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Flying to even greater heights

Flying to even greater heights

I have received many congratulatory notes, and wish to say thank you from Daniela and myself.

While people want a race report, I find it difficult to write one, so for now I’d just like to tell the inside story that our athletes at camp see every day. I will let Dave Scott, one of the greatest Ironman athletes of all time, tell you his observations first:

 
Add to this the fact that in the last 10 World Championships of both Ironman and 70.3 Daniela has won 8.

 
There is little more to say. However there is so much more from the inside. I have been restrained up to now in calling Daniela the best Ironwoman of all time. I want to clarify why from my personal view of sport.

Winning in any sport when one is just totally superior does not automatically get you the super champion card in the world of Sutto. To receive that from me, one has to show me how they can find a way to win when their superiority is taken away. When their skills are impaired, in short when they shouldn’t win – but they do.

Up until last year I had said Daniela is the fastest Ironwoman of all time, but not the greatest. Unlike most experts I have the facts in front of me, training great athletes like Chrissie Wellington, Caroline Steffen in the long course, and Jodie Swallow and Mary Beth Ellis in the 70.3. I watched the numbers being put down at training every day.
In 2017 Daniela had a very seriously disrupted year. Her race season came down to a single meeting where we discussed that we can’t train for Kona because of her back injury; so instead to get ready for the 70.3 World Champs and we can still win – but only if we keep the training to 5150 (Olympic distance) level. If Daniela had wanted to pull out of Ironman and concentrate on 70.3 Worlds, I was more than happy.

It was decided, we would train for Chattanooga. If the back was then ok and we got medical confirmation we couldn’t do any long term damage, we would start Kona and see if we could do a decent job of hiding our lack of Ironman fitness; try to let her status of being ‘the champ’ fudge the title defence. However, Lucy Charles was having none of it, stood up and tested the wounded bird like never before.  We witnessed the bird overcome Lucy’s challenge, but also her lack of preparation for the longer race. It was a step closer to getting coach to say, this is a super champ.

I tell you this because those inside our camp were told, Dani was 25 minutes slower than she can be. Most were skeptical. Only one agreed with me, and it was the only one that needed to be, ‘the bird’ herself. The win was bitter sweet for her. She smiled but on the inside she burned. I said we will take an extended break wether you like it or not. Complete rest for 3 months. Well I got 2 months and 1 week as Dani was going nuts. I insisted we fully reset, and then we will come back and have 3 more years to show how great she can be. It was, and still is my estimation that in 2019 the world will see ‘the bird’ at her very best. 2018 was the reset.

The 70.3 worlds were not on our calendar at all this year. But a bird with no wing damage just got better and better as the season went along.  The big break had Dani come back looking stronger than ever. So we didn’t stop training or taper, went to Port Elizebeth and was fantastic. On to Kona with another incident free 6 weeks of training. So we were ready for a very good performance.

However Dani so easily could have not started. But somehow she did. Stung by jellyfish under both arm pits 2 minutes before the race start, both arms went numb and the pain excruciating. Watching the online broadcast, as the athletes strung out early in the swim there was no Dani in the first 15, she was not in the first 20, somethings wrong!

Those who know how Dani is at training, understand ‘very good’ is not near good enough to make her happy. After last years Kona race, every swim session was just was not good enough, no matter how well she swam. Her 5 minutes 30 seconds down out of the water in 2017, what an embarrassment never again, was her mantra.
‘You’re not training me hard enough in the swim’, whether a 6k or 7k swim session. Just not hard enough coach ‘you have gone soft’ on more than one or ten occasions. Countered with ‘you could do backstroke in the swim and still win’.

So when Dani started the bike on race day, I received a few messages from smart arse squad members, asking if she had decided to test out the theory, exiting the water over 10 minutes down. To their credit, they also added that, if she doesn’t have a reaction to the stings we think she can still do it, as no female rides like her.

So it was to be, and for those saying ‘its impossible for a women to ride that fast’, I don’t disagree, if we all didn’t see it every fast workout on the bike in training camp. The most terrifying thing for all the ITU boys is to hear was ‘you ride with the bird today’. The iron men didn’t cry, but they knew the solid day would be race pace all the way, no matter what the distance. Getting chicked by Dani is not dishonourable in our squad. Is she as fast as the top 20 men in a time trial? You bet she is, and any man in our squad will be more than pleased to tell you.

