S4F Sprint Champs 2017

Navigating Early Season Races

There’s been some great racing from my Tri Squad over the last few weeks. Here’s a few thoughts to help them (and you) to navigate their(your) way through races and the early part of the race season.

 1.       Most important of all: take the time and opportunity to be proud and pleased with having done something that is beyond “normal”. As endurance racers what we do is way beyond what the  overwhelming majority of people would even contemplate. However you feel a race went you’re a winner in the most important race of all – the Human Race.

 2.       If your race isn’t a high priority race in your season then expect performance to be less than desired. Experience tells us that we can only truly achieve a peak performance 2 or 3 times in a season; that means we can’t expect to be at our best at lower priority races. In reality if we achieve a peak performance at a low priority race then the likelihood is that we got something wrong in our training plan. Similarly the higher the peak we achieve in a high priority race the bigger will be the dip after that until our next high priority race.  So it’s really important not to judge the time or performance in those low priority races but just do our best to enjoy them and learn from them for the important races coming up.

 3.       After any race, whatever the outcome and for any competitor (beginner to Pro) the single most important component of future success is to go back to doing good work on the training field. We must always focus on doing the fundamentals as well as we can. After a race there is a danger that we can start overanalysing what we need to do to get to a better performance. Lots of “Marginals” can become attractive at that point and magazines and inexperienced athletes and coaches can turn to those as quick fixes and neglect the fundamentals. We always need to be focusing on the fundamentals of doing good work. To quote Stuart Macmillan who quotes Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

 “perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add but when there is nothing left to take away”.

 Instead of letting your mind go into overdrive about what you need to add to get better first look at what you can take away to get better, for example:

 o   Take away doing sessions that aren’t in your training plan or are radically different,

 o   Take away judging a session as successful based on how tired you feel at the end of it rather than by how closely you met its objectives,

 o   Take away a night of compromised sleep each week,

 o   Take away any grey zone sessions,

 o   Take away chasing that dude/gal on the road that drags you into a grey zone session,

 o   Take away one unhealthy food/drink choice,

 o   Take away going through the motions in a training session rather than razor sharp focus on technique improvement,

 o   Take away judgement of a low priority race,

 o   Take away listening to advice from the inexperienced and/or the non-invested,

 The more we can strip away to just leave the fundamentals as our focus and the more we practice improving the fundamentals the greater will be our performance gains.

 4.       Learn from every race. There’s a great saying that “the only bad race is one we don’t learn from”. It’s important to try and extract key learning points from every race and that should cover things that went well as well as things that could have gone better. For the things that went well make sure you embed those in your routine so they become second nature. For the things that could have gone better create an action plan of things to do to make them go better the next time.

 5.       Take time to thank your crew. Every endurance athlete knows that it takes a team to get an athlete on to the start line and successfully through the finish line. Family, friends, training partners and even the race organisers all played a part in your race and your season so take the time to thank them.

 I hope the points above are helpful and offer a fresh perspective to help you on your way to great race performances in the future.

 Train Smart and see you at the races.

Coach Musty.

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Racing Tough – 2 Forgotten Principles

With race season now upon us and my athletes racing almost every weekend over the coming months I’ve been thinking about some of the principles that define the phrase “Racing Tough”. The picture above captures a few of the important principles but I think there are a couple of equally important principles of “racing tough” that are often forgotten. The following are two very important principles to me and I like all my athletes to follow them at all times:

 

1. Always follow race rules to the letter: that includes respecting your fellow competitors and respecting all race officials. Triathlon is a fantastic sport on the whole practised by fantastic individuals but occasionally I have seen competitors in the heat of the moment confront race officials angrily and even abusively. All race crew are on the whole volunteers as are race marshals so without their self-sacrifice none of us would even be able to race. Race officials can make mistakes, so whatever the merits of your case you should raise them professionally and calmly and at the end of the day if need be just accept their judgement. Furthermore, it’s always good to give the race crew and officials a smile and a “thanks” even in the midst of your race.

Similarly “bending” the rules by, for example, cutting corners, deliberately drafting, swimming the wrong side of the bouy, doping (that’s a whole blog for another day!) etc aren’t pushing the envelope of the rules they are just plain and simple cheating – so don’t do it!

 

2. Adopt a ZERO excuses approach to any race outcome: whatever the reasons whether its a training race for you and you are entering it fatigued or you had a mechanical or any myriad of things that can go wrong don’t use them as excuses for your performance. It’s disrespectful to your competitors (and yourself!) to lay out a list of excuses as to why they were faster than you in that race. At the end of the day if you raced to the best of your ability then you got the right outcome and the one you deserved. Smile, accept and start planning for an even better performance at the next race.

