Thursday, December 27, 2007

Old School vs New School

Another ST inspired post... this time in the form of an email from the grand poobah of ST, Dan Empfield. Dan also started a thread on ST on the same topic, what defines new school / old school coaching, which got some interesting responses. This seems to be a topic that comes up fairly frequently, Paulo also had a posting on this same topic a few weeks ago here

Here was my response to Dan's question:

"If I had to choose a side, I would put myself in the old school camp.

TSS is monitored as a curiosity, but does not drive my programming. My favored metrics are simply duration, overall s-b-r volume and volume of intensity in key workouts. I've looked into other methods of quantification, but I always come back to the basics, for simplicity and effectiveness.

I am very familiar with "new school" methods, through my formal education and my own experimentation over the years. All my athletes use SRMs on their bikes, and GPS units running. I use a web based scheduling tool/log. I've used cyclingpeaks since the beginning, an am familiar with TSS, IF, ATL, CTL, TSB, etc. I regularly troll pubmed for news in sports science. I have access to any testing you could want (although I use very little formal testing). Given all that, I would still describe the core way I deliver my programs as "old school". I trust my own experience and decision making ability over any metrics. I believe coaching is more art than science and will always be that way. I choose to keep my programs simple, and the message to the athletes as far as what to do, and when, also simple. I choose to prescribe training in terms of time and RPE the majority of the time, as I find it most effective. My favored intensity prescription is "steady" or "solid". My athletes all know what that means and they get the job done according to that. I monitor other metrics, but the metrics don't drive the program. I believe the fundamentals of what makes successful endurance athletes haven't changed in decades, and in fact the "new school" often loses the plot of what is important for endurance success by putting too much emphasis on testing, gadgets, monitoring, even taking specificity too far. The three things most important to endurance success are 1- fitness, 2- fitness and 3- fitness. Most athletes barely scratch the surface of their capabilities in terms of basic fitness due to their preconceived notions of what their limits are, and what is possible. I have access to an entire team of support personnel, physiologists, lab techs, psychologists, strength and conditioning specialists, chiros, physios, etc, but I stick to massage and physio/chiro to aid recovery, and generally run the rest of the program myself, as I find most of these "specialist" types don't get it, they don't understand the fundamentals."

Reverse Periodization

So there was some chatter over on ST on periodization. I generally don't post very often on forums - this case reminded me of why... Nevertheless I posted about the term "reverse-periodization" being a mis-nomer, and generally its usage is a pet-peeve of mine. The thread then took a turn for the worse and generally wasn't too productive from that point on.

Paulo has a nice post over on the triathlon book on his thoughts on the whole reverse periodization trend. Rather than replying to the thread on ST in more detail or writing about the topic here, I'll just send you over to his post.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Simon does Slowtwitch

Slowtwitch interviews Simon Whitfield

Written by: Herbert Krabel
Date: Thu Dec 20 2007

"Simon Whitfield won 3 World Cup ITU races in 2007, is ranked second in the World and is currently getting ready for his 3rd trip to the Olympics. He is also a very proud dad and gave Slowtwitch a few minutes of his time.

ST: Simon you had such a great season this year; can you tell us about it?

Simon: I really enjoyed this year, from the birth of our daughter PK in June through to my results and the growth of our training squad. Our squad has grown so much and it's really amazing to be part of it, coach Joel has done an incredible job of directing our training and the expectations we have of each other, no set goes unfinished and we have very high expectations of each other but at the same time we've maintained a sense of fun and camaraderie that I really enjoy. I think our squad will only get better and better as we settle into our routines and the younger guys have a chance to develop. "

Read the rest on

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Colin Jenkins on Belief

Colin has a nice post over on his blog on the importance of belief for an athlete.

"Ask yourself this...How important do you think belief is? Do you believe in yourself? Do you have belief in your teammates or co-workers? Do you have complete belief and confidence in your coach or boss that what they are doing is the best thing for you? The power that believing has can not and should not be underestimated, it has the ability to make a mediocre athlete GREAT, and a great athlete MEDIOCRE. Without having complete confidence and belief in yourself and the people around you, then oneself will never reach their true potential."

Read the rest on Colin's blog

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chris Jones Interview has an interview with Chris Jones, who until recently was the World Class Performance Head women's coach for British Triathlon. I've met Chris a number of times at ITU events over the years and he always struck me as being very clued into what it takes to succeed in high level triathlon. He has had a very successful career thus far, including a World Championship in 2002.

