THE T:ZERO BLOG
Free advice, content and media for all. It's our way of giving back to the tri community who have given so much to us. Enjoy!
BEHIND THE SCENES AT T:zERO MULTISPORT - PART THREE - ‘Progression is nine tenths of the ‘T:Zero law’
Part of any individual’s growth as a person and more importantly as a coach at T:Zero, is to expand our minds and keep on growing. We’re pretty big on learning and continuing to develop our own personal skill-sets, whilst also remembering to stay grounded and in-line with our ethos of not professing to know it all or have all the answers. In fact, we quite often say beware of the coach or person who thinks they have the secret sauce and ‘my way is the best’ approach.
Embedded in our values and our unwavering culture of consistent work ethic and growth, lies our T:Zero Coaches Framework. We have put together a framework for our coaches to use a guide to progress their own learning and development. The framework outlines the experience, learning and development required to enhance their skill-set. Akin to a martial arts belt system ;-) You come in as a White Belt and over time, through practice, countless hours of learning and setbacks, you find yourself going through the stages before reaching Black Belt status or in our case Development through to Head Coach.
This sits and rings true with the people we have within our team, all who come with an open mind and a keenness to learn. Like the embedded culture of success we have with our athletes at T:Zero, our coaching team is no different. Each coach comes from a different background, brings a whole host of personal skills and experience, has a new lens through which to see, and most importantly the freedom to express their own personal style within their craft.
The framework also gives us a chance to recognise and celebrate the hard work our coaches do behind the scenes to enhance their ‘coaching toolkit’ as we say. Once a coach feels as though they are aligning well with the next step in the guidelines, they flick through their proposal and more often than not, so far, we are absolutely blown away by what we see. It’s definitely one of those cases where as ‘leaders’ of a team, we are more than happy to see our coaches succeeding and progressing their skill and knowledge level to new and improved heights… so much so that eventually and hopefully they will surpass our framework and be helping to create new levels for us. Bring it on!
To encourage and foster the growth of our coaches, a portion of our annual budget is directed straight back to the coaches in the form of a dollar value that the coach can spend on courses and reading material that peaks their own interest. Add to this, in 2018 we hosted our inaugural Professional Development Day where we were able to get the coaching team together, bring in a couple of fantastic guest speakers (sports psychology and communication guru; and a successful businessman with his tips on the next steps in professionalism as it applies to us), and we were able to spend some time planning, debunking, and throwing ideas at the how, what and why behind coaching’s nuts and bolts - the real stuff.
As well as this, and often less formal, our coaches participate in huge threads of ongoing discussion (sometimes lasting months on end) on Basecamp (our project management tool and in-house sharing space) around hot topics. Topics range from how to set training zones (this goes super deep), through to our most recent and current topic around the intricacies of working/planning with and around hormones/menstrual cycles (mainly female focussed programming of course - but with men in mind as well). All these in-house discussions are incredibly interesting and also where so much magic and learning takes place. Our coaches are encouraged to ask questions, throw out resources, give opinions and participate knowing they are free from judgement and that the bottom line is always learning, and seeing things from multiple perspectives. As head coaches, participating and looking in on these conversations/discussions is mind blowing. You only need head over to our coaches page on the website to get a small glimpse of the experience and qualifications attached to each coach… now pool all these into one room and remember… you don’t just get one coach here at T:Zero, you get the collective wealth of many.
Whilst we back our coaches abilities 100% as they are right here and now, there’s no ego in-house and no question too proud to be asked. It’s an absolute pleasure to be a part of the culture that is T:Zero - the vision we had for this group of individuals - athletes, coaches and the collective team - has far surpassed our initial plans, and all for the better. We are so grateful for everyone in our community and can’t wait to keep on enjoying the ride as we continue to grow.
On the Ground - Destination Cairns 2019
At this year’s Ironman Cairns, T:Zero Multisport stepped things up a notch with Destination Cairns – bringing together T:Zero athletes and supporters to share a unique experience and get the most out of what was to be a fantastic weekend.
To kick things off on Friday night, we had a sit down three-course dinner at our long time Cairns athlete and hosts-with-the-mosts - ‘The Sager’s’ place. We had one of our very own athletes (former Master Chef Portugal contestant and recent Ultraman finisher) - Luis Fernandes - make the journey up to lay down a mighty fine feast for everyone to enjoy. Previous event winner (and eventual Ironman Cairns 2019 podium finisher and Kona qualifier) David Dellow joined us to talk about his racing history and share some Ironman Cairns course tips.
Our athletes left the dinner that night feeling full and ready for Sunday, not to mention geared up with a Cairns sponsor’s pack complete with an exclusive t-shirt and sponsor goodies including EnerC electrolyte sachets, Clif bars, gels and bloks, and Zen Spray.
Day 2 saw T:Zero athletes heading north to Palm Cove for bike tracking, bag drop offs and swim course recon. Coach Scotty positioned himself at T1 to lend a hand calming pre-race nerves and offer last minute tips. The overall demeanour of our athletes was a really positive reflection of how well their respective T:Zero coaches had prepared them.
At dawn on Sunday morning Coaches Scotty and Monique, as well as a host of T:Zero supporters, stationed themselves at Palm Cove to watch all the athletes as they prepared for the start of their race. As always, it was electric out at race start and it was great to see so many smiling faces amongst a sea of nerves and excitement.
The T:Zero tent was set up in town on Cairns Esplanade. As the day progressed, many visitors and supporters visited. In typical Cairns fashion, the weather (wind!) was wild on race day, but we didn’t let this dampen our spirits! From dawn until midnight, athletes, coaches and supporters were sporting smiles (mostly) through the ups and downs of long course racing.
We pride ourselves on our culture at T:Zero. As always, there was a camaraderie and spirit free from ego and judgement. Everyone went to Cairns with their own goals and levels of experience and they were met with a strong sense of equal accomplishment. It was so awesome to watch our athletes out there giving it their all, executing their plans and getting the most out of the experience. There is no such thing as an easy Ironman, and certainly no such thing as a smooth day either. From whatever perspective you view it, it’s all about endurance.
We finished the weekend off with a casual race debrief at the coffee shop on Monday morning, before catching our respective flights home.
For a small group of committed individuals, it was great to see everyone come together and share in the experience of Cairns Ironman. We all lead busy lives and for the most part, the majority of T:Zero athletes train solo. So when we come together, it’s extra special and super nice to create that sense of community through some face-to-face human interaction.
The next big event coming up for T:Zero will be the Sunshine Coast Ironman 70.3 (September 8th) before a host of further 70.3 and Ironman events scattered all across the globe.
We will be sure to get the team together for a coffee and a catch up pre-race at the Sunshine Coast Ironman 70.3 and will have a strong presence both on course and in the supporter’s tent! Hopefully we will see you there for another round of fun!
BEHIND THE SCENES AT T:ZERO MULTISPORT - PART TWO - WHO WE ARE, AND WHAT WE LOOK FOR IN ASPIRING T:ZERO COACHES
“A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, for the good of the group, that’s teamwork.” - Coach John Wooden
"T:Zero provides professional coaching via correspondence to endurance athletes of all levels of skill and experience living anywhere in the world. The training programs are personalised and delivered in detail, by expert coaches (who themselves are experienced athletes) and designed for you to experience your optimal potential during training, on race day and beyond.”
Company Values (for our coaches):
As you read above in both our Mission Statement and Values, we are a collective group of growth minded coaches, delivering customised coaching via correspondence. At the core of what we do lies a strong unified belief that providing individuals with personalised coaching programs is crucial to achieving goals. Time and time again, we see results, and the crux of this is the personalised nature of how and what we do within our programs at T:Zero.
Like an athlete when they enquire about coaching at T:Zero, we have a similar process when bringing new coaches into our team.
We look for people who possess a growth mindset - are they resting on their laurels in thinking they have worked out the magic recipe in coaching and in life? Or are they on a path of development and enquiry no matter where they are on the continuum of experience and mastery of their craft? We talk regularly in-house about adding to the coaching toolkit and continually challenging your own existing belief systems by seeing things through the eyes of other coaches. More on this in another blog.
Is this person someone who can deliver consistency to an athlete? Are they a rock solid individual that can handle the ups and downs of their own life as well as taking on a range of individuals/athletes who each bring their own unique set of obstacles to manoeuvre? Hands down, consistency, albeit not very sexy, is one of the most important attributes an individual on a journey of growth can adopt, and it’s also one of the most difficult things to deliver on. Time and time again, we tell our athletes that the real secret to achieving big goals is ‘consistency’ of training - staying healthy, applying yourself daily, and remaining consistent over a longer period of time, is going to bring you far greater results than a fleeting 12 week block of the best program a coach could develop. The same theory applies to almost everything in life - if you apply yourself consistently to any craft, for many years, you’ll find yourself achieving big. Our coaches are expected to perform in just the same vein… with professionalism and consistency.
Part of carrying yourself in a professional, positive manner is having gratitude for whatever it is in life that you are doing. Applying gratitude to your craft is essential to adopting a positive frame of mind and producing high quality work. Thinking “I’m lucky I get to do this today” instead of “I have to go to work” changes your mindset for the better and is far more conducive to deep learning and productive work. We want and expect our coaches to be ‘all in’ to their craft, and adopt an attitude of gratitude.
Whilst we strive to be grateful and show empathy in discourse with individuals, it’s also important for our coaches to be honest and not afraid to have tough conversations across both coach-athlete and collegial lines of communication. We show respect, but at the same time, we are not scared of shying away from the truth and speaking our minds.
Being a coach is all encompassing. But at the core of what we do lies the desire to help and teach. The current blend of coaches we have, whilst all individuals with strengths and weaknesses of their own, share this strong belief in customised coaching for the individual. It’s why we have so much success and why we have seen and continue to see the growth across the collective team of coaches and athletes.
“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” M. Theresa
In Part 3, we let you in on the ‘Coaching Framework’ that helps give our coaching team some strategy and targets to aim for in their own development of their coaching craft.
By Simon O'Connor.
The big day…It all starts the with a 4am alarm and wishing you had more sleep throughout the night, my mind was constantly visualizing the day ahead in the hours before I actually hopped out of bed. Then shower and breakfast (coffee, bananas, Cliffbars) done, then before you know it onto the shuttle bus with athletes heading up to Palm Cove. Once at the destination it’s into the bike compound to set up nutrition, bottles and check tyre pressure is correct. I generally take my time to ensure every little detail is completed. Once out of compound it’s a short walk to waterfront / swim-start with wetsuit to meet my wife and father-in-law. Nerves really starting to kick in as I eat and keep hydrated best I can for the 7.45 wave start. Time goes by relatively quickly as 70.3 have now left and on swim course…last goodbye kiss and group hug to support crew with the typical pre-race photo.
