Monday, July 27, 2009

Always go to the roll-down for Ironman

This year, so many athletes will skip the awards ceremony and roll-down of Kona slots at Ironman races all over the world, thinking they don't stand a chance of getting a slot. I recently wrote an article on the topic of what times traditionally it takes to qualify for Kona, published in Triathlete Magazine, so perhaps I am guilty of spreading of this thinking.

Of course, sometimes the odds just don't matter and it pays to show up. Take a look at the two highlighted qualifiers below, in the Men's 30-34 division, namely their times and places within their age group: (click on image to enlarge)

Yes, one placed 46th, the other 161st, out of only 210 athletes in the division! I'm sure a lot of guys are kicking themselves right now.

Coach Vance

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Simon Whitfield and the Mind of Racing

As a coach, I am finding myself spending more time working on the minds of my athletes, than on their physical training. The mind controls the body. If you have the fastest car on the track, it doesn't matter if the driver can't drive it well enough. Or worse, if the driver crashes it. It's a fine line, and what works with one athlete doesn't necessarily work with another.

So I continue to try and find ways to communicate effectively with my athletes, on the power of the mind. Just this week I offered my athletes the opportunity to work with a sports psychiatrist, for free. I hope to learn more about what makes them tick, and more importantly, what it may be which is holding them back.

Today, I read this race report at Simon Whitfield's blog, and it was impressive to me how well he spoke of the mind and its affect on his performance. I have an admiration for him and the way he conducts himself, his hard work, his voice for change, his competitiveness and his longevity in the sport. He has two Olympic medals to his name, and host of major victories. Last summer in Beijing, he was out-sprinted by Jan Frodeno, "Frodo". This report is from his most recent victory at the Hy-Vee Triathlon, which yielded him $200,000 for the win, and revenge over Frodo.

More importantly, this victory came 6 days after one of the lowest days in the sport for him, a DNF at the Washington DC race. A race he was considered a favorite for, and was never a factor.

I share this from his blog because he took control of his mind. So many times he had reason to quit, so many things went against him, and yet he won the biggest purse in the sport. Read on...

Monday, June 29, 2009

and then that happened

well I'm home.

and seeing Pippa launch herself at me for a hug when I arrived with "daddy daddy" was priceless. I wished I could just hit rewind over and over again, to see her reaction and to hear Jennie say "ahhhhhhh, Pippa misses daddy".

Life rolls on.

After the good races and the bad. I kept that perspective all week after the debacle in Washington, "so that happened". It happened and I moved on. I sought council to which I have access to some of the best advice out there and I sought refuge in talking and texting with Jennie as much as possible. She told me about the park, and the beach, and the playground, and the tantrums, and the laughs and finally about Pippa just wanting to run everywhere, from tree to tree all the way to the park.

After Washington I took 2 days completely off, regrouped, listened to Iron and Wine and Bon Iver when I wasnt texting/talking to Jennie. I flew into Des Moines on wednesday after a delayed flight because of the crazy storms on tuesday night and just rolled with it. Delayed flight "whatever", bike doesn;t show up "oh well", just rolled with it. My first run in three days was wednesday morning, 20mins of :30sec on/:30 off (thanks to Paulo for that piece of wisdom on gmail) "fight the temptation to just go for an easy run eh, get out there and punch the cobwebs out no matter how you feel". So I ran along the grass under the power lines in Minni (by the mall of America) and even though I felt like crap at first I just "punched the cobwebs" out with 20x:30 secs.

When I arrived in Des Moines the National Team Coach Phillippe Bertand took me to the lake as I hadn't swum in 3 days and put me through a moderate but effective session and gave me a great stroke cue to focus on, "simon da rhythm, find dha rhythm, think about McCartney's stroke" (in his fun english) and I did. I just thought about that fantastic rhythm Andrew has and instead of trying to over power the water I just settled into my "andrew rhythm" and felt much much better.

The next couple days were good, slept a lot, relaxed, didn't think once about Washington, I didn't search for confidence from one workout or another, just immersed myself in the process of getting ready and put one foot in front of the other.

And I arrived on the start line without any expectation, fear or excitement. I made a particularly smart tactical move when picking my swim spot (if I do say so myself) and took a deep breath before the gun went off and we were away.

I didn't feel great in the swim, it was harder then it usually is and I just tried to focus on AMAC rhythm, who ended up winning the swim and the $5000 that went with it. Out of the water I was side by side with Brent and Kyle. We rolled through transition together and out onto the bike. Again I didn't feel great, rolled through a couple times, got up the front then had to regroup. I just didn't have any zip, my calf was starting to hurt and that voice in the back of my head was trying to place doubts "you're just not ready to race" "somethings wrong, just drop out". I didn't ignore it, I heard it, I just didn't listen. I just kept moving along, up the front, in the pack, at the back and tried to look for something positive. Again on the run I really didn't feel great, I just thought I'd run along at a steady pace and see what unfolded. Brad, Frodo and Gemmel ran away from me straight away and I just kept running my pace. Eventually Jarrod and Javier passed me, still no energy to respond. When Brent passed me I gave him some encouragement and just kept the same pace.

And they started coming back, it seemed like 'two steps forward, one step back', I'd almost catch them, someone would surge and I'm be off again. I just kept thinking about form and breathing, ignored my position and simply paced myself back up to them only to be dropped again. Finally on the last lap, about 1/4 of the way through after Gomez had made his play and the pace had settled then slowed I actually made it back on for good. We settled into an uneasy "who will go first" pace and the pace was timid. I actually thought Brent who was charging after us might just catch us and blow right by.

Two Canadians to worry about.

We positioned ourselves into the final 180, Brad accelerated to the first right hand turn where I'm sure he wanted to get to first but Kris ducked in on the inside and I followed, through the next right Kris pushed the pace and strung us out into a line but I had managed to grab second through the turns and as Kris drifted wide right towards the finishing shoot I took off without hesitation or thought aside from the exact same thought I had in Beijing "jolly O here we go". I actually felt them coming up on all sides, I could sense someone on my left (Frodo) and my right (Brad), I held my line past the barrier where Frodo lost a step getting around it and drove as hard as I could to the finish. I felt this absolute determination that I wasn't losing this damn sprint, after two second place finishes at $200,000 races and one second place finish in a sprint finish I've played over and over again in my mind..... I celebrated.

and that's what happened.


Congrats to Simon. His mind is his biggest talent.