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The Thin Edge of the Wedge: ITU Relay

The Thin Edge of the Wedge: ITU Relay

Ashleigh Gentle (Aus) and Julie Derron (Sui) drive the chase pack at ITU Hamburg. Photo Credit: ITU Media

How exciting is the new Relay format! And how great is it for triathlon!?
Please. It’s a Frankenstein that’s turning on its creator. In a format entirely contrived to fit IOC rules, budgets and political agenda – the ITU, by not ensuring that any additional athlete spaces for this specialist event, has sold out its core for an extra medal.

The consequence is a growing trend towards this:

I was having a bad day at WTS Hamburg but I was ok, so under normal circumstances I would NEVER usually “just DNF”. Under instruction from @triaustralia, I pulled out near the start of the run to save myself for the mixed relay World Championships today. In the moment I was ashamed and upset to be standing on the sideline watching the race continue, but I wasn’t going to be able to run up to a position I came here to achieve.. it was time to put my pride aside and think of the team which I am representing today. I’ll be giving it my all.

Does this celebrate what triathlon stands for? Does it show the courage and the soul that our sport is built on? Yet, it is perfect window into what’s to come. Here we have Australia’s number 1 athlete, Ashleigh Gentle, being told to DNF for the benefit of the ‘team’. We now have federations deciding athletes should sacrifice the main race so they can save themselves for the sideshow. It’s the thin edge of the wedge. Triathlon up until now, whether from sprint to iron distance has been about personal pride. About endurance. About finishing at any cost. It’s why a DNF to her, like most champions, is a slur on their character. That’s why they’re champions.

For Ashleigh’s future racing the correct call would have been:
Get after them girl! See how many you can take down on the run! Hit the podium run split. Make a statement. Let ’em know you’ve still got what it takes and that when you’re in the pack next time – they’re gone.’

Instead, all her opposition has seen ‘Ash had a bad swim and pulled the plug.’ And then she’s been left herself to write to the triathlon public to shield her dignity. Something for Triathlon Australia to consider while they delude themselves they made the right call because they snuck a 2nd the next day. At what cost?

We too had a junior athlete in that group, in fact she rode toe to toe with Ashleigh in driving the chase pack. She wasn’t asked to save herself for the relay – as what message does it send to athletes in their development?

I do not enjoy my role as a canary in the coal mine. But the slide into the shorter, more trivial events is not the foundation for the development of the sport for the next 30 years. If you place mickey mouse formats backed with the authority of the sport’s governing body ahead of the Olympic event, you won’t produce the genuine all round triathlon champions like the Brownlees in the future. Triathlon’s identity is built on toughness. Take it away and what do you have?

Unfortunately, this forms part of a larger trend where the ITU in partnership with their Ironman race owners – as opposed to viewing themselves as being long term custodians of the sport seek to exploit what has been built over the last 40 years for the highest possible returns in the shortest possible time.

The upcoming race schedule being a case in point. To the exasperation of the top athletes who have consistently raised concerns about the schedule, it just gets more and more ridiculous. Next up, two WTS races in Canada. So do we put them close together so there is only one trip to the continent – a one stop layover for athletes? No, a four week gap between them so if you’re not Canadian you can double up on a season crippling travel schedule that already includes multiple flights to every continent. You don’t like it? Well that’s too bad. Do it our way or there’s no Olympics for you, no matter how good you are.

If I’m wrong, prove it. But as of now I don’t see any strategic vision, engagement or planning with the stakeholders – whether pros, age groupers or fans for the long term sustainability of the sport. It’s rip and run. And the consequences have just started to be felt and will be exploited sooner than one thinks.

‘Have a bad swim?’ Save yourself for tomorrow.
‘Not in the first pack off the bike?’ Wait for the relay.

The floodgates are open and they’ll be hard to shut.

Just my opinion.

 

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and in Sursee August, 2018.

What Really Happened in Frankfurt

What Really Happened in Frankfurt

Before all the supposed experts analyse the European Championship and the ins and outs of who did what and why, I thought I would let our Trisutto family know what really did happen. Both Jan and the Bird who have for the last 3 years been the supreme athletes, have had to read who are the alternatives to their reign. This most likely annoyed both!

First let’s start with the men.
Jan Frodeno from the outset of the race had decided he was not going to tear a hole in the men’s field on the bike. Rather he would show the triathlon world that he is the best runner in the Ironman world.

While he rode with tactical purpose rather than to attack the race on the swim and bike, he showed how dominant he is when not injured. The job was done pretty emphatically. Patrick Lange was hell bent on showing that he can run when he works on the bike. This being the only reason I could see why he decided to share the pack lead on an equal basis. This was a show of valor rather than tactical superiority. He too proved things to himself and I doubt we will see him getting that excited again on the bike in the big races. Any doubts about who is the best Ironman athlete in the world were put to bed.