SWIM LEG – Athletes line up in wave starts its time to go and race notes & plan from Coach Em is now in play (Zone 3 front pack). Ironman Cairns is underway. Swim was tough going with SE winds and strong current pushing against us all for first 1.9km. Luckily for me I grew up in the ocean and can handle a decent swell (no sea sickness). Once at turnaround point I was feeling calm and relaxed… checked my watch (37mins) happy as. Homebound with some excitement as I was on pace and feeling strong sitting with a small pack (currents and wind assisted) Exited the water in 1hr 14min. Perfect start to race plan by Coach Em…now into T1 with minimal fuss.
BIKE LEG – T1 now completed then onto the biggest and most daunting part, the bike. For me patience is the key and “sticking to the race plan” as it’s very easy to be caught up in the hype as the stronger bike groups come out at super speed, or going harder than you should (fresh legs)…I remind myself 180km is a long way and will be 6hrs plus (for me). Coach Em’s bike plan was very detailed and strategic broken into 60km increments. Basically, I would ride at 70% to max 75% (last 60kms) for the entire 180kms. There were times I had to pull back to plan as my mind was drifting off to enjoy the spectacular coastal views (sitting above average km pace). Key elements of the IM bike…eat & hydrate accordingly and repeat the process as I have done in training countless times. Golden rule in racing – never deviate away from what you have done in training with nutrition. For me it’s simply Cliff Bars cut up into pieces, small bananas (on course) and sugar (I prefer snakes) also liquid carbs / caffeine for hydration - I also carry salt tablets for last 30kms. Bike course is broken into 2 laps from Palm Cove to Port Douglas x 2 then from Port Douglas heading south to Cairns…everyone has told me for at least 12 months (when I signed up for IM) Cairns has a SE headwind on last 60km – pretty much from Palm Cove as you are riding exposed in the cane fields. I was ready as 1st lap back into town I had a taste of what was yet to come. But, there is always a “but”, the wind was really howling at around 25km / 30km with strong gusts. So, I was trying to channel Coach Em’s advise “there will be headwinds as we know, please be patient and don’t over-bike and push too hard” (bless her) my average km’s up to this point was around 30kms and now reduced to 25kms…I’m not going to lie, I was mentally struggling (physically feeling great) as my times were blowing out and trust me inappropriate language spilling from my mouth. I read a quote to myself “the race starts in my head and will finish in my head”. With that said, my 150km turned into 180km in no time as the last hour flew by…heading into town with crowds cheering me on. Dismounted gracefully and bike was over in 6hr 30mins (average 27.5 in the end & no flats) bloody happy as. Thankfully my support crew were on-hand to say hello at finish line…now into T2 feeling fresh as Coach Em planned.
In her own words – “I want you get off the bike knowing you could have pushed harder, rather than feeling you’re cooked” I would endorse this plan to anyone.
RUN LEG – Okay this is where things become interesting as on the bike I was calculating my swim / bike and if I wanted break sub 13hrs (goal time) I was needing to have the marathon of my life. To be honest I knew this as we planned around 4.50 run split. However I had lost time on the bike, knowing it was only minor (around 15mins)…once again patience was going to be the key, along with the all important “nutrition & hydration” (never forget this). Thankfully I left T2 feeling fresh and was mindful this could work in my favour – boy was I right. I’ll step back slightly to my “long run Sundays” with the we run 14mins at a certain pace / heartrate then walk 1min strategy…again I would endorse this training to anyone! So, I ran then I walked the first 30kms into the marathon with 14min & 1min. It surprisingly goes very quickly because it’s broken up into segments. In the meantime I was receiving huge support from the Cairns spectators and the mighty fabulous T:Zero tent strategically set-up on run course – honestly amazing running past each time. First lap from nowhere this young lady starts running besides me (never met until now) with T:Zero shirt on and IM race number on forearm (raced 70.3 earlier in the day) passing on a personal message from Coach Em (heavily pregnant in Brisbane & tracking my split times) telling me to “stick to 14 & 1 cycle). I asked for her name and advised it was Sharon – we had a bond within 100 meters running together WTF – little fist pump I was off and going…5kms down, 10kms down, 20kms down then running to pick up 30km 4th band is very exciting also scary as I have 12kms to run. Need to be focused as up to this point my “team” were providing me with times (had my Garmin as well) and I was under pace time – holding 6.40km pace. Not to forget my “other team” (wife and now slightly intoxicated father-in-law sitting around marina precinct) advising I was on track to a sub 13hr IM and the old school “just keep running son”…with only 7kms to run. My sprits lifted as the drizzly rain fell on my body. I need to be patient not get too excited as anything can happen especially from 35km to 42km…I remained calm as I held pace, high-fived literally anyone with their hands out (kids get me all the time) as I head for home. One highlight was I spoke to my new T:Zero friend Sharon (also friends on IG) one last time…she told me how proud Emma was and I was doing great. I ran next 2kms crying my eyes out (who wouldn’t). The last turnaround point seemed to go on forever and I was now headed past T:Zero tent with less than 1km to run. Never felt so good as I slowed to hit some more high-fives. I was very emotional by now.
IM RED CARPET – by now you have received 4 IM coloured wrist bands on right hand, it’s dark and rainy, crowds going mental and you now enter the “IM red carpet” zone…this is a very special and personal part of the race regardless of times & PB’s. The moment has arrived you have now completed 226km in one day 3.8km swim – 180km ride – 42.2kn run. Insanity comes to mind and you embrace last 200mtrs…Hug your families, hug your support teams, hug anyone as you hear the famous IRONMAN words “Simon O'Connor you are an Ironman” from the legendary Peter Murray. Looked at my time before last 3 steps and my name is on the big screen with my time 12hrs 50mins. I somehow reached the finish line with PB and goal time and 4hr 48mins marathon.
I had conquered Cairns 2019 with finisher towels, T-shirt and beautiful medal. I cannot thank my coach Emma enough, so much respect and admiration for her. A truly amazing person. T:Zero Multisport crew and to all coaching staff and athletes – thank you so much for allowing me to be part of this amazing team. Trust the process, stick to your race plan #liveyourpotential. My wife and family are so important in the pursuit of training and racing Ironman, backbone to any athlete…so much love for these people. Until next time Cairns…thank you and god bless.
A three part blog series diving behind the scenes at T:Zero to find out a little more about the successful coaching team and what makes them tick.
In order to understand what makes the coaching team at T:Zero so unique, we think it’s important for you to know where we’ve come from, what we’re up to currently, and where we are headed in the future. So, we are going to let you in the behind the scenes of the T:Zero Coaching unit with a mini-series of blogs in the coming weeks. Perhaps we will enlighten, inspire, dispel some myths and bring clarity to what it is that makes our team so special.
Where we started and why we started:
We (Rich and Scotty initially) started T:Zero from a deep love of coaching and all that it brings. We’re sure you can agree that coaching is not really something you ‘choose’ to do, to be a little cliche, ‘it finds you’. Generally speaking, as a person, you need to have a natural affinity for helping others and guiding/educating others along the way, and this, we think, is what lies at the core of what we do.
We love the process of guiding athletes on their own journey and what better way to feel fulfilled than to morph from doing it as a part-time gig alongside our previous careers (as have other T:Zero coaches) into the FT roles we currently engage in. We share very much the same mindset and ethos when it comes to T:Zero’s general coaching philosophy - customised coaching for the individual (no cookie cutting) - which is why we believe T:Zero has had the success and growth we see.
When we first started, we certainly didn’t foresee where things would get to now. We had visions of helping as many athletes as we could personally manage within our own lifestyles, but as far as growing to expand the coaching team and help more athletes collectively, initially, this wasn’t on the radar. However, as you will read more about below, if the right people come along that have a desire to share in the journey of growth and development that we are on, then we are happy to see our team expand.
If we applied a fixed mindset to T:Zero then we would have said no thanks to any new coaches and likely be happily coaching our respective stables of athletes. We would be happy resting on our laurels and be content to ride our own little journey as a duet. That would be okay and probably ‘easier’ in some ways… but where’s the fun in that right? We certainly wouldn’t be writing this right now.
So… instead, we grow. We apply our growth mindset, we say yes to new coaches, and as individuals and as a collective group, we develop and fine tune our process along the journey. Yep, we will make mistakes along the way, but we will learn and carry on.
Five of our coaches (excluding myself and Rich) in T:Zero have come from in-house. T:Zero athletes that have grown and developed their own knowledge and skill base to a point where they feel a level of comfort and a desire to share this with others. The rest of us were lonely orphans adrift in search of a welcome family of like minded coaching gurus :-) and so the relationships blossomed from there.
Do we say yes to everyone? Hell no. We are often met with requests about joining our team and more often than not we have said thanks but no thanks. In the past two years, we have been approached by eleven coaches, of which we have said no thank you to six of them because for one reason or another, they weren’t the right fit for the current team we have.
As far as timing goes, up to this point, this has been organic in nature. Before our latest three legends joined the team earlier this year it was about eight months since our last coach came onboard.
We will continue to grow T:Zero and evolve as opportunities arise. There is no magic number of coaches and athletes we are in search of. We will grow as a unit, no doubt we will face many obstacles along the way too, but we will learn, we will adapt and we will progress.
The most important thing through all of T:Zero’s journey, is that we all adopt and manifest a positive growth mindset within our team. In-house, we can’t stress enough the importance of asking questions, passing on objective advice, accepting advice and objective critique, challenging our own perspectives about areas within our coaching and daily lives and overall, continuing to grow ourselves - little by little. Like we say to our athletes, as coaches, we go wholeheartedly into the process and aim for mastery of our craft, just a little better each day and overtime, things will manifest into awesomeness. And… be honest too, if it’s not for you, then why waste our time doing it in the first place?
Moving forward, as we grow, we will all face new challenges both as individuals within the team and as a team on the whole. As new coaches come onboard, we see this as an opportunity to tap into a new perspective and draw from that person the knowledge and skills they bring, and return the favour when the chance arises. Grow with the flow, embrace the challenge and see more coaches as future advocates for T:Zero and thus, yet another chance to embrace growth as a team.
Next ‘episode’ we look into the type of person we want working within T:Zero’s coaching team.
