Countdown to the Ironman World Championships. Photo: Rob Holden Photography
With 22 days and counting – it’s about this time every year that the Kona surge starts to take hold.
An affliction that doesn’t just occur with pros, but one that infects many hard working age group athletes who have qualified to go to the big show.
And let’s clarify ‘hard worker.’
These are not pros, but people who have full-time jobs. Given the Ironman demographic we find that these tend to be high-powered, stressful jobs at that. It may not be physical labour, but it is the kind of work that requires a lot of time and mental attention.
What you’ll find in the ‘Surge’ is that these qualifiers are now cramming every bit of training in they can do. Every minute is filled with extra training as they feel guilty about their jobs robbing them of valuable time in preparation for a good race at Kona.
Within my pro team I’ve been addressing this issue nearly every second day. Assuring all that the training is on track and repeating the word ‘No’ quite a lot.
I need to do more! No, you don’t.
This is too slow! No, it isn’t.
I’m not able to push hard enough! No, you’re pushing the exact right amount.
Can I do an extra session of … No!
I don’t feel I need the rest day, can I … NO!
These conversations mirror the ones I’m having with our working age groupers – hyper motivated individuals who have had to miss a few sessions because of work and as such are in meltdown mode when coach advises to take a step back and readjust the program accordingly.
‘But Coach you don’t understand… I haven’t had much time…’
Yes, I do understand. You see most of these AG athletes are university educated people who in some form of their old lives have had to cram for exams to maintain high grades while maintaining a busy outside life.
Many of the same people then move into the business community where they’re governed by strict work deadlines in a culture that seems think that setting unreasonable time tasks will enhance the work value out of those white-knuckling 15-hour days.
The head down and don’t lift it up, don’t shower, drink some more coffee way of getting things done is a common theme when discussing people’s work / training arrangements.
So of course it’s natural that the habits and rituals we see in the workplace are now carried over to one’s new hobby – Ironman.
Just a few days ago I heard this: “What do you mean easy swim and 20 minute jog? I’ve done nothing for 3-days except meetings so that I could get here to train my arse off.” For context they had just hopped off the plane after an 11-hour across the dateline flight.
Does this ring a bell to some of our qualifiers out there as the nerves start to jangle as we think that Kona is only 22 days away?
Training in the build up to Kona.
If so, have no fear as Coach is here to help.
Firstly, the ‘add more training’ approach is not applicable. Physical sport is not the same as when you used to cram for a week and pass with flying colours. It’s not the same as pulling an all nighter on a Powerpoint and then nailing it the next morning. The phenomenon of ‘cramming’ with a few weeks out will have a huge negative impact on your performance.
If the Kona surge has got you in its grip then the ‘do more, do it faster, take less rest’ approach will ensure that you will be making this statement after finishing your race: ‘Next year will be better as I’ll have more time.’
So I’ll pass on what I’m telling my own coaches on a daily basis now. Hold the line. Stick to what you have been doing, even if it wasn’t enough. Athletes a little underdone will perform a hell of a lot better than athletes that are overdone.
Courage is shown at this time by not joining in the Kona surge people, but resisting it!
You want my honest feelings about Kona?
It’s just another race. To prepare for it like it’s just another race will prove much more fruitful for your performance. Enjoy the experience. The journey is the real adventure, the doing is just the icing on the cake.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Sursee, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
In every race there are only three prizes. One for first, one for second and one for third. So unless there are only three people racing, there’s no way everybody can get a prize. So if you don’t win, if you don’t podium, are you not successful?
As a professional athlete it was something that was always in my mind. Am I succesfull? Am I successful to come fifth in an IRONMAN race, to come fourth, to come eight in a Championship race or to run a career personal best time ending up sixth place in the field? Was I a good athlete even though I only won one Challenge race? Do people perceive me as a successful athlete? Again, what is succes?
As a coach I see athletes struggle with the same question. Of course racing as a professional has its own dynamics and you strive to be the best athlete in the field. You want to make a living out of it, which is not easy in this sport. You do that by performing. To podium. To get a paycheck. Or to get that podium bonus by your sponsors. It is the ultimate implementation of being paid by performance. Something that will not work in a normal job or corporate company because there is simply no way that you can run a business by only paying people who have the best performance.