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London Marathon Recap

With the dust just about settled on another London Marathon, its an apt time to reflect on what still remains one of my favourite races from the many races I competed in. And what a race it was this year for all competitors, including my two S4F Squad Members Gerry and Ali. As their coach I could not be happier for the two of them; all their dedication and hard training came together on race day to deliver two phenomenal race times. Gerry achieved a long held dream of breaking 3 hours with a 2:59 and Ali dipped under 3:20 with a 10 minute improvement from last year. Sub 3 for men and sub 3:20 for women means they get to breath pretty rarified air that only a tiny, tiny proportion of the population ever get to experience.

As pleasing as their successful performances were I also appreciate and embrace how each of them must have danced right on the edge of failure at many points during the race. I believe endurance racing is one of the purest forms of personal challenge any of us can take on. Competition provides a cutting edge to measure ourselves against. There are no satisfactory excuses and no faking a competition outcome: we either delivered on that particular day or we didn’t. To expose yourself to such instant and unambiguous potential failure takes real bravery and self awareness. A form of bravery that many, many people shy away from.

That bravery takes on monumental dimensions when we set ourselves ambitious targets for race day because now we are creeping ever closer to that knife edge of failure and it’s a certainty that at some point we are going to fail. Rather than shy away from that I think it’s at those edges of failure that we really get to live and get to understand ourselves. Those are the moments we really get to see who we are and if we like what we see!

So for Gerry and Ali I salute their monumental braveness on Sunday and for succeeding and I look forward to continuing to work with them; sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing on that all important knife edge.

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Ashridge Standard Distance Duathlon – 26 Feb 2017

First of all many thanks to our sponsors:

Precision hydration and Naked Runner.

Some great racing by the squad at the Active Training World Ashridge Duathlon today. Over a tough 10k/44k/5k course everyone finished strongly. Early season races are always tough but great to get the season started. Plenty of hard work to come before race 2 and the rest of the season. Here are the results and Pictures:

 

Name                                    Overall Time     Age Group Pos                R1                  B                        R2

MICHAEL GALLUCCI         03:22:27                   12                        01:04:07      02:50:57          00:31:29

KERRY WRIGHT                    03:34:37                    2                        0 1:03:23        03:00:21          00:34:14

LUCY GUEST                            03:43:02                   1                          01:06:38        03:01:46          00:41:14

MUSTY SALIH                         03:03:54                     5                          00:56:54      02:36:03         00:27:49

 

 

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Goals for the New Year

It’s party time at the moment as everyone moves from Christmas partying to new years eve partying. It’s also that time of year when people set themselves new year’s resolutions with plans to achieve amazing things. Unfortunately most of these new years resolutions survive as long as the many balloons that we find ourselves dancing under at our our New Year’s parties. New year’s resolutions have a spectacularly amazing failure rate.

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I don’t encourage my athletes to set big goals or new year’s resolutions and I find the many offers we are flooded with at this time of year to “detox’, “drop 2 dress sizes” or “get fit in 40 days” as disappointing examples of “Chauffeur knowledge”.

Rather than setting outcome driven goals (e.g. qualify for…., or win X, or run a marathon in 2:55:xx) I would encourage everyone to set a number of process driven goals. If you make those key processes a regular part of your life than there is a much greater chance that the outcomes you seek will become a reality.

Examples of good process goals are:

  • Precede each and every run with the lunge matrix
  • End each hard session with a healthy protein snack
  • Complete 2 strength sessions each week
  • When ill forget about training and focus on rest and recovery
  • Hit my hardest intensities at the end of every single training session rather than the beginning without exception
  • Run all my easy runs easy, really easy
  • Keep 70% of my meals balanced and healthy
  • Do more of the training you don’t like to do but that will make you a better athlete
  • Complete at least 90% of my coach’s training plan each week (ok, that might be a little cheeky one I sneaked in :-)).

Focusing on outcomes causes us to make bad decisions like over training, or over stressing ourselves or worst of all forgetting to enjoy the fantastic adventures that training provides us on a daily basis. You may also have a great season with vastly improved performances but still fail to reach that outcome goal; that shouldn’t be seen as a failure in anyone’s eyes.

You know when you are driven by a place or a time and what that does to you………..let it go.

Reaching your fitness potential comes about one small step at a time repeated over many weeks, months and years. It involves stoic patience with an absence of noticeable performance gains over days and even weeks because it takes months for improvement to happen and years for it to build until it can blow you socks off. Be brave enough to focus on doing better each day with passion and enthusiasm and there’s every chance that you will reach your goals.

