Tuesday, July 14, 2009

USA Triathlon Coaching Certification Clinic: Lessons Learned

This past weekend I flew to Minneapolis, MN to attend the USAT Coaching Clinic. Pending my exam and a CPR re-certification, I will be officially a coach (with eight years of triathlon coaching experience).

I have been coaching successfully, but my success has been based on objective feedback, consistency with athletes and their drive/ability. I feel that the certification has helped me to more fully understand the coach/athlete relationship and to understand more of the why behind what coaches prescribe. The why is really the difference in coaches; after that I would say communication. Based on what I learned, I have a new perspective on some coaches and their methods.

The clinic wasn't ground breaking for me in knowledge except in two areas: nutrition and running form.

Thursday started with an extra session with Bob Seebohar. Bob is the USOC nutritionist who was with the triathlon team in Beijing. I have worked with Bob in the past as a client when I was really fit. After talking with him for about five minutes I realized one thing, I was doing everything 180 degrees from correct nutritionally. My Florida 70.3... the things I wrote off to neck and fitness issues? Nope, nutrition and heat acclimatization mostly. One of the things I didn't blog about was the intense swelling in my hands during the race. It was so bad that for four days after the race I couldn't get my wedding ring on and I was pouring salt on everything I ate (uncharacteristic for me). Anyone know? Bueller? Anyone? Hyponatremia. The salt tablets I was using (a popular brand) are actually LOW in sodium. Interesting. I bought the marketing and the peer pressure to use this product. I will be changing salt tablets for hot races effective immediately. I have changed my eating effective last Thursday. Since the change is just a shift of nutrients and not a "diet" of any kind, success is just a matter of time.

The second big "mistake" was not doing enough heat workouts early enough. In 2006, I started six weeks before the race. This year two weeks. 14 days is normally about right EXCEPT when you live in a cold climate. Our year has been exceptionally cold and judging from my results, I should have started earlier. Though my fitness wasn't what I would call good, it wasn't poor either; which is what I would call my race result.

The clinic ended with Bobby McGee. Arguably, the world's best endurance running coach. Looking at my run pictures from races when I was running well versus today - simply put, oh my. Bobby reminded me of what I was doing when I was more "successful" (using that term rather loosely). Since working with Bobby a little bit, I can FEEL the difference in my running already. Last night, I was working 1:1 with an Ironman athlete of mine on his running form. We started working on efficiency and form immediately. I will be contacting Bobby to set up sessions for my athletes as well as me.

Lastly, I figured out that I haven't been very "coachable". That changed yesterday. More about that another day.

I used to buy the "I don't need a certification" from some pro athletes turned coaches. I don't anymore. In the end, I feel like I am growing again in the sport. That hasn't happened since 2003. I am renewed.

PS: I know it is Tour de France time when I get text messages from my wife saying things like "THOR!" I hope you are enjoying the race. I think this year has been really great thus far.

1 comment:

  1. Can you let me know which salt tabs you are switching TO? I'm likely to be racing in the heat in almost 3 weeks and have been using one brand but am curious if I could do better :)