Monday, July 27, 2009

The Art of REAL Coaching

With the Tour done, finally the TV isn’t a distraction—so that means now it is time to rise up and get out the door with only 10 weeks to Kona. I qualified at Ironman Coeur d’ Alene for the 13th time in my life…only this time I actually took the slot to Hawaii. Normally I would pass on it (but marked on the application I was competing for a slot), as it has been about seven or eight years since I had been there. After the last two disastrous seasons with declining training, declining results and increasing pain, 2009 became a mission of redemption or acceptance. For starters, I did not accept my 2008 April race at Ironman Arizona as being my fate from there on. It was a PW (Personal Worst) race, though I thought I had prepared fairly well given the fact I was in constant pain—especially on the bike. The only thing actually making it feel better was to do nothing, which I did a lot of up until about January of 2008. A crash course in high volume training normally would bring things around but this time it was to no avail.

I contemplated not racing for a few years after Ironman Arizona, so at that time, it was a matter of healing before getting back at it. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a new procedure that allowed me to heal to a certain degree—come back fairly strong and prepare to tackle another Ironman only seven months post-surgery. It was one of those competitor things that just happens, we never want to give in to the obvious. It is always train, train, train, when we should be seeking out the real issues of injury. I have had the opportunity to work with two interesting athletes this year, both who are very talented yet will not be able to realize their true potential unless they a) stop b) heal. There isn’t a valid reason to keep pushing until the problems get fixed, simple as that. Healing takes longer if you are trying to heal and train at the same time. Sometimes light exercise helps healing along, depends on the hand you are dealt with. One of these athletes has so many problems that he would be best doing nothing else but swimming and aqua jogging. Yet, he has a fall and winter schedule he wants to compete in even while he doesn’t know what is causing the pain for sure. This is an example of complete disconnect with reality and could cause permanent damage. Luckily, I was able to find a fix to my hip issues and bounce back, but should have taken my own advice here and just stepped away for a time. This athlete has been told to step away by me on more than one occasion. Finally, (thank God!) he did…but will resume shortly with a fairly full schedule and forge on. He needs to just step away at this time all together and focus his training on his recovery instead.

Another athlete of mine, crashed on her bike up in the mountains and when asked what I thought she should do from this point (recently)…I told her to step away. It does not one ounce of good to push through injury, while still trying to prepare for an A-race. Heal, then go at it again. That is all there is to it in all three of our cases. Experience teaches you a lot about being a coach. Coaching gives you a lot of experience. This works both ways and the result is always the same, a dependable and wise source of information. Sharing information and teaching is largely what coaches do in their profession. Sharing is the key here…when you do this for a living, then the motivation becomes less about sharing and more about the dollars they can rake in. Not that coaching is that good a profession to get rich in…but if you don’t share the information, the credit for helping one another and just look out for your own pocket book, it isn’t a profession you should be in. Share because you CARE. About the athletes, about the sport, and use that experience to help others become their best. Be honest with them and strengthen the sport rather than trying to monopolize it with marketing and cheap gimmicky words of wisdom. Believe in the athletes and the profession. I say to all coaches out there…remember the real reason you got into coaching and the sport. It was because you love the sport and your experience to improve not only yourself but the wealth of knowledge in hopes of sharing it someday for the sake of helping others. At least that is what the REAL coaches and athletes I know got into the sport for. Keep it real, keep it honest.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A month beyond IM CDA

Well busy isn't the word I'd use to describe the last month since Ironman CDA. Since qualifying for my 13th Hawaii Ironman (*competed in 7 of them--passed the qualifying spot on the others down the ladder)...I've been busy doing things I'd normally save for a rainy day. To keep from going nuts from training very little, I've redirected my energy into painting, yardwork, family time, and projects that just weren't getting done in big training blocks. I hope to add photos by the next blog entry, but downloading the camera seems to even take time I don't have right now. Heading back into training slowly will be painful, but luckily if anything, the healing from last month should be complete. Mentally I'm ready to roll, physically, being a slug with sparse training has caused a bit of a sluggishness in the system as my watts during riding have been very low. There is this residual fatigue I've been sensing on the bike since CDA, but the wattage has been slowly returning this past week to near normal levels. I got in a good interval session with the Cervelo boys who were in Longmont from the Cervelo HQ in Canada. They were all here for a gathering with store owners showing off goods in a pre-Interbike like presentation. I guess the Cervelo P4 will actually come in some pretty cool colors this next year besides plain black & white. Not sure on that yet, but I seem to be sort of over the P4 & looking at a few other models for a new bike. Some companies have caught up & surpassed Cervelo I think in technology as they've incorporated all that Cervelo learned in wind tunnel testing & then have improved on it to create some of the coolest bikes out there. One of which, the new Specialized, Giant, and Trek TT machines. The Speed Concept looks to be far superior in nearly every aspect I've seen. To top it off, none of these bikes have a "dork bottle" that the P4 has. Never did like the bottle to begin with.

On another front, Kudos goes out to Max, an athlete of mine who just won his AG at the Cabbage Head Du, and won the Mile High Duathlon Series in his AG. He race 4 weekends in a row, with IM training during the week, no taper, and is still kicking butt. These are just speed sessions for him, in his quest for IM AZ results. He's been rocking it all summer long as is a hungry pit hopefully the stars will align for him this time around in AZ. He's doing better than any year previous. It takes some time for a coach/athlete to get wired into each other so that everything is clicking. More than that, it takes a dedicated athlete that does ALL the work put to them by the coach, believes in the program, has un-ending drive, and communicates in detail their training logs so the coach isn't guessing what the heck the athlete is doing or performing like week to week. This cat exemplifies every aspect of a serious triathlete looking to get to Hawaii for Ironman. No excuses from this guy, he will get the plan & JUST DO IT. Like Nike says in their ads.

As for what I've been doing since IM CDA, I went to my parent's for the 4th of July & hopped in a 5km race only 12 days after IM CDA. I was surprised to win the race (over 200 racers), in 16:04 on a GPS'd accurate course--and set the course record. It must have been the sea level altitude or still being on a "peak" from IM CDA because that sure was a pretty good go at it so soon after IM averaging 5:17 per mile. Of course now back home & sitting for a spell, I went on a 8 miler today and about blew a gasket with high HR and slow pace (must be either the sitting around, altitude, or the fact it was about 90 F). Either way, I have to get back in the saddle again. Oh I certainly am looking forward to the many miles of sweating & consuming sugar gels & sugar water and my Salt Stick tabs along the way. I think my reward post-Hawaii will be something like this...two pc. white toast, mayo, 6-8 slices of bacon, cheddar...drop the L & the T. Wash it down with a giant glass of O.J. or milk. Sounds nasty, but hey, you have to reward yourself for all the discipline with a good old fashioned heart-attack-snack right? Then a short rest & get ready for 2010 season a.s.a.p. Happy Training!