 

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This also reminds me of a great interview with Scot Molina (one of the original “Big Four” of triathletes) a multiple world champion and one of the best triathletes of all time. He had a fierce reputation for training harder than any other triathlete of his generation. He gave a brilliant insight into motivation and staying the course saying “people often ask me how I motivate myself to train every morning like I do, well motivating myself doesn’t enter my head I just get up and I’m out the door training”.

Learn to love the training and the process, taking one session at a time and you won’t need any motivational tricks and certainly no doomed to fail new years’ resolutions.

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November Good Reads

1. First pick is a great article on how focusing on the process rather than the goal itself is the best way of achieving any challenging goal: “this mind-set lends itself to presence, which she defines as the ability to be in the moment, confident but not arrogant.”:

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/08/why-having-big-goals-can-backfire.html

 

2.  My favourite piece of writing this month was this explanation of 2 types of knowledge: chauffeur knowledge and Planck knowledge. Unfortunately in most walks of life, but particularly in the fitness world, we seem to have a current over abundance of experts with “chauffeur knowledge”:

Chauffeur knowledge v Planck Knowledge

 

3. It would be easy to be cynical about this next initiative and see it as doomed to achieving very little. That may ultimately be true but until athletes themselves start owning the problem of drugs in sport and start taking action themselves to fight it then nothing will ever be achieved. It’s heartening to see some athletes saying enough is enough:

Athletes against doping

 

4. An interesting piece about the different nutritional needs of female athletes compared to male athletes in one of my favourite magazines next. This may not sit well with anyone that belongs to a food/diet “church” but it definitely fits with my philosophy

How Your Sex Affects Your Diet

 

5. When I first got into Triathlon 28 Years ago one of the first books I bought to try and learn how to swim better was this fantastic book:

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It’s full of great insights into swimming with better technique and full of groovy illustrations like this:

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So I found this recent article really interesting:

Doc’s boys: The story of dominant U.S. swim team from 1976

 

6. Finally the song I got into the most this month was this Bob Dylan track that I didn’t know that well until now. It has a great gruff, rolling vocal from the great poet and if anyone can let me know what it’s definitely about then I’d love to be enlightened (and there’s a pint in it for them:-)):

Bob Dylan: Jokerman

Happy reading (and listening).

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Finish Lines

As the 2016 Triathlon race season enters its last few weeks, it’s been another great week for the Squad with some fast and fun racing.

First off, Gerry Frewin’s race season just got better and better culminating in a very fast 4:42 at the highly competitive Vitruvian middles distance race. Conditions were pretty difficult with persistent rain so such a fast time is even more amazing. That marks a massive improvement from last season – next year should deliver something even more spectacular.

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Darren went back to the Hatfield Tri and went 5 minutes quicker than he did 4 months ago – that’s a great improvement. He was understandably over the moon.

 

Alice Travers did a great job of following Coach’s orders to run as SLOW as possible at the Medoc Marathon posting a time of 6:01. After an earlier season 3:28 at the Brighton Marathon it must have been difficult running so slow but with a final middle distance race coming up in 2 weeks a slow easy marathon was perfect pacing. Who says triathletes don’t know how to have fun:

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It was also the last swim session at the Merchant Taylor’s lake with the great folks from Hercules Events; it’s been a great summer of providing swim coaching there. It was really good to finish off helping the next generation of Triathletes with a couple of sessions for 10 year old Ibrahim who swam brilliantly and could be one to watch for on the Triathlon scene in 10 years time.

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A few more races to go over the next 2 weekends for the Squad so my focus continues until the last squad athlete crosses their finish line for the season.

With finish lines in mind, the picture at the top of this piece is probably the image that first brought the sport of Triathlon into the consciousness of millions of people and turned what was a niche sport for a few dozen crazies into the global phenomenon it is today. It’s Julie Moss crawling, standing, running, falling, crawling her way to the 1982 Kona Ironman finish line. She got second but her determination to get to the finish line made people realise that there is something very special about getting to that(any) finish line.

Whatever finish line you have crossed recently, make sure you spend some time really enjoying the magic of that very special place.

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The Beauty of 4th Place

I find myself on a crowded commuter train at 5:30 in the morning with tears streaming down my face reading from my lap top. Ok let’s back track a few weeks to understand what’s led me here.

The Rio Olympics were a strange affair for me the first Olympics I can remember that I felt somewhat distant from. A combination of being away on my family holidays (hey even coaches deserve a holiday sometime 😊) and a feeling of scepticism that had permeated inside of me from the drug, corruption and sleaze stories surrounding the Games. I do remember watching on catch-up the men’s and women’s road races. Both of which were amazing spectacles to watch. Both had characters that seemed on course to win only to find themselves overhauled on the finishing straight. The women’s fourth place finisher seemed particularly heartbreaking as Mara Abbott had raced a brilliant race up to the last 300m. Oh well that’s sad but another 4th place finisher alongside the hundreds of others that would be heartbroken including GB’s Non Stanford in the Triathlon (here’s a great blog by her – classy and humble). But beyond that I forgot about Mara until I came across her blog about her 4th place experience. And it’s funny how with all the glitz of gold and multiple golds it’s the words of a 4th place “loser” that have moved me to tears of joy. I really recommend you read her piece here: I’m sure it will move you to tears as well.

