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Why the Sutto Shuffle?

Why the Sutto Shuffle?

During the run lecture at each of my personal age group camps, I expose the myths of long distance running technique. How the drills handed out by some coaches are not of any use, but can actually be detrimental to running performance when fatigued.

These lectures are not scripted, and during our last camp I went on to tell a true story of a certain athlete who made me reconsider running when I started coaching Ironman athletes. The techniques used for the shorter sprint races are not ideal for longer races.

In 1985 I met Cliff Young the potato farmer who two years before won the inaugural 875km Sydney to Melbourne 6 day ultra running race. The Sutto shuffle owes much to this man. However during my last camp when I mentioned the amazing Cliffy Young, no-one had heard of him!  Some who have heard many of my run lectures said that’s a story you have not told before, I bet a lot of Trisutto athletes would like to hear it.

In 1983, this phenomenal 61 year-old man took on the greatest ultra marathon runners of the time. When they made fun of him at the press conference before the race, Cliffy said:

‘Cliffy will you make it out of the car park?’
‘I’m here to show the young ones a thing or two about plenty of fight in an old dog.’

‘but Cliffy, they are the best in the world!’
 ‘not in my world.’

With that he got up and left the room! Crazy old man was the verdict of most.
However at the 400km point of the run when the interviewer again put the mic under the old man’s nose and said:

‘Cliffy you haven’t slept a wink in 2 days’
Cliffy fired right back ‘I can sleep for 6 months when it’s over’.

‘but Cliff all of Australia are worried you could seriously harm yourself’
‘son, the only people I’m harming are those smart arses behind me that laughed at me at the start’

‘Cliffy you could die?’
‘Yes and I’m prepared to do that rather than let any one pass me now!’

And so it was, Cliffy Young won the race and changed the sport forever.


My own story starts two years later when I met Cliffy, now aged 63 at the Sydney Marathon press conference. We were not part of the race contenders but were celebrity participants, myself as a national swim coach. I had also made a bet with my team that was a little crazy, but it motivated my athletes!  Cliffy was there, and we had a little chat, “hey young’en, you looking for three hours? We could run together. Will be fun. We can have a talk on the way!

Cliff had a full length flannel shirt on. Long rain pants with holes cut in them (‘ventilation son’) and a safari style hat (‘son got me some skin cancer problems’). A pair of shoes that look like they would fall apart at any moment. Celebrity and sponsorship hadn’t gone to his head, or to his feet.  So off we went, and true to form the pensioner just talked to me non stop for the first 10km. After that he said ‘coach you better stop talking you don’t look so great‘. Meanwhile the above 100 cadence Cliffy, who looked like death warmed up, just kept talking.

I still remember the course took us right past the front door of the University where I trained our swim team, with the athletes yelling out some very funny stuff, but what stuck in my head was the best retort ‘the old man is walking as fast as you’re running’

Cliffy was taken aback, and reasssured his new friend ‘your doing great sonny, I been doing this all my life,  but I have to tell you, that I need to get a wiggle on, or I’ll tighten up.’ With that Cliffy Young put it into another gear and shuffled off into the distance, for a 2 hour 48 minute marathon!

As I neared the finish, to my surprise standing at the entry to the stadium, was Cliffy urging me to ‘sprint! you can break 3 hours, go boy‘.  With that I lifted even though there wasn’t anything left. The thought of this great Australian not only running from Sydney to Melbourne, that he would take the time to cheer me home, had me sprinting.

This was a magic moment of which there have been many in my fortunate sports career. Cliffy Young played a major part in forming my views on technique and training for ultra events. The Cliffy Shuffle morphed into the Sutto Shuffle and is now part of Ironman history too.

Cliffy you were a legend and didn’t know it!


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

Welcoming Coach Andrej Vistica

Welcoming Coach Andrej Vistica

Croatia’s champion triathlete Andrej joins the Trisutto Coaching team. Photo Credit: Daniel Comiza

It gives me great pleasure to see Andrej Vistica complete his Trisutto Coaching certification and join our ranks as not just an athlete but a coach as well.

Andrej is a special story 7 years in the making. He doesn’t come from financial privilege or the head start of another sport background. He had a dream to become a professional athlete while living and working in his home country of Croatia. He started out with 10 hour work days, fitting training around it. He built himself up with pure determination then moved to train with Trisutto coach Jo Spindler, and cut his work hours down to 5 hour days.

