Again, what is succes?
As a coach I see athletes struggle with the same question. Of course racing as a professional has its own dynamics and you strive to be the best athlete in the field. You want to make a living out of it, which is not easy in this sport. You do that by performing. To podium. To get a paycheck. Or to get that podium bonus by your sponsors. It is the ultimate implementation of being paid by performance. Something that will not work in a normal job or corporate company because there is simply no way that you can run a business by only paying people who have the best performance.
But succes and/or performance is both subjective and objective. The objective side is the simple 1, 2, 3. The subjective side is more complicated. My career best performance only got me to sixth place. There were 5 girls better then me on the day that I had my best performance. My best performance is limited by myself. I’m no Chrissie Wellington or Daniela Ryf. I’m not a Xena, the Warrior Princess or Corinne, the Welsh Wizard. And that is ok. I strive to become as good or even better then they are, but I might not have the same talent physically or mentally. Or have the right background in sports to fall back on. And that is ok. I want to make myself better, stronger and faster. So ’till this date my career best performance, even though I was not on the podium, is a succes in my books. And one of my best performances.
Whether you are successful as an amateur athlete is something you don’t need to measure by other people. You have your limitations as do the others. You just don’t know them. Maybe you were racing people who used to race professional? Or still kind of are. Or don’t have that demanding job of 50 hours a week. Or maybe the person you just overtook is working 60 hours a week. Or maybe he or she is overtaking you because training for triathlon with a demanding job is a way to get their mind at ease. Or maybe you race against people with a family. With a newborn. With four kids. And they have to juggle everything around. For them it might all be about balancing everything out.
As hard as it is, I want my athletes to look at their own performance. Making their own succes. Like getting to that finish line of a full triathlon for the first time. In one piece. Finishing to grab a beer with the family after. For me as a coach, that makes me very happy and proud. I see that as a success. Or enjoy a 15 minute best time even though it wasn’t enough for the podium. You had a great performance, so don’t beat yourself up because someone else was better on the day. Celebrate your progression. As a coach I see that progression and I see that as a success.
But success might also mean overcoming fear. Fear for a distance, or a certain race. I have experienced that. Challenge Almere last year was my fear race. My home race. The race where you want to have the best performance of your life. I feared the startline, because I was afraid I’d fail. For my friends and family. I wanted to make them proud. What if I couldn’t? Last year I finally did it. And even though I didn’t win, I celebrated my very hard fought second place like I did win. It was my succes of overcoming fear. Before the race. During the race. And even after the race, by celebrating my succes with the people that matter to me.
Success is not measured by podiums. Of course it looks great in the race report, but that doesn’t make success. That doesn’t always reflect a good performance. I landed on the podium of an IRONMAN once with a lousy performance. There were not too many girls racing that day. And I got lucky. Was that success? It looked like it to the rest of the world, but to me it has always been about performance. About getting the best out of myself. And on one day that might be a personal best time. The other it’s overcoming deep dark places during the race. You make your own succes. Not anyone else.
Mirjam Weerd is a Trisutto Coach who also races as a Professional Triathlete. Mirjam is currently based in Curaçao, and has a dedicated group of online athletes. Mirjam also hosts regular coaching clinics, sharing her vast triathlon experience and knowledge.
Daniela Ryf at one of the multiple pre-race media commitments at Challenge Roth.
When you’ve been such a warrior throughout your career as Yvonne has, and is struggling for form and recovering from an exhausting event – it’s probably not be the best time to vent grievances when the cause of the real frustration lies elsewhere.
But it is symptomatic of the problems the sport faces at the top level of performance. A situation where you have “professional” triathletes complaining about their competitors being too professional:
Challenge Roth is a world class sporting competition. It is not about the ‘buzz’ and pre-race drindl and pasta parties.
You don’t see Roger Federer or Rafal Nadal spending ‘5-6 hours’ the day before Wimbledon around the grounds to soak in the pre-competition atmosphere and you won’t see Daniela doing it either.