By Head Coach Emma Quinn
Coming to this time of year in Australia, many athletes have ticked off their goal races for the season. With last weekend wrapping up the second of only three Ironman races in Australia, many are left this week with a pretty big case of Ironman blues. We gave all seen it in athletes before and many of us will have experienced it firsthand. We train for months for an event, we get up early, stay up late, run and ride in the dark for hours on the weekends, whilst sacrificing time away from family and we forget what having any form of social life even feels like. We and our support team (let’s give an enormous shout out to the support crew!) invest months of hard work into one day, one event and then all of a sudden, just like that it is over. We often have so much planned for once that race is done, all of the “normal” things we will have time for, how good it will be to have no alarm, to not have less structure to our plan but what many of us never let on is that we actually fall into a bit of a slump and as the recovery days turn into recovery weeks, even months we begin to miss the structure, the discipline and the feeling of being so driven and determined to achieve that “A” goal we have been working towards for so long.
So as someone who has been to this place many times over my eleven years of racing and someone who has seen it first hand in some of my athletes over the past three years I thought I would share some of my thoughts as to how best beat the post-race blues and how to combat that “lost” feeling into motivation and determination towards the next endurance goal.
Firstly, I think it is always important to acknowledge the race that you just completed. Whether it was perfect and you nailed the plan and the goal, or whether your day turned to shit (excuse the language) and nothing went to plan. Some days despite all of the hard work and perfect preparation, race day brings with it challenges outside of our control and the body simply doesn’t come to the party. Gwen Jorgensen, one of the most crowned female triathletes in the world famously speaks about her Olympic preparation, where 4 years of hard work and training was going to summit into one, two hour race. She explains that the chances of waking up feeling 100%, of everything going to plan on this one day in this one moment are almost impossible. We can take so much away as an athlete and as a person if we acknowledge not only when things go well but also when things do not go well. Triathletes are renowned for having 388 excuses of why “X” and “Y” didn’t happen, at the end of the day it is like anything, we cannot be at our best at every moment and we cannot execute perfect races with PBs every time, but we can learn from it and I do believe (as cliché as it may sound) we learn so much about ourself and what we are truly capable of in moments where things do not go to plan.
Secondly, I think so much can be gained in terms of how we mentally and physically recover from a big event as well as how we prepare for the next journey by having in place a planed active recovery component of the training program. As coaches, a lot of time is spent periodising the training blocks into various phases (strength, endurance, race building, taper etc), I believe the “recovery” phase is as important (in some cases more so) than these other components. I am by no means saying that things shouldn’t be well toned down during this time, but research has shown physically the body responds so much better to an active recovery period following times of extreme stress as opposed to a passive one. It is important to balance the return to easy swim, bike and running (or other easy aerobic exercises) in with family time, holidays, catch ups etc, all of those elements which can get placed on hold during times of endurance training.
Thirdly, I always encourage in the couple of weeks post-race to take some time out and reflect upon the race itself. What went well, what didn’t, what you think could be improved upon, the highs and the lows. Over the space of a 70.3 or IM an athlete has many thoughts no matter what their goal is, so spending some time to write down and reflect upon these can not only be beneficial to taking personal ownership and recognition of you race (whether it be good, bad or ugly) it can also help moving forward with future goals and race planning and be a wonderful tool to discuss with your coach which may also lead to approaching the next build in a different way depending on the your post-race thoughts. My only suggestion with this is to give yourself a few days post-race to allow the emotions to settle down a little. It is a familiar scene when one has a race that didn’t fall perfectly into place that they are very quick to pull it apart, deconstruct it to the core and list a dozen things that did not go well. When, after a few days, it comes through that even if that goal time was slightly missed or if your nutrition plan didn’t go to plan, that actually there were many positives from the race, many moments you’ll never forget and most likely experiences that will make you a stronger athlete and hungry to get back onto the racing scene. At the end of the day, despite the race day highs and lows, we love the feeling of pushing or limits and seeing what we are capable of, mentally and physically and often the journey to get to that place is what we love and enjoy most of all.
Finally, I believe that following a long build and a big race, regardless of the outcome and the post-race feelings (some people sign up again the next days whilst others post an influx of triathlon gear on triathlon marketplace 😊) it is so important to come back to asking yourself “what is my why”. Whilst I am the first to recognise and understand that chasing podiums, qualifications, specific times are all goals that contribute towards an athlete training hard, consistently and at many times the driving forces (and I have spent many years fixated upon these elements, only feeling as though my training and racing were validated upon the successful outcome of these parameters). I believe that when our motivating factors are more of an intrinsically driven feeling, for example we love and enjoy the sport and we are continually striving and wanting to be the best athlete we can be for OURSELVES, nobody else, that our “why” becomes easy to understand and just like that we become motivated to train, to race, to push ourselves to our limits and search for that mental toughness and physical capacity that will allow us to achieve what it is we want out of a very (at times) all-consuming sport.
So in wrapping up, take some time following a big build or a big goal race to work closely with your coach to make sure the recovery is well planned and structured (to allow time not only for easy aerobic recovery focussed sessions but also for sleep ins, late nights, weekends away and family time). Acknowledge and show ownership over your race, whether it was epic, average or your worst day in your triathlon career, it is what it is and it you will be a better athlete (and person) if you acknowledge the ugly days as well as the PB days. Next, take some time out in the week following the race to personally reflect on your race and even going as deep as the thoughts and feelings you experienced throughout the day (the mental and emotional side of racing not only the physical). This will not only help you as an athlete deconstruct your race and learn from it, it will also help you and your coach take some learnings which can be adapted into the next build and training towards your next focus race. Lastly, always come back to understanding your “why”, what drives you, motivates you and provides you with the determination to again get back to those early morning wake ups, those late evening training rides and those big weekends.
Until next time😊
If you’re a few weeks or months on from your Ironman A-race and the post-race blues have got you feeling down, you’re probably not alone. Perhaps you’re a multiple-Ironman finisher or Kona alumnus? Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum, if you feel like you’ve reached the pinnacle of your triathlon career, think again. It’s time to talk Ultraman.
Ultraman is a three-day stage triathlon, comprised of a 10km swim and 140km bike (Day 1); 281.1km bike (Day 2) and 84.3km run (Day 3). Each day has a cut off time of 12 hours. Unlike Ironman, participants do not have event support and therefore must provide their own support crew (with at least two land-members), including their own swim escort to accompany them during the entire swim portion of the event.
The inaugural Ultraman was held on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1983. From its humble beginnings with just three participants, Ultraman races are now held in various locations throughout the world including Brazil, Canada, Spain, Israel, the USA and in Noosa, Australia.
In recent years, interest in Ultraman has gained momentum, however participant numbers for each event are capped at 50, and prospective athletes must apply for a slot. Athletes from all walks of life and athletic backgrounds are attracted to this unique stage-race – from professional triathletes to weekend warriors and everyone in between.
Given Ultraman Australia 2019 wrapped up recently, you may have (possibly briefly) contemplated whether you have what it takes to step up and take on this epic endurance challenge. So, who better to put your reservations at bay than our own T:Zero Head Coach, current Ultraman World Champion and Ultraman World Record holder Richard Thompson? Not only is Coach Rich an Ultraman specialist in his own right, but Richard and T:Zero Multisport have coached a number of athletes worldwide to achieve their own Ultraman success, including five Ultraman Australia podium place-getters. When it comes to all things Ultraman, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more qualified contributor.
We recently asked Coach Rich a few common questions that may have crossed the minds of prospective Ultraman athletes…
Q: What makes Ultraman unique or different to anything an athlete may have done before?
Q: What are the special aspects of training for an Ultraman that athletes may not have considered?
The answer lies with athletes who have done their “Ironman thing” or who have already completed another form of long-course/ultra-endurance event and are looking for their next challenge.
Stage racing is an incredibly awesome event and a challenging but equally rewarding journey to train for. Ultraman presents as an option for those athletes who are tired of Ironman or perhaps those who have achieved or resolved to set aside their Hawaii aspirations. Ultraman is the next level of seeing what is possible and what you are capable of achieving.
When everyone started Ironman (for the people who’ve been in the sport for a while) there was that lure in being genuinely uncertain about whether you could actually DO an Ironman. Now that this has become achievable for many more people, Ultraman becomes the next step – the opportunity to start a new journey not knowing whether you’re going to be able to go the distance. A new challenge.
Q: What are the common misconceptions about Ultraman that may deter prospective athletes?
So, there you have it. The seed has been planted.
Ultraman Australia 2020? Challenge accepted! Superb … follow us this way.
If you think you’re up for the challenge or just curious to know more, get in touch with T:Zero Multisport and let us help you reach your next level and #liveyourpotential
By Senior Coach - Lisa Spink
By now most athletes know about run - walk strategies for endurance events. Obviously, it is mixing run intervals with walk intervals – no rocket science in that! But is this strategy confined to the completers or is it a sound strategy for those wanting to reach their absolute potential and why?
Let’s drive into some of science and practical applications of the run - walk strategy.
Initially a run - walk strategy was possibly thought of for those who didn’t think they could cover the distance running the entire way - so to be able to complete the event they used a run - walk strategy and it works.
Then it evolved and we saw elites, such as Jan Frodeno win Kona with a run - walk strategy. “Interestingly for a man with such prodigious speed and strength, Frodeno won more with conservative wisdom than brute power. When recounting his race, he gave much credit to his habit of walking through many aid stations on the run. He explained to Slowtwitch that slowing down to take in the hydration and nutrition and letting his core temperature cool down. Ultra-runners use run-walk strategies in track, road and trail events again with the goal to improve performance not just to be able to complete the distance.
So, I think we can say a run - walk strategy is a legitimate strategy to be explored for improving your performance regardless of the level of competition. For some athletes this will mean losing the ego and doing as Frodeno did, using “wisdom” to reach their potential. Now, I say “explore” because some events and athletes maybe more or less suited to this strategy so as always N=1, but let’s be smart enough to use the best strategy for the event we are racing in.
Why do run - walk strategies work? This is an interesting topic in which an Assoc Professor friend from Universite Rennes II (France) and I have chatted about for several years following research he did involving ultra-running and fatigue (I was privilege to part of discussion group and a guinea pig for his research). So apart from the above important aspects sighted by Frodeno, which included the ability to take in hydration, calories and cooling the core body temp in the notoriously hot run conditions of Kona – there are physiological and biomechanical considerations as well.