To then run sub 3 hours after such an incredible lone ride is a good achievement. Why only good? Because here is the scary thing, Dani’s race while unbelievable to most, still isn’t her best. She has more improvement. She can swim 7 minutes faster, we would all agree. But I think she can run 7 minutes faster in 2019. Yes I know that sounds crazy but I believe the bird has not peaked yet.


Photo Credit: Fountain Photos

However, last Saturday makes her happy not just for the win but because she again erased any doubts from herself and of lesser importance me, that she is a true super champ. One who overcomes adversity and finds a way to win when others could not. Thus gets my vote as the greatest female long course athlete ever!

Just the way I see it!

 
Join Coach Brett Sutton in Cyprus in November, 2018.

Feature Photo Credit: James Mitchell Photography

ITU is Missing the Boat!

ITU is Missing the Boat!

As the countdown to Kona begins, the build up is reaching fever pitch. The Triathlon community is immersed in debate, insider tidbits on social media, and as a whole can’t wait for Saturday week. In stark contrast, the ITU in their wisdom, still cling to the theory that making the last race of the convoluted World Triathlon Series a double points race, is what makes the Triathlon communities knees tremble in expectation.

I’m afraid that the ITU executive is now so detached from the reality on the ground, that it’s hard to understand how to even communicate with them. If the ITU didn’t have the Olympics to prop it up, they would sink without a trace. For 9 years now, there has not been a World Championship race.

Here is a simple 1, 2, 3 to explain:
1 – If the best athletes decide not to follow the series, then we don’t have the best of the best racing in the final.
2 – We have in the final race, athletes vying for points, not for victory, to make sure their ranking is not risked.
3 – Outside of the most ardent supporters, the parents and associates of the competitors, nobody knows what is going on at all.

We have the World Series (WTS),  World Cups (if you are in Europe), European cup races, and let’s not forget the Continental Cup races.

How do we understand the different stepping stones to the World Series when it is not defined, marketed, or explained to even its own constituency?

If that isn’t a clear enough conflict let’s go a step further. How do you gather new followers, when if you want to watch a race on free to air TV, YouTube, social media, the ITU charges you for the privilege? Nothing more than gouging it’s own supporters for extra revenue. Simultaneously, making very sure that anyone that has ever tuned in to sports on TV on a lazy Sunday won’t discover this brand of Triathlon.

One would think the ITU executive would really know they have an image problem when I know multiple high performance athletes, coaches and past champions who do not subscribe to the pay to view ITU channel. They have zero interest.

So another year has passed. Another year the ITU has no clue who is their best athlete on any given day.

The upside for them of course is they don’t have to market their best athletes, as their greatest opportunity over the last 10 years has passed. Brothers Brownlee were the greatest billboard to carry the sport to a new level. While they are household names in Yorkshire, and known throughout England (great tea advert boys), if you are not a triathlete, it’s a zero. Gwen was allowed to move on without a word being said to her; when the grind of the circuit wore her down. I know for a fact after Nicola Spirig’s Olympic Gold medal win in 2012, that the only word she was sent was ‘you have one day left before you miss the deadline to the next race’. I kid you not!

As all get excited to see the clash of the Ironman titans at Kona, one genuinely hopes that not all on the ITU executive board have gone to sleep, as it is tiring following the circuit they put together – even if you are not racing!  I say to them, watch the Triathlon worlds reaction when you give them a World Championship race.

The experiment of who has the most points at the end of a series has failed. Hanging on to it is only making this part of the sport more irrelevant by the season. It’s now time to bring back a World Championship race for Olympic distance Triathlon.

A Way Forward: WTS, Travel & Relays

A Way Forward: WTS, Travel & Relays

Following an article a couple of weeks ago regarding the WTS Relays, I’ve been challenged a few times as to what I’d do differently.

I’m happy if it’s opened up some constructive debate within our group and at the grassroots level and always happy to provide some context some of the issues we face in the shorter distances as well as my thoughts on ways to improve.

There are not enough places on the start line for WTS races. This creates political chaos in choosing the athletes who race at each event. It also breeds a culture of Federations trying to play fantasy triathlon manager – deciding (completely subjectively) which athletes may be suited to which course or relay event. Never a good idea.

