Team Nagi Coaching Newsletter – October 2019
So it’s been a huge month at Team Nagi headquarters with Coach heading out to the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii for the 4th time. My reason for going this time was to support ‘The Pocket Rocket’ Vicki Hill in her pursuit of a podium finish (Top 5 in Kona). Vicki finished 11th in the 40-44 age group in 2018 so we were pretty excited about her moving into the 45-49 category this year, little did we know what was in store for her there…only the toughest 45-49 field that has ever been assembled.
Vicki’s preparation for this race was nothing short of first class; no one could have outworked her, been more disciplined and committed to the task at hand. This girl is a class act and then some, she never ceased to amaze me with her honest, intelligent, rational approach to the whole training process. When you get a highly coachable athlete like that it fuels your fire as a coach and that’s exactly why I wanted to be there with her in Hawaii. This race takes a huge apprenticeship to work out due to it’s complex nature, especially when you are pushing for those top spots that only the very best of the best will ever be able to aspire to.
What make this race so tough ? It’s the heat, wind, swirling wind, hot wind, and humidity ..quite frankly it is almost indescribable until you have experienced it. Then there’s the level of hype and expectation that comes along with it because it’s the World Championships with all of the history that goes along with it. It’s an intoxicating mix that can crush even some of the best athletes in the world on race day. This year (unlike the freak easier year last year where the wind didn’t blow and all kinds of records were set) this was a typical Hawaii day where the wind blew in furnace like conditions and athletes were tested to the absolute max.
Our goal throughout the entire year was to really develop Vicki’s swim and bike because running has always been her great strength. When she first came to me to be coached 2 years ago it was clear that there was a huge lack of confidence in the swim (especially open water) and she massively feared riding in the winds and descending at speed, all these elements are crucial if you want to do well in Hawaii. So the plan was set with multiple training visits to Lanzarote, wind tunnel aero testing, some pretty brutal turbo sessions and more swimming then she had ever done in her life.
What was also crucial was seeing her ride the bike course out there and how she responded to the swirling winds, climbs and fast descents for somebody of her size (5ft 2inches /50kg). Athletes who are very petit in nature can be eaten up by this bike course due to their low body mass and lower body strength, in general the conditions favour athletes who have a higher body mass and are very physically strong because they can be more stable in the wind. I’ve actually seen a few females blown off their bike out there because it can get so windy. It’s also key that smaller athletes maintain momentum, speed and cadence whilst descending because many can lose considerable time on the descents than someone who is carrying a higher body mass. Then the other key factor is staying as aero as possible for the longest time possible to limit any unnecessary losses.
It was clear that this needed some work so we spent most days practising descending quicker to build this confidence with my motorbike next to her. Within a few days she was flying and confidently hitting 60km/hr when descending some of the bigger climbs. On race day I’m pleased to say she hit 70km/hr on one descent. She also rode the bike course 20mins faster than she did in 2017 with her highest ever bike finish (12th).
The swimming took an interesting twist too with the legendary Kona Aquatic Pool being closed for the entire time we were there. So we decided to do every swim either on the course or in the sea near to our hotel. This actually proved to be a godsend because we could use the boats as our buoys and recreate race conditions on a daily basis. The girl responded brilliantly and you could just see her swim confidence increasing day by day. What was most interesting is that along with taking up her swim volume up considerably this year we also made her practice her (previously shocking!) sighting in most sessions for 9 months of the year until it was second nature. The results of this were then clear to see in the water. I’m pleased to say that come race day Vicki had her best ever swim in Hawaii and went 4mins faster than 2018.
The only area was experienced slight issues this year were with her running, a foot issue reared it’s head in the months leading into Hawaii so we had to take a super cautious approach with this to get her to the start line healthy. Then only 2 weeks prior to the race she had a calf niggle caused by a back problem that gave us some concern but with a sensible approach was overcome by taking a few days off from biking and running, not easy for an athlete who is in Hawaii I can assure you! But Vicki being Vicki put her sensible rational head on and followed coaches and physio’s advice to the letter and was rewarded with it, she was back in the game again.
