Thursday, October 19, 2017

Finding your hidden athlete

This week, I had a FB friend message me and ask me how I've gotten so fast. She asked what the things were that I did that had the biggest impact.

When I got her message, I was so amazed that she picked me to ask. The reason for it is that it's not that I am super fast. What I am most excited about is the improvement I have made.  I think anyone else in my shoes would say the same thing. It's not that we see ourselves as fast. We've worked so hard to make the improvements that we have.

I think that's what speaks to people.

It's easy for a Coach to make a fast person faster.

It's very difficult to take a slow athlete and make them fast.

After one of my recent posts, I found out that there are people who still read my blog from WAY back in the day. For those of you, this is an old story. It's short, so hang in there.

I started triathlon 11 years ago. For the first few years, I followed a variety of training plans. We had just started our company. We had two sons living at home. I put into the sport what I could, which wasn't much. I had fun and did a race a year....maybe two. That was it.

When my sons got older, I decided to put more effort in triathlon to see if I could get faster. From 2012-2013, I hired my first coach.  Our business had grown to the point, where we had employees. Our sons were now and freshman in college and a junior in hs.

That means for the first 5 years of triathlon, I didn't put a lot of effort into my training. I didn't know what I was doing, but I had a lot of fun. That's what kept me going.

I say over and over to people (Mr. Tea.....and others), it doesn't matter what you do. Find something that you enjoy even when you are bad at it.

I hired a Coach. (Not Liz).

It didn't work out.

Then, I found Liz through friends.

In Jan of 2013, I started working with Liz. When you think about it, I have 11 years of triathlon experience......7 of which were spent at the back of the pack.   I only have 4 years of really seeing what I am capable of doing.

Back to my friend's question: What are the top things I did to get faster?

Because triathlon is so complex, dealing with 3 sports, this question should be broken down into: What have I done in each segment to get faster?

But, I know where she is coming from. I have that back of the pack perspective. IN GENERAL, what are the things an athlete can do?

First and foremost, find the right Coach. This is the time of year when athletes start thinking about changing coaches or hiring a coach.

A more expensive coach is not a better coach. A level 3 coach is not better than a level 2 coach. A level 2 coach is not better than a level 1 coach. Get recommendations from friends. Find out what the coach does to constantly improve. (Liz is a level 2 coach. My first coach was a level 3 coach. I get 10x more with Liz).  Liz is constantly educating herself. She attends many symposiums every year. She is always up to date on the latest research. This year, she became certified in nutrition counseling....or some such thing. I don't know exactly what it was because I work with an RD.

Something else that was important to me. I wanted a coach that had attained the goals I was reaching for. That makes sense, right? I don't know any GREAT coaches who have not also competed at the highest levels in the world. Whether that is the Ironman WC or ITU world championships.

If your goal is to race Kona, would you seriously hire a coach who has never raced Kona? Think about this.

That's what I mean about finding the right Coach. Find the coach who has accomplished what you want to accomplish and one that you can work with. Trust me. At that level, those coaches have worked with every type of personality out long as you take an active approach to your training, it will work out just fine.

I saved the best for last. When I started working with Liz, she didn't make me faster. She made me a better athlete and person. 


Again, this is hard. I want to say, "With swimming, I did this. For running, I did this".

I am not someone who tells athletes to go out and buy the latest and greatest equipment.

To me, it's about the machine (your body) not money. I have a friend who did his first IM on an old beater bike and went sub 12 hours. For years, I rode on a road bike with clip on aero bars.

With that in mind, there is one piece of equipment that I believe you really must purchase, even if you are a beginner (and if you know this sport is something you want to improve in).

That is a power meter.

In 2013, I bought a power meter.  I honestly thought it was a waste of money. I thought it was something for recording rides. I didn't understand how it could be use.

Liz had me do a bike test. AND EVERYTHING CHANGED.  All of a sudden, I had zones to train within....I saw my bike power explode. I saw my speeds get faster.

AND....I saw my running improve.   This is why I feel the power meter is a crucial piece to the puzzle.

It's more important the longer you go. I've said it before. At the sprint and oly, maybe it's not so important. (Although, those are my distances, and I would never train/race without it). At the HIM and IM, it's critical to race in your zones to give you the best run.

 If you are going to buy one piece of equipment, make it a power meter.

When I look back over my time in triathlon, I can see where I had the biggest jumps in speed. The first was in hiring Liz. The second is when I started using the power meter.

The third was when I started working with a Sports Dietitian.

This is often overlooked by athletes. I see athletes making the same mistakes over and over. Yet, they don't take the time to fix their nutrition issues.

You can't out train a bad diet.  

Dina is my RD. She changed my life. I am not being overly dramatic.

We worked on my daily nutrition and race nutrition. I can push harder than I have ever been able to, and I recover better than I ever have.

This year, I had a very aggressive race schedule. Six races in 8 weeks. Even Liz, mentioned that she was impressed with how well I was able to recover and be ready to go for the next hard session.

Granted, Liz covered the training/taper/recover schedule. I could not have done it without using the things Dina taught me.

I worked with Dina in 2015 for 2 or 3 months. Since that time, I will check in with her when I feel I need some advice or pointers about handling a particular type of race or distance.

I lost body fat. I recover better. I can race harder. I sleep better. All those things that I couldn't  do on my own.

You have no idea what you are capable of until you start working with a Sports Dietitian.

For me, it will always be an ongoing relationship. I feel so fortunate to have met Dina.

Keep in mind that this list is meant for someone who is more or less at the beginning of their triathlon career.

Becoming a better athlete is a process. The athletes that you see on the podium, didn't get there by accident. (Ok. My very first podium WAS an accident. There were only 3 women in my age group. But, I digress).

When you commit to the sport, you will see big jumps in fitness, and you'll see days where you actually go backwards. It is a process. Fitness gains are not linear. They're a bunch of rolling peaks and valleys.

Don't think you need to make all these changes at once. I certainly didn't. One year, I hired a coach. One year, I bought a power meter. One year, I worked with a sports dietitian.

Take your time. Enjoy the gains where you get them. I know it can be frustrating.

If it were easy, everyone would do it.