Hope you’ve all had a terrific summer.
As many of you will know during these past few weeks I took the opportunity to head out to Los Angeles & San Francisco. It’s a trip I’ve always wanted to make and was made possible by some very special people. The reason for the trip (apart getting some of that glorious Californian sunshine) was to spend time with two of the best coaches in the world, Matt Dixon and Gerry Rodrigues.
The west coast of America has always had a particular fascination for me; the reason being is many of the world’s top professional triathletes choose to make it their training base. I’ve always been fascinated by the training environments of the world’s best, so I wanted to discover for myself what the appeal was and to fully immerse myself in it.
I spent the first week in LA with Gerry Rodrigues and his Tower 26 crew and couldn’t have been made to feel anymore welcome. Gerry has been coaching for over 30 years and has a wealth of experience and knowledge. He trains 14 squad sessions per week and this includes the world famous Tower 26 beach workout. Gerry is a former World Champion open water swimmer and has trained multiple World & Olympic champions.
I would by lying if I said I wasn’t envious of the 13-lane pool swimming pool that the squad trained at! Everything is always bigger in America and it was a joy to watch such a thriving swim programme. The pool is located in the Pacific Palisades, beautiful part of LA that I can only describe as Chiswick in the hills! The weather was an absolute dream, sunny but not too hot with a cool sea breeze always present. It was clear with there were so many people in the pool at 5.45am.
The one workout I really wanted to see was the Tower 26 beach workout, a legendary session that in peak months can draw up to 200 triathletes. It is also attended by some of the worlds top pro’s, 70.3 World champ Holly Lawrence being a regular. The setting is awe-inspiring on Santa Monica beach, the pier just lit up and visible in the background. There is actually a whole section of beach sectioned off just for the triathletes to do this session overlooked by a Baywatch style lifeguard Tower. People travel far and wide to attend this session.
The session was pretty straight forward with a beach jog warm up, followed by a warm up around a 3 buoy swim course that had been set up. This was followed by pace variation efforts over the same course whilst combining race skills such as sighting and drafting. This was then followed by a swim transition with a run up the beach before taking a rest, this was repeated several times at race pace intensities in different pace groups. It was an absolutely brilliant session to watch and the triathletes clearly loved it despite how challenging it was.
I had to chuckle because in the photo below Gerry gave his swimmers a 30 minute lecture on why you shouldn’t base your race swim performances on times alone. Factors such a course measurement (don’t presume courses are measured accurately!), weather and water conditions will have a huge impact on times so it’s important to look at position relative to category. He’s been telling these swimmers this for years but it seems triathletes quite quickly forget sensible information like this, something I see all of the time. This is why I always tell athletes NOT to look at their watch when they come of of the swim because the race should be evaluated as a whole when it’s all over.
During my time in L.A. I also had time to head up the pacific highway and into the beautiful canyons where the best cycling is located. To say I was impressed would be an understatement, some of these rides are absolutely spectacular and a world away from the busy hustle and bustle of the city. I can honestly say the difficulty and beautiful scenery you find in these mountains could rival any of the great cycling territories of the world.
L.A. massively surprised me in many ways, for some reason based on what people told me about it I thought I wouldn’t like it, but I loved it. It has a bit of everything depending on what you are looking for. It’s a crazy place in many ways but there is also incredible beauty at the same time.
Next up San Francisco.
I’m sure many of you will already know the name Matt Dixon, a true triathlon coaching legend. I’ve known Matt for many years because he was one of the first coaches that I was truly inspired by. I remember as a young coach reading his articles and thinking how different they were to some of the poorer repetitive articles spewed out by the triathlon media at the time. They were so insightful, well written and inspiring.
Matt has been there and done it all, a former pro swimmer and pro triathlete. He now coaches some of the best triathletes in the world. Matt was actually coached by Gerry in his early years as a triathlete. The two of them are great friends and work colleagues.
San Francisco seemed like a world away from L.A, I rarely saw the sun shine when I was there due to the clouds that seem to sit permanently above the city. They certainly don’t have the weather but what they do have is a thriving city base where some of the most successful people in the world live and work. People don’t drive, the Uber everywhere, this allows them to have is a centralised base for triathlon training that is easily accessible to everyone living within the city.