Then to race day, what can I say…even as a supporter it was TOUGH. I think most people will have spent the day looking for an air-conditioned cafe that wasn’t packed to the rafters…once I found my spot I stayed there! That should tell you a little bit about the conditions on race day and it’s why you can have only have absolute admiration for what these athletes are putting themselves through (as I sat there drinking iced tea, sweating profusely).
What was clear from watching many of the athletes out there this was a boom or bust day, people either dug in and survived or they completely imploded. It was like a scene from ‘Apocalypse Now’ out there. I saw some of the best athletes in the world falling apart before my very eyes and I also saw one of the greatest Ironman performances I will probably ever see with Jan Frodeno’s new course record. It was a privilege to be able to witness this first hand.
What was even more clear is that Vicki’s 45-49 category was proving to be a race where the very best of the best turned up on race day with some of the ladies posting what can only be described as phenomenal race times. 3 ladies in her 45-49 category posted times under 10 hours, that didn’t even happen in the 35-39 category and no one went under 10 hours in the 40-44 category. 2 women posted run times of 3:16 & 3:17, which was faster than 15 of the female pro athletes and 11 of the male pro athletes. In all the history of running this race that has never happened (even with last years freak year) and Vicki’s time of 10 hours 25mins would have placed her 2nd in the 40-44 category, it was only good enough for 8th in the 45-49 category. This would have been 6th if she hadn’t got a 5min time penalty on the bike for drafting, rest assured this girl doesn’t draft but was caught out by a big pack of slower older male athletes that were and an over zealous race referee.
Why are these older girls getting so fast ? It’s an interesting question for sure, one which might be far more complex to answer than it seems. What I do know about some of them is that they are able to lead a life where they are financially secure or supported. Enabling them to lead training lifestyles much like that of professional triathletes where they don’t have to work. They are of course incredibly physically and genetically gifted, they then back that up with the ability to train more and more importantly recover more. Then you have a very potent mix indeed.
What I do know about Vicki, is she gave her all both on race day and throughout the entire training process and I couldn’t feel more proud of her. She put in a performance that we went looking for and you can ask no more than that on race day. Any other year she would have achieved her dream but that’s just racing for you. Sometimes lady luck is with you and sometimes it isn’t but rest assured I know this girl will only use this as motivational fuel to be even better next time. There were many breakthroughs in this experience that will only open more doors to a higher level of performance next time, of that I am sure.
Good on you Vickster, you should feel very proud indeed. You more than earned that slice of cake.
Team Race News
Ironman World Championships (Hawaii)
- Vicki Hill
- Splits: 1:11:31 swim / 5:31:59 bike (including a 5minute penalty)/ 3:34:00 run
- Total Time: 10:25:14
- 8th in the 45-49 category
- Next up: Cocktails & lie ins
Tell us about your race experience, how did it go?
I had a great day out there. It is such a stunning location to race and even though the conditions can be brutal, the heat on the run and the unpredictable wind on the bike, I just kept reminding myself to enjoy every moment. I raced that day knowing that I could handle whatever came my way.
I have worked hard on my swim and bike this year and it paid off for sure…yes thanks Coach for all those hours and hours chained to the turbo! What felt like turbo torture at the time definitely paid dividends come race day. So overall I felt really strong throughout the race, and whilst there were moments of hurt out there, I felt in control all day. Or maybe just a few weeks later all memories of the real pain have disappeared! And to finish 8th in my age group and to have raced the best I could, I have come away a very happy person.
What elements of your race were you pleased with but what would you do differently next time?
I am pleased with my swim and bike performance. I would not normally finish a race saying I enjoyed the swim but this time I did and I had my fastest Ironman swim to date. Coach’s words of swim assertive were in my head….so assertive I was!