Congratulations to Jan Frodeno on an emphatic victory.

In the women’s race, with Daniela taking an extended break the triathlon rumor mill has been working over time that the Angry Bird era of dominance is coming to an end. With athletes including an Olympic top 5, world number 1 from 2015, the new Half Ironman sensation who also was a former ITU world number 1, the field was stacked. Also with the defending champion and 3rd in last years Kona toeing the start line, along with two or three new athletes being talked up as possible successors.


Time to fly on the run also – Photo Credit: Spirit Multisport

The Bird expected big questions to be asked. Her training has been totally frustrating for her, as her coach has been saying take your time, stop pushing, we will be ready in October to show how good you really are. Well, those that know Daniela Ryf understand that being patient is not one of her great strengths! We have worked on developing her swim stroke, so in future she could negate the dynamic swim and the gap that Lucy Charles made last year in Kona. While we know there will be a gap, it will not be as dominant. We have rested and let both her body and mind recover and get stronger, this also has been obvious on race day.

What about the bike ride? The experts helped deliver that, as all the talk on how fast the new generation are on the run. The Bird had in her mind that she would make the bike extremely difficult for them to cope with. Job done.  However Danni said to me, it was one of those magical days; a day where you start pedalling and it feels fantastic from the off. Again at training she has yet to feel that she had a good ride and just struggled to find her form on the bike. In the coaches mind he thought she was doing a great job in all three, but the doubts were in her mind as coach said whatever happens on Sunday, you will be going 15% better in October. So the bike was a revelation, not just to the fans but Danni also.

To the run, again a little bit of Jan tactics here – I’ll show you I can run just as fast as the new generation. Once the job was done some minutes were given back.

What are the other revelations of the female race? I thought Sarah Crowley’s gutsy marathon coming off a difficult early season with a couple of injuries was a lesson to the new shorter distance sensations. Ironman winners are tough. They dig in and grind it out no matter how hard it gets. Well done to Sarah.

I was sad for Anne Haug for a puncture early in the race. It possibly cost her a podium. Would she be in a race with Danni if there was no puncture?  No.  However it would likely have seen her on the podium in her first Ironman. Sarah True had an excellent run in her Ironman debut. Was that expected? Yes. One must acknowledge she in 2012 was in a sprint finish at the London Olympics. Another truly great performance.

But this is why Ironman is so special. In the major races where the girls can get 90km on the bike before the age group men show up, you have to step up and ride as well as run. Any expert that thought the Bird’s reign is over, will need to re-evaluate for the near future.

To answer the question about 70.3 world’s. They were not on our radar until 2 weeks ago and I don’t know if it is on Jan Frodeno’s radar. Should they decide to be there then the best Iron distance athletes will be more than a match in the shorter distance athletes playground. They will represent the Ironman fans well at the shorter race!

I wrote an article two seasons ago that with the arrival of Jan and Danni, that Ironman had found a new level with athletes who don’t have a weakness. They can dominate in swim, or bike as Danni showed, or run as Jan showed. We are in an era of greatness and we should embrace two absolutely exceptional triathletes.

Congratulations to both!

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in St.Moritz and Sursee July/August, 2018.

Feature Photo Credit: Spirit Multisport

What is a Break Really?

What is a Break Really?

This blog is in response to enquiries from our readers. They see differing rest periods given to different athletes for their ‘time off’ out of race season. After reading that Daniela was given an extended long rest of three months it has thrown confusion into what is necessary for them. So let’s get into it by first putting the Angry Birds break into perspective.

This was a much needed complete ‘spell in the paddocks’ for Danni. She has raced brilliantly for 4 straight seasons with me, without a big rest. Not only is this physically exhausting but mentally draining as well. So we decided it was time for a career reset. A large break away from swim, bike, and run training; plus all the media pressure that builds with a career like hers.

So I’m asked did she do absolutely nothing? If I had my way then yes! However the bird kept in partial shape by gym visits and doing stuff that she can’t afford to do when in full Triathlon mode. What stuff?  I have no idea! I made her realise that I wanted her to have a break from me telling her what to do. So we call this type of break a ‘career reset’. However at Trisutto we usually have much smaller breaks. Up to 21 days / 3 weeks for athletes who have all the skill sets in swim, bike and run. This is a very important point, because if one has a big weakness, then after a small break we go into specific stimulus programs.