This is the very heart of Matt’s company Purple Patch Fitness, they run 2 x 90min swim, a 90min spin class and runs. This is all done within the city, which is very hilly!
But the true magic of San Francisco starts when you head north out of the city and cross the Golden Gate Bridge heading into Marin County. Firstly the weather changes almost immediately and the sun finally starts to shine. You move quite quickly from the craziness of the city to a completely different world, its very calm and serene with some of the most breath taking rolling hills and scenery I’ve ever seen. It’s just as spectacular as the canyons of L.A. but in a very different way, even the beaches are completely different. The area has more of a homely feel to it, the type of place most people would probably want to live or retire to. For a triathlete it’s like a children’s playground. It has something for everyone and it was an absolute joy to be able to experience it first hand.
The trip more than exceeded my expectations in every respect. It is clear to see why these areas are a mecca for some of the best triathletes in the world. Its all about the coaching, the coaching environment & support network, sponsorship opportunities, the climate, the food (of which I could write several blogs on alone!), the lifestyle..the list could go on and on. It’s no surprise when you bring all of these together that you can see why triathlon communities are thriving and going from strength to strength.
With both coaches it was quite clear that there was a total no BS approach to training. It was just all smart sensible creative work that all coaches should be aspiring to. They cut out the fluff and get to the very heart of what true triathlon training should be. It doesn’t need to be complicated but it should be progressive, challenging and fun. They do it with tremendous charisma and personality and it is clear to see why people would want to follow them.
As with all great coaches they are two of the best listeners I have ever spoken to, a true art form in itself. They didn’t just want to tell me what they did, they wanted to know what I did because they are still keen to learn and listen to new ideas. This is why I’ve always travelled far and wide to meet the great coaches of our time, if we live to much in our own world we get stale and stop evolving.
I can’t promise bring the Californian sunshine back to London but what I can continue to bring is everything else. We’ll just do it that little bit better going forwards for the season ahead.
I cant wait to get stuck in.
And YES those ribs were delicious (God Bless America).
Team Race News
It’s been a big month for the Team nagi racing crew.
There have been some absolutely outstanding performances from Team Nagi athletes across all distances.
– First up huge congratulations to Paul Pulze and Jerome Jones who broke 5 hours for the first time this year over the 70.3 distance.
– Tash Jackson reignited her ‘Flash’ to return winning ways just in time for the 70.3 World Championships.
– Helen Burton completed her first half Ironman whilst winning her age group at the tender age of 63 (we’ll need to see your passport for this one Helen).
– Both Adam Bailey & Jo Irwin won their age categories at the Midnight middle distance and Stewartby Duathlon races.
I wanted to give the spotlight this week to two athletes who are not just big personalities within Team Nagi but who are also amazing people to boot. At Ironman Copenhagen two triathlon studs rolled into town with their families on the back of what were challenging years to say the least, take a bow new triathlon best buds – Terry Rodham and Tony Peach.
Sometimes the bigger story rarely gets told and to be honest I was just happy to see them both at the start line. It’s testament to both of them that they managed to get to the race in the best shape possible. A combination of life stresses, injuries and a stolen bike (Terry) 2 days before the race would have side tracked many but it only served to ignite their fire and make them stronger.What they both did out there was awe-inspiring and as a coach I couldn’t be any more proud of them. Terry breaking 11 hours for the first time despite not being able to do hardly any run training this year and Tony for going nearly 2 hours faster in an Ironman than he has ever gone before. This despite a knee op earlier in the year. What I love about these guys is their life affirming spirit, they encapsulate everything an Ironman triathlete should be.
Gentleman we salute you and your performances.
You can read more about the man, the myth, the legend – Tony Peach, in my athlete questionnaire below.
