A potential new member recently asked me if I thought she could qualify for Kona - I don't think she was expecting this answer.
Can you qualify for Hawaii in your AG? Short answer is YES!
Longer answer is you will need to pick a race that suits, build a long term plan that takes you to 18 weeks out, then have a two week break. Then start a solid 10 week build to take you to a few crazy weeks of training 6 - 4 weeks out and then taper in. Sounds easy enough.
The long term plan will identify your weaknesses, focus and fortify them in the time available. Once the build starts there is no time to spend on correcting so this time consuming work needs to be done a year or more out from your race. No one likes to hear this as most people don't think long term enough. At best most athletes and their coaches think about a race six or maybe nine months out and go for it. Truth is, an Hawaii qualification will usually take 3 years if you plan correctly. Unfortunately everyone will sell you the idea that it can be done this year with a 14 week program - rubbish.
The tricky part is the detail - via Strava and Xxxxx I have seen you do great sessions and big, solid, killer workouts. The trick with ironman however is the total accumulated volume not just the key sessions. This is not always explained well and in the PC era of quality over quantity and the trendy importance of recovery, volume is often misunderstood and/or overlooked. I am not suggesting volume for volume sake nor do I suggest volume week after week after week.
There is another girl in the Studio who wants to qualify for Hawaii next year. She is also about 45 minutes to 1:30hrs off qualifying (using my old fashioned 2x half ironman + 1hr - it works). What I have explained to her applies the same to you. At some point you need to do some crazy training. You need to leave the well trodden everyday ironman training path. The type of training that is a little unhinged. This training teaches you - your brain and muscles, how to tap into the beast within. Like the pioneers of the sport, the ones that didn't know if they could finish it. That set out on training runs in high cut, flappy shorts and without 4,000 calories strapped to their body.
I'm a little off topic, but the point I am trying to make is that all the science at the expo wont get you that spot. Testing and adjusting your watts and your zones like the articles say wont get you there either. And the tricky one - training with your mates 'can' be the best way to get you that Hawaii ticket, but only if they are going to do the tough training as well. When you see your 6ft, retired army Captain training partner crying on the side of the Princess Hwy you know your training is where it needs to be (although you don't know it at the time).
Again, I have drifted slightly off topic. Point being your training partners need to be on the same journey. They don't have to be wanting to qualify but they do need to be racing ironamn in their best possible way.
Ok, you actually wanted to know about coaching options and not my talk of crazy deranged old triathletes.
I have of course looked at all the options. Studio athletes have also shown me the various and numerous options they have come up with as well. This is the way I see it.
Online template plan
These can be purchased for about $500 to $800. They map out a generic plan based on the number of hours you have. Obviously they don't take into account your strengths and weaknesses. Nor do they gel with your weekly schedule and work commitments etc. Needless to say this option wont get your ticket punched.
Online direct coaching
Usually a big name athlete with some pretty smick online marketing. Getting coached by Siri or Macca, etc sounds great. The problem with this setup is the lack of local knowledge and an understanding of the training options. Living and training in Sydney's East is unique. These options are pretty expensive for what they offer.
However, the biggest drawback I see with this option is the fact that an elite athlete will make a crap coach 9 times out of ten. The physical and mental attributes that made them an elite athlete means they struggle to understand the family/work/life/training balance that you and I are managing. Chances are they were blessed with a body that could handle high volumes without injury and were exposed to high level sport from an early age.
Local coaches are great. We are blessed with some great local coaches. The local coach knows the rides and where to do your grass 1k repeats. They know morning swims at Coogee or Bondi rock, but you can't swim in the ocean for a few days after rain. They can watch you cycle and improve your position. They are there on the job giving direct feedback.
All of the local coaches fall into one of two sub-categories - (1) The Legend or (2) The Techy
The Techy coach approach is very technical and there is always a science behind the plan and the sessions. I do feel the Techy coach hides behind the science a little. They forget (or don't know) the beautiful art that ironman coaching and racing is. There is a distinct art-form in taking your body to the edge and then bringing it back stronger. An art that science just can't beat. This art is about teaching you to listen to your body and see if you can go a little further, a little faster.