Going over Chris' results as a coach, it reminded me of a thread over on the slowtwich about the best triathlon coaches in the world. Of course the names of the usual internet coaches are thrown around, but in my mind the top triathlon coaches in world are unknown to most age group type athletes, who don't follow the sport at the highest levels.

A couple highlights of the interview:

AE There have been a lot of changes in the sport since you started including the introduction of lottery funding for the athletes, do you think this has had a positive affect on the sport?

CJ I think any injection of funding into any sport will have a positive affect at first. The BTF's world class programme is a world class resource for athletes and coaches to use, I believe that funding is there to support athletes who want to reach their true potential. This is recognised at a junior level and up to under-23s. I am not sure we should be providing just anybody with a wage. I look at it this way; if you train to be a doctor or a teacher you get very little help, you earn a living when you are qualified. We have a six-year window to support and fund athletes to reach international performances in sport. We are a world class resource to support all athletes at the highest level, but once they are at this level it must be down to individual athletes to be professional and earn their living from the sport and sponsorship.

I also think that in the UK we give funding at a low level; if we talk about programmes and funding levels in other countries, like Australia and New Zealand, you have to be at a very high level before getting any support. At times we are in danger of sending out the wrong message by over-supporting. It is still about huge personal sacrifice; hunger and individual desire are what it takes to be able to deal with the training and adversity that comes with training to be a full time athlete.

I agree with what Chris says about funding here. Assisting athletes getting to the top level is key. Not very often certainly, but I have seen one or two athletes who were over-funded in relation to their commitment and desire to succeed at the highest levels. As Chris says sacrifice, hunger and individual desire have to be foremost, as well as being able to deal with the training and adversity... bang on.

AE What are your predictions for the 2008 Olympic triathlon, male and female?

CJ In the men’s race; Gomez, Don and Whitfield. In the women’s; Snowsill and Fernandez. The opportunity is for the rest of the world to chase the bronze medal.

Ok, not bad, he just got the order of the mens wrong...

Read the full interview on

News Item: Life outside in the fittest metropolis, Victoria, B.C.

Matt Villano
Friday, December 14, 2007

Fitness in Victoria, British Columbia's provincial capital, is a way of life. The picturesque city at the southern end of Vancouver Island was designated the "fittest" metropolis in Canada in 2001, and today as many as 10 percent of locals ride their bikes to work. Government officials also estimate that 30 percent of Victorians are "active," which they define as working out at least three times per week. Apparently, this is twice the national average. In the context of this lifestyle, it's no wonder Victoria resident Simon Whitfield is an international athletic superstar. The Australian native won a gold medal in the triathlon at the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, a gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, and finished 11th in the triathlon at the 2004 games in Athens. He recently took time out from training for next year's Olympics in Beijing to share some of his favorite spots to practice his sport.

More at

Ahhhh... CANADIAN NATIVE (with an Aussi Dad)

Monday, December 10, 2007

News Item:Triathletes run away from the pack

Brian Drewry, Times Colonist
Published: Monday, December 10, 2007
Some of Canada's top triathletes showed why they're just that at Saturday's 4th Annual Stewart Mountain 10-Mile Cross-Country Challenge.
Stefan Jakobsen of Nanaimo and Kirsten Sweetland of Victoria used their impressive running ability to win the men's and women's divisions of the 10-mile (16.1 kilometres) event.

More at

Saturday, December 8, 2007

NY Times Article

NY Times Article

“All maximum performances are actually pseudo-maximum performances,” Dr. Morgan said. “You are always capable of doing more than you are doing.”

“The old adage, no pain no gain comes into play here,” Dr. Morgan said. “In point of fact, maximum performance is associated with pain.”

“There is some fatigue in muscle, I’m not suggesting muscles don’t get fatigued,” Dr. Noakes said. “I’m suggesting that the brain can make the muscles work harder if it wanted to.”

Triathlon Book posting on swimming

Over on The Triathlon Book blog, Paulo has posted a couple articles on swimming, and in one of them he quotes me from an article I did for triathletemag

Its been some time since I wrote that article for Triathlete Mag on workouts for an off season swim focus, however my thoughts haven't changed with respect to the value of traditional swimming drills that many triathletes and swimmers do in an effort to improve their technique. Much like time spent stretching, many athletes spend time doing drills without ever improving their technique.