Welcome to the team Andrej!

The outcome was that coach and pupil did a magnificent job, not only did Andrej gain his dream of being a professional athlete but look at this resume all from no sporting background.

His dedication, attention to detail and passion to be better had me thinking, this is an athlete who could be an excellent coach. This year Andrej has worked with me with the express purpose of me tutoring him as a coach. However his results as an athlete have also been exceptional. So, welcome to our coaching roster Andrej and we look forward to a successful a career in coaching as your having as an Ironman athlete.

Andrej Vistica’s  coaching profile can be viewed here. Andrej is currently taking on athletes of all ability levels. Coach Andrej discusses the running versus running for Triathlon in this informative Coaching Vlog.


Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton and his squad at training Camp in Cyprus in April, 2018 for insights into the Trisutto Coaching and Training methodologies.

Project Ironman – The Run: The Heel of The Matter

Project Ironman – The Run: The Heel of The Matter

So how do you make your individual functional technique better? Run! Photo Credit: James Mitchell

The IM run is probably the most daunting of the three legs (no pun intended) and is certainly the harshest on the body. The ability to run in a highly fatigued state for so long is no easy task even in optimal conditions. The technical challenge is to hold form throughout to sustain your goal race pace – holding TUF (technique under fatigue) as we say at Trisutto.

As mentioned in my previous blog, success on the run is very much predicated on your bike fitness, pacing and fueling management. A proper triathlon-analysis of any run performance should take the bike segment into consideration. For this discussion I will assume the stage set with a well-delivered bike.

What is “proper” IM running form?
The crux, like the swim, is in the ability to cover the race distance at (your) speed “comfortably”. It starts with your form, one that you can replicate sustainably for ~40000 steps over 42k. There is no right or wrong, only what is effective for you, based on you (size, weight, shape, anatomical anomalies etc.).

Attempting to emulate track runners or shorter distance runners is misguided, especially if you are a late starter in the sport. Very few, even at the highest level of our sport, are capable of running the IM like a gazelle from start to finish (i.e. Craig Alexander, Andreas Raelert, Mirinda Carfrae). Most end up moving in a manner that is most economical to them. So take heart that you too can still be a good IM runner without conforming to a stereotype “proper form” derived from open events, especially those track specific.

The foot plant is probably one of the most discussed aspects of “proper form”. Whether it is to avoid breaking, to harness the potential elastic energy in our tendons and muscles or to minimize contact time, the mid/fore foot strike (over heel strike) is the mainstream technical goal you are encouraged to achieve. As we watch the best at IM what do we actually find? – A mix of foot contact types – forefoot, mid-foot/flat/outside, and heel “touchers”.

Of the top 10 men in Kona 2016 approximately half heel touched, the other half used a flat/mid foot (and one distinct forefoot) plants. Some of top 10 ladies at Kona 2016 also distinctly heel touched. So if you currently favour a heel first contact and are comfortable doing so you may not need to change it.

It is essential however to clearly understand the distinction between heel striking and heel touching before tinkering with what might already be a suitable IM form for you.

Heel striking occurs when you land on your heel and at full stance your heel is still in front of your center of mass, leg is relatively straight, and weight is being transferred through the heel, which effectively jars the body and causes a breaking action.

Heel touching occurs when your heel contacts the ground first in front of you, briefly, but at full stance your center of mass is close to or over top your weight bearing foot, the leg is bent, head-shoulder-hips stacked with weight being transferred through the supporting mid-foot. From initial contact to full stance the hip continues to translate forward.

Daniela Ryf

If you mid/flat foot strike you will tend to land very close to your centre of mass already (or as close “underneath”) and the time to full stance is almost seamless. If this is you, that is ok.

Mary Beth Ellis

Note in the examples above the similarity in alignment at full stance (right photos) despite slightly different start points.

Both of the highlighted styles are effective. Avoid choosing one over the other to conform to what is deemed “proper” or ideal. The one that still holds by the end of the IM will be the fastest for you.

Start by optimizing what already works for you. If you push to change to be something you are not you could increase injury potential or regress in performance. If, for example, you insist on a mid-foot strike in your IM preparation long runs, now after years of heel touching, you will increase the likelihood of a metatarsal stress fracture. On the other hand, to force a heel touch approach if you are a natural mid-footer will likely cause you to heel strike to make that change felt.