But succes and/or performance is both subjective and objective. The objective side is the simple 1, 2, 3. The subjective side is more complicated. My career best performance only got me to sixth place. There were 5 girls better then me on the day that I had my best performance. My best performance is limited by myself. I’m no Chrissie Wellington or Daniela Ryf. I’m not a Xena, the Warrior Princess or Corinne, the Welsh Wizard. And that is ok. I strive to become as good or even better then they are, but I might not have the same talent physically or mentally. Or have the right background in sports to fall back on. And that is ok. I want to make myself better, stronger and faster. So ’till this date my career best performance, even though I was not on the podium, is a succes in my books. And one of my best performances.
Whether you are successful as an amateur athlete is something you don’t need to measure by other people. You have your limitations as do the others. You just don’t know them. Maybe you were racing people who used to race professional? Or still kind of are. Or don’t have that demanding job of 50 hours a week. Or maybe the person you just overtook is working 60 hours a week. Or maybe he or she is overtaking you because training for triathlon with a demanding job is a way to get their mind at ease. Or maybe you race against people with a family. With a newborn. With four kids. And they have to juggle everything around. For them it might all be about balancing everything out.
As hard as it is, I want my athletes to look at their own performance. Making their own succes. Like getting to that finish line of a full triathlon for the first time. In one piece. Finishing to grab a beer with the family after. For me as a coach, that makes me very happy and proud. I see that as a success. Or enjoy a 15 minute best time even though it wasn’t enough for the podium. You had a great performance, so don’t beat yourself up because someone else was better on the day. Celebrate your progression. As a coach I see that progression and I see that as a success.
But success might also mean overcoming fear. Fear for a distance, or a certain race. I have experienced that. Challenge Almere last year was my fear race. My home race. The race where you want to have the best performance of your life. I feared the startline, because I was afraid I’d fail. For my friends and family. I wanted to make them proud. What if I couldn’t? Last year I finally did it. And even though I didn’t win, I celebrated my very hard fought second place like I did win. It was my succes of overcoming fear. Before the race. During the race. And even after the race, by celebrating my succes with the people that matter to me.
Success is not measured by podiums. Of course it looks great in the race report, but that doesn’t make success. That doesn’t always reflect a good performance. I landed on the podium of an IRONMAN once with a lousy performance. There were not too many girls racing that day. And I got lucky. Was that success? It looked like it to the rest of the world, but to me it has always been about performance. About getting the best out of myself. And on one day that might be a personal best time. The other it’s overcoming deep dark places during the race. You make your own succes. Not anyone else.
Mirjam Weerd is a Trisutto Coach who also races as a Professional Triathlete. Mirjam is currently based in Curaçao, and has a dedicated group of online athletes. Mirjam also hosts regular coaching clinics, sharing her vast triathlon experience and knowledge.
‘Will Power’ training. Undefeated 1500m runner Herb Elliot with coach Percy Cerutty.
Those who follow Trisutto.com will know that we view our age-group athletes the same as pros when it comes to personal performance. Yes, you have less time and more stress with your training, but the parameters to lift performance are basically the same.
I challenge you to think of some of the most satisfying workouts you have done. Let me be presumptuous and say that I bet none of them were the fastest ones you did, but the ones that were a challenge. The ones where you were getting your arse kicked and managed to turn it around. The sessions where you attacked the paper tiger instead of giving in to it.
I once had the privilege of talking with a coach who used to run at Portsea with the great Percy Cerutty (brilliant coach of undefeated 1500m runner Herb Elliot). He told me about an infamous Percy training session. It wasn’t called ‘Speed Work’ or ‘Aerobic Conditioning’ or even ‘Hill Work’ though it was performed up a hill.
The Portsea Sand Dunes.
No, Percy called it the ‘will power’ set. In his eccentric style he’d rally the squad on a Saturday morning and tell them:
“This session is the one that makes you who you are. Defines what you want to be and gives enlightenment to the individual of oneself. You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.”
He then proceeded to a sand dune of only about 30-60m and say “up you go”. How many reps? “As many as your will allows you to.”
Now this is the type of workout you’ll no longer find in the textbooks, but it still takes pride and place in mine. I haven’t replaced it with a chapter on over-training or that other myth of the weak – recovery. Because when it comes to performance both pale in significance when pitted against the effectiveness of ‘Will Power’ training.
So as an age-group athlete there is nothing better you can do than plan a session that is not only good for performance, but great for the soul. I’m not saying you have to do it every week, nor does it have to be up sand dunes. Just every now and again when you’ve got time to yourself (maybe the weekend or an early finish from work) set aside some time to give yourself some ‘Will Power’ training.