They say 4th place is the very worse place to finish but in this case we should all be ecstatic that Mara finished 4th because without that we may never have got the following beautiful writing:

“For the final race of a career, creating a performance that was truly your best. In which you were tactically exactly where you needed to be at every juncture. Where you overcame your errors of the past and superseded the weaknesses others ascribed to you. Where you took the layer upon imperceptible layer of learning acquired over a decade of wins and losses and embodied all the lessons. Those sorts of race days might be even rarer than pure victories.”

Rarer indeed and more beautiful than a dozen gold medals.

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CHOP WOOD, CARRY WATER

It was an eventful and ultimately very pleasing day of racing for the S4F Squad at the Hertfordshire Club Championships this weekend. As a Squad we had a few set-backs with a few squad members having to miss the race at the last minute due to illness and injury which meant we weren’t going to have enough racers to be part of the club championship race, but the squad members that made it all raced brilliantly so I can only class it as a magnificent success.

As ever a massive thanks to our fantastic Squad Sponsors who help make results like this possible:

MPGQS and HKR ARCHITECTS.

Gerry raced brilliantly starting with a fabulously improved swim time of 26:29 he went on to post great bike and run splits but unfortunately got DQed for a foot down penalty when he put his foot down over the stop line at a junction. It was a minor infringement and heartbreaking for him but that does demonstrate one of the great things about racing; we put everything including our ego on the line and race on a knife edge of performance where one step on the wrong side has a big impact on the outcome. There are no places to hide and no fudging things; we either get the time or the position we want or we don’t. That takes real guts and strength to just toe the line. After a disappointing outcome like that I was very impressed that the first email I got the following day was the Training Peaks notification saying that Gerry had completed his training session – already “chopping wood and carrying water” on his way to his next great result.

Cameron completed his first ever Olympic distance with a great 16th place overall and a second in his age group. A great start at the Olympic distance which bolds really well for next year.

Saleema raced brilliantly just a week after completing Ironman Copenhagen with a much improved swim time.

Kerry did amazing in her first Olympic and the best thing is she enjoyed it and should hopefully carry on competing in the amazing sport of triathlon.

Alice Travers continued an amazing year of racing and claimed her first win of the year. That’s a great achievement in less than a year of working together and I’m sure there are even more amazing performances on the horizon. She paced it really well to take over first place half way on the run and then put some considerable distance into the second place athlete.

Full race results at: Herts Club Champs 2016.

I am of course very proud of my amazing athletes race performances but even more than that I am proud of the work and dedication they put into their training. The great race performances are awesome and a good check on their training but I think the real victories that leave their mark deep inside us and stay with us long after we hang up our race shoes are the seemingly small victories and sometimes set-backs we overcome on our own when no one is watching in training. Once we see the beauty in the process of training – the constant “chopping wood and carrying water” we lay the foundation for great race performances but more importantly we start to see where the real victories lie.

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Attend our fun but intensive triathlon training camps

**LIMITED SPACES REMAINING**

In 2016 S4F Triathlon Squad will be visiting a number of exciting locations to get some quality training in as well as having lots of fun. Our camps are open to all triathletes who want to have a focused week of triathlon training in a relaxed atmosphere. We will work you hard throughout the week and each session will have a focused objective but we aim to create a fun environment around the training sessions too. It doesn’t matter what you are training for; we will create appropriate training for all participants.

There are a limited number of places for non-squad members so please drop Coach Musty an email if you want to join in the the fun and quality training at the following camps.

 

6-7 February 2016: Swim Camp

Including individual underwater filming to help identify and fix your main technique flaws

 

1-3 April 2016: Road Bike Camp

We return to the stunning Brecon Beacons in Wales after a fantastic inaugural camp last year. Quality cycling over some of the toughest and most beautiful mountain passes in the UK.

 

21-29 May 2016: French Alps Triathlon Camp

Another return trip after a stunning week in the Alps last year. There will be swimming and running each day but the focus will be to ride hard and long over a number of iconic Tour de France climbs. After a hard days riding the food and french wine each night is amazing and a welcome relief.

 

28-30 October 2016: Mountain biking at Coed-y-Brenin, Wales

A weekend of exhilarating riding at one of the best trail centres in the UK.

 

 

For more information click here