My position is essentially that good swimming technique has a lot more to do with fitness than most athletes understand or want to accept. The fundamental technical issue for all swimmers, the catch/propulsion, requires very good fitness to establish and maintain at race intensities and under load.

Its a lot harder to put in the miles over time than to piddle up and down the pool doing drills, so I guess thats why many athletes focus so much on traditional swimming drills, they seen as a short cut to faster swimming. Everyone wants to believe there is a way to get meaningfully faster without simply working harder, but traditional drills aren't the ticket to faster swim splits.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Quote of the Day:

"In analyzing American distance running, I have learned what I need to establish as a runner, what steps I must take, and what mind set I must have to become an elite runner. I must have the same attitude as did one of America's best distance runners Steve Prefontaine who once said: "I don't run a race to see who is the fastest, but to see who has the most guts." This is what will make Americans great runners. This is what will make them heroes for eternity."

-Ryan Shay, concluding a 10 page paper he wrote for his freshman English class at Notre Dame (which Ryan's fathers has graciously shared with the community).

The Buddha Principle

"Believe nothing.
No matter where you read it,
Or who said it,
Even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense."

~ Buddha, 6th century bce Indian mystic and founder of Buddhism
from The Dhammapada

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Baillargeon-Smith shows heart for Gryphon runners

November 28, 2007
The next time you even consider calling in sick when you're really just suffering from nothing more than a mild case of postnasal drip, think first of Andre-Paul Baillargeon-Smith.

And, the next time you call a long-distance runner soft or weak or simply not tough enough, not in the least, think first of Baillargeon-Smith.

More @ Guelph

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Whitfield continues to challenge himself

Mark Sutcliffe, The Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Simon Whitfield seems like a mild-mannered guy. During an interview while visiting Ottawa this week, he answered questions enthusiastically and candidly. He smiled a lot. His face brightened when he talked about his four-month-old daughter. He was funny and self-deprecating.

But you didn't see Simon Whitfield while he was training.

"I'm an emotional trainer," says Whitfield, the gold medallist in the 2000 Olympic triathlon.

And he doesn't just mean he's intense and likes to train hard. "No, I've had my shoving matches at the track," says Whitfield. "And Colin Jenkins and I tried to drown each other one time."

According to Whitfield, he and Jenkins, also an elite Canadian triathlete, bumped into each other a few times during a training exercise in the pool.

"We were each 150 pounds soaking wet, so it was a pathetic fight," says Whitfield. "And we were laughing about it five minutes later."

More at the Ottawa Citizen

Plus another article on the Golden Plates at the Edmonton Sun

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cornwall Multisport Club

Slowtwich has a profile on the Cornwall Mutlisport Club here

I was born in Cornwall Ontario and got my start in triathlon in 1989 when the Cornwall Cycle Club held its first triathlon event. One of the members of the club, Donna Ryan, was on the age group national team and helped the club organize its first event, held in Long Sault. The distances were about 400m swim, 20km bike and 5km run (ish).

I was in Cornwall after a number of years last weekend. There is great riding around the Cornwall area, as well as many bike paths, and access to upper New York state and Lake Placid for hills. One of my favorite memories is doing the weekly 15km time trials during the summer.

There wasn't a multisport club in Cornwall when I got into the sport, but according to the Slowtwich article, the club has 275 members, awesome.

Simon Whitfield: The 2007 Season and Javier Gomez

More of Simon's talk here

Friday, November 23, 2007

COC Beijing Olympic Excellence Series

This past weekend I was invited to Ottawa for the Canadian Olympic Committee's Beijing Olympic Excellence Series.

Here is the COC's take on the event:

"The purpose of the Olympic Excellence Series is to bring together athletes who have demonstrated podium potential for the next Olympic Games along with the coaches, team leaders and support staff who will accompany them to the Games. The primary goal of the Olympic Excellence Series is to help prepare the athletes and coaches and support team members for medal performances by providing them with practical skills and strategies they can use to prepare for podium success. The secondary objective is to inspire and motivate all involved, leaving everyone with a greater sense of confidence and drive in their quest for the podium."

This was my third conference this fall, after the SPIN Summit in Vancouver, and the annual Sport Leadership Summit held in Halifax this year. I find these events thought provoking, and I enjoy meeting and sharing ideas with coaches and technical officials from other sports. There were a number of people with deep Olympic experience at the conference, and many helpful ideas based on past Olympic experience where shared. The COC is doing a great job assisting preparation for the Beijing games across all sports.

