Professionalism in Triathlon: Response to Van Vlerken

Professionalism in Triathlon: Response to Van Vlerken

Daniela Ryf at one of the multiple pre-race media commitments at Challenge Roth.

Hi Bevan,

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.

 

Certainty in an Uncertain World!

Certainty in an Uncertain World!

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.

Tips for Starting in Triathlon

Tips for Starting in Triathlon

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.

Racing in other Sports

Racing in other Sports

‘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!

Project Ironman – The Bike: 3 Preparation Tips

Project Ironman – The Bike: 3 Preparation Tips

Ironman distance racing is ultimately about energy management. How you control and distribute your effort throughout the day is essential to a good finish. The ironman bike leg plays a crucial component to this end, as it normally represents the bulk of one’s total race time. Regrettably many still race the bike leg as if nothing were to follow, either caught up in the excitement of the day or on the quest for that new bike split PB. Yet the success of the subsequent run (assuming adequate training preparation) is very much predicated on what you do on the bike, from energy expenditure (pacing) to energy intake (feeding).

Here are three simple suggestions to help prepare your bike leg to have a positive impact on your run.

Technique – Practice Feeding

I will take a road less travelled. No talk about goal TSS, IF, cadence, peddling foot motion or about ideal head, back, hand position etc. Instead, a crucial fundamental – practicing the mechanics of getting nutrition from its storage place on the bike, or on your person, into you while staying comfortably in control of your bike.

This may sound presumptuous to many but forgive me. There is reason. I have personally encountered/witnessed individuals who were committed to an IM, kitted with slick race bikes, yet (in training) refused – literally – to reach for a water bottle (from a seated position let alone from the aero position) unless at a full stop, one leg on terra firma. All will agree that feeding is imperative in ironman racing. It is the 4th discipline. However, all the best nutritional advice and formulations are for naught if it remains affixed to the bike frame by T2.

It all starts with the set up – using kit or makeshift solutions that suit your comfort and ability/experience level. It is all fine and dandy that the latest trendy slick water bottle mount between the aerobars will save you 45s to 1min over 40k (in a wind tunnel).  It is of little value to you aerodynamically in an ironman if every time you have to drink you need to break position by sitting up or you lose directional control of the bike, because holding course with one forearm is precarious for you. In this instance, perhaps using a refillable aero bottle may be more suitable. Yes the wind tunnel numbers may show +0.0001g more aero drag on that straw than the former set up.  But if it helps you minimize movement on the bike while drinking then you will feel more comfortable to sip regularly whilst holding a better aero position for longer (win-win). And don’t feel belittled…. remember our World Champ…

Chrissie in Kona

Therefore comfort of access is crucial. If you are apprehensive to reach for items the more likely you will not eat or drink sufficiently. If you have a seat mounted cage, practice reaching back extracting and returning while keeping your eyes on the road. If you have a refillable bottle between the bars, practice refilling from another bottle on the fly. Likewise, practice ripping off gels taped to the top tube, reaching into your top tube food box or your jersey back pocket using either hand. Being ambidextrous is also advantageous. Should you race in a country where they drive on the opposite side of what you are accustomed to back home, the aid stations will likely be on that “new’ side. [Tip – practice your feeding mechanics while riding the turbo as well instead of having a buffet table alongside.]

So, whatever set up you chose for hydration and nutrition, you must practice using it as you would on race day. Learn to reach for things, and place them back on the move. If you are reluctant to do so, you may very well miss crucial feeding and begin accumulating a potentially unrecoverable energy debt before starting the run.

 Training – Holding Race Pace Under Fatigue

Everybody is a hero coming out of T1. Some even act like it’s a BMX race start Don’t believe me? Go to Kona and observe the sprinting and jostling of some age groupers not even 50m up the hill from the King K hotel – utter lunacy!  What matters is how you can sustain your race effort on the back half, to one-third of the course. This is where the real (smart) heroes shine.

In practical training terms this means first ingraining the necessary restraint at the outset of your long rides that will target race pace. No sense in beaming about your watts for the first 50k only to fizzle and falter by 80 km. Second, include progressively, longer continuous segments at target race pace effort at the back end of long rides when you are fatigued. These could start at 30 minutes and progress to 2 hours at the tail end of a 3 – 4.5hour ride. Don’t be afraid to try. Remember this is ironman race pace, not 40km time-trial pace.

Daniela has perfected the art of race pacing

The second component to these race-pace segments is cerebral – applying a race mindset, making tactical decisions as you would on race day. This will further amplify the value of such race-pace segments especially when facing undulating terrain with a tailwind. It will likely be difficult to hold a target power number. But you can still put out a “race effort” by doing the right things – i.e. holding tight aero and speed on descents, pushing a touch harder up a grade or into a momentary head/cross wind, deciding when to fuel based on terrain ahead and time etc. That is still relevant race-pace specific training.

Intervals are great for developing your race-pace. Long continuous segments will really train your physical and mental stamina and confidence to perform when tired, including making the right tactical decisions. The more you practice this in different conditions, the better positioned you will be come the run.

Race Preparation – Building Race Specific Stamina

Every ironman course is 180km (+/-), yet each one has its challenges – a climbing course is daunting for many, while holding aero position for hours on a flat course is unbearable for some. Barring an opportunity to ride the course in vivo, see it on a map and study the profile provided by the race or using Google Earth, Map My Ride or such. Appreciate, understand and then train to task…for the benefit of the subsequent run as well.

To highlight, consider Ironman Whistler. The course features approximately 2000m of cumulative climbing. There are about 20km’s of leg sapping, undulating terrain before the first major climb ~12km with 8-10% pitches thrown in. The last ~35km back to T2 is pretty much a sustained climb. In between there are lots of high-speed descents.

Obviously, climbing strength and descending skills should be incorporated into one’s bike training regime. With respect to race specific preparation within the last ~12 weeks, it would be beneficial to choreograph rides that accumulate a similar total elevation gain (or more) and periodically include a long sustained climbing effort on the back end, and then doing so before a transition run. This will achieve at least two things.

  1. You will need to diligently work your effort and fuel management to best position yourself energetically for the run. This may not be as straightforward as when riding a flat course.
  2. It will accustom your body to run with substantial climbing fatigue in it, which for some may be quite difficult as compared to a flatter course.

Likewise, if a course happens to have a lot of corners, you would want to plan rides that regularly disrupt your rhythm with frequent direction changes. Cumulatively this will have another unique effect on your disposition before the run.

Whatever the course you chose, study it, know it, train for it.

Incorporate these three tips into your ironman bike preparation to ensure you keep the “fuel flow” going, to remain on task as fatigue sets in and to bolster your confidence in handling the challenges of your chosen course. Doing so will increase the chances of a successful run.

 

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.

 

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.