At the same time WTS have to consider that having more athletes on the start line would make the swim unfair and is a safety issue both in the swim and on the bike.

Potential solution?
The ETU actually had a working solution back in 1997 where because of so many entries they introduced Heats and Finals. They continue to do the same thing now in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary. An event that is actually one of the great race experiences on the circuit for both participants and spectators.

This would be my preferred format for Championship racing. Heats on Saturday with a sprint distance of up to 40 participants. The first 10 of each heat moving to a Olympic distance final the next day. This would allow 120 men and women to attend each World Series race, but with a final with no more than 30 very competitive athletes on the start line. This would be a very exciting format and ensure the very best athletes could be seen at their best.

Nightmare Travel Schedule
For all the contrasting views regarding the relay, I don’t think one person has disagreed on my position about the destructive impact of the WTS travel schedule. While a circuit of 8 races may not seem too arduous from the outside – jumping continent to continent without end or plan is athletically devastating. We’re seeing churn and burn of many of our best athletes – with no consideration to their long term careers or health.

There should at least be a public discussion, with the views and inputs from athletes and coaches publicly acknowledged by the ITU, around a Regional Race calendar. A calendar where athletes can train in their own countries and then travel to a region for designated time and number of races. This would allow them to return home and live somewhat of a normal existence, keeping travel fatigue for the athletes to a minimum.

For example; in the Asia Pacific region. Two races to be held in the Pacific – Australia / New Zealand followed by two races in Asia such as Japan / South Korea / China. Once complete, all athletes could return to their home bases for at least a month to train and recuperate before moving to the next regional races. It would have the benefit of WTS marketing each region individually – establishing a fixed time for races in different regions. It would coincide with the best weather conditions for the regions and would also allow athletes and countries to keep travel and housing movements to a minimum – saving each federation a lot of wasted money.

The problem?
But what if we can secure money from a big city but they want their race outside of the designated time window for that region?! That my friends is where it all falls down. As what they should says is ‘Thank you, but no thank you. The health of our athletes is paramount.’ But they don’t, and based off their responses to current and past athlete complaints are unlikely to either.

The Olympics and the Relay
The Olympics like the World Series has a dirty little secret that the general triathlon public don’t really know about or understand. That is the extent of influence of ‘domestics’ in these races. Athletes selected to do ‘a job’ for competing athletes with renumeration if success is achieved. This practice is totally against all principles triathlon was built on.

Not only that, it is also encourages negative and boring racing, where you have athletes whose sole job is stop others from being able to break away. How is this related to the relay, you ask?

Well, it’s a problem that the ITU knew about before entering into the Olympics and looked at ways of solving back in the 90s. There already was a pilot for a Team Medal. A model that instead of using the same athletes for completely different race formats and events as we have now with the relay, a team event that combined the collective splits of three representative athletes to decide who is fastest.

Each athlete would have to race at 100% effort to make sure that the third over the line’s time counted for the medal. The outcome would have been no more domestics and no more officials meddling in individual athletes races. The best three athletes in the country would be selected.

Not like now where a Federation will often leave out a faster athlete to put an inferior ones who may work to produce a result for another individual athlete (or the relay). It is crushingly unfair to the many now athletes who have seen been ranked 2 or 3 in their country and had their Olympic dream gifted to someone else with worse results.

The relay now exacerbates this problem tenfold. ‘If our best athlete doesn’t have much chance for the individual medal. Instead let’s select a couple of sprinters and hope for the relay.’

People misunderstand. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a relay. But I’m saying it should have been brought in as a totally seperate medal and not contingent on those selected for the main Olympic distance event. I believe that has been a catastrophic mistake and that we should discuss measures to deal with it and avoid such errors in the future.

Instead, when you say anything negative about it you get a depressingly short term narrow view on the subject. ‘Oh, get over it Sutto. It’s a second medal. Who cares how they got it. It’s more exciting.’ Well, I do. There should be 5 Olympic medals for triathlon (sprint + long distance) and they should all mean something. Instead we have two hybrid medals. With the second one now actively undermining the long term performance base of the first.