Highlights from the Excellence Series this year were the keynote from Canadian Astronaut Julie Payette. Julie flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1999 and worked in the International Space Station. There are many parallels between the process of becoming an astronaut and athletes who train and compete at the highest levels. Julie's presentation was excellent and provided great perspective on striving toward excellence.

The final key note was by Ultra Runner Ray Zahab. Ray completed a amazing feat of physical and mental endurance by running across the entire Sahara Desert, 7000km in 111 days, running up to 16hrs every single day. A film crew documented the event which will be out in 2008. More info here. Ray's presentation was excellent and inspiring - his theme was that the only limits we have are those we place on ourselves.

There were a number of other excellent presentations, including from Swimming Head Coach Tom Johnson, Athletics Coach Wynn Gmitroski, and Dr Dave Smith, physiologist from the Calgary.

I'll close with a quote from Dr Dave Smith about preparing for Beijing: "You are going to war, plan relentlessly"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Athletes strutting their stuff -- in the kitchen

Athletes strutting their stuff -- in the kitchen
Gary Kingston, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2007
Given celebrity chef Rob Feenie's messy public split from his signature Vancouver restaurants, triathlete Simon Whitfield joked Wednesday that the duo might be serving "flaming meatballs" at that night's Gold Medal Plates fundraiser.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Funding boost from Gold Medal Plates

Funding boost from Gold Medal Plates
The Province
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2007

Canada's summer and winter Olympians and Paralympians became $626,589.16 richer Wednesday night.
Olympic gold medalists Simon Whitfield (triathlon, 2000), Adam van Koeverden (kayaking, 2004) and Kyle Shewfelt (gymnastics, 2004) were among the star-studded group at the Westin Bayshore to accept the cheque from Stephen Leckie, chief executive officer and founder of Gold Medal Plates, a fund-raising initiative that began in 2003.


"Talk doesn't cook rice"

Chinese Proverb

Monday, November 12, 2007


"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence (aka Areté) then, is not an act, but a habit."

~ Aristotle, 4th century bce Greek philosopher

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thought of the Day

"Before enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water; after enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water"

Zen Saying

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Talent is Overrated

"...the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.

Ericsson's research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don't like to do things they aren't "good" at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don't possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better."

Read the full article at

Friday, November 9, 2007

Quote of the Day

'The things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least"


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Whitfield wins third World Cup of season

Whitfield wins third World Cup of season
Tenth triathlon World Cup win of his career; Canadians take 1st, 2nd and 4th in Cancun

Gary Kingston, CanWest News Service
Published: Sunday, November 04, 2007
Twelve years ago, Simon Whitfield came to the Cancun, Mexico stop on the World Cup triathlon circuit as the Canadian team.
On Sunday, the 2000 Olympic gold medallist was part of an amazing 1-2-4 finish by a Canada team that showed some real depth.
Whitfield, the veteran from Victoria, won his third World Cup of the season, outsprinting Paul Tichelaar of Edmonton at the finish to win by one second in one hour, 52 minutes, five seconds. Volodymyr Polikarpenko of the Ukraine was third in 1:52.08 and Brent McMahon of Victoria fourth in 1:52.15.

"I'm just stoked for Canadians to come three in the top four like that ... that's a great sign," Whitfield, who now has 10 World Cup wins in his career, said in the finish area.
"It's the evolution of where we're trying to get to. Twelve years ago when I was first here, I was by myself and now I'm with a great team. It's very exciting for Canada."

Continued at

More Cancun Pics

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Island Olympic hopefuls hit pre-Games stride

Cleve Dheensaw, Times Colonist, Published: Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Thursday will be nine months out from the start of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Not to belabor an obvious metaphor, but what Canada gives birth to at that time is being created now on Elk Lake, Saanich Commonwealth Place and roads all over the region.
Simon Whitfield of Victoria looks to be rounding into form just fine for Beijing after winning his third triathlon World Cup race of the season Sunday in Cancun, Mexico.
Whitfield, fourth at the 2007 world championships over the summer in Hamburg, Germany, heads into the Olympic year on a decided upswing. Inspired by the birth of a daughter -- Pippa Kathryn -- in June in Victoria, first-time dad Whitfield seems revitalized this year and is racing with a fresh sense of purpose and determination following a few down years after his blazing success in the early part of this decade with gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
Continued: Victoria Times Colonist

