Sunday, February 4, 2018

Triathlon Training: The Value of a Coach

In 2016, despite having completed my fourth half IRONMAN, I didn’t believe I could do a full IRONMAN. The training load was just too demanding. I thought I would break under the pressure or burn out before I could even make it to the starting line. Injuries, work, family demands, travel. The list of excuses was long and real.

But for some reason, in late January of 2016, I decided it was time. I had done enough 70.3s, a few marathons, and an ultramarathon. And I still wasn’t an IRONMAN. So, I Googled triathlon coaches in Singapore and found one that was also a physiotherapist.

I was just recovering from a torn plantar fascia, and thought it would be ideal if I could be coached and be treated by the same guy. So, I emailed Bevan from Singapore Physio. He was at capacity, so he referred me to Colin O’Shea, who run COS Coaching. Check him out here:

I contacted Colin, not knowing what to expect. But after a quick conversation with him, I knew he’d be able to see me through my IRONMAN goal.

So, for the next 9 months and 394 workouts; 106 swims, 147 bike rides, and 141 runs, Colin dutifully prescribed me training sessions, advised me on strategy, and pushed me to my peak. On day one, I set three goals:

      1.       Break my half-marathon record (completed in April at the 2XU run)
      2.       Shatter my 70.3 personal best (done in August at Bintan)
      3.       Complete a full IRONMAN (read on)

My schedule looked approximately like this, with some variation:
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Run and swim
  • Wednesday: Cycle
  • Thursday: Cycle then brick run
  • Friday: Cycle or run
  • Saturday: Swim and bike or run
  • Sunday: Swim and bike or run
We used TrainingPeaks to schedule and analyse the workouts. This allows for in-depth dissection of the metrics that matter. TrainingPeaks also his its own metrics that I couldn’t live without, even if I were training without a coach. Things like Intensity Factor, Pa:HR, and Pw:HR.

This led to me studying and learning more about the streams of numbers I was generating and developing much greater insight into the causes and effects of what I was doing.

And along the way, while following Colin’s schedules, I found myself getting faster and stronger. In March, my FTP was 222, and in July it reached 257. My half-marathon in April was accomplished in a personal best of 1:44.

And in August, I reached my second goal, obliterating my 5:35 70.3 time and replacing that record with a 5:14. And I can’t forget coming in 2nd in the bike split time for my age group in the 70.3 Cebu: 2:29. All I did was follow his orders, give feedback, and ask questions when needed.

Finally, I completed a full IRONMAN, minus the swim. It was cancelled due to sharks. Read about it here:
Here are the key benefits of having a coach:
      1.       Structured and “correct” training plans and workouts
      2.       Someone that can answer technical questions, help with race strategy, nutrition, and more
      3.       Having someone constantly monitor what you do and how you do it – great for discipline
      4.       Positive motivation
      5.       Knowledge sharing and social interaction with other athletes under that same coach

Drawbacks of having a coach:
      A.      There is a cost
      B.       See #3 above
      C.       Some athletes may benefit from learning how to build their own training plans

So, do I have a coach now? No, because I’ve committed to spending time with my kids in 2018 and entering them in races. Looks like I’m the coach now.

I’m still training for as many races this year as I did last year, but no full IRONMANs as it’s a bit too demanding. There’s no point having a coach when I’m only kind of training part-time. But when I do go back, I know which coach I’ll call.


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