December 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

>I’ve hinted already that I have spent some time debating ultras vs. Ironman. Can they both be put on a race schedule and can you get to your best at either one with them both on the schedule? While I have achieved a dece level of success this way, I do not believe I will get any further in either one trying to balance both. So as I train for HURT, all my focus is on running and I’m staying off the bike and out of the pool. There really is not other way to prepare for 25,000 feet of climb and a 30 hour race day other than to be on your feet, and on the trails. But then the question become, what next in 2011? I really do love the 100 mile distance and I want to work towards a big win at that distance one day. But, I also like the Ironman. I like cycling. I like the level of intensity that is in that race during every minute. Looking at it further, improving at either sport is simple: get faster. After thinking about it, I knew that ultimately my speed would improve more doing the workouts required for an IM rather than a 100. It’s easier to then take speed from a marathon and draw that into endurance for a 100, then it would be the other way around. Therefore I decided that after HURT, I will focus solely on the Ironman in 2011.

Easy, right? Well, not really. Truth of the matter is, Ironman training is tough. Not just the workouts – the logistics. When I work 45 hours a week, scheduling running workouts is relatively easy to me by now. I know how to get in the miles and I know what type of workouts are required. When you throw swimming and biking into the mix though, I’m a lost puppy. And there really aren’t many people I know who have had great success at the distance either to draw from their training. I have said it before that I felt like I had a sub-11 race in my hands at Wisconsin, and watched it slip away on the run. The reason for that is simple: I didn’t train for a sub-11. I didn’t to the proper workouts to run that off the bike. I wasn’t prepared. Close, but no cigar.

Figuring out how to get myself to the next step wasn’t even a question. I knew I would get a coach when I was ready to tackle the IM head on. In the past couple years I have had discussions with several notable coaches. For one reason or another, they never worked out. Generally, I wasn’t ready. But I also didn’t feel like I had met anyone that clicked with me enough to coach me and get the results we’d both want. After Wisconsin this year, I stumbled upon Hillary Biscay. You may have heard of her from her recent 2nd place at Ultraman (if you don’t know what that entails, look it up!). Or, perhaps you know her as the chick who did 6 Ironmans in one year…and placed top 5 in all of them. Or maybe you just watch Ironman Live sometimes and think she’s pretty, haha. And if you don’t know her, you should.

When I look for a coach, I have a few priorities. First and foremost, can I respect their athletic accomplishments in a way that I relate to them as an athlete. Of course I respect someone like Chrissie Wellington. She’s uber fast and a great role model. But, I think Chrissie also came out of the womb doing a sub-9 Ironman. I can’t relate to that. I have always thought of myself as a great athlete, but when I want to get good at a particular thing – whether it be soccer goalie, the high jump, or triathlon – I have to do work. Luckily, I consider one of my best qualities also to be that I am extremely coachable. Once I decide I respect a coach, I have no problem putting all my faith and trust in them and just doing what they ask of me. In my opinion, it’s great. They’re doing the hard part of figuring out how to schedule my workouts and what to make them…I have the easy/fun part of just doing them! After reading about Hillary’s athletic accomplishments (including training under the infamous Brett Sutton) I know that she has truly had to work hard to get to where she is. (Not that someone like CW doesn’t work hard…it’s just…different.) People like that generally expect the same from those they coach, and that’s what I want. Hillary also has the “ultra” mentality. She will understand that side of me.

Second, can I be friends with this person? While this may be a trivial thing for some athletes, it does matter to me. No longer am I part of a team where if you don’t like the coach it’s “oh, whatever, I have my friends around me that I play with at practice.” Instead, it’s us. My coach is my team. Thus, they have to be my friend. I need them to understand me as a person as well as an athlete. I need to feel like I can be open with them about my life; that kind of relationship (in my opinion) only strengthens the athlete-coach bond. And, I’d argue, it makes the coach better able to help the athlete. After exchanging e-mails I had a hunch that Hillary and I would get along. When I went out to IMAZ, she graciously took the time to meet me for coffee. I was able to chat with her for over an hour without even blinking. Who knows – we do have the same birthday so maybe that helps, but I definitely feel like we’re on the same page with both life and triathlon.

And finally, what is their coaching style? Heart rate coaching? Miles vs. minutes? How far out do they schedule workouts? How frequently will they check in and readjust them? I was happy to hear that Hillary doesn’t coach via heart rate. I don’t understand that and I don’t really like it. I would hate to have my heart rate be telling me to slow down when really I feel good and can keep pushing it, etc. She coaches based off perceived exertion and does a combination of miles and minutes. She schedules workouts 1-3 weeks in advance, and as soon as I log a workout she can sign in and see how it went to re-adjust the upcoming ones. She is also a very “hands on” coach. I like that she didn’t have separate levels of coaching packages. In her words: “I don’t really know how to create a “less is more” training program, and I don’t pretend to.” She limits the number of athletes she takes on so that she can give them 100%, while still getting after her own training/racing agenda. Pretty Sweet.

So that is set, and I’m pretty excited. Right now, my 2011 looks like this:
-Columbia Triathlon (May)
-Eagleman 70.3 (June)
-IM Louisville (August)
-IM Arizona (November)

I’m sure I’ll race a few others but those are the bigger ones for next year. February can’t come soon enough!


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