Does this mean you should simply settle and never adjust anything that may improve your economy and speed? Of course not. Small tweaks (rhythmical shoulder extension, compact hand/forearm swing, a more upright and stacked posture, head inclination, cadence etc.) can collectively compliment what happens from the waist down. Just avoid drastically reorganizing your mobile base of support to something that isn’t natural for you. And note that what is natural to you will also evolve as your experience progresses.

So how do you make your individual functional technique better?
Forget about drills. The more time you spend on them the better you will be at them, but likely no better in form at 35k in the IM run. If your form crumbles forcing you to walk, shuffle and hobble mid-way, all the prancing, skipping, machinegun butt-kicks and explosive knee drive drills you did will have only served to improve your photo pose coming out of T2. Rather focus your technical effort on building race pace (RP) form stamina. Insert segments of IM RP tempo on your long runs. Run off the bike often and following long race-paced efforts to impose the specific (or close to) fatigue that will help forge your IM run form durability.

Next time someone comments on your “heel strike”, assess the accuracy of that observation using video and the cues aforementioned before altering anything. Then take heart that many of the best IM runners (and champions) – male and female – contact the ground first with their heel.


 Ed Rechnitzer is a Trisutto Coach based out of Calgary, Canada. Check out Coach Ed’s Triathlon Camp scheduled for 2018 in Mont Tremblant.

Run Improvement: Practical Treadmill Truths

Run Improvement: Practical Treadmill Truths

Over the last week we’ve had a couple of people reach out after reading an article outlining the bio-mechanical negatives of running on treadmills:

My first response, of course, is that it’s highly unwise to base your training off triathlon magazine articles. It’s their job to produce new and interesting content, not consistent training advice.

But to address the article specifically:

It is theoretical truth… And practical bullshit.

If you are a challenged runner treadmill training – without changing floor angle – will improve your running out of sight. The positives by far outweigh the negatives.

Take heart that many of the greatest athletes now and in triathlon history have used treadmills as a regular part of their training. As often as four times a week.

Our thoughts on the best use of the treadmill can be found here:

Be reassured that the treadmill can be your best tool to improve your run split. Several of our main squad members will be on it this afternoon!

Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in LanzaroteCyprus or Gran Canaria.

Key Performance Tools: The Treadmill

Key Performance Tools: The Treadmill

Six days before the Hawaii Ironman in 2016, Daniela Ryf completes a key pre-race speed set on the treadmill.

Over the last month I have written blogs on exercise equipment that can help you with your swim and bike performance. There have been many enquires asking can you write something about the run?

Since founding, there have been several blogs published on the benefits of treadmill for run / triathlon performance. I urge all of our new readers to breeze through our back catalogue of blogs for a variety of articles that will help you enormously with your triathlon. We view ourselves as a resource for all triathletes to use in their quest to be more efficient athletes.

The Dreadmill: Benefits Of Treadmill Training  includes a short video blog to explain one of my favourite mid week run workouts, that will help your leg turnover and your run form on race day. It was developed when training Jan Rehula who went on to win the Bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

As well as run efficiency, the practical aspect of the treadmill is time efficiency. Trisutto coach Rafal Medak wrote an excellent blog on exactly this, Training in the City: Treadmill

I hope you will make the most of our online resources –  happy reading!

10 Tips to Better Triathlon Running

10 Tips to Better Triathlon Running

I often have athletes coming to me because they want to improve their run off the bike. Often times the first response is the athlete thinks they need to run more. Sometimes this is the case but often it’s not. Running for a 1500 m track event and running off of a 90 km or 180 km bike are two completely different things. I’ve seen athletes hiring a run coach to improve their running, then see their 400m times improve, but still fall short when it comes to having a good run off the bike. Here are my 10 tips to helping you have a better run off the bike in triathlon:

1. Get off your toes

I’m not sure when the forefoot running first came out but I’m almost certain it wasn’t discovered in triathlon! Teaching athletes to strike from the front of the foot leads to nothing but low leg injuries and for most is not sustainable, especially for a 42 km run off the bike. This style of running takes the key muscles out of the equation (glutes) and puts way too much pressure on the lower leg and calf. When an athlete is tired and completely depleted it makes no sense in my opinion to keep loading up the smaller muscle groups. Now there is still the odd runner out there who can sustain an Ironman marathon on their toes, but it’s more than likely that they’ve been running a high volume for most of their lives and can get away with it.  Even Haile Gebrselassie, a former marathon world record holder, when asked what he changed to improve his marathon times, said he needed to move to more of a heel strike.