Challenge wants the best athletes at their number one event. They also want them to prepare to be at their very best for when the gun goes off. So no-one, including the organiser’s, are going to apologise because the world’s best prepares and executes her build up to be ready for giving 100% race day.
As for my personal view; many professionals in triathlon tend to get lost between viewing triathlon as a competitive sport vs. triathlon as a lifestyle hobby. And because the long distance version of triathlon hasn’t figured out a sustainable model for the pros yet, the latter to some extent is inevitable. But without the former the sport is lost.
Daniela’s nickname is the Angry Bird for a reason. Just as Caroline Steffen’s was Xena. They are warriors. I point out to all our followers, we can’t all be smilers. The Bird is intensely focused on her performance and that is part of why she has cranked out three of the ten greatest female race performances of all time.
She will not be changing that.
And instead of complaining about it, maybe some of her competitors might want to take a harder look at how a champion goes about preparing for their race. She took longer than anyone else for her swim warm up? Boo hoo. Observe Alastair Brownlee pre race and see if he doesn’t exert a bit of authority. Officials were there on the start line.
Our age group athletes will never show any respect for our pro athletes while they allow the hoopla and hype of an event to affect race day performance. If Daniela starts to do that, she will need a new coach.
Of course the irony of all this is that only reason she was racing in Roth at all was out of respect for the race and her fans. She was not ready. She is not fit. She raced still recovering from injury against the wishes of her coach. She had the slowest last 25km run of her iron distance career – showing great physical and mental courage to get the job done out of respect for the event and fans. That should be applauded.
Instead, we have a witchhunt on social media because they had a shot at the Champ at her worst and still weren’t up for it.
It’s not for those standing off the dais to be lecturing those on top of it about professionalism.
Racing is war. The great ones understand it and love it. The good ones understand it and hate it. The rest we leave to themselves.
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.
‘Coach, what about racing in other sports?’
The Northern Hemisphere season has kicked off and one of the most asked questions is ‘Coach, I’ve got time before I do my main race. Can I do a race in another sport?’
My answer changes depending on the sport, the amount of time before the main race, and the possibility that doing that race could cause injury that will impact on the main goal of the season.
Let’s start with an open water swim race. The answer is nearly always a yes, great idea. Any time we get to practice open water in a real race scenerio is a big positive for me. If it is not the day before the race I’m more than happy to give it the big thumbs up.
Let’s move to the run race scenario. Again, I like this as a training aid to a better triathlon run. In saying that, we break it up into two categories:-
- To help improve speed, choose a race that is much shorter than race distance. If one is racing Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, then a 3 to 5 km road race is a great stimulus for future.
- To help improve race pace for long course / Ironman athletes, then races from 10 to 21 km are ideal. My favorite is around 15 km, as I have found it gives a great stimulus of both above race pace and endurance, but without flattening the athlete, or interrupting too much their training due to needing a longer time to recover. When attempting this style of race we insist it must be done negative split, or as a build run. This ensures we don’t build up a lot of unnecessary lactate during what is a glorified training session.
Running Races can compliment our triathlon training well.
I left the bike to last, as when an athlete tells me they would like to join a cycle race, I ask if they would like a broken collarbone before their main event of the year?
In a perfect world I’d love to say yes, but rarely does this occur. Safety must be the ultimate decider of bike racing, and I just don’t see pack riding being beneficial to an Ironman racer. If they ask can I do a time trial race, I’m the first to say ‘what a great idea’.
Let me be clear, if someone asked me to pick between a 1 hour criterium or a 1 hour time trial on a turbo, I would say there is no comparison. (I have only seen one, no two athletes fall off a turbo – but that is for another story!)
Racing other sports I find to be a great benefit if you put them in context with your long term goals, and can help you enjoy your fitness without breaking the bank – financially, or physically.
Get out there and give them a go!