Monday, November 5, 2007

News Round Up

Whitfield victorious in Cancun

Whitfield leads gold-silver Canadian finish in Cancun

Breakaways, wind, and fast finishes as Whitfield and Ertel win the 2007 Cancun BG ITU World Cup

Bout of flu hampers Gemmell's race form

Julie Ertel wins first World Cup at Cancun

Whitfield, Ertel win Cancun World Cup

Triathlon: Whitfield leads gold-silver Canadian finish in Cancun

Whitfield, Ertel win triathlon World Cup at windy Cancun

Whitfield and Canadians dominate in Cancun

Kiwis tri but can't in Cancun
Bevan Docherty and Samantha Warriner could only manage 12th place their Elite races on Sunday's ITU Cancun triathlon world cup event.

More awful than awesome, Pollution in Beijing a big problem

'Venues are incredible'

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cancun Pics

The BIG flag...

Paul and Coach

Colin Jenkins the great...

Rollin with the crew...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Courtside comment

Another news item:

Courtside comment
By Sports Writer

To hear Simon Whitfield tell the story over the phone, it sounds as though he's writing his own made-for-TV movie as we speak. It was 1992. "I was 17 years old, going to school in Sydney, Australia. And one day in class, ...

It's Not Over Yet

"Highlighting a stacked men's start list is 2000 Olympic gold medalist Simon Whitfield of Canada, who narrowly owns the number two spot in the World Cup rankings, and the deadly Kiwi duo of Kris Gemmell and Bevan Docherty. Gemmell, ranked number five, comes fresh from a victory at the Rhodes BG Triathlon World Cup October 7, while fourth-ranked Docherty got down and dirty with a fifth-place finish at the XTERRA world championship in Maui October 28."

More at Inside Triathlon

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Kyle Jones

Kyle Jones is online!

Triathlon: Whitfield leads Canadians into Cancun world cup

CANCUN, Mexico – Simon Whitfield looks to solidify his spot as the world number two when he and the rest of the Canadian triathlon team head south to Cancun for the 14th stop of the BG Triathlon World Cup series. After locking a spot on his third Olympic team, Whitfield sets his sights on a third world cup title of the year after posting wins in Vancouver and Kitzbuehel earlier in the summer. Joining him in the Cancun field will be a strong Canadian team that includes national champion Paul Tichelaar and Pan Am Games silver medalist Brent McMahon.
more on runnersweb

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Will Dream Big

This year Kirsten and I received a grant from Petro-Canada Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence Program. They recently launched a website with our bios and those of many other Olympic hopefuls.
They have a contest running to win a trip to watch the Vancouver 2010 Oympics, check it out:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jordan Rapp first to successfully navigate the Soma

Written by: Dan Empfield, Date: Mon Oct 29 2007

Jordan Rapp ended his season in fine form, winning the popular Soma Triathlon in the heart of America's Canyon Southwest.
Rapp, having conquered triathlon's first four events — swim, bike run and nutrition — finally nailed the fifth and, for him, most elusive event, course navigation. The talented second-year pro fought off urges to veer his bike from the highway onto private drives, dirt trails, and roads less traveled, staying the course and prevailing in 96-degree heat to win in 4:01:46.
More: Slowtwitch

BC Cross Country Champs

"....while two-time Victoria International Marathon winner Steve Osaduik placed second in the 10km Senior Men's race in a time of 29:10, just two seconds behind Olympic gold medallist triathlete Simon Whitfield."

Vancouver Sun Take 5

Gary Kingston, Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Triathlete Simon Whitfield of Victoria, the 2000 Olympic champ, is helping promote Petro-Canada's irreverent contest to come up with a new Olympic sport. No idea too wacky. Details at

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sights on medal, not sightseeing

Terry Bell, The Province, Published: Sunday, October 28, 2007

A few years ago Victoria triathlete Simon Whitfield was looking at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as a chance to compete as best he could and perhaps close out a career.
He even joked about being a tourist.
He'd see the sights. He'd take a walk along the Great Wall. Maybe he'd head to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors.
Well that was then.
Now a rejuvenated Whitfield plans on being a warrior in China. Instead of home videos he wants to bring back a medal, just like he did in 2000 when he won gold in Sydney.