Team Nagi results in full:
– Tony Peach (45-49) 11:52:21 (1:20:44 swim /5:56:08 bike / 4:21:06 run)
– Terry Rodham (45-49) 10:55:27 (1:01:31 swim /5:24:11 bike / 4:20:12 run)
Cowman middle distance
– Paul Pulze (35-39) 4:55:46 (31:10 swim / 2:40:03 bike / 1:41:44 run)
Midnight man middle distance
– Adam Bailey (25-29) 4:29:02 (36:15 swim / 2:29 bike / 1:22 run) 1st in Category and 4th male overall
New Forest middle distance
– Helen Burton (60-64) 7:14:18 (40:03 swim / 3:48:38 bike / 2:36:04 run) 1st in cat
– Jerome Jones (40-44) 4:53:22 ( 33:55 swim / 2:29:49 bike / 1:42:00 run)
ATW Dorney Olympic distance
– Tash Jackson (30-34) 2:09:52 (18:56 swim /1:06:20 bike / 41:09 run) 1st in cat / 1st female overall (9th overall including the men!)
Chantilly Olympic distance triathlon
– Stefano Lolli (45-49) 3:03:18 (37:49 swim /1:27:48 bike / 50:06 run)
VO two Dorney sprint distance
– Stefano Lolli (45-49) 1:13:22 (15:17 swim /32:33 bike / 22:37 run) Huge congratulations Stefano on your best run of the year so far (we know the work that went into this!)
– Jo Irwin (40-49) 1:15:19 ( 22:19 run/39:28 bike / 12:34 run) 1st in Cat / 5th female overall
Photo of the month
“First and best ever trophy”
A bit of Aussie humour.
Q & A with Team Nagi super hunk – Tony Peach
Tony Peach (aka “Peachy”)
49 (50 on 16 January 2018)
Capricorn (The Ram)
Years in triathlon:
Erm . . . seven or eight years I think, which also accounts for the sum total of races I have done, I suspect! I am a big fan of training for the one “Big Event” each year. I could not race every weekend – it is a logistical nightmare! Prior to that, I was an egg chaser until around aged 40 and then ran a few marathons to counteract the effects of my Guinness consumption.
I am a boring accountant, a counter of beans. I do occasionally like to wear stockings and suspenders under my suit to spice up the day.
In another life you would have been a…..?
I think I would have quite liked to have gone down the Physio route. That, or a Captain in the SAS.
Favourite training session:
I do like to run and am lucky enough to have Epping Forest on my doorstep. I love the fact you can be 100 metres away from a main road but yet in a completely different world. Rain or shine I am at my happiest when out on a long run – I do find it almost meditative, and pretty much the only peace and quiet I get. (Ooh! And triceps pushdowns).
Least favourite training session:
That bloody Bella Bayliss swim set! It took me three solid months to memorise it, then Julian dropped it from my programme! I have forgotten it now but it was something along the lines of:
– swim 12.5 metres easy with a pull buoy
– swim 12.5 metres easy backstroke with one paddle
– swim 25 metres fast with three paddles
– rest for 6.25 seconds
– do 10 press-ups
– swim 200 metres IM whilst humming the Rocky theme tune
– wrestle pull buoy from small child who, because you left it unattended for 6.25 seconds, thinks it is now his to play with for the rest of the session
– repeat x 3 (or 4)
Favourite training track:
Till I Collapse, Eminem. Anything by Little Mix.
Favourite training venue/location:
Peachy’s Pain Cave (the turbo, a tv and plenty of iron).
If you could choose 3 famous people to come to dinner with you who would they be?
Arnold, de Niro, Micky Flanagan.
Training hours per week: 10 to 14.
I am lucky enough to work from home twice per week and can squeeze in two, sometimes three, sessions on those days (e.g. turbo in the morning, weights at lunchtime and a run in the afternoon / evening).
How was your training build up to the IM Denmark?
On balance, pretty good I think. I did have a knee op in January so had to re-build the running from scratch – I built up to a one hour walk and then introduced one minute of running every ten minutes, sticking with that for three sessions a week and then going to ninety seconds of running the next week and so on (eventually hitting 14/1 minutes of run/walk). I am getting sensible in my old age and, on several occasions, would skip a run if the knees felt unduly sore (ironically, the “Good” knee started to give me more grief that the one I had the operation on) or take a step back if I felt I was pushing it too far. A month before Denmark I had a couple of weeks on holiday in Tenerife and, for the first time ever, took my bike away with me (taking The Blade apart and putting it back together again was a real worry for me and a bigger personal hurdle than anything else – pathetic, I know!). I did feel as though I had some really good sessions on the bike out there with lots of climbing and some (initially) terrifying descents! I did have a magnificent Norman Wisdom moment on a run though – skirting around a lady sweeping the pavement to the front of her restaurant, I tripped over a raised paving slab and went down like the proverbial sack of spuds. In that one run, I bruised my hip, thought I had broken my big toe and “Tweaked” my Achilles – the latter meaning I did not run at all for a full month prior to IM Copenhagen. Notwithstanding that, I reckon I hit 90%+ of the sessions prescribed by Coach Nagi over a seven month period. The gradual, incremental progression that Julian built into my programme made it feel as though I got fitter and stronger without ever consciously noticing a real step change in effort.
What were your race goals?
This was my third Ironman. My first (Bolton) I did in 14:17, the second (Tenby) in 13:47. I wanted 12:nn in Denmark. Team Peach were with me for the first time and I really wanted them to have a great time and experience the unique atmosphere of an Ironman weekend.
How did it go?
Expectations MASSIVELY exceeded, finishing in 11:52.
I was looking at 1:30 for the swim and hit 1:20. For the bike , I wanted to break 6:00 and did 5:56 (literally, that was my fastest average speed EVER on a bike – and that is including a one or two hour “Blast” in training). Julian advised me to hold back for the first ninety minutes on the bike, building gradually from there, and I followed that advice to the letter. Having suffered a “What the heck am I doing here?!!” moment on the Saturday, racking my Ford Escort of a bike alongside all of these incredible Formula One machines, I was amazed to be picking many of them off in the last thirty miles or so (I made up 419 places on the bike leg, thanks, I am certain, to Julian’s multiple prescribed sessions on the turbo).
On the bike I entertained myself with the Clif bar challenge, on the hour, every hour. In training, I had struggled to remove them from the wrapper whilst on the move so came up with the genius idea (unpracticed pre-race) of unwrapping six of them and placing them in a freezer bag. This now presented me with the challenge of six Clif bars welded together as one and encased in a freezer bag that was as impossible to remove on the move as the original wrapper. Thus, when the watch ticked off each hour I would wrestle this enormous object from my back pocket and take a few bites, plastic and all, whilst trying not to drop the bloody thing! I’m going with Sandy’s carrot cake next time, liquidised and placed in a drinks bottle.
I would love to go sub-4 in an Ironman marathon but it was not to be on this occasion. I did feel great coming out of T2 but after 30 minutes started to slow a little – the wheels did not fall off all at once, rather they started to come off one by one, but I recalculated and knew that sub-12 hours was in my grasp. Seeing Team Peach at the bike mount line and then multiple times on the run course was really emotional – they had even made little posters. How they managed to muscle their way to the barrier on the finishing chute, I will never know – after four laps, I hadn’t even figured out where it was! I could hear it but hadn’t sussed where to go! When my watch registered 26 miles I asked the next Marshall I saw where the finish was and he looked at me in utter disbelief but, thankfully, pointed me in the right direction (I really didn’t fancy doing an extra lap).
Being in Copenhagen with Team Rodham was utterly superb and just knowing Terry was out there, leading the way for Team Nagi, really spurred me on. I only saw Terry on the course once, just after I had started the run , but what a boost that was. Incredible swim from Terry and he is an absolute weapon on the bike – he has genuinely inspired me and made me realise what is possible. The fact that we did not have a beer together (too nervous before the race and too nauseous after) is something we will rectify soon!
What are the key elements you’ve put in place to move to that next level this year ?
Primarily, just do as Julian tells me! I do know that consistency is key and avoiding injury is crucial. Listening to your body and making sensible choices is really important and something I have only really learned quite recently. I occasionally find myself falling into bed exhausted after midnight and setting my alarm for 5am for an early morning session only to realise that an extra hour or two in bed in the morning and a skipped session will actually be more beneficial to me in the long term.
What’s next ?
There has been talk of IM Lanzarote in 2018. I won’t be doing that! I am thinking in terms of a mid-season 70.3 and a late season full – maybe Barcelona . . . but only if Terry Rodham and Sandy Wall are doing it!!! Of course, I also have to consult with Team Peach . . .
A few have asked, when is the Tony ‘The Hunk’ Peach calendar coming out?
I have the material to fill calendars up to and including 2023. The leopard print stilettos (size 12) are playing having with my Achilles at the moment though.