Having raced in Kona a few times I know what the wind can be like there. In past, the crosswinds on the way up and down to Hawi had me gripping onto my bike for dear life. However with the bike work I have done over the last year plus the valuable time I spent on the bike course prior to the race, with Coach cracking the whip from his scooter, I was ready to tackle anything. So I am very pleased with the way I rode the course, the confidence I had and the way I handled the wind. And phew the data from my bike was in line with Julian’s expectations so happy coach happy athlete!
What would I do differently next time….repeat it all but faster! And speed up in transition….not sure what I faff around doing!!
Best piece of advice for racing at this level or for those chasing Kona?
Be patient and enjoy the process! Set goals and by making sensible decisions with your training, getting lots of recovery / sleep and having a good balance between work / life / training you will achieve good things.
Apart from having Coach out there with in Hawaii what is your favourite memory of the people, the place and the culture?
Well of course having Coach out there, as well as my brother, for support is always going to be a great memory!
I have so many good memories…..its such a beautiful magical island! I love the diverse landscape – volcanoes, lava fields, blue skies and stunning coast line. The people are so friendly and it has such a relaxed vibe (except for ironman day!). It is a million miles away from the normal crazy busy life and place that I live!
And there is always a good cup of coffee to be had!
What are you most looking forward to in your off season break ?
Not setting the alarm for a ridiculous hour to get up and train!
Having a social life!
What’s Next ?
Getting my head together with Coach to put a plan together for 2020 to get back to Kona and go even higher up the pecking order!
- Terry Rodham
- Splits: 1:05:37 swim / 4:43:48 bike/ 4:20:21 run
- Total Time: 10:18:18
- 45-49 category
- Next up: Project sub 10
Huge congrats to our Tel for posting a new 37 minute Ironman PB. A solid swim with an outstanding bike laid the foundations for this. The run will come with a bit of lady luck and patience moving forwards.
Barcelona Olympic Triathlon
- Harvey Smyth (+wife Kate!)
- Splits: 26:43 swim / 1:06:31 bike/ 44:51 run
- Total Time: 2:24:39
- 45-49 category
- Next up: This is a couple that never sits still so I’m sure the next challenge is already booked!
Team Smyth were back at it at with two terrific performances at the Barcelona triathlon. Great to see H digging deep and putting in one of his best ever races at this distance.
Kvarner 24km Swim Challenge (Croatia)
- Anna John, Helen Kemmit, Nikki Murray-Smith, Christiane Kerr, Sandy Wall
Big shout out to our long distances swimming ladies who took on the mighty challenge of swimming 24km over 2 days in Croatia earlier this month. I know how hard these ladies have been training for this event and each was rewarded with a fantastic swim performance, great work!
If ever a book needed to be written it was this one. If you are a female athlete doing any level of sport at any age you need to read this. As a Coach I needed to read this because it opened up a world to me about female physiology and response to training that was totally lacking. For too long sports science has avoided studying the female athlete because they were thought to be too complex due to their menstrual cycles and contraceptive use. Now this is starting to happen and this book can only be described as ground breaking. So many things make more sense after reading this.
Hopefully this will now start to open up a new world of conversation where these subjects aren’t buried under the carpet and people will start to talk more freely about these issues. As Coaches it’s crucial we have these conversations, monitor these areas and learn from them. As female athletes you need to understand these areas to get the very best out of yourselves. It will also give you a huge psychological advantage to really know your body because you are all so unique.
Dr Stacy Sims places a shining light on all of these issues and should be applauded for it.
You should also take a look at her Ted Talk: Women are not small men as a good starting point.
Team Nagi out & about
The people you bump into at airports. Coach going one way, a lean & mean looking Terry Rodham going the other!
There’s only one nationality that would wear this cycling gear into work each day, can you guess?
You can’t beat a nice drool on the guy set next to you on the way back from a Lanzarote training week, clear evidence that you worked hard!
Coaches favourite Hawaii spot away from the Kona madness 30 miles away
Pretty much sums up Hawaii life
Coaches other reason for going to Hawaii and why every triathlete should aspire to get there #TJ’sRibshack