Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kyle Jones opens own Banana Stand

“You spend too much time and too much hard work just to be mediocre,” said Jones. “I want to be one of the best in the world. In order to do that, I’ve got to have a plan that’s going to get me there.”
Nice quotes in this article by Randy Starkman of the Toronto Star on the Canadian men working toward London 2012.

In related news, at the Hamilton Boxing Day 10 Miler:

The 10-miler — held in sunshine, with seasonal temperatures and no snow on the ground — was won by Kyle Jones of Victoria, B.C., in 50 minutes, 28 seconds. First-place female honours went to Lucy Njeri of Toronto (15th overall). 
“I ran with three other guys for the first five miles,” said Jones, a 27-year-old native of Oakville. “Then there was an uphill section (at Chedoke golf course) where I was able to pull away. I just kind of pushed the pace the rest of the way.”

Solid effort from Kyle - getting the work done on his Christmas visit home to Ontario. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A update with Slowtwitch.com

I did an update interview with Herbert Krabel from Slowtwitch.com yesterday:


The previous interview was back in March 2008. As Herbert's initial questions goes, a lot has happened since then. The 2008 interview is here.

Nice that they found a couple relatively new pictures, as I'm usually either behind the scenes or well out of the spotlight.

Thanks to Herbert and Slowtwitch for the interest. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Project Rainbow Jersey

The two articles highlighted below lend some insight into the process that went on behind scenes of Mark Cavendish winning the elite mens World Cycling Championships in Copenhagen back in September.

The Inner Ring has a excellent piece with some perspective on all the elements that needed to be in place  leading into the race over the past years, to give the team the best chance to win: "The moment Cavendish won the Worlds "
"Above all there is Mark Cavendish, a phenomenal athlete who is so good he can win without a plan."
Cav has proven he can win in many circumstances, but is usually quick to credit his team, which the last years has demonstrated brilliant organisation, delivering him to the point where he could execute time and time again. But the World Champs is different, with the teams made up of riders whom many work for different teams/employers in their 'day jobs' the majority of the season, and therefore this team is not purpose built to deliver Cav in this same way. On top of that, Cav came into Copenhagen as the heavy favorite, on a course that everyone knew suited him, and in road cycling which involves teams working together, and often against other teams and favorited riders. Consistently great performances are about controlling what can be controlled and limiting how much luck is involved in achieving a result, i.e. making an unpredictable result more predictable through better preparation, knowing what really matters and doing those elements better than everyone else.

More interesting fact than the fact that Mark rode in a skinsuit, or used a plastic film over his helmet, is the process that went into the win, some of which is highlighted back in the "Project Rainbow Jersey" piece dating back to 2008 by CyclingWeekly, where coach Rod Ellingworth detailed the approach that British Cycling would put together to form the winning team over the course of three years, the challenges he knew they would face, and how they'd approach them.

There is rarely is much of that process and planning towards achieving world class performances out in the public domain.  It's easy to focus on the training plans, the physical preparation, looking at 'key workouts', recovery protocols, innovation and technology, but the elements that resonate in these two articles are how much success is about getting the human factors right, the motivations, familiarity and ease of working together as riders and staff, the riders working together and arriving in good form, and even the plan to get a full team on the start line.
"If Cavendish is to pull on a rainbow jersey, or win the Olympic road race title in London, it will owe everything to the work and planning started in the cold air of north-west England in November 2008."
Indeed: Process, Process, Process

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coaches Coaching

Google sent me a link this morning in advance of the Noosa Triathlon, about Australian James Seear:
"He is without a coach after the barring of Australian Institute of Sport's head triathlon coach, Shaun Stephens, from guiding individual athletes.
While Seear admitted that losing his coach of six years was not ideal, he graciously said it was for the betterment of the sport." - James Seear
I won't be as gracious as James - with so few triathlon coaches world wide with the experience that Shaun has, Australian Triathlon is worse off with him in essentially a management position. Triathlon is a small sport, with a relatively brief history, and few coaches specialising in the Olympic discipline. The pool of world class coaches with the experience to lead at the top level is very small, and now Australia has one less such coach at the coal face, where there preparation happens that backs medal winning performances. Conflict of interests be damned, get great coaches coaching, with minimal management overhead and athlete performances will come. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