What’s ironic to me is that the current ITU President, Marisol Casado, was not only present but in the sport’s early days oversaw great innovations in the ETU and ITU. So spare me the living in the past rubbish. This is now. They have the vision but have allowed short term owners and finance to compromise the whole direction they had set for themselves.

So if it is back to the future to make the World Series a better spectacle to make races safer for our athletes, to develop a race schedule that is not so punishing that our champions leave early and to make federations select the very best athletes to go to the Olympics and race for themselves as well as their countries – then I personally don’t think that’s a backward step.

 

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

Photo Credit: Marc Derron

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 master and the apprentice!

The master and the apprentice!

Thursday night at the ITU teams race in Nottingham was a very special night for me personally, and for Trisutto. Representing Switzerland was Nicola Spirig and her apprentice Julie Derron  – for the very first time together on the same Swiss team. It has been a journey that those in our squad have watched with great interest.

The development of Julie to be a real contender followed a very different path from what federations are doing around the world today. Rather than separating the junior athletes from the seniors, and training in separate groups based on age, we followed the well tested Australian way of the 1990’s.  A way that Australia has since abandoned, along with their results and success in recent times.


A wonderful team race in Nottingham for the Swiss. Photo Credit: ITU Media

 Back in the 90’s my junior athletes were nurtured by the seniors, and whenever possible they trained along side them, clearly showing the pathway to the top of the sport, and what it took on a daily basis. We have followed this very same model with Julie, with the Olympic champ not only sponsoring her early on, but then supporting her by sharing her training – all be it in a very modified version. However each season has seen Julie take a step closer in training load to that of her mentor.

Science plays no part. Humanization plays a massive role.

We do what we can in training, albeit slower. Then we rest till we recover, before once again getting on the ‘Nicola Train’ again. When tired we stop and take a break. When really tired we take a rest day. This has been the modus operandi for the past 3 years. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. This season has seen Julie make a major break through to represent her country at senior level. To see both her and Nicola in the same team was a special moment for myself, coach Susie, and Trisutto.

This is an un-finished  journey as ‘The Champ’ showed the young ones on Thursday evening. That she is going to be a force to recon with, no matter how many children she has. Taking the team from 12th to 6th in a blistering leg in her first competition of the season. While we look to the future of an Olympic start in 2024 for Julie, it is now obvious that Nicola will be looking to  gain her 5th Olympic selection. Julie now needs to work towards 2019, to finish her apprenticeship and become a legitimate Olympic hopeful.

I personally want to thank Nicola for her mentorship. From now on, the pair will fight for the same goal, on an equal footing – both legitimate contenders.

From all of us at Trisutto we wish that you both continue to represent your country for many years to come. Thursday was a magic moment for all of us.

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

 

When are we going to start?

When are we going to start?

All Trisutto athletes. Read and re-read!

That’s an order!

In December I published a blog on how putting together a new squad for 2018 had me bewildered as to why age group and pro athletes alike were so paranoid about how little work we were doing in November and December in preparation for the new season. This is after most come to me looking for the magic we obviously have in improving athletes.

Then once inside the Trisutto home, were aghast that we don’t blast away, training ourselves to death, as is promoted by under performing coaching groups. Instead our attention firmly on working to improve weaknesses, and working on shorter faster work was destabilizing the new athletes, but far more important was the effect it was having on myself.

So I wrote the blog addressing this – and obviously not many read it, as come the start of April, more than ever, athletes are questioning ‘When are we going to start?’

  • Start what?
  • Overtraining?
  • Going mad on early season fever of ‘I have to get to races of no substance because race season has begun’?

All while 80% of my athletes are looking to their main races being in August, September and October!

Let me point out where we are as a group right now:

  • All and I mean all, at this time are uninjured.
  • All are coping with their prescribed work loads.
  • All are in perfect position to go into the 12 weeks of preparation work that will lead us into having a great August, September and October.

Like the Trisutto team does nearly every year – and I only put ‘nearly’ in for the coaches who have everything but results from writing in, while they have never ever won one world title, and prove why they never will.

I suggest that this time you read the blog again and this time you take heed. Or you will be left to your own devices or worse to the social media circus, which will indeed have some of you joining the ever growing list of the wounded, injured and out of form athletes that have joined this elite club before the season has even started.

 

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in St Moritz in June and July 2018 for insights into the Trisutto Coaching and Training methodologies.