One of those sessions where at the end of it you sit totally exhausted, sweat dripping off the end of your nose, your heart pounding through the chest like hammer blows. As you sit or lie there close to exhaustion you’ll know that you’re truly alive and that today ‘I made myself a stronger person.’
Pro or age-grouper – isn’t that what we all want?
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Last week I made an honest attempt to defend those developing pro athletes who train every bit as hard as the champions. They have the right not only of our respect, but for the sport’s leaders to provide a pathway for a sustainable career that will benefit both sides.
That aside, the pros do need a sharp reality check – as their predicament is largely self inflicted.
There is still a way to make a small living in triathlon if one is prepared to be disciplined in one’s training and racing schedule.
With the proliferation of new races worldwide – I find it quite concerning the amount of underperforming newcomers who ask about coaching, but then talk about sponsors and fulfilling a travel schedule that looks like a Contiki tour so they can ‘get to Kona’.
That’s all before the standard ‘I can’t afford to get a proper coach’ – despite the coach having a proven track record of delivering exactly what their goals are.
Many are disappointed when instead of producing a magic wand, I suggest they focus on improving their performance to be good enough to earn a pay cheque in the first place. Living out of a suitcase in an airline transit area, competing at races that you are not good enough to be at is the worst possible way to move forward if one’s goals are to be good.
If you have serious flaws in one or two of the triathlon disciplines – ‘joining the circuit’ for 12 months will leave you right back where you started. No money and no improvement.
Sarah Crowley justly rewarded for a long term, professional approach to the sport. Photo: Korupt Vision
Over the past 12 months we have seen the meteoric rise up the professional ladder of Sarah Crowley. Sarah left a well paid corporate job to follow her dream – and I’m proud to say followed a different path to the majority of the inquiries we deal with.
Realising rather quickly that being ‘good’ was more important than the holiday circuit, she got an excellent coach and paid not to go to races but training camps to improve her weaknesses.
A former solid runner at ITU level, she engaged her coach Cam (Cam Watt) who is a bike expert, and they also flew to Jeju, South Korea for swim focussed training. For a month she trained with Daniela Ryf to see how the very best worked.
With improving performances she had the opportunity to get sponsored products – but instead followed her coach’s advice:
“Do not take on inferior products – it will cost you performance and money!”
Losing two minutes over 180km because you’re endorsing slower equipment can be the difference between a win or a fourth. Sarah again wanted what is best for performance. Not to be able to say ‘I have a sponsor’!
Such long term thinking has paid off very handsomely. She is now the current holder of the Ironman 70.3 Middle East, Ironman Asia Pacific and Ironman European regional Championships. For those who were at Sarah’s level two years ago, the improvement is not luck.
Taking The Plunge
It is not to say everyone can make the huge leap she has, but I can identify many others who with professional attitudes have made the step from very good age groupers to real “pros”.
The greatest of them is the legend called, Chrissie Wellington. She took a one week trial with yours truly and then gambled her savings on coaching and camps that would make her the best she could be. She was going to the top or back to a ‘real job’. No grey area.
Similarly, last weekend James Cunnama destroyed the field at IM Hamburg. Writing this I remember James contacting me some 10 years ago and asking what is the best way to become a “real” pro. He was advised to get on a plane and come to camp, so he could get the best possible judgement. Like the others he made the difficult transition with two training oriented seasons – and since then has had eight years career professional athlete with more to come.
For those considering making the jump, please understand it is totally different when you’re racing for a pay check to pay the bills each month. The pressure of racing without a safety net is not for everyone. Though I’m happy to give some free advice for those looking to make the transition from good amateur to hard bitten pro.
1) It takes time. I ask people joining Trisutto for three seasons to be the best they can be. If you come into the pro ranks with the ‘I’ll give it one year’ mindset I can help you right now.
Stick to your day job.
2) Invest in quality coaching and in training to improve and develop all three disciplines. Weaknesses that you can get away with as a good amateur will be brutally exploited when you run into the real thing.
3) Pick races that you can access easily and economically. Ensure after a race you are always able to return to base and get on with the most important agenda – training to make you better.
A professional, long term approach will get you to where you want to go much faster than you’d think.
Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Following on from our previous article on motivation we had a lot of message and feedback from athletes identifying themselves as being in slump.
And the group with the most inquiries asking how they can get their motivation levels back?
Age Group Kona Qualifiers.
