A busy weekend of racing for the Swallows Triathlon Core Squad - not big podiums, prize purses or qualifications up for grabs but your bread and butter everyday experiences that bond together with training to build the foundations of core triathlon experience and progression.
Sophie is a bright and talented all around sportswomen with a background in football and boxing but wanting to dip her foot into her potential at endurance sport.
We were all set to get going and just the week prior to starting program Sophie banged her toe whilst doing a handstand in the gym ( I also didn't ask) and basically, if not confirmed, broke her big toe.
With a background in strength and conditioning Sophie was great to work with whilst injured because she understands feeling within the body, different types of discomfort and pain and has a real awareness of the causes of reaction in her training. This is quite a unique quality to have entering a sport but definitely is a theme amongst my athletes who have competed and trained at a high level in different sports.
The crux of her toe injury meant Sophie has been on solely a swim and bike program for three months and only running for three weeks. Whilst training has resumed we thought it important to race before the season is out so we have a baseline for the winter and definite areas to target for improvement.
I told Sophie I'd like her to race before it gets too cold and the UK races dry up. Without hesitation Sophie jumped in and raced a sprint this weekend, She will will do an Olympic the weekend next. The runs will simply be aerobic training and nothing dynamic but the swims and bike feedback will help us to to see where we need to focus and where big time gains can be made for next season.
The best feedback I got from St Neots Triathlon on Sunday was 'I enjoyed it'....and then a deluge, as is normal from athletes, of everything that was a bit shit and needs to be addressed. One thing being elastic laces, wetsuit being too long - all issues not worked through because of such late decisions to race. All can easily be fixed, call it first race rust.
Sophie came away with first place in her AG 30-34, fourth overall and a little telling off from an official for not zipping her tri-suit up as she crossed the line.
Apparently this has to be done 200m before any finish line. You learn something weird every day.
Interestingly, James tells me he was told the same on the finish line of the Cotswold Evening Series where they filmed the GTN 'Cheap triathlon' https://www.globaltrinetwork.com/video/we-did-a-triathlon-using-ebay-this-is-what-happened he was more perplexed because the zip of his Chinese manufactured tri suit simply didn't stay up. Thankfully both streakers got away with a warning and a scowl.
Well done Sophie - we will get the little tech bits done for next week and get that 5km below 20mins by Christmas. There you go I wrote it down - there is no escaping it now.
Sam is steadfast in the middle of an exciting Kona block where she has not failed to impress and challenge me as a coach each week.
With such a perfectionist athlete I have to kerb my own perfectionism and become the very sturdy and logical outside eye that kerbs risk and overreach.
If I set Sam a target range of 220 - 240 watts she hits 242 . If I set her a pace of 4.30-4.40 -dependent on heart rate -she will go 4.25. Its admirable and impressive but she will do that at any cost to her economy level and it is my job to foresee that and prevent it exposing us to any potential strain, stress or injury as a result. Luckily for me and Sam I experienced this first hand when I was working with the magnificent Jodie Stimpson. They are the type of athlete I was and that I love to coach but with them I have to make myself be the coach that kurbs ambition - dampens spirit some and keeps it all in the frame of the big picture. Its nice to know that I learnt from my mistakes with Jodie - pulling the reins more, cutting sessions and acknowledging that sometimes you just don't run to forfeit 3 secs a km is better than to get another niggle.
So Sam had two weeks off running just now - her bum hurt and her hip ached. She has history of bone injuries and I didn't like it so when she told me I knew it was bad enough to be overcautious. I would be happier with her not running until Kona, than running on an injury - we did the same with another athlete in the lead up to Norseman this year and he ran pain free and had an amazing race due to the miles and confidence in our communications over the months.
So...we rode hard this weekend and Sam got to race - albeit only practicing the swim of the IM. Her 1.26 average over 4km was a real confidence shunt in the only area of her training she has felt a bit stagnant in since we started. Sam - swimming is about consistency over weeks, months and years - there are no tricks to speed it up or get there faster but by turning up and showing up - there is your swim box ticked.
Well done Sam I love coaching you. Back to the run and you will be baked for the Big Island.
Having called Louise prior to Vitruvian this weekend I could sense there was something missing mind wise for this one. Earlier this month I asked Louise to do a local 10 mile TT as a FTP boost session. On the way to the race she nearly cancelled - she explained about a crash that happened there and how she felt anxiety and nerves like never before. She started and rode around because Paul and I told her she should but was frustrated about not 'racing' it after. Sometimes goals change and simply starting becomes the triumph in a challenge. I was super impressed with her resolve and courage.
Louise had had a similar bad experience with nausea at Vitruvian years before and that was featuring in some of our talk about the race. As we spoke I tried to example the ways why the situation would not happen again - she was a better trained athlete, the course different and the reasons why she was doing this also different. This was simply a good baseline for the block to World 70.3 Champs - a test before we got to work rectifying
any big holes in our prep.
Well guess what Louise we found a niggle in your bum that hampered your bike - which we will address and apart from that you are as solid as a rock (that you didn't have to start off in the race this year)
Most proud of the 1.45 half Louise posted - absolutely even pacing across the board and five minutes faster than where we first picked up in the summer.
We are getting to a place now where we can begin to experiment a bit with pace on the run - finding seconds rather than the minutes as you get faster becomes exponentially harder. I'm convinced with a bit more confidence on the swim at the start, a few elbows in her glute and some form and speed conversion to her run over winter we can target a sub 1.30 half marathon. But first ....St George World 70.3 incoming.
If Sam is my female perfectionist then Niall has to take the overall title on prescription application. Niall doesn't go 2 watts over or 2 secs under threshold- he hits it bang on and the only indication of change of effort is in some feedback RPE at the end of sessions. He will get the times whatever.
Niall has a very special ability to execute but it has been my challenge, having changed his category of racing from AG to Pro to then match that with a change in mindset. In essense I am challenging what is perfect in one arena and ruffling it up for the cauldron that is racing the best in the world. They don't care what their FTP results are nor if someone has a bigger VO2 max stat than them - they take them on and beat them anyway. Pro racing is very niche but everything I love about sport. It is what I am good at and what I know.
In dropping Niall in the deep end of professional ranks I also want to make sure he understands his strength in triathlon. Switching from winning every event in age group triathlon and coming at the back in a pro field is hard for any even highly adjusted mindset to handle but it is the reality especially in the deep professional mens field. This year we race a lot at home and target being the best long distance triathlete in Ireland with some international trips thrown in to learn.
Niall is full time at work too so training has to be a progressive venture and I am constantly balancing stress from exams and races so the model feels slightly more sustainable.
Next big target is Venice 70.3 but Niall raced at home in Slingo this weekend off the back of a knarly tummy that he incurred whilst podiuming at Drafting Irish Nationals a fortnight back. This race is part of a series of four Irish races and so as long as Niall could run toilet free by Thursday we agreed to do it.
Niall said 'the race went ok' . I asked him for the results link. He won by 5 minutes , help near ftp for an hour and run a sharp 33 on trails taking it easy. He is really good and I want with every ounce of my triathlon bones to get him to a podium of an international race as a professional. That feat will take time and lots of swim work but I am so proud of the progression made in his mindset, and in his skills and aptitude to apply those skills this year. Follow this guy for some humble insight into turning professional. But you will have to ask him if he won because he won't offer it up !.