The first, is the strategy can assist in controlling the RPE at the start of the run. Many athletes fall into the trap of extending themselves at the start of the run (either in a triathlon or in a straight running event) which can lead to loss of force and soft tissue ailments. In this scenario running speed eventually slows and unless the athlete has spent time running at the slower speeds, running economy can be compromised, running gait can change, which places stress on different mechanics and now both physiology and biomechanics can be affected. The loss of running economy starts the downward spiral of requiring more energy and oxygen to perform movements which are becoming more inefficient that require more energy and oxygen. With the possible change in gait, through loss of force production the risk of injury is increased.
Secondly, changing the gait cycle from running to walking and back again may play a role in conserving force production, muscle contraction and neuromuscular fatigue. Even though from a gross motor perspective running and walking may look similar the muscle involvement and kinetic chains are different and the neuromuscular pathways differ – therefore switching between the 2 modes may assist in prolonging the overall performance at high intensities.
Thirdly and not to be understate is the psychological aspect of the strategy. By the pure nature of the run-walk strategy, the event is broken into small manageable “chunks” for the athlete. The variety of both modes allows the athlete to continually reset and this can greatly assist in maintaining motivation. Again, by the pure nature of the strategy athletes can feel like they are running at a “better” pace while performing a run-walk strategy then the possibly unmotivating “slower” pace and “slowing” pace which can be the result of a continuous run strategy.
These are just some of the “geeky” theories behind the run-walk strategy but what does it mean for you the athlete. Here are a few tips.
Like always “happy athletes are fast athletes – love the journey to living your potential”
Coach Rich says he is a bit of a bad influence when it comes to setting the bar with races. And he’s right. Watching my work friend Dave Kalinowski and Richard do Ultraman had certainly lit a tiny little fire in me deep down, and I knew I would love to do Ultraman, but I would never have suggested it. Partly because it seemed laughable. And partly because I just couldn’t get my head around running a double marathon. Also because I would never have put my hand up for a goal I wasn’t sure I could achieve!
So, when I sat down after my first IM and said “You see my data. What should I do next?” and Richard said, “Have you ever thought about doing Ultraman?” it was probably like throwing accelerant on that little ember! I muttered about the double marathon and he assured me that he knew I could do this race. Yes – he is undoubtedly a bad influence. But without that influence I would have missed out on an amazing and life changing race that must surely have been the athletic highlight of my life!
I thought about doing a traditional race report, but nobody needs to hear the blow by blow about how much I swore when I found I had no gears on day 2, or how I nearly threw up my gel at the 70km mark of the run, so this is more about the things that I think were critical to success in the event and the ways in which it changed me.
So now I just need to realise that it is done. It wasn’t just another big long training weekend (where Steve Foster helped me down the stairs onto the boardwalk at the end – OMG major fan moment!) but the real thing. I achieved what I set out to do. I am an Ultraman. It’s just taking a really long time to sink in. I quietly went back to swim squad this morning, and when I poked my head up at the end of my first 100m the whole squad was clapping because Codie (Grimsey) had told them what I had done. Embarrassing! Nup – still hasn’t sunk in! 😊
“It takes time to create excellence, If it could be done quickly, more people would do it” - John Wooden
You know the drill. It’s midweek, life is getting real… the emails are stacking up, you’ve been up for the last couple of nights with sick family members, that broken tile in the shower needs fixing and voila… there goes that key run session you were so looking forward to crushing… ‘doh’. If you’re anything like me, when you miss a session, it may or may not lend to the grumpy pants sliding themselves on and dictating the mood of the day or potentially even longer (guilty).
We’re battered with the ‘consistency is key’ ethos from our coaches and whilst this is true in terms of performance gains over the long term, sometimes it can lend itself to being a bit of a slap in the face, especially when we spend our weeks attempting to light Training Peaks up with nothing but Granny Smiths.
The key words from the last paragraph I want you to grab and hold tight are, and make sure you lump these together tightly, are: consistency over the long term. To keep it simple and create our very own acronym let’s call it ‘long-term consistency- LTC (yeah we did)’.
So what does this mean for me and how can this possibly help me stop beating myself up when I miss that session I was destined for?
Consider this: rather than measure the success of your day or week by the number of completed sessions, let’s zoom out and take a much more global view of the situation at hand. Let’s say the average triathlete (swim/bike/run) does 10 sessions per week plus or minus a couple depending on the phase and week. Over a four week block, that’s a grand total of 40 sessions. Six months would be about 260 sessions and over a year... 520 sessions (that’s heaps when you look at it like that - do you agree?).
So… now when I miss that one session due to a bunch of stuff happening that was to a certain extent out of my control, in the grand scheme of things, is it really worth being such a hard ass to yourself about? Or worse still, do we really have to put our family, friends and co-workers through a day of you subconsciously preparing yourself for an audition to play Eeyore in the next Pooh movie?
Hopefully I’m making some sense here. Of course, consistency is still king and always will be, and playing catch up just ain’t cricket, but missing the odd session isn’t going to break the bank. Obviously, if you’re missing sessions regularly, this won’t help you achieve those big goals you have set out. But a missed session here and there… “it’s okay grumpy bear, breathe and relax”, think ‘520 sessions a year’ a handful or two off that number and we’re still in business. That’s a whole lot of bottles banked and on the wall at the finish of the year.
Triathlon, like many things in life, is all about getting it done, day in, day out, for many years. The athletes who are able to see the big picture, stay healthy, patient, and remain in the game, are the ones that reap the rewards.
No magic pill team… just LTC. Don’t be Eeyore, be Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli aka ‘Fonzie’
“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” - Epictetus
You’ve heard it before… we speak about it often. Some of the underlying pillars of T:Zero’s ethos is that we train smart, we are uber consistent, we trust the process, we support each other no matter what our experience or current ability and we go about our business with little fuss and zero ego. Sure, a little confidence doesn’t go astray... you have to believe in yourself and a positive, confident outlook goes a long way to dispelling nerves and enhancing performance… but we ain’t brash about it.
Letting go and not being concerned with what everyone else around you thinks is a mighty hard task. Zen Buddhists spend their whole existence trying to attain true enlightenment and still, I imagine, have trouble not being sucked into the realms of our consumer / ego driven society. For me, it’s a work in progress, I’m not sure whether it was a coming of age thing or a becoming a father thing, but all of a sudden in life, and I’m sure this happens to everyone at some point in time, we realise most of what we work for and are driven to want or have, really doesn’t matter all that much. You know the term ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ right!? What matters most is ‘how much you live, how much you give and how much you love’. This doesn’t mean you need to sell everything, buy a combi van and start growing your own veggies (although growing stuff is pretty cool). It simply means, the search for happiness and contentment, doesn’t lie within attaining stuff. It’s in the relationships, the moments, the breakthroughs and the experiences we have and share with each other. It’s also about being the best person you can possibly be. Sure, you’re already awesome, but there’s no harm in trying to be a little better and give a little more each day right!?
I’ll get back on track... today I’m here to lay down a challenge for you, should you choose to jump on board. My challenge is this: let go a little. Get rid of Strava and stop comparing yourself to others so much- you know you do it. As our coaches have said many a time, focus on the session in front of you and that square metre surrounding you. That’s the one you can control and that’s the one you can improve. Little by little, session by session, add the layers on and do what is necessary to improve you. The sooner you stop comparing and start focussing on you and controlling your space, the sooner those breakthrough moments will happen. Whether in a single training session or your next race… bring your focus back to you and stay present in the moment. It works!
“Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you will have more time and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’” - Marcus Aurelius
From Coach Lisa Spink -
I had the privileged of meeting Gene Dykes recently - humble unassuming and FREAK!! (in best possible way).
Gene's PB marathon is 2.54 - no typo that is 2.54, oh and he is 70 years old! When I got chatting to him as we shared some trail time (yeah he does trails as well) the story only gets more impressive. Firstly I sheepishly started the conversation with - "Congratulations Gene, 2.54 is amazing!" - he replied "and change?" Ha ha ha the seconds matter to Gene.
Then I asked "So Gene what is your life time best Marathon time?", thinking I was going to make a complete idiot of myself by not know an Olympic Champion or World Record holder from yester- year... He looked at me puzzled... "That is my best, 2.54...and change"... My brain was doing a back flip - this guy just did his life time best of 2.54...and change at 70! He went on to tell me he got a coach 5 years ago and has improved every year since.... WOW - now that is consistency and defying the ageist ideology of the modern world..
GRIT, growth mindset, persistence wow this guy has it all.. We run along chatting for a bit... Then he says "I'm getting a bit hot", that was fair, it was in the 30's and semi exposed, he adds - "It was snowing back home"... Crikey, mental note, never whinge about conditions again.. Gene goes on to say "I might just back off a bit, my legs are a bit tired".. There was a pause then he said " I've done a 100miler and few other little Ultra's in last 6 weeks that might be why" Holy wow do you think? But then again, Gene has also completed the Triple Crown, that is 3 x 200 milers (truth be known one is actually 240 miles) in 3 months. Regardless I take another mental note, never whinge about tired legs again!
Gene went on to get an amazing finish and be an absolute inspiration to all that had the privilege to meet and share time with him that weekend. I really hope he continuous to do PB's and gets the official record at the Boston Marathon. Either way, cudos to you Mr Gene Dykes and thanks for the trail time!
Watch this 3min clip to listen to Gene talk about his running - WOW
Mindset is incredibly influential on athletic performance and one of the most fascinating things about sport. Pay close attention next time you’re spectating or viewing almost any sporting event and you’ll easily be able to pinpoint the exact moment an individual athlete or team succeeds or implodes as a direct result of their mental fortitude.
Any coach or elite athlete will tell you that while physical strength and conditioning are important, the mind is critical and an athlete’s ability to dig deep and transcend pain and fatigue when the going gets tough comes not from a superior body, but from a superior mind. It’s surprising then, that many athletes fail to invest time and effort into training the mind. While some athletes may consider mental training to be an “optional extra” (akin to proper nutrition, sleep, stretching and running drills … I didn’t just say that last one, Coach Rich!) there is a mountain of evidence available to suggest that it can lead to tremendous improvements in performance.
Whether you are an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, being in complete control of your mind and your emotions will help you to transcend self-imposed limitations and perceived barriers to unlock your true potential.
When we think about training, there are only three things we can train:
In endurance sport, tough times, rough patches and “lows” are inevitable during training and racing. If your mental state is weak and your self-talk through these difficult periods is negative (e.g. “I feel awful”, “this is too painful”, “I can’t push through this”), your performance will suffer. Conversely, if you are able to practice mindfulness, control your emotions and use positive self-talk, your performance can soar.