So let’s break it into two:
If you are extremely good in all three (swim, bike and run), our pros do something every second day. It always revolves around swim today, then nothing tomorrow.  Bike the next day, then a run the day after. They are all as short as possible for the individual. These short workouts are very important, so when one returns, we don’t waste a month just getting rhythm back to old levels and getting used to all three disciplines. But the point is we do take time off from any organised sessions.

Now the complicated! If one has a perceived weakness in one discipline we will take a little rest, then go straight into a very specific stimulus program which targets that problem. When we do this we minimise the other two disciplines to a more maintainable level. This is expected to be embraced by our athletes, be categorised as ‘I want to improve’ in their own minds, and they willingly buy into doing it.

Conclusion
Breaks vary because of the individual needs of the athlete. Some with great skills are afforded the opportunity to run their own breaks. Before you say the old cliches again, we have already dealt with ‘No pain, no gain‘ in the last blog!

Now here is another Cliche – ‘We should always be trying to improve as to stand still is to go backwards’. Again this is a lot of nonsense. Daniela Ryf needs to improve nothing at the present.
Nicola Spirig is similar except for her swim. So in her ‘break’ we worked on the swim stroke again. As she steps out for her first ITU World Series race in her quest for a 5th Olympics, she will be sporting her fifth ‘new’ swim stroke. This was dialed in over the winter, and was the only focus. I’m sure the critics will like this one a little better. ‘Little Pistol’ Julie Derron had a break that was about improving her run, to give her the outside chance of muscling in on the Olympics one 4 year cycle earlier than I predicted. We are proud she did so and now has a couple of ITU pro wins in the lesser divisions.

Triathlon Breaks are very important to the program. Watching both Danni and Nicola at training over the last days, neither are in their 100% best race shape, however I commented to coach Robbie these girls are ‘blooming’. The rest has done them a world of good. And that is what you are looking for in your break.

You want it to be beneficial so you can get back into training healthy with a few extra kilos to work with, and feel good about it.

 

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in St.Moritz and Sursee July/August, 2018.

The Importance of Recovery

The Importance of Recovery

Over the years I have been very misunderstood by many pundits who have not even taken the time to visit our coaching camps to see what we actually do. However I have talked with and visited many great coaches who have that most important feature that makes them superior coaches – and that is curiosity.

They look at my results and ask why?

So when I say to you the most important principle of my success in Triathlon is my true understanding of recovery, it is ridiculed by the mass of naivety that passes for Triathlon experts.

So let us begin with the founding statements I had drilled into me by my farther some 45+ years ago. The statements that kept me at the top of international level coaching of any sport I took on

STRESS  +  RECOVERY   =  ADAPTION   =   HIGH PERFORMANCE

Verses

STRESS    +    STRESS   =    DETRAINING   =   POOR PERFORMANCE

Which one do you want for your athletes? That my friends is profound  “science”!
So let’s be very clear.  I believe that if there is no recovery, then there can be no progress.

In this sport of 3 elements (and 5 for Ironman), recovery is a very complicated undertaking. So one needs to know the sport. Can recovery happen in one facet, while working hard on another? My thoughts are a very definite YES! Can recovery happen when one is tired? YES!

The puzzle for the individual to work out is how much stress is enough to stimulate performance, and the amount of rest needed for that to occur. Here is where it is complicated, as it changes with three things:

  1. fitness of the athlete
  2. age of the athlete
  3. mental capacity of the athlete

Get one of them wrong and you hinder your ability to perform at your highest level.


Recovery Run

A coach needs to adjust for each individual, and also over the course of their career. Adaptions made over time can mean that an athlete who worked best on a lighter load, will after 3 years cope with and require additional work to perform at a higher level. If the athlete is with you long enough, you will then see that as they get older they may do better and keep improving by adjusting their work load to once again do less.

When one reads this, you may think I’m trying to confuse, however it is this complicated. Thus why there are only a few master coaches in a sea of mediocrity. It is a fact that every athlete has a different stress level, and this fluctuates. A great coach finds this, and then manipulates it. Recovery is his/her tool to control it.

The next job for the coach is once finding the level is to persuade the athlete that this is best for them. What is best physically might not match up at all with the psychological abilities / requirements some athletes have. I have witnessed many athletes who did great things only because they were dragged kicking and screaming to their results. Not by pushing them harder, but by using recovery they don’t want, to save them from themselves.

As noted in my previous blog, my biggest problem, is athletes not knowing their threshold levels to stress even after showing them with great performances. Their paranoia is such that the more is better syndrome lives extremely close to their pillows, and it takes only one word or performance from a competitor, to start their alarm bells ringing, “i gotta do so much more “. We use some recovery every day in our work outs.