I kid you not. It sounds ridiculous that after all the hard work, investment and planning to achieve their qualification, you find many with their motivation going missing a few months out. How is this possible?
It is totally normal to go into a psychological low after after obtaining a goal one has planned for years trying to achieve. The euphoria post-race in Ironman typically lasts about 72 hours – when we are mentally on a high, but the body is physically tired. As the mental buzz wears off to be more closely aligned with how our body feels, there is often an extreme feeling of emptiness.
There is no solution. Over 30 years I’ve had 20+ world champions go through the exact same thing. After achieving major milestones high performance athletes are warned of the oncoming wave of felling like:
‘I’m done now’.
Why? Because they are done.
And recognizing this is the key to overcoming it. Once you have attained a goal you must compartmentalise it and say ‘that is done’. I’ll now start something new.
Too many age group athletes having achieved their goal of ‘making it’ and qualifying to the Big Island, try to mentally ride their post-race achievement high to the race. Instead they are dumped into mental funk hole that is so deep they can’t see a way out of it.
To these people my advice is this:
Stop, recalibrate, begin a new adventure. Even now it is not too late.
Draw a line under what you have done, give yourself a little pat on the back and take this weekend easy to relax. View Monday as the first day of getting mentally and physically back on the job.
The good news is that despite hype, the reality is that Kona on a good day is one of the easier races on the circuit. It’s why so many Europeans go there and have great first time races. Because while everyone else are suffering from Kona-itis, they play the conditions and the course for the reality.
So if you have already qualified for Kona – you have nothing much to worry about, but much to look forward to. Bring it on.
Life Gets In The Way
We also have a second group of Kona qualifiers suffering the qualification blues:
Those that since the time of qualifying have had life circumstances change which have made training difficult.
I’ve had to take on a new job which has given me no time …
Kids and I are moving house in the middle of August! …
I’ve got an injury, but I’ve already booked the flight and hotel so won’t be at my best …
My advice for those who have lost motivation because of any of the above ‘catastrophes’ is less sympathetic. It’s time again for bathroom mirror treatment:
Give yourself a good slap.
You’re off to one of the most beautiful places in the world, participating in one of sport’s most unique events that you worked your ring off to get to. The last time I checked the prizes for age groupers were not million dollar cheques, but sunburn and a finisher’s medal.
Wake up! You have proven you can make the distance; it might not be your fastest race, but it may be one of the best experiences of your lifetime. Understand and embrace your circumstance. Relax, enjoy and appreciate how lucky you are.
If looking for a motivational boost, join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in Lanzarote, Cyprus or Gran Canaria.
Gill Fullen’s 2017 season so far stands at:
- 1 British Duathlon Age Group Title
- Champion Outlaw Half
- 3rd Outlaw Holkham
- Champion Outlaw Full
And let’s not forget the Outlaw Full course record 9.44.48! Gill is the first athlete in the UK to hit the Double for Outlaw race wins.
For me this is an impressive CV of racing results by anyone’s standards on the UK Triathlon circuit. When you consider the fact Gill is 53, those results are phenomenal. Now what’s beyond phenomenal is that less than 12 months ago Gill was battling Breast Cancer!
It’s obvious Gill is a special individual. Back in may I wrote about her Journey when she won the Outlaw Half.
Now she’s just broken a course record and won the Outlaw full on nothing more than 70.3 training. How good could she be? While Gill is talented and impresses me week in week out, it’s amazing to think there is still room to improve!
She does the training, I just conduct a plan for her. And believe me there was a LOT of questioning of the plan leading into this race. Even up until the day before the race we had a good debate about how it might go. My message has always been to put herself in a position where Gill can use her natural mental and physical strength – draw the others into trading punches then the fight is on.
And what a fighter she is! When she listens her application is second to none and the run in to the Outlaw Full has been about learning and listening. This lady is one special individual and for me is an inspiration for not just women in sport, but people in general. I feel honoured and blessed to work with such a character.
A Swim PB and a Bike PB and an Overall PB for an Iron distance race on 70.3 training is amazing. We’re not going to overly push and will train according to what the body can handle. But watch out people for if Gill is at 100% strength to pack her real punch it’s going to be something special.
Perry Agass has been a professional coach for over 10 years and has worked with some of the best coaches and athletes in the world. He is a passionate, motivated and very thorough with excellent results.
Perry regularly holds camps in Cyprus for all levels of athletes.