On Focus and Attitude in Iten Kenya

A couple quotes from an article on runners based in Iten Kenya:
"And the focus, he says, is total. "You sleep and eat and train three times a day, there are no distractions," he says. "There's no place like Iten, I almost feel like I don't want to go home." - Richard Goodman
"Today, European running is full of athletes who are like "accountants" who "want to control everything" but the Kenyans have the "instinct and aggression" that's needed, he says"  - Renato Canova
On Focus and Attitude - these can be applied most anywhere, it comes more easily in environments like Iten, but we can apply these principles anywhere.

Read the piece from The Independent here: 
"Iten: At the highland home of the fastest people in the world"

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stephen on Steve

When I read this I knew it had to be captured it here - from Stephen Fry via the macalope:
Only dullards crippled into cretinism by a fear of being thought pretentious could be so dumb as to believe that there is a distinction between design and use, between form and function, between style and substance. If the unprecedented and phenomenal success of Steve Jobs at Apple proves anything it is that those commentators and tech-bloggers and “experts” who sneered at him for producing sleek, shiny, well-designed products or who denigrated the man because he was not an inventor or originator of technology himself missed the point in such a fantastically stupid way that any employer would surely question the purpose of having such people on their payroll, writing for their magazines or indeed making any decisions on which lives, destinies or fortunes depended.
The whole piece by Fry excellent and worth a read.

I draw much inspiration to my coaching from Apple's approach - the 'relentless pursuit' of excellence indeed. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs On life

Three great quotes from Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement speech that resonated with me:

On life"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
Nothing to lose, follow your heart - Why I went to the UK in 2009, and why I came back to Canada in 2011.

On work"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."
Doing great work, and not settling - Why I love coaching and helping people reach their goals, and why I left British Triathlon.

On instinct"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." 
Connecting the dots backwards- Why getting sacked from the Triathlon Canada National Triathlon Centre in 2003 was the best thing that happened to my coaching career - it forced me to make my own way and discover my own approach to coaching that I wasn't able to develop within the Federation structure.

RIP Steve Jobs

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"I had a point to prove to myself ...and I'm back."

Chris McDonald takes his second Ford Ironman Louisville title
From a plan put together over a skype call in April to executing on race day in August with determination and consistency in preparation: "I will give it hell and let you know how it goes" Great effort Chris!

Edit: Chris' race report 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Frustration in New Zealand

From an article in the NZ Herald: "Triathlon: Docherty hears the call of London"

Broadcaster Mark Watson ran the TNZ's high performance programme in the south of France for three years. He resigned from the TNZ board last year in frustration at what he says was the elite arm of the sport needing to change its approach. 
"They're over-staffed and over-researched but not enough is spent on coaches. There is too much ticking boxes to appease Sparc. There is no longer an utter desire to commit; often the greatest test to reach the top is adversity and we're doing everything but wipe their arses.
(Jack - Hamish Carter's former coach) Ralston's biggest issue for ongoing development is the lack of support for coaches: 
"No-one will speak up because no-one wants to bite the hand that feeds. You get the danger of a herd of people with their noses in the trough. I'd love an accountant do an in-depth analysis of where the Sparc funding is spent. Once you group in the bio-mechanists, nutritionists and psychologists, there is not enough left for coaches."

No comment necessary.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


The Dalai Lama was asked what surprises him most: 

"Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived."

Friday, August 5, 2011

If you're not winning, what do you have to lose?

