It is that crazy busy time of the semester for me with exams coming up and final assignments needing to be finished. However I have found myself with some free time after a particularly hard session today which means any academic work I attempted would be absolute dribble. So I decided to write my blog instead ( I promise you wont get the previously mentioned dribble!) I wanted to talk this week about an experience which I had over the first 5 months of this year or ever since Christmas. I coached my first athlete to a 70.3. I am not a qualified coach or anything and before you start thinking I shouldn't be doing that I explained all this to my athlete at the start.
Morenna or as I call her 'Ninja' had signed up for Busso 70.3 and wanted some structure to her training and was unsure whether she wanted a coach. At first I suggested she try my coach but after she told me that she didn't really want one I asked her if she would be my guinea pig. I have always said that I love trying to bring people to the sport and I love spending time with beginners who are in awe of the sport. This to me seemed like the perfect opportunity. I think after a few years in the sport most of us have a good idea of what works and what doesn't. This was the opportunity for me to put my thoughts into practice. To train my first 70.3 athlete.
I have been working with my coach for over 2 years now and through that time I have worked out what sort of strucute works for me. I am also extremely lucky to have access to some of the best coaches and athletes in the sport through MaccaX. As a result of this I developed what I thought would be the best plan of attack to get Momo to the start line in the best possible shape. Last year I had another client of mine who worked with me to lose approximately 20kgs sign up for his first triathlon. As a result of that, the training I prescribed to him became in effect a triathlon training program. I knew however that this would be different. 70.3 is a different beast. I was also extremely fortunate to have a good understanding of Momo's athletic background which helped me to derive a solid game plan. But I don't really feel the need to get into the specifics of her training. Instead I want to talk about the experience that I had in helping to get her ready for her first 70.3.
I want to say at the outset that I was blown away by Morenna's dedication to her training. There were some weeks where I almost felt guilty about what I was asking her to do. I would write the program then look at it as a whole. When I write plans I usually expect there to be about an 80% completion. Life is life and we are all busy. But week in and week out she got through it. I realised quickly that a big factor for Momo was to train with others. I tried to accomodate this as much as I could. I am however a believer that you need to do some of your training solo. Triathlon is a tough sport and there will be points during your race where you have no one to talk to but the voices inside of your head. When this happens they are often not saying nice things to you either. So there were also times where I had to specify to her that I wanted a particular session done alone. Im not sure whether it was because I didn't want to overwhelm her or because it changed often but I would always tell her that "it's all part of the long term plan." But I never really told her what that plan was. I knew I wanted to spend as much time as I could developing strength then spend a good 6 weeks tapping some speed. I did explain this at the start too. "You need to become stronger" was one of my favourite things to say to her.
What about challenges we faced? There were plenty of these too. As I mentioned earlier, I felt like I had a good understanding of Momo as an athlete and I had a solid understanding of her background. To me this made me think that as important to her performance as the fitness was, confidence was going to be just as important. To try and make her confident I needed to put her in situations where she was NOT going to be confident. I told her to start at the front of the field when she did other races. I told her to get used to the rough open water swimming so that it isn't too daunting when you line up in May. I wanted to make her understand that she would be able to run off the bike so I made her run after doing the swim/bike in Huski when she was part of a relay. I constantly made her swim further and further. I got a picture message the first time she successfully swam 4km! I was stoked.
But as much as I knew confidence would play a big part in her performance it also became a slight issue as well. Momo can run. She has run multiple half-marathons and her approach to running reminded me a lot of myself. When I first started triathlon I ignored my swim. I had been an adequate swimmer so I worked more on my bike and run to the point that my swim for a long time was my weakest leg. I had to hound Momo to make sure she got her long runs done. I felt like she was taking her run for granted. In our conversation after she completed Moo Tri I think Morenna realised the same thing because the last few weeks before Busso she made significant improvements in her running.
The biggest challenge I feel that I had though was actually trying to slow her down. Momo loved to add the sneaky additional sessions. Her friends would be going for a run club or an ocean swim so she would tag along too. The best example I remember was the first time I set Momo a hard brick. It was a 40km TT followed by run intervals off the bike. My coach has given me a similar sort of session in the past and I dreaded it because I knew how much it hurt. Morenna wanted to move her training one weekend so she could go for a ride with some friends. She suggested she squash 3 sessions including the brick into one day and go for the long ride on the Sunday. I had to convince her that this was a bad idea. I had to repeat several times as the race got closer that as the training became more intense and the volume decreased the biggest risk was injury or sickness from overdoing it. I would ask her "what are you getting out of the session?" This too was something that I had done in the past. In the lead up to Western Sydney 70.3 in 2014 I was convinced I needed to lose some weight in the last 2 weeks leading up to the event so in addition to my regular training I would go to the gym everyday and spend 2 hours on the X-Trainer. It ended in disaster for me and I didn't want it to happen to Morenna too.
As the race got closer we had more and more conversations about how the actual day would unfold. What to expect both positive and negative. How to deal with things as they came along. Strategies to get her to the finish line as quickly as possible. When Morenna left to head over to Busso I felt extremely confident in her. I had seen the improvements she had made I think a lot better than she did. I think this is pretty normal to be honest. It is hard to see those improvements in yourself but when you are an objective bystander it is possible to see them clearly. Morenna's result at Busso was incredible. But to be honest I wasn't surprised. I knew that she had put in the hard work. For a person who couldn't swim 12 months prior the race she swam 38 minutes for 1.9km. In 2014 I was swimming 1.9km in over 40 minutes. Considering it took Morenna literally months to not only learn how to use cleats on the bike but also to use the drops and to not stop when having a drink she averaged 29.5km/h for her first ever 70.3. At Moo Tri Morenna ran over an hour for the 10km but at Busso she ran under 2 hours for 21.1km after a 90km bike ride! She deserved a strong result and she got it. Not because she was naturally talented or was privy to some secret about triathlon (even after all these races I am yet to find one). Morenna delivered an amazing first result because she put in the hard work. It is that simple. I was insanely proud of her and called her after the race. The conversation was one of elation. Of everything I have done and achieved in this sport, being involved in whatever small way that I was in her performance is one of the things I am most proud of.
I go on and on about this but I really believe that triathlon is the best sport on the planet because of the people. I want to help to bring as many people to the sport as I can and I think Morenna 'Ninja'/'Momo' Burn is a great ambassador for the sport. She set herself a challenge and worked hard and consistently towards it. As a result of this she was rewarded. It shows that no matter who you are or what your background is, you can do it too.
If you want to read more about Morenna and her experiences check out her blog
Have a great week, be like Morenna and remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.