The Techy coach will have 'good' performances often. But great performance, if they ever happen, will be rare and usually accidental. The athlete will be too reliant on numbers to take it to the next level.
Local coach - the Legend
The Legend has done it all and achieved at the top level. As a result their personality can be hard work. Learning from these guys is awesome and it is great to see them in action. Similar to the Online Direct Coaching above they may have trouble understanding us average guys and what we are trying to do.
Both Local Coach categories have one major pitfall. They earn more money by increasing the size of their squad sessions. These squad sessions become less specific and a more generalist. Like a body-pump class they are great fun and if you want to get fit and loose a few kilo they are helpful. At the end of the class there is lots of high-fives, but no one is going to Hawaii.
The SEAC approach is about honesty, ownership and efficiency.
Honestly agreeing on a goal with your coach, Then honestly looking at your performances and identifying your weaknesses. These are not nece3ssarily weaknesses in your swim, bike run. But weaknesses that are stopping you achieve your goal. This can include the way you train and when you train as well as fixing technical aspects of your sport.
Owning your goal and owning your training and the performance on the day are a must. I know you are motivated but there is a subtle difference between motivation and ownership of the task. With ownership and the right coaching you are able to take yourself closer to the edge and back again, without falling over the edge. You will be able to make bigger improvements quicker. The ownership piece sounds a little wofty, but when you see it in action it will make more sense.
Efficiency is in everything we do. The annual plan we develop is about using the limited time you have efficiently all year long. During your off-season you may have 6-7hrs per week to train but that doesn't mean we don't care about how those 6-7 hours are spent.
From the annual plan we develop a weekly schedule that uses your time efficiently each week. This means something different to everyone based on their circumstances. The key here is to efficiently use every part of the week. It may mean starting work an hour earlier 4 mornings a week to provide a half day off mid-week.
Of course efficiency has the most benefit when we apply it to our movements. If we can swim, bike, run more efficiently in every training session we do in our efficient week we will get more training logged in the same time. Come race day we will be able to move more efficiently around the course which means our heart will work less and our body will move faster. Efficiency in the way we move is where the big gains are made.
This is why so many athletes with these amazing bike watts in training can't race. Efficiency lets you do more with less.
SEAC coaching is a panel approach. Not one coach with one view or one plan. At present we have four members of the panel. Jason Shortis is the head triathlon coach. He is a true legend of Ironman racing for over two decades. He is the ultimate in quality over quantity. Every session has a purpose and is precise.
My job is to make sure Shorto's sessions fit with the athlete from a lifestyle perspective. I work with the athlete to prepare the weekly schedule to allow Shorto's sessions to deliver the most benefit. I also work closely with the athlete and ensure good comms between the athlete and the coaching panel.
As you are probably aware SEAC uses strength to deliver much of the the training benefit. There is plenty around on this topic but these are our general principles:
We all know that strength works. The problem is that most triathletes confuse F45 or Crossfit with strength. Strength for triathlon is very sport specific and it is generally nothing like what most athletes attempt if left to their own devices.
To this end we have two strength coaches on our coaching panel. Both Camila and Ben deliver our strength program to the athlete. Either in the Studio or at home strength is an integrated and important facet of your training with SEAC.
Having a coaching panel allows SEAC to deliver the highest quality coaching service. We can provide the benefits of the above coaching options and remove the negatives or pitfalls inherent in those platforms.
Between Shorto and I we have completed 100 Ironmans and stood on the pro podium 23 times. OK - Shorto on his own completed 83 Ironmans as a pro (way more than any other pro) and all 23 podiums are his. However, between Shorto and I only one of us has stood on the stage at Kona and taken home the glassware and category win - and thats me! Yes, the CEO category totally counts :)
Jokes aside, longevity in the injury riddled sport of ironman is rare and Shorto has done more than any other and competed for longer than anyone else. This is a testament to his strength based approach to triathlon. Secondly, but equally as important is Shorto is heavier than his pro competitors. It is very different to train and race at 60kg than it is at 85kg. And this difference is more important for the average AG'er.
Hope this makes sense. Sorry if I have dragged it on a bit. There is actually a lot to get through what you start. Most of it is not on the web yet. If you have any questions let me know. Also let me know how you get on with Shorto up in Noosa. Don't let his relaxed approach fool you.