2. Work on high run cadence 

In general, increasing run turnover will help an athlete run faster. In the second half of the run when the body is out of “spring”, a long stretched out stride just takes too much energy out of the athlete. We aim for a cadence of 90 strides per minute for most people. For people with shorter legs it is often higher at around 95-100.

3. Improve run efficiency

One of the most important factors for a good Ironman marathon is being as efficient as possible. The best ways I have found to improve run efficiency is to increase your turnover (as mentioned above), staying upright (not leaning forward), reducing your vertical oscillation (the amount you bounce up and down every step), keeping your arms up closer to your chest, and keeping your legs low (reducing the amount of hamstring kick at the back of your stride). It’s important to always focus on holding a good technique as you get more fatigued at the end of your sessions. We call this TUF (technique under fatigue). If you ever notice the best runners in the back half of a race, you will almost always notice a similar thing, they still look good even though they may be hurting because they are efficient!

4. Get on the treadmill

If your main problem is either needing to get your cadence up or you struggle from running injuries, then my suggestion is get on the treadmill. It’s helps with turnover as it’s almost impossible to over stride. The surface also helps lessen the impact on the body. Also, when athletes are trying to improve their bike, treadmill running works well as they are able to recover faster from a treadmill run so they can hit the bike hard enough on the non-running days.

5. Get your bike stronger

When I won my age group at Ironman Australia in 2015 with the fastest female run split, I did not do more running that year, in fact it was the opposite (it was 65 km/week max). I actually did less running and just worked on my bike strength with a tonne of big gear work on the bike. I recently had an athlete run a 2:57 marathon (a 12 min marathon PB) after a PB bike this year.  The main thing we worked on was proper fuelling and more big gear training on the bike, NOT more running.

6. Run more hills

This is fairly obvious, but long distance triathlon is very much a strength sport where strength endurance is the key component to a successful race. Running hills, just like pushing big gears on the bike, will help you run faster on the flat. It also helps prevent running injuries. At Trisutto we generally like to run hills every 3rd run or so.

7. Build mileage slowly

You can only get better if you’re not injured. One of the best ways to reduce the chances of injury is to build up the mileage slowly. I recommend increasing run volume by no more than 10% per week. At Trisutto we say “hurry slowly”. For most females it’s best to only run every second day, in order to rest the bones on the non-run days.

8. Double or triple run days

Double or triple run days is a great way to get mileage up instead of just a really long run on the weekend. This also helps keep the run quality up and generally less risk for injury as opposed to just going long and slow every weekend.

9. Make most of your runs progressive

There are a few reasons for doing this. The first is there is less chance of injury when you start your runs slower. If the muscles are tired from training load, they often need more time to warm up and get all the big muscles firing. If you step out the front door and go straight into a hard run (which needs the large muscle groups) you increase the risk of pulling something. Also, I’ve never seen it work in a race to start too fast. You will almost always finish a race/session better if you start easier and finish fast. It seems to work ok for the Kenyans.

10. Stay fuelled

Staying well fuelled in my opinion is the key factor for staying injury free. Any injuries I’ve seen have almost 100% of the time happened from under fueling or losing weight too quickly. It’s a tough subject because the main thought is “if I lose weight I will run faster”. Yes this can be true, but if you are injured from losing weight and can’t run, you obviously won’t improve. Do some athletes need to stay bigger to improve? Yes. Could some athletes lose weight to improve? Yes. It all depends on the size of the engine and frame of the athlete. If you are an athlete who may have a little bit too much extra weight, my advice is to try and lose it slowly and more in the off season when the training intensity/load isn’t too high.


Michelle Barnes is a 13 time Ironman Finisher and 7 time Kona Qualifier with over 30 AG podiums in all distances. She was recently the 35-39 AG Champion at Ironman Australia, where she had the fastest overall female marathon, including the pros. Michelle understands the challenge of training at a competitive level and need for balance while holding down a full time job.

Join Michelle in Vernon, British Columbia for two training camps in July.