From Lets Run 
"I just want to be the best I can be. And I'll do whatever it takes to be that. I could have been really comfortable where I was in Teddington, nice house, family, friends, watching the Arsenal. But if you want to win medals, then you have to do whatever is necessary. Every second counts. One, two per cent could make a difference. I went to the US to find those percentages. People say don't change when things are going well, I felt the opposite. And it's worked."
  - Britain's Mo Farah, who is a perfect 10-for-10 after moving to the US to be trained by Alberto Salazar. 
 Also posted by Dr Sousa

There are many reasons to respect Farah's decision to move to a new environment, particularly off the back of a relatively successful 2010 season, and so close to the 2012 games. He's really pushing to win, and willing to takes some risks to do so, rather than being happy being the best Brit, and perhaps otherwise being off the pace at the sharp end, and out of the medals.

A successful athlete making a change to keep progressing is interesting and noteworthy and shows no complacency - interestingly in my experience many of the top athletes in triathlon are surprisingly complacent. Many are happy to be around the best in their countries even if they are not winning or close to the podium. Despite not achieving at the very highest levels - every athletes dreams of standing on the top of the podium - too few are willing to change in order to reach the top. So they stay stuck where they are, in some ways settling, as change is hard, risky and unknown.

Farah is a great example for any athlete - if you're not winning*, what do you have to lose by changing?

*Even if you are winning, continuing to do the same thing for too long is a sure way to let the competition catch up to you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Elite national championships still relevant?

This past weekend the majority of cycling nations held their national elite championships in the road race and time trial. Cyclingnews.com has a round up of all the results here. Many of the big names around the world ride their national championships, and it's seen as prestigious to win, and entitles victor to race in their national champion colours for the remainder of the season. I don't know how the UCI has managed to coordinate each country to use the same dates, however it's an idea that could be applied to elite triathlon as well.

In the early days of elite triathlon, winning national champion title was taken more seriously than it is currently. With the plethora of racing options available to elite triathletes these days, for many athletes the national championships has become less relevant. Compared to cyclists, triathletes can race a much more limited number of times, and with the ITU World Championship Series, the Olympic qualifying/ranking pathway, as well as commitments to French and German clubs, in addition to the numerous other non-drafting options, many countries 'national championships' are not really representative of the best of their countries, with the top athletes often taking a pass, when they are permitted to do so.

Looking at the British Triathlon site, the information on the 2011 elite national championships is not even listed, however 'insider' knowledge says that the Windsor Triathlon was indeed designated as the National Championships at a relatively late stage - however a quick look at the results shows no Brownlees, Clarke, Hayes, etc, or Jenkins, Blatchford, Holland, etc on the women's side. With all due respect to the respective winners, when the top athletes don't show up, it devalues what it means to be named a 'national champion' for all involved.

British Triathlon tried a different approach in 2010 when the elite national championships was held over a sprint distance in an effort to draw the best British athletes with minimal disruptions to their racing programmes. However even with a national team contract clause requiring funded athletes to race, and the promise of respectable prize winnings and television coverage, it was still a struggle to pull it off. Now back to 2011, the funded athletes were allowed to pass on the nationals again, in order to pursue other races.

Other countries have faced similar challenges, a quick look at the results shows Australia used the Mooloolaba World Cup this year as their national elite championships, so 'tacked on' to another bigger event. Meanwhile New Zealand, and the USA suffered from the 'not all the best show up' problem. Other countries no doubt are facing similar issues.

The solution is to look back at cycling - say what you will about the state of the UCI, however they have managed to coordinate an integrated international calendar across many competitions with different organizers, including fixing dates for the respective national championships. The ITU could do the same, and solve the date conflict issue. It would of course be a big challenge to do so, but coordinating dates and avoiding conflicts with their own racing properties, the World Series, World Cups, and Regional championships would be a good start. The UCI also seems to have managed to have southern hemisphere countries racing the same dates, out of the normal 'summer' season, so as far as the elite championships in triathlon go that could work as well.

The other aspect is adding prestige back to the title - again looking to cycling, have unique racing uniforms in national champion colours, and promote these athletes on the WCS television coverage. The ITU is already part way there toward the uniforms, now that at the World Series each athlete must wear a country-colour uniform already - just add some national champion stripes and off we go. The coordinated dates also highlight the respective countries events, and make the winners newsworthy. When the best athletes are racing for their national colours and these athletes are highlighted, it will help restore some pride to what it means to be the national elite triathlon champion.

