My cousin has this saying for me whenever we chat via Facebook. It goes something like this: I’ll see you in Kona one day. Is she right? I have no idea. I haven’t even begun training for an Ironman as of yet. I have put in my time to be good at the half-ironman and have 2 more scheduled between now and when I do plan on racing an Ironman. I am going to race 70.3 Longhorn in October and 70.3 Puerto Rico in March. This is all a lead up to Ironman Arizona.
I am sure there will be another 70.3 in there and most likely it will be Longhorn again as a training day for the full. Now does this mean I will be fast enough to nab a Kona slot. No clue, but what I do know is that I can’t get to Kona or even try to get to Kona without the proper motivation, inspiration, education and most of all coaching.
My success at 70.3 California was not just me training six days a week, or eating properly. It all stemmed from a conversation I had with my wife and led me to hiring Coach C. The conversation went something like this:
- Me: I am a horrible swimmer. I can’t get faster. I feel like I am struggling out there. I need to get better at swimming.
- Karen: Hire a coach. Look here is a pamphlet for one. iRuniTri Multisport. Just give them a call.
- Me: I don’t need a coach. I can do this on my own.
- Karen: Whatever you say.
About a month if not more passed of me complaining about my swim and how horrible I was when I finally reached down for that pamphlet and called.
A meeting was established with this coach whose resume was a mile long and included such things as:
- 2009 Longhorn Half Ironman 5th Age Group
- World Championship Qualified
- 2009 Toyota Open Championship, 1st Age Group
- 2009 Austin Triathlon, 3rd Age Group, 7th Overall Female
- 2009 Austin Running Club Series Age Group Winner
- 2009 Austin Marathon, 1st Age Group, 6th Overall
When I pulled into the parking lot there was a car pulling in at the same time and it had all the proverbial stickers on it. Out comes this woman and she immediately greets me and figured I was her meeting. We shook hands and she says to me immediately: Check out this helmet I just won. With that out came a viking helmet that weighed quite a bit and we both started laughing. I knew right then and there I was going to hire me to coach me to my first 70.3 race.
We sat down and went over everything and there was a great vibe. It was an effortless chat amongst friends to be honest and with every moment that passed I felt more and more comfortable. One item she focused on quite a bit was that this was going to be online coaching and if I could handle that. I knew I would have no issues but I appreciated the notion that online training wasn’t for everybody and that I would be most comfortable with being coached that way.
For a year I got text messages and emails and phone calls and I never once felt like she did not care about me and my progress. As a matter of fact coach and I love texting so much we can have marathon text conversations about everything and anything. Through this year she lost the title of coach and became a friend.
As a matter of fact I wrote this about my relationship with her:
“A coach is the one thing I will never give up in terms of triathlon. You can take my sneakers and I’ll run barefoot, take my Specialized and I will ride my Trek road bike but do not take my Coach. She is a counselor, motivator, inspiration and all around wellness guru for me. I can say this with confidence.”
This is all to say that if you are going to hire a coach that you do so with the knowledge of who this person is, what they’ve accomplished and how they coach. In my mind, you can only get this through an interview. I am keeping Coach C for as long as she will have me. I learn valuable lessons from her constantly and am not willing to give that up.
As I was typing this post I decided to check to see if there were any tips out on the internet that other people used and low and behold Active.com had an article on Finding The Right Coach. The article can be found [HERE] and was written by Dave Scott for Triathlete Magazine.
This is just a small piece of the article, but I encourage you to read the entire article as it is enlightening as to the thought and mindset behind hiring a coach.
Assessing the Athlete/Coach Fit
A coach can be well trained and highly successful but often, due to no one’s fault, a coach/athlete relationship may not flourish. I’ve seen brilliant coaches that fully grasp the scientific applications of training but don’t have the empathy or awareness to connect with particular athletes.
To summarize, here are 10 key traits to look for in a coach:
- A combination of education and experience.
- An understanding of the fundamentals of workload.
- An ability to cross-reference key training indicators such as speed, heart rate, watts and perceived exertion.
- The ability to design a program for the full training year (periodization, micro-cycles, rest, etc.).
- An attention to the details of your training and the astuteness to recognize when it’s time to make changes (e.g., to recognize symptoms of over-reaching/training or mental burnout, etc.).
- An understanding of the biomechanics of swimming, cycling and running and the ability to prescribe drills and exercises to effect corrective changes.
- The knowledge of the principles of endurance nutrition and supplementation and the ability to prescribe a fueling plan that is tailored to you.
- Any advice and guidance for your individual race-day tactics.
- Excellent communication skills.
- A motivating personality that fits you.
With the growth of triathlon has come a growth in the number of coaches available to help you achieve your personal best. Shop around carefully, check for USAT-certified coaching credentials and ask for references. You’ll be a better athlete for it.
As far as #10 goes Coach C has all that and then some. Her motivating personality was on full display this weekend at Ironman Texas. I was in T2 and watched her come in off the bike. As I was running back to get more bikes I high-fived her and yelled to keep going. She smiled like only she can and then let out a Whoop!!!! and chugged along.
She was dehydrated and finished the marathon on 100 calories, but she finished and that is the motivation I need. Plus she also nabbed herself a Kona slot so now my mantra is no longer:
Those who can’t quit, and those who can do.
Coach C ran a marathon on 100 calories and qualified for Kona. Are you telling yourself you can’t run another 800? Swim another 200? Pedal for another 30 minutes?
Yes, she motivates me and that is why I am honored to have her as my coach.
Do you have a coach? What are your coaches traits that you really connect with? Will you consider hiring a coach?