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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

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

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.

 

Ironman Debut!

Ironman Debut!

Laura Nadeau raced her first Ironman this weekend at Ironman Phillipines in Subic Bay. A sweltering race of 40 degree heat high winds and hilly course. If you ever want to test yourself against the elements, and make Kona feel like a breeze this is the event for that!

This was Laura’s debut in the lead up to the big dance in Hawaii, the Ironman World Championships in October. Laura’s training has been exceptional. I knew we were going into the race without a stone unturned, but as this is Laura’s first attempt who knew what was going to be thrown at her?

We were both nervous and excited to see her finally put all that hard work into practice. In the days leading up to race, I wanted to send some much needed words of wisdom. So, instead of giving her what speeds to ride, pace to run etc, I reached out to old coachie Sutto to give me the right words to send to Laura. As I suspected, those words were simple and perfect.

“Forget numbers….hydrate, eat and run slower then slow! This race is a sauna!”

Laura executed this race to perfection. A few key sessions into the lead up of the race gave Laura the confidence she needed. I knew we were going to see something special, but only if she stayed controlled, listened to old Sutto’s advice and raced within herself, and stuck to her nutrition plan. All those working for her, Laura had a great swim, stomping bike and just a great run. Laura said she felt great the whole way! This is what I wanted to hear!

Laura crossed the line with 1st place in 35-39 age category in a time of 10h35m – 20mins faster then her nearest rival, 2nd Age Grouper overall and 7th female to cross the line (including Pros.)

Now back to the grind to prepare for Kona! Congratulations Laura and Team, a very well deserved result. So much time effort and commitment from yourself, your family and friends has gone into ensuring your success, and you 100% deserve this result.

Coach Mel.

A Texas Sized Problem

A Texas Sized Problem

Competitors at IM Texas last weekend. 

As a young man in the 70s I played a sport that was rising in numbers, influence and global popularity. It seemed every town was putting in facilities to accommodate players – and each month were new tournaments, sponsors and prize money for the taking.

Up until the 80s and early 90s it was regularly televised on major networks. The British Open witnessing 3,000 seat sell outs at Wembley Stadium. Former world champion, Janser Khan, reminiscing of the 80s:

“People used to come from all over the world to watch the semis and final. When I was playing my last Open they were selling tickets on the black market for over £100.”

That sport was Squash. Whose sad decline now serves as a prescient reminder as I’m consulted on options for converting disused courts into triathlon gyms.

Ironman Texas

I have long written about the very real problem of triathlon being run as a business by people who either do not understand, or care, about the sport they are supposed to be the custodians of.

Forget the humiliating spectacle of Ironman ratifying new ‘World Records’ in Texas which, the event’s own organisers admit, were short. And not 100m or 200m short. MILES short.

The decision to placate the age groupers and pros bent on recording ‘fast times’ is not surprising. It is only the latest in a series of absurdities that I hope is now brought to a head among the mainstream triathlon public.

As it has to stop, otherwise our sport, like Squash and others which have been run with no forethought, will disappear.

Not the Athletes Fault

This will be a recurring theme over the next weeks, months and then into Kona. So let me address it now.

One cannot blame female professional athletes, who are probably riding stronger than most of the males, if they get swept up in a pack of 50 and keep riding. It’s not their intention to draft, but the course architecture and letting the age group men start on top of them with wetsuits are decisions that are completely out of their hands – and totally reversible by the powers that be.

Similarly with the large groups of competitive age group men. They are there and have paid significant money to race. Not just participate. They deserve their chance and shouldn’t be expected to stop every three minutes. It is at core a structural problem, not a moral one, whose problems and arguments are well detailed here.

Fast Times

One of the silver linings from Texas is the corrosive trend towards manipulating courses for ‘Personal Bests’ has now hit the point where they will be viewed, quite correctly, as meaningless.

2017 Ironman Texas Male AG Bike splits:

  • 1 under 4:30
  • 9 under 4:40
  • 29 under 4:50
  • 78 under 5:00

2018 Ironman Texas Male AG Bike splits:

  • 63 under 4:30
  • 178 under 4:40
  • 277 under 4:50
  • 345 under 5:00

The trend towards getting a PB or fast time at Iron distance is a destructive one and serves no purpose in our sport.

Real ‘Iron’ men and women need to forget the faster time mentality and get what the sport is. The harder the course, the more difficult the conditions, the more individual the journey of self discovery – the more honour there is in one’s training and racing. That IS what the sport is about. The tougher and more authentic courses deserve the prestige that is now wasted on the IM Brazil, Florida, Texas’es of the circuit – which should be ignored by all serious athletes.

Here is Triathlete Magazine’s rundown on the history of the ‘North American Championship’. Which also wasn’t covered on live feed as other Championships are.

In 2015, the race saw a large number of DNFs from heat and humidity. In 2016, county officials pulled approval of the bike course 75 days before the event due to resident outrage. The new route was partially washed out by storms, shortening the bike route to 94 miles… In 2017, it looked like the race wouldn’t happen at all. And then, somehow, it did. But 2018 has outdone itself on the drama scale, with an event mired in more controversy and chaos than ever before.

And I’m often asked, ‘Sutto, why do they keep putting the race there?’ Very simple. Money, monopoly and a completely short sighted view. They know they’ll lose the dissatisfied longer term athletes, but for now also know that they can be replaced with the new ones who don’t know any better. Well that strategy won’t last for long. **Which I suspect they also know, but view as a problem for the next owners.

There is a serious need now to come up with innovation and a cultural shift for the long term future of the sport. Where courses and events are chosen on the merits of the race and not brand or ‘chance to get to Kona’ – which is now experiencing its own problems. The explosion of weak, poorly marshalled events by Ironman and the Challenge brands – based on a ‘whoever will pay’ doctrine is a short term strategy that will have dire longer term implications.

With every arm of the putting safety, people’s expectations, the sport’s integrity and fairness to the back of the list – and subservient to the following questions:

‘How much can the host pay?’
‘How many athletes can we fit on the course?’
‘How much can we gauge our participants for the privilege?’

The only way to improve it is by people voting with their feet and racing elsewhere. As athletes or people who love the sport we have to start and stand for something. The good news is the sport is growing as part of a world wide trend towards endurance events, and there are other options.

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