Perhaps none of these changes would be enough to have better representation at respective elite national championships, but looking at other sports like cycling shows that it's possible if the will is there to make being a national elite champion significant again.

Now what to do about making the ITU Regional Championships relevant enough that all the top athletes show up?

Monday, June 13, 2011

"There is an alternative to Periodisation"

There is an alternative to Periodisation.
It’s called Coaching. You may have heard of it!
This is from the follow up post from Wayne Goldsmith on the "Coaching without Periodisation" post.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Article: Coaching without Periodization

Wayne Goldsmith has posted an thought provoking article entitled "Coaching without Periodisation" on his site Sport Coaching Brain.com.

Many coaches get bogged down with the process of periodization. Planning an athletes's season, including what preparation is necessary for the identified goal competitions, is the most common way for coaches and athletes to plan - i.e. work toward specificity in training, and then plan backwards to today, to build up towards those training and competition objectives.

Another way is to take the approach of where the is athlete currently, what are they capable of today; coaching in the moment, 'in the now' as Brett Sutton has described his approach. Darren Smith also talks about his approach in the comments below the article. This approach has advantages; allowing more time to develop capabilities and skills, which can often take longer than 'planned' to achieve, and give them time to bed in, and stick, ie. make real, significant and stable changes to performance. This way athletes only progress to new training objectives at the right times, rather than a pre-determined '6 week block' or other arbitrary period of time, or worse, progress because they have to 'peak by friday' for an upcoming competition. Many coaches following more 'text-book' approaches don't dedicate enough time to developing any particular capability, and thus limit the athletes' improvement, year over year.

The big idea here is the following:
"The key principle is this: every time we work with an athlete, it is our responsibility to ensure that the training we provide is the optimal stimulus for them – at that moment, at that time and specific to their unique physical and mental status as they exist right now; "
This is where coaching, or 'real coaching', as Dr Sousa would say, comes into play. The art of coaching is being present, 'on deck', observing, and communicating with athletes about what is the right session for the day. Working with the Canadian national team in Victoria, I'd often come to the pool, or training session with an idea of what specific training I wanted to accomplish with the athletes that day, but I would watch the warm up and get a sense of where each athlete was at before setting instructions for the main work of the session. This is why I tend not to write sessions on the white board at the pool, or simply write up one set at a time, in case I decide to change from the session I first had in mind while the athletes are warming up, after having spoken to and observed them, or when they are doing the first main set. I would rather they aren't aware that the set or session has changed, in order to avoid the feeling that they may have 'failed' by not being able to complete the original 'planned' session - which is not the case, it's simply my coaching process to make a decision about what is the right stimulus/amount/type of work on that given day. The method takes into account how the athlete has recovered from the previous days sessions, what they already may have done that day, or have coming up that same day, and what follows the next day. I see these as all in flux based on individual responses and adaptation to the training load, and it's the coaches job to make good decisions about what is the right training for each athlete on any given day. This process is hard to do effectively via distance coaching. The most skilled coaches can be very good at estimating what an athlete should be able to accomplish on a given day within a programme, however these skills are difficult to develop when mostly sitting behind a screen.

Planning is of course important, as much as a coaching process to drive thinking about where an athlete is and how they can progress toward their goal performances, however good coaching is about good decision making, and if the planning process over-rides observation, intuition and experience in the moment, then the 'plot' is being lost.

There are lots of other thought provoking articles on Wayne Goldsmith's site Sport Coaching Brain - it's a great resource for coaches or anyone interested in high performance sport.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

the endgame begins...