While a date with a sports psychologist may not be on the radar (or in the training budget) for most of us, practising your mental skills alongside and during training sessions is something every athlete can do. It’s important to remember that training the mind is an ongoing process requiring patience, consistency and practice. You shouldn’t expect to turn up on race day and figure it out. It should be something you are practising and refining every single day. Indeed, come race day, it may mean the difference between triumphantly crossing the finish line or being allocated a dreaded DNF.
Here are some suggestions to incorporate mental training into your every day. Begin training your mind just like you would train your body. Start by training in calm environments for short periods of time. Once you’re ready, push yourself into more stressful environments for longer periods of time. Remember too, these can be (and arguably, should be) applied across all facets of your life, not just in your endurance training.
1. Practise gratitude
Practice gratitude and appreciation for what physical activity you can do, as opposed to focussing on what you can’t. This is particularly important for athletes going through periods of injury or sickness or building their base fitness back after a period of time away from the sport. Experiencing a little discomfort while doing something you love? Be grateful to endure. By emphasising your gratitude for what you can do physically, you are encouraging positive emotions. It is true that you will notice the joy in something more when you focus on your gratitude for it.
2. Use positive self-talk
se positive self-talk and positive cognitive appraisal. During training, focus your awareness on the messages going through your head. Positive self-talk such as starting your internal dialogue with the words “I can…” helps to train your body to tolerate discomfort more easily as well as lead to performance gains.
Training confidence is extremely mechanical. Confidence comes not from your past successes or level of preparation but only from what you say to yourself. Your ability to adapt to various situations in training and racing and maintain a strong mental focus is greatly influenced by what you say to yourself, so self-talk warrants your consideration and attention.
3. Set your intentions
Set an intention for health and well-being before you train and try and stay connected to and focussed on this throughout the session. Focussing on a specific intention will also help to concentrate your attention on your session and cut out superfluous “noise” that could be going through your head, distracting you from the task at hand.
4. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people
Surround yourself with people who are supportive, encouraging and positive. Like it or not, FOPO (Fear of Other People’s Opinion) is another newly-coined acronym here to stay. And that’s because it’s a real concern for many people; one of the silent traps that robs us of success and holds us back. Surrounding yourself with people who genuinely want you to succeed and who are willing to lend their support and encouragement to help you achieve your goal will make your journey a lot more enjoyable, and a lot less stressful too.
5. Control negative emotions
Control negative emotions such as anxiety by using relaxation techniques (e.g. listening to music, breathing exercises), helping to eliminate negative trains of thought.
Emotions – both positive and negative - are incredibly powerful and undoubtedly affect cognitive function, energy levels and overall physical performance. How we perceive what we’re doing, the words we use to talk about it, how we assign meaning to what we’re doing, and the intention behind it all matter. As soon as you realise you are in control of how you react to things and you take ownership of these emotional reactions, many of your perceived barriers are removed.
During training, think about your body and make sure you are moving the way you visualise yourself moving. When you’re not training, take some time to think about your sport and visualise yourself moving fluidly e.g. running with good mechanics or swimming with a smooth stroke.
In a broader sense, you should also visualise yourself executing your goal race and achieving your goal. Picture everything from race day morning through transition and beyond – to the finishing chute. Think about how this makes you feel and then when you take part in your event, try and replicate it. Remember however, you must also visualise how you will respond to less-than-ideal situations that may arise and how you will calmly and methodically work through this discomfort – this will prepare you to deal with challenges that will inevitably present themselves come race day.
7. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness and meditation are extremely effective measures to calm the stress-response in your body and are massive accelerants to mastering your internal domain. Paying close attention to your thoughts and what’s going through your mind and recording these in a training log will help you to notice patterns and themes that may be recurring such as self-doubts, self-criticisms and excessive worry – these are all restrictive. Becoming aware of and sensitive to these thoughts and thought patterns will help you to focus on specific areas of your mental fitness and enable you to correct and build a more optimal mental state. First comes awareness, which is then followed by action.
Mindset plays an incredibly significant role in endurance sport; more than it is often credited for. While a weak mental state can lead to an athlete’s downfall, a strong one can be the “x-factor” that sets an athlete apart and takes them to the next level to reach their true potential.
Incorporating some mental training into your regular regime may just provide the competitive edge you are looking for, with the added benefits of positively impacting your body and your overall health. In training situations, mental strength and conditioning will help you control your focus and enjoy the process more (even the hardest, most taxing training sessions) which will lead to huge performance gains and faster recovery times. On race day, having a strong mind will help you to control muscular tension (enabling you to relax and your control heart rate before and during events), rise to the big occasion and feel excited as opposed to nervous, and control your emotions to cope with unforeseen events that will inevitably occur during the race. Ultimately, all things being equal, the athlete who is in control of their mind and their emotions will outlast their competition to stand atop the podium every single time.
I had my normal anxiousness leading into the race, but it was more under control this time. Coach Rich gave me the plan to execute and I focused on that. I’d like to get the plan earlier next time and I’ll talk to Rich about it because it gives me something to focus on and helps me to not worry about all the other "noise”.
After talking with Rich about the plan, I was sure that the swim and bike would be fine, but I really wasn’t sure about the run leg for two reasons:
Because I know my run is the weakest part of my race and it’s a reason I started with T:Zero, I really focused on the run leg in the few days before the race.
I travelled to Goondiwindi the day before and had some anxious moments around my race wheels but got it sorted around 3pm when I hired a back wheel for the race from TLR. It was a big relief on the day and felt a weight lift as soon as I sorted it out.
I actually had one of my better sleeps the night before. I woke a few times, but managed to get some good sleep as well which is unusual for me. I had my oats for breakfast and also managed to meditate for ten minutes. I’ve been using Headspace (a meditation app) and they have a sports and motivation series. I chose the concentration meditation which was really good as it touched on a few things that Grant Giles had talked about at the T:Zero Alpine Training Camp (reserve your place for the 2020 camp).
Bike racking and getting down to the river was all super smooth and sorted. I felt ready to race.
Swim - 41:30
The basic plan for the swim was to control my breathing throughout the race, start slowly and steadily progress to RPE8 (perceived exertion) and try and find feet on the way back in the current.
That 41:30 was from my watch, the official time was 43:57 which included the several hundred metre run up to transition. I was very happy with my swim. I felt like I was in control the whole way and I was happy with my breathing. I was passing people including in the previous wave and also had a few surges to catch up to a group in front so I wasn’t swimming alone. I started slow and worked my way into it. It obviously wasn’t super fast, but it was a good time for me and compared to other races and more importantly I felt strong and ready to go on the bike at the end.
Overall, it felt easy. A couple of key things I concentrated on were head down and smooth breathing cycle.
T1 - 1:57
Easily my best transition. I had some thoughts prior to race about transition and wanted to get in and out. I felt like I did that well and jumped on the bike. My best transition in a race, easily.
Bike - 2:23:50
That time was from my computer. My official time was 2:25:59. I’m not sure why the discrepancy but I’m using the data from the computer for now (plus it’s quicker…).
My plan for the bike was to have slow progression build up. 1-10km at 73%, 10-40km at 76%, 40-60km at 80% and 60-80km at 83% (if feeling good).
1-10km – Aimed to average 204 watts and I averaged 188 watts. I was very conscious of taking it easy here because it really isn’t something I’ve ever done! It wasn’t easy to get passed and not something I’m used to on the bike (mainly because where I come out in the swim, but also I’m not hopeless on the bike), but I just let people go and got head down and really controlled my breathing and heart rate (HR). I used some breathing techniques and tried to concentrate on what I was doing, not on what others were doing.
10-40km – Aimed to average 212 watts and I averaged 198 watts. This period was a little harder for me, because I felt like I could be going a bit quicker and it was a longer period. The road wasn’t easy and there were a lot of bottles and holes etc. I had to concentrate and that probably helped to keep my mind occupied. I was happy with HR at 138 here and was in control.
40-60km – Aimed to average 224 watts and I averaged 221 watts. This was a good period for me, as I was really starting to go past people and felt like I was riding like I normally do in a race. My HR was also good at 143 and again felt like I was in control and going well.
60-80km – Here I could increase to 232 watts and averaged 226 watts. I really passed a lot of people in this period. I know it’s not about others in the race, but it’s a real aspect of triathlon I look forward to because it’s one of the only areas where I’m passing people and looking strong. I’m as vain as the next guy and it’s the only time I feel like I’m any good in this sport. It was certainly a good period for me and I felt in control.
Overall, I was happy with bike and I felt like I executed the plan well (although I could have gone a little harder according to above numbers). I went into T2 feeling really good about running. Although again, looking at the time after the race I wouldn’t say I was happy. I thought I should have been faster…
T2 - 3:03
Again, this transition time was pretty good for me (maybe a touch slow). I had to put socks on but still, I need to improve this.
Run - 1:58:54
The above time is from my watch. My official time was 2:01. I’m using my watch because dammit I want to see a sub-2!
This was where my race started. My focus was on getting this run right. My plan was to hold 6 min/km for the first 10km and then if feeling good go faster; if not then hold that pace until the end.
I did my first kilometre in 5:15 and the second in 5:29. As I was running I was desperately trying to slow down; I knew what was happening, but I just couldn’t. At the second aid station I stopped and took a gel, and really got water in; not because I had to but because I wanted to reset and get my run on pace. This worked, and I then got into rhythm and a slower pace. Every time I looked at my watch I was doing 5:45 or 5:50, but I was feeling good so I didn’t worry too much at all.
I got through the first 10km feeling good and was happy to try and increase my pace. Looking at my watch I was doing 5:30s and sometimes quicker. It wasn’t easy, but that first 5km I really concentrated on being bored and just lifting my feet – two things I’ve been practicing for a while. My HR increased after the 10km mark, and when I hit the 15km mark I wasn’t sure I could hold that pace.
The last 5km I was pushing to hold pace and doing things like trying to run with people who were passing and also trying to catch up to others in front of me. This worked well and even though these people were on different laps and had nothing to do with me, it was a good feeling to pass people. I used that a lot through this section of the race. It’s the only run where I’ve passed people and I don’t mind telling you I felt good doing it and it helped me to hold that last 5km.
It was getting hot on the last lap, but I’d say that overall the heat really wasn’t a factor all day. It was fairly mild compared to what we were expecting. I wouldn’t have wanted to do another lap though as it was heating up quickly.
I don’t think I could have run much quicker, so I’m happy with that part of the plan. It’s easily my best run in a race and averaging 5:50 minutes per kilometre was easily my best in a race. I was happy. However, when I stopped and saw 1:58 I was a bit shattered. As I was running 5:30s and faster, I thought during the race that I was going to go close to a 1:55. I know it’s only a couple of minutes, but still.
I was happy with this and gave it some thought before the race because of the predicted conditions.
I ate a normal breakfast, although I would have like a little more water while waiting for the race to start. I used the first 10km of the bike to relax and get my heart rate under control, took a little Infinit and a little water. Every 10km I made sure I had my Infinit and water. At the 40km mark I took 3 Clif chews and also more chews at 60km. I finished my Infinit at the end of bike and also finished the water. I also had one canister of salt tablets on the bike.
On the run, I used the new Maurten gels. I was really happy with these. They had no flavour and sat well in my stomach. I took gels at 2km, 5km, 10km and 15km and also had another canister of salt tablets through the run. It was the first race where I’ve taken all my salt tablets and I’m sure it helped. I made sure I had one whole cup of water at each aid station and started drinking a cup of coke as well from the 12km mark.
It was my best race nutrition-wise and I’m sure this was a factor in my run. Happy with that.
Overall - 5:11:35
I’m not joking but I wasn’t happy with my time. It shocked me in the finishers tent when AK told me. I felt like I had executed my race plan really well and it didn’t quite match up in times.
I know what Rich will say, so I’ll just say that I’m happy that I followed my race plan closely. I’m happy that I executed my nutrition plan. And I’m seriously happy that I actually ran the 20km and felt solid doing it, with a sub-2hr time. I feel like now I’ve run out a race, it’s a baseline that I can start to improve on.
I also did this race at 100kg which is the lightest I’ve been in a race. I’ve lost 13kg since starting with Rich and have made good progress in the last two months. If I can keep that same progress I’d love to be doing Port Macquarie at 90kg.
The other thing I am happy about is nailing the two main goals Rich gave me for the race:
I didn’t have anything affect me either way during the race, and let things go well. The meditation I’ve been doing and breathing exercises helped and I used those breathing techniques several times during the race. At one point just after the 10km in the run, I actually ran for a while with my eyes closed and deep breathing. All my judgements came after the race…
When there was any pain, I really leaned into it and concentrated on it. When I was uncomfortable on the seat at stages during the bike I just thought that it was good because I was in an aero position (for me) and it was a good thing. It really worked and soon wasn’t a factor. My last 5km I was struggling to hold pace, so I looked at external things I could use like catching others or running with people who had passed me. It gave me something to concentrate on other than how I was feeling. I also looked out for others, something I do in every race to keep out of my head. Looking for AK and Pete, also Ash and Mick and another guy that was running in a T:Zero hat who I’d never met. This helped me to think about someone else and not me.
Overall, I was happy with HOTW and I can definitely use some of these learnings in Port Macquarie, as well as take a little bit of confidence out of it.
For those involved in the world of long course triathlon, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who hadn’t heard of the young gun talent of Ellie Salthouse. The local Brisbane, 25-year-old has been taking the world by storm over the past few years showing she is a force to be reckoned with over the half ironman distance. However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Ellie and how she has found her “calling” within the sport is a story that will no doubt resinate with us all.
In my second year of living in Brisbane I was doing pretty well within the sport of triathlon. I was 21 at the time and I had been racing a lot over the Brisbane summer, most races landing on the podium. My coach at the time suggested I go and have a trial with the National Talent Identification program, which at the time was based in Carina. I remember thinking “wow, if he believes I have shot to make the program then I have to try out”. I remember getting to the pool and being surrounded by incredibly fit, lean and extremely athletic looking young rising stars. My first thoughts were to turn and run, I felt like my stomach was about to jump through my throat. However, I stuck it out and was grateful that my partner for the trial showed me a huge smile and made me feel a little more at ease. Without going into detail of just how not cut out for elite junior racing I was at this stage of my life, I did leave that day having made a new friend, an enormously talented individual who had just returned from National Cross Country and not once made me feel in any way out of my depth. I later learnt that that fit looking, happy and friendly girl was a 15-year-old Ellie Salthouse, her story and racing career I have been following closely since that day. Last week I had the pleasure to catch up with Ellie over coffee, share some of those old stories, learn about her battles as an up and coming athlete and most importantly hear first hand how Ellie is taking her 70.3 racing career to the next level.
As a youngster, Ellie was an incredible swimmer and runner, she recalls having seen a weet-bix triathlon add as a junior and asking her parents to take her along to the event. From there, is was evident that Ellie had a love for triathlon, “I started after that race at the Clem Jones Sports Centre in the Junior program and had some incredible achievements as a young athlete including 2 Silver Medals at the Youth Olympics and a 12th place at the 2012 Auckland ITU Grand Final”. However, despite all of this early success and enormous talent, Ellie found herself at the age of only 20 hating the sport, not having a love for the racing and training and feeling an exhausting amount of pressure to continually make teams and qualification times, she had simply lost her “why” and belief in herself. Ellie took a 6 month break from the sport and upon returning to Australia realised that perhaps her best years within the sport were still to come. After some wise words from local triathlon legend Loretta Harrop, Ellie was put in touch with Siri Lindley, who in my opinion is one of the worlds’ most successful coaches. “I knew as soon as I met Siri and had that conversation that she would be my coach, Siri made me find a love for long course racing and training, made me feel more relaxed and most importantly made me realise that I was only racing for myself”. Ellie made the move to Boulder, where she still to date spends 6 months of her year training and being coached by Siri. When hearing Ellie speak of her coach and the relationship they have it became evident to me that Ellie genuinely has a true love and passion for the sport of triathlon. It is obvious that in one respect, Siri became Ellie’s saving grace and made her believe in herself and gave her the confidence to try her hand in the world of long course racing, a big move to make at the tender age of only 21.
Ellie shared with me some invaluable tips and insights into her training and racing world as I asked her some questions regarding her career to date and her plans for the future. Ellie opens up about her dealings and learnings from 70.3 racing and kindly shares some of her thoughts regarding how all athletes, regardless of ability can get the most out of themselves, as well as provides some insights into her favourite racing locations and her dreams for the future.
What would be your best advice on how age group athletes can achieve their desired goals within the 70.3 distance?
“I think it is really important to have small goals each day, I find these help to keep you on track and accountable for your training. I think it is also really important that athletes tick off all of those little extra sessions, the stretching, strength and core sessions, they certainly help in the long run and to avoid injuries. I think it is also so valuable to have somebody who knows your goals, whether this be a coach or a friend or even a mentor, this individual will be able to help you at times when motivation may be lacking and help you realise your drive and your why, which is ultimately the most important aspect of success”.
What would you suggest as the most beneficial training sessions for athletes entering the 70,3-racing scene?
“Swim – I think it is really good for endurance and for mental toughness to do a hard set of 100’s with a very short rest cycle, only 3-5 seconds. So, the athlete is completing 30 or 40 of these slightly under race pace and having very little rest.
Ride – I love a long bike ride over a 4-hour duration where the final hour is at target race pace. I do all of my riding my perception of effort and have found that power limited my potential and also having that constant feedback of numbers on a screen distracted me from how I was actually feeling at any given moment. I love this style of a training ride as it allows you to hit that final hour having already completed some volume and feeling relatively fatigued. Again, great for not only physical improvements but also a mentally rewarding set.
Run – I find a good building run is again a really challenging yet mentally rewarding session. Knowing I have completed some really hard runs where I am required to run hard over the final 15 minutes of a 60-minute run really helps me dig deep on race day and givens me the confidence in my ability to do this under race conditions”.
What would be your best advice to athletes in terms of maintaining a love for the sport and longevity in terms of their racing?
“I think the most important thing is you need to enjoy it. You need to be able to listen to your body and have the discipline to rest and recover when needed. I have a rest day every week during my off season and every two weeks in my peak training season will take a complete day off and away from triathlon. I think also keeping on top of your strength work, stretching and massage will help keep the body well maintained. You also need to have goals! That is what drives me and motivates me every day, it will keep you accountable and make the process of training enjoyable and rewarding”.
What would be your top 5 tips for an athlete moving from the short course distance (sprint/OD) up to the 70.3?
“Keep some speed sessions in the swim, I found my swim training between these two distances relatively similar. Make sure you include some long rides, I think at least 2-3 four-hour rides before the big day. I think it is important to have regular long runs (90 minutes or so) but also equally as important to keep some speed in the run training too. Nutrition is also such an important aspect of long course racing, and needs to be well practiced in training”.
To date, what have been achievements in the world of triathlon?
1: Challenge Melbourne 2016 winner – this really validated for me that I had made the right choice with my training and racing and had found my love again for the sport.
2: Silver Medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics
3: Boulder 70.3 2018 Winner – for me this is like a home race
4: 8th Professional Female at the 2018 70.3 World Championships in South Africa
5: 70.3 Los Cabos 2018 Winner
What would be your favourite 70.3 races and why?
“My favourite destination to race would be Cozumel, it is so beautiful there and I love racing in the heat and humidity. I also love the course at Boulder. It is a hilly bike and the run is mostly on trails, it is also at altitude which makes it even tougher”.
I am so grateful to Ellie for taking the time out of her busy day right off the heels of a runner up placing at Geelong 70.3 only two days prior to having a coffee with me in the heat and humidity of a Brisbane summers day. Ellie is the type of person who just boasts a true love and enjoyment for the sport and having heard her story, is truly thankful she returned to the sport where she still clearly has so much more to give. Her beaming smile radiates confidence and her attitude to training and racing is the perfect example of how hard work, consistency and self-belief can conquer all. Ellie will soon leave Brisbane and head to the USA in preparation for 70.3 Oceanside in early April. Ellie has a swag of 70.3 races coming up over the course of 2019 all with goal of lining up for the 2019 70.3 World Championships in Nice to be the number one female athlete in the world. Ellie is a star to watch and even more importantly a genuinely lovely, kind hearted and caring individual who is one to keep your eye on in the year ahead. No doubt all of us as athletes can take home something from Ellie’s sharing’s!
Until next time…
Coach Em Quinn
If you are living in pocket of the world with less than favourable weather conditions, like myself and many of our Tzero athletes, dealing with these elements can be a real challenge. In the tropics, we have extreme heat for six months of the year with insane humidity, coupled with cyclones, wet season and other dramas which impact on our ability to ride and run outside.
It was during the recent monsoonal low where it rained for nearly four weeks straight that I found myself loving my indoor sessions and really starting to see the benefits and gains that come from indoor training. I know most people hate to train inside and will give you a brilliant argument of why you should be training in all weather conditions. I can see the benefit of training across all conditions BUT when it is not possible due to your own safety you need a solid option B and sometimes here, it's option C!!
I will add a caveat to this article and put it out there that I am a massive fan of indoor training regardless of the weather. This love of the trainer and treadmill was borne from the fact that I have had two very serious bike accidents within 4 weeks of each other in the past 2 years that has left me lacking confidence (it is growing, albeit slowly) and recognising the gains that indoor cycling especially provides me with very structured workouts. Couple this with the fact that I love to sit in front of the TV and watch cartoons and listen to podcasts and I will happily spin away for hours on end!
Here are some of the benefits I have experienced from my summer of indoor training!
Some of the biggest names in cycling and triathlon spend a significant amount of their bike time inside. Matt Hayman won the famed Paris Roubaix simply by doing Zwift sessions whilst recovering from a broken collar bone. He did not do a single outdoor session before the race and not only did he hold and improve his fitness levels whilst recovering from injury, but he won a race that is so demanding and requires super human mental toughness and strength. In triathlon, Lionel Sanders openly supports indoor bike training and is a massive fan of Zwift as is Jesse Thomas. Both these pros have their own group rides on Zwift and are very interactive with other riders.
I know indoor training can be a mental challenge, but the next time you are programmed an indoor bike or run session, instead of seeing the negatives (it is boring, I hate it, this is stupid etc) see the positives, jump on and embrace the challenge and see the changes occur in your mindset and attitude! Pretty soon you will be a fan of the indoor sessions and you WILL see improvement in your techniques, performance, numbers and mental toughness!
Enjoy your training and be safe!
What drives you on race day? What is your focus? Do you have a preconceived time or place you are aiming for? Or do you simply not want to come last? Are you crazy nervous in the days leading up to the race or even race morning?
Here is a little secret, that implemented correctly will keep those pre-race nerves at bay and will unlock your potential and crush any goal you may have previously set for yourself.
So…when someone asks you what your goal at a particular race is – what do you say? I want to break 3 hours? I want to break 10 hours? I want to come top 10 in my age group? I don’t want to come last? I want to qualify for Kona?
The reality is, your time and your position at any given race is simply out of your control. Let’s focus on time to begin with. Time is only one type of measurement of performance and importantly, it is far too variable based on the conditions (heat, humidity, wind, accurateness of course etc). Do you start your watch when the gun goes off? Or worst still, do you look at your watch when you get out of the water? There is no benefit to either practice. If your watch tells you a negative story (ie slower) or even a positive story (ie a faster than expected time) all it is doing is giving you a false sense of reality as you head to the bike. The swim could have been long (or short), the currents, the chop etc could play an important part. Similarly with the bike and the run, if you are focused on a speed or pace then you aren’t focused on what is important during the race – your effort that you are giving that is not controlled by the conditions.
Reaching the podium or qualifying for Kona or even not coming last are all matters outside of your control as well. Where you come in a race is only a reflection your peers – not on your actual performance.
Let me give you an example. If your goal is to break 5 hours at a 70.3 and you have an ordinary day, walking the last 3km of the run but because it was a breathless day and a fast course you cross the finish line in 4:58. Whilst you have achieved your goal, you know that you didn’t put in your best effort and this sort of performance will still leave you searching. Similarly, if you have an unbelievable day in tough conditions and you cross the finish line in 5:08 – you are going to be stoked about the performance rather than the time.
In its most rawest sense, the goal in any race must be to get the most out of yourself. Your performance ‘P’ is measured by your ability ‘a’ multiplied by what percentage of effort ‘e’ you gave on the day. So for the boffins out there… P = a x e
The goal in training is to improve your ability in the sport. For most of the T:Zero Collective this is a long term process. When you turn up to a race, your ability is constant. You can’t do anything more to improve that. What the focus must turn to is the effort – what percent are you willing to give of yourself.
The secret to ultimate success in this sport is to focus on ALWAYS give 100% of your ability. You cross every finish line knowing that you have given your all and that the performance each race is a true representation of what you have been doing in training. The time, the place are both irrelevant. If you focus on nailing each race, then it becomes a habit. You keep training hard, your ability will improve and there will be no doubts when your big race comes you will give 100%.
The athletes that have done very well in the past and who are doing well now are the ones that are prepared to go into battle in any race, no matter how important and no matter how fit or otherwise they are. The ones that struggle to pull out great races when it counts are the ones that don’t make it a habit. Pre race nerves are normal and often beneficial. The nerves should be there because of the personal sacrifice you have made to get to the start line, not about trying to achieve a certain time or place. Focus on only what is in your control (ignoring/accepting things that aren't in your control) and your prerace nerves will plummet.
Here is the sealer – If at every race from now and into the future, you focus on the performance being as close to 100% of your ability, not on the external outcome, then you will surpass and sort of material goal you had set for yourself along the way.
We work so hard on our ability through training to often sabotage our effort on the day. Stop thinking about the competition or a certain time, and start demanding from yourself everything you have in training and on race day. It is 'you vs you' and be making sure that is the focus, you will achieve more than you ever thought possible.
You have got this, so go out and get it!
Geelong 70.3 is at the perfect time of the year for me, as a primary school teacher I get to do most of the build during school holidays. It’s also the closest 70.3 for us living in Adelaide. Probably my B race for the year, and always I good one to see what a difference a year of training makes. Third time both me and my partner Sam have packed up the car and driven to Victoria. We know when to get there, where to stay and to always pack winter gear - just in case as Geelong weather can be unpredictable! I had a solid built, with no injuries or illnesses. Felt good and ready to roll come race weekend. Mother Nature was kind last year, and this year was no different. Very light winds, mild temperatures - I think it got up to 27 for the day.
Calm and mostly cloudy in the morning, pretty much perfect swim conditions. Due to sea urchins near the swim entry, the organizers changed the start from a wave start to a rolling wave start letting two people go in 5 second intervals. F25-29 and 40-44 were going together as the third wave for the day. So much better than starting all the way back like last year! The swim is a triangle that I like to split in thirds. First one trying to find my rhythm and some feet to sit on, not that there were many around due to the rolling start. The second third luckily wasn’t as lonely as the first and I found others to swim with. Pace was steady, pushing it still but something I could maintain. Last third was faster as you get a little push from the current/‘waves’/whatever it is - and I remember thinking ‘Jeez this swim has gone quick’. It sure did 34:43 - a 3-minute PB! The best possible start to the day. First time in a triathlon my swim was in the top 50% for AG and gender.
My new wetsuit not only allowed a better range of movement in the water, but also came off quicker in T1. My T1 was quite uneventful, which is probably a good thing!
I remember hearing Craig Alexander call the bike course in Geelong ‘honest’. It has faster flat sections, winding rougher roads through the parklands as well as one bigger hill (nothing crazy though). The 2 lap bike course is super exposed to any wind, and two years ago that direct 30+km/h headwind was brutal - we were so lucky with weather this year! This was my second 70.3 racing with power, so I had numbers in mind and I managed to hold on to what I was expecting. The plan was to build, but I got carried away at the start so instead of it being a build, I more so took it a bit easier in the last 10K (you know, given I had a half marathon to go!) 2:48 for the bike, 8 minutes faster than last year and 27 minutes faster than 2 years ago. Happy with that!
Always such a relief to get to T2 without any mechanicals or flats! Not my quickest transition, but not my worst. Swapped my shoes, grabbed my race belt, visor, two gels and started running.
I quite like the run course in Geelong! You wouldn’t call it exactly flat, but all the undulations are manageable and there are flat sections too. Crowd support is great! Warm and sunny by this time, and no I’m not complaining, two years ago it was merely 10 degrees and it wasn’t that pleasant to say the least. Started off steady, a pace I could easily maintain. Had a gel at 7 & 14Ks and water and ice at every aid station. I also poured ice into my trisuit every chance I got to keep me nice and cool. Enjoying the scenery, the parklands and the waterfront - probably more during the first lap! 12-18K I had a choice to make. Keep it steady and comfortable or speed up. I chose to maintain the same pace. In hindsight I should have picked up the pace here. At 3Ks to go it’s all downhill to the finish line and I sure picked up the pace. Given my last 500m I was running at 4:00min/km pace and I got to the finish line feeling good and jumping around so stoked to get a 10-minute PB, I can’t really say that I emptied the tank during the run. 1:44 for the run, a minute slower than last year but a valuable lesson learned - don’t settle when you’ve got more to give.
To me racing is all about beating my previous time (given conditions are comporable) and effort. I finished in 5:13:37 which I was very happy with, 6th from 34 finishers in F25-29. There would have been a Women for Tri 70.3 world champs spot for me at roll down, but unfortunately, I need to afford food and hence gave it a miss haha! Until next year Geelong.
Did someone say sub5??
We’re roughly two months into the new year and for most of us, our training and racing goals have already been developed and set in collaboration with our respective T:Zero coaches. Training Peaks is probably looking nice and green too – rolling hills for days.
But this isn't always the case...
It would’ve been easy to write yet another generic article on tips for getting back on the training wagon when the wheels have fallen off. But indeed, when you take the time to stop and consider loss of motivation, these superficial measures aren’t going to tackle the real problem.
The real problem is an ill-defined ‘why’.
Your why is not the result. Your why is the reason you’re striving for the result in the first place.
Take the following (quite common) example:
Result: Cross the finish line in my first Ironman
Why: To push myself beyond what I am (seemingly) capable of (mentally and physically); to see if I can make it.
Before tackling your why, of course you must first set the huge goal; one so big it scares the [insert expletive here] out of you.
Think back to your first Ironman (or first ever triathlon, irrespective of distance). Your why driving you to get up and train every morning, without fail, is the fact that you’re not quite sure if you’ll even be able to do it. Your why is clear. It’s highly likely you’re genuinely scared. You’re “all in”.
Fast forward down the track, with a few more races under your belt, and perhaps your why is not so clear anymore. Why are you here again? What are you trying to achieve? A better time? Is that motivation enough? This is a big reason why athletes often find it difficult to revert to compete at lesser distances and remain enthusiastic about it, once they’ve finished an Ironman. Sure, there’s always a performance factor – the desire to do better – to race faster – but is that enough to get you out of bed before dawn, every morning?
Without a very clear understanding of the reason you’ve committed to doing a race, your journey will be a struggle. And the destination (should you make it)? Not so sweet. Realistically, if you’re dragging your heels out of bed, or continually hitting the snooze button, your drive isn’t strong enough.
Conversely, if you are unreservedly clear on your why, you won’t struggle to find that motivation to get up in the dark and train. Sure, you might be tired, but you’ll still get up and get it done. There would be absolutely no argument in your brain about whether you should be doing it.
For any athlete who truly wants to get the most out of their journey, it’s vitally important they have a clearly defined why and then continue to revisit it, reassess it, ask the question often and write it down. Mental strength is such a huge component of endurance racing, and the why factor is arguably the biggest mental hurdle of all. Once you’ve overcome it; once your why is clear, so becomes your path.
Recognising that your why can change throughout your journey, and your ability to be open to that change, is also important to consider.
Take this coaching example of an athlete in her mid-50’s, with minimal endurance history. Her why was to see if she could finish an Ironman. Her coach got her swim and bike to a standard whereby she could walk the entire marathon and still cross the finish line in under 17 hours. Four months out from race day he told her she didn’t need to do any more running. Confused, she asked him for an explanation. The athlete was still projecting her original why, but when strategically challenged by her coach to re-evaluate, she realised her why had changed. She now wanted to run the whole marathon and see what she was truly capable of.
Certainly, this story is not unique. The desire to discover one’s ultimate capabilities is what attracts so many athletes to endurance racing in the first place.
“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” ― David McCullough Jr.
For many athletes, it’s not until the finish line that they realise it was never about crossing that line, but it was about the journey in the lead up to race day. In endurance racing, the most enjoyment comes from the grind of that journey and to be successful as an endurance athlete, you need to get solace and fulfilment from that grind. The early morning wake ups, runs in the pouring rain, solo hours on the bike, missed work drinks and everything in between – that’s the real deal. If you have a very clear understanding of your why, you’ll be able to look back on these experiences and the journey as a whole with warm nostalgia instead of complete resentment. If your why is clear, then the reward comes from the journey itself.
So what about metric gains? Aren’t they important too? In short, yes, they absolutely are. However, if your motivation is fuelled purely by a desire for metric gains, then the journey isn’t going to be enjoyable and you’re not going to get the most out of it either. Reflecting on a range of T:Zero athletes from years past, those who have seen the most improvement in metric gains over a short period of time are those who in their souls have embraced the grind of the journey. So, when they arrived at the start line, the result didn’t really matter. Whilst they wanted a good outing, regardless of the outcome on race day, they’d already won. Finishing the race within their perceived achievable timeframe was just the cherry on top. The finish line? It was just the view.
Throughout your triathlon journey (as is true in life itself) it’s important to take a step back and keep perspective along the way. Think about your journey not as yourself as an individual, toiling away alone, but rather a collaborative effort – family and friends, your workplace, coach and so forth – all these people are supporting and encouraging you; helping and willing you forward. They are your personal ‘A-team’. Stepping back and realising you’re just one part of a bigger picture to which so many people are contributing (and making sacrifices for) helps to remove the “woe is me” factor, allowing you to focus on the task at hand with absolute clarity. If you’re not prepared to put in the effort and your why is not clear, then you’re not only wasting your own time, but the time of your support crew too.
Anyone can find a coach or an online program to get them (in questionable forms of readiness) to the start line of an Ironman. But if you can find a coach who really instills in you the understanding that it is so much more than crossing a finish line, encourages you to revel in the journey; one that will expose your greatest weaknesses and push your physical and mental limits beyond what you ever thought possible? Then you’ve hit the jackpot.
So, if you happen to find yourself on Struggle Street or hitting ‘snooze’ far too often, instead of searching for a superficial fix, take some time to sit down and reconsider what’s ultimately driving you.
Remember, it’s okay for your why to change. It’s good to continually reassess your motivations throughout your journey. But if you’re not prepared to have these conversations with yourself and put some effort into your mental game, then come the finish line (if you even make it there), crossing it may very well leave you feeling unfulfilled and longing, wishing you enjoyed that journey more and perhaps wondering why you didn’t.
Feel free to share your ‘why’ with us in the comments below, we’d love to know! What drives you?
Us "A-Type" triathlete personalities tend to regularly get caught in the weeds of what we are doing. We find it hard to take a step back and look at things from a global perspective. We get so entrenched in the process and engulfed in the finer details, that we forget about the big picture of what triathlon, and in particular, long course triathlon or endurance activities longer than 4-5 hours, is all about. What are the majority of us missing you ask? A ‘bullet proof aerobic base’ - thanks for asking.
Time and time again, one of the biggest oversights I see, is athletes being way too keen to go hard or more often than not, a bit harder than easy. More is better and faster is icing right!? Well, yes and no, and… it depends. It depends on how good your aerobic capacity is to begin with.
What’s with this aerobic base/capacity business and why is it so important?
Let’s take a few steps back here and get a solid grounding to build on.
To begin with, in general, let’s say it takes roughly six weeks to strengthen a muscle (give or take). Add to this is takes roughly 210 days (6-7 months) to build connective tissue (properly) and you have yourself some grounding principles to work with at the basic physiological level. Of course, everyone is coming from different starting points, but as rule of thumb, this is pretty good stuff for a coach and athlete to remember. Layer on aerobic fitness and general adaptations to your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs etc) and you have the building blocks (amongst other things) for endurance. Marry all this with the golden rule of building fitness “CONSISTENCY” and then with the good old trusty 10% rule whereby you stick to adding about 10% of volume or intensity per week, and you have yourself a solid recipe base. As you develop in experience and knowledge, so too will the intricacies that lie within the customised (we hope) coaching and program you are following. 1%ers are for later on in the journey once the base is set.
First and foremost, the most important thing you can do as an athlete is make sure your aerobic base is functioning at max capacity. How do I do this? Through consistency, frequency and strategically getting your volume to a point where it is sustainably maxed out for you, your present level of experience and ability, and of course, to what extent your current lifestyle allows in terms of time available to train. How long will this take? Well how long is a piece of string really!? No two individuals are alike and thus, why would we put a timeline on it. However, generally speaking, if you are being 90%+ consistent with the training laid out for you, you should see gains in fitness every couple of phases 8-12 weeks sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Also remember, the fitter and more experienced you are, the smaller the gains and harder these are to come by. Throw in the general consensus that it takes 3-5 years of consistent endurance training and racing to really discover what you are capable of on to all, and you have yourself quite the patient process to look forward to.
What does building an aerobic base look like?
In my world and understanding, to build an aerobic base means to do the majority of your training at a very easy effort. In terms of zones (once you’ve got these set correctly) in a five zone model, you want to be spending most of your time in zones 1 and 2; in a three zone model you will be under ventilatory threshold 1 (zone 1); or good old RPE scale would have you at very easy to easy and being able to complete a ‘talk test’ whereby you can maintain a solid conversation with a training buddy (or imaginary friend) - basically be able to talk a full sentence without getting puffed out. There you have the predominant intensity for setting the scene towards building your aerobic base.
Does this mean all I have to do is get around doing all this easy stuff?
Not at all, there is a time and place for bringing in intensity, and during the base phase, this is very much included in a highly polarised approach*(predominantly). During the ‘base phase’ of any build towards a goal race, intensity is generally limited to short bursts of intensity (intensity being anything above zone 3 / tempo). When thinking about what intensity comes into an athlete’s program during a base phase, I like to think about efficiency first and foremost. Efforts are generally kept very short, under 60 seconds, and with plenty of recovery (2-4 minutes) between so as to make sure HR does not stay elevated for prolonged periods. More often than not, this might include a handful of 15-30 second strides to a strong/steady effort whilst running; 15-60” builds to a strong effort on the bike; and 25-50m builds in the pool interspersed with passive and active recovery.
As the athlete progresses their aerobic base, so too does the intensity and duration of intervals used, as does the percentage of intensity distribution across an athlete’s weekly loading.
*Polarised training is where we spend the bulk of time in the lower intensities eg. zones 1 & 2; under VT1 or ‘going easy’ and we spend the rest of the time up in z4 with very sparing amounts in z5. When we do any intensity, it is generally perceived that we avoid spending much if any time at all in zone 3 otherwise known as the grey zone**. In a nutshell, we go easy or we go fast/hard.
*Grey zone training, an athlete’s biggest nemesis, particularly in the base phase of a build. Zone 3, affectionately called the grey zone is a kind of no man’s land. It’s too hard to be easy and too easy to be hard, so the benefits of spending any time there are neglegible, especially during a base phase. One of the major things we tend to find is athletes spending way too much time in zone 3 when they’re meant to be going easy in zones 1 or 2. What this effectively does is increase the amount of fatigue and loading (stress) on an athlete when for the same or better physiological benefits, you could be running a whole lot easier. To rephrase, you can pretty well get the same aerobic/metabolic benefits, if not more, running in zones 1 and 2, but for less tax and overall fatigue. There’s a time and place for some zone 3/grey zone work, but this is usually better spent as we get nearer races and need to spend some time becoming accustomed to race pace efforts. For the most part though, during the base phase, it is commonly agreed upon in the science world, that we are better off keeping things to a more polarised model.
As mentioned earlier, the extent to how detailed things get and need to be, depends entirely on the individual athlete. For a relative beginner, the most important aspects are consistency, frequency, and volume of training. For intermediate and highly experienced athletes, the addition of intensity together with consistency and volume becomes important.
There you have it. The good old analogy of building a house still rings loud and true when it comes to triathlon… you can’t add all the fancy stuff on top of a loose mound of unstable dirt, so why would you go smashing out loads of intensity without laying down a good, honest layer or ten of aerobic strength - at the end of an ironman or ultra run, it’s not the intensity you’ll be wishing you had more of, it’s working on developing an aerobic engine like Crowie Alexander or Courtney Dewaulter ;-) So, rather than getting caught up in the weeds of it all and not seeing the forest for the trees, take it easy, be consistent and ask yourself, is my aerobic base honestly as good as it could be? The usual answer is - it could always be better ;-)
At T:Zero, our coaches are on a journey of growth and discovery. Whilst we, like you, come from various backgrounds and levels of experience, we work hard to provide each and every athlete with the best customised programs possible. We have the foundation, the knowledge, the skill base, the humility and the confidence necessary to learn and flourish- just like you and your endurance journey.
There are definitely no magic bullets in this sport, and for that matter, no ‘magic’ coaches with secret recipes either. It’s important your coach has the experience, knowledge, and skill-set necessary to work with the individual and ‘read’ a person, but we will touch on how we at T:Zero do this another time. My only advice here around coaches is beware of the coach that says they have the magic recipe and all the answers. If you’re looking for a magic pill to short cut your journey, you ain’t going to find it.
Enquire now and join us on the upwards curve to endurance success.
By Head Coach Scotty Farrell
An amazing collection of training and racing advice from the T:Zero Multisport coaches- with the occasional guest blogger! Read this blog to help you live your potential!