Here are three examples of programs I just sent  to serial winners only 5 minutes before I sat down to write this

  • I want you to go to the pool. Run 20 minutes from there, then swim 200m and 15 minute spa.
  • I want you to ride your city bike to the pool. If you are bored do an extra 20 minutes on the city bike, then swim 400m easy. Have a spa and ride home.
  • Coach I can’t do nothing. It drives me crazy! One workout a day doesn’t do it for me. Then ok, ‘What about a run day. 3 runs what do you think?’  Coach that sounds fantastic, how do they look? ‘20 minutes before brekky.  20 minutes max before lunch. If you still feel the need then 20 minutes max before dinner.’

These are actual workouts, and will help all three be better athletes.

Recovery is everything. Your job as an athlete is to embrace it.  The Coaches job is to work out how much. If you give some too much recovery they become bored; and as such I’m a master of camouflage, to give athletes recovery while they think they training.

When discussing ‘stress’, people tend to look for the red line. We don’t. The red line is for anaerobic events. Triathlon (excluding the new team format) is aerobic after the start. Thus we look to find the white line. And that to me is B.A.P. – Best Aerobic Pace. With stress that’s what I’m looking for. We do a lot of B.A.P. when our body is ready. Our recovery we have done previously allows for this.

Ironman is a different set of operational tools. The pain is not pain, it is lingering discomfort. There is plenty of gain to be had, if training is done right, without pain. The key is consistency. Not how hard you go. In fact i think going too hard actually limits Ironman performance.

I’ll finish just as I started

Stress + recovery = adaption

Stress + stress = DETRAINING and thus poor performance

 

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in St.Moritz and Sursee July/August, 2018.

 

Feature Photo: Tahni Brown

Recovery – the Trisutto Way

Recovery – the Trisutto Way

Our personal Trisutto camp is in full swing in St Moritz. We have my coaching nirvana, athletes from very beginners, to Olympic and Kona champions all side by side in our pool, and the coach is loving it.  Ability and speed is no barrier to being in our camp. We have two full time coaches in Susie and Robbie, plus myself, all trying our best to help people live their sporting dream in the most beautiful surroundings in the world.

However we also have other Trisutto coaches visiting too, to take advantage of the facilities, but also the sharing of coaching information. So camp to me looks more like “Tri-fest 2018” as coaches meet and talk about their specific problems in getting the message across. This message is that 90% of all triathlon information disseminated is not best practice for Triathlon. One theme that all coaches seem to struggle to get across to their athletes is recovery and rest needs to be built in to the program on a daily basis.

 

It’s not just my group that has been totally brainwashed that I must work hard every day. To the astonishment of all who visit, they see the best in the world doing 800m swim sessions. They see 20 minute runs implemented regularly. They are often gob smacked when they are told 45 minutes ride. As they watch the best do that, they also see my dismay with athletes arguing and debating for more work. They see the strong discussions I have with the best athletes in the world, who after they have had brilliant success, are still opposing my advice nearly every day, about what has made them great!

Our coaches see it, and they say ‘that’s our biggest problem too’. Athletes just can’t believe they don’t have to go longer, faster, harder every day to be better. Being in this group environment of over achievers just escalates the obvious misunderstanding of how performance is achieved. Not only built but maintained for a full season. Just as the misunderstanding of breaks from training. How different they are, and why some athletes get them, and some don’t! One of our long time supporters wrote in with a very respectful e-mail about what is a real break. He asked ‘When we read your blogs, they can mean so many different things, but giving Daniela Ryf a 3 month break has me totally confused.’

So to add to those things, many including the coaches find it difficult to understand. I preach that doubt is the poison of performance, and that as coaches they must work with athletes that buy in 100% to what we are trying to achieve and why. Without finding the harmony between coach and athlete success is nearly impossible to find.  When the athlete mind is turned by other coaching thoughts, or doesn’t believe what they are doing is right for them, then the coaches need to understand that their best outcome is for the athletes to find another coach that espouses the philosophy that the athlete believes in.

So I am going to write a blog as a 3 part series. So everyone understands that I believe one of the stupidest cliches that doesn’t work in our sport is – ‘No pain. No gain’. This is firmly etched in my mind every time I set a task.  Just as one of the most important cliches that works great for Triathlon – ‘If you don’t use it, you will lose it!’.

With those two thoughts I hope ringing in your mind, here are the three headings for our 3 part series to be published over the next month –

  1. The importance of recovery
  2. Breaks from training, and why you must have them
  3. Harmony of coach athlete relations

 

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in St.Moritz and Sursee July/August, 2018.