Great piece of writing on Cyclesport Mag by Lionel Birnie on the unravelling of the Armstrong storey:
"The Lance Armstrong story is so convoluted, so conflicted. It’s like a tightly knotted piece of string. Myth at one end, truth at the other."
I grew up with cycling watching first Greg Lemond, then Lance win the Tour. I was a fan of both, complete with posters of them on my bedroom walls. I admired Greg for being one of the pioneers bringing North Americans to the front of the traditionally European dominated peloton, and for his innovation in technology from training and racing with an SRM, to aerobars, and aerodynamics. It was a thrill to meet Greg a few years ago when in Minneapolis for the lifetime fitness race. I admired Lance for his approach to racing, the meticulous preparation, including the impressive psychological game ('TSTWKM', etc). I found the later Lance years of the Tour formulaic and too predictable, and as a result stopped following the Tour until recently.

The latest allegations against Armstrong don't change anything for those who have been following the sport since the pre-Lance era. Cycling has been rife with doping for a long time. It's been very impressive that everything has held together for Armstrong for so long. It illustrates how powerful the culture of silence has been within the sport. I'm hopeful that this culture is gradually changing, but not naive to elite sport and the desire to win at all costs, and associated financial incentives. For the sake of young talents like Taylor Phinney, etc, let's hope they can be successful without pharmacological support. It'll be interesting to see if the UCI's recently proposal to ban dopers from team management goes anywhere but if it's not retroactive, it would take a long time to have any chance of affecting cycling culture given the number of former riders who are currently involved with teams, not to mention those staff behind the scenes who play a large role in the implementation of doping programmes.
"Let’s prevent one generation of blatant cheats from becoming the encouragers and enablers of tomorrow."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Kenyans' Recovery

Olly Freeman and Will Clarke recovering between sessions
Back to the last weeks Let's Run week in review from the previous post: http://www.letsrun.com/2011/week-0510.php

Jordan Rapp @rappstar pointed out another piece from the review on recovery from training:

"The Kenyan model, however, demonstrates a new level of achievement in the field of recovery. After a run and a meal Sally collapses over the couch and does not move until it's time to run again."
from #5 Julia Lucas On Kenyans' Recovery: Sally Kipyego The Dark Fast Cat
Many 'western' elite athletes, especially in a relatively wealthy sport like triathlon, have trouble with this type of recovery - just sitting and doing very little before the next session. Particularly those pros living the triathlon 'lifestyle' who are always on the way to another appointment between training sessions, or another coffee shop visit, and who generally live and breathe triathlon 24/7.

'Recovery' is the latest training buzz word, requiring all sorts of active interventions and devices like compression machines that costs thousands. However doing nothing requires very little energy and the price is right, requiring only the ability to relax and to be content doing so. This is one reason for the 'training camp effect', including altitude camps - being away from the home environment removes many distractions and particularly in the 'boring' camp locations that I favour - there is really very little to do or be done beyond the basics: train, eat, sleep, repeat. Pure focus on doing the training and absorbing the work. Athletes who are based in their home environment more often than away in camps would do well to find ways to incorporate this old school recovery method. Keep it simple.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Week That Was In Running - May 3 - May 9, 2011

Always good stuff from Lets Run's weekly reviews:


Particularly the look at the extraordinary depth at first diamond league meeting over 3000m. Americans who are getting excited about a certain young runner/triathlete who is a 'relatively' good runner and getting lots of attention as such, keep perspective on the depth of east african running. My advice would be to keep working on the swimming to someday make an impact in a major championships or Olympics, i.e. develop the running, but with the aim to eventually win on the world stage in triathlon. There are indeed many athletes who identify as 'runners' who have no real chance at making a major distance final, medalling at a championships, or ever really making a significant living as runners, who might have the potential to be great triathletes and make a career out of it. Most of the federation backed, so-called talent-transfer programmes to get fast runners into triathlon are flawed in execution, but I support the concept of teaching fast runners to swim in order to change the game. If it's done right, 29:30 off the bike won't be fast enough to win in the future. Craig Mottram was watching the London WCS race last year, too bad he didn't give it a try.

The Scottish equivalent to "I am Canadian"?

Yes I am drinking one right now...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Moving on Up

Over the coming weeks and months I'll be talking here on the blog about what I'll be doing 'next'.

For now I can say I am excited about the opportunities and possibilities that lie ahead. 

A couple of articles that have been published on the move: