Team Nagi Coaching Newsletter – July 2021
Take a breath, it’s a long one!
There is only really one topic on everyone’s lips at the moment and that’s the glorious Olympics games in Tokyo. Boy did we need this. I think the feel good factor we’ve all experienced watching sport at this level again has been priceless. If like me you’ve been gorging on The Games morning, noon and night all I can say is it has well and truly delivered despite the uncertain build up.
Seeing this special breed of athletes go through so much turmoil leading up to these delayed games and then finally seeing them have their moment has been so emotional and inspiring to watch. I can’t remember any other Olympics feeling quite like this one. These athletes have had more to deal with than many others who have gone before them during these troubled times. It’s the greatest drama on earth and we are the lucky ones who get to see it all played out in front of us.
It’s a timely reminder of why sport and having a guiding light to work towards is so important for us. It doesn’t matter what that goal is so long as it gives us reason to become better people and better athletes. This will then hopefully inspire others to do the same along the way helping to create a better society. The power of the Olympic Games should not be underestimated because it plants the seed for the next generations to come to find the best version of themselves.
There have been so many magical moments for me so far one of them was watching the Women’s triathlon. I know quite a bit about the story of each one of those top 3 ladies Flora Duffy, Georgia Taylor Brown and Katie Zafares. What is so extraordinary is the huge amount of adversity each one of them experienced in the build up to the games and in the many years leading into it. Two of them suffering potentially career-ending injuries that took them out of the sport for many years (Flora & Georgia). Then only a few months prior to the Games Katie lost her Dad and had a horrific bike crash where she broke her nose and has 24 stitches in her face, she was also totally out of form and many questioned her selection for the team. Georgia was also on crutches due to a stress response only 12 weeks before the games and things were looking extremely doubtful for her. To then have to deal with a puncture like she did and still win a silver medal says everything about this girl. In fact it says so much about all 3 of them. They didn’t give up, they didn’t give in and they finally had their moment. This is such a wonderful lesson to all age groupers out there. Those that get to the top are often the ones who have experienced the greatest amount of adversity, it’s what helps make them champions.
The other great moment and story for me was the arrival of the next new female swimming sensation Ariarne Titmus (and her Coach Dean Boxall!). I remember being sat in the stands of the London Olympic pool in 2012 as our Becky Adlington went for gold in the 800m freestyle where she was favourite to win. From the first 100m I knew she wasn’t going to do it as she just didn’t look quite right in the water. We then witnessed was the arrival of a very young Katie Ledecky who would go onto to win that gold medal and pip Becky into bronze. Little did we know we were watching the arrival the greatest female swimmer of our time. Then to see 9 years later a 21-year-old swimmer of the next generation take the 400m freestyle crown after so much dominance from Ledecky was awe-inspiring. The race was amazing to watch but we then watched one of those iconic moments that will go down in Olympic history…the reaction of her Coach! This to me said everything about their relationship and what it meant to him, I know that feeling well. That unique bond is so powerful and rare and to see them have their moment together was a moment I will never forget. Ariarne seems like such a wonderful girl too, the link below is a short 36min podcast with her proud Dad, all I can say is he’s a bit of a legend and well worth listening to to understand the sacrifices her family made to help her achieve that success.
The other moment of the games for me for very different reasons was watching the withdrawal of Simone Biles and the subsequent reaction around the world. All I can say on that is no one has any right to think they know what it is like to walk in these athletes shoes and then pass judgement on them. She showed nothing but courage and bravery to do what she did and should only be applauded. I can’t but help admire her so much for showing so much strength when she was at her most fragile. That takes a special person with unimaginable courage. She could have hid away but the fact that she came out fighting was simply awe-inspiring. A lesson to everyone that your own mental health should always be your number one priority. Bravo Simone.
And as for our brilliant Triathlon Team relay athletes, what more can we say ? Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of talented athletes. And to see Johnny Brownlee finally get the gold medal he deserved was nothing short of fairy-tale. They say a picture can speak a thousands words and for me this is one of the best of them…
Applying The Rule of 3
During a discussion with one of my athletes a few weeks ago it became abundantly clear that he was really struggling to follow the training plan that had been set. He was under huge amount of stress due to working long hours on a big project combined with the fact that he had also taken over the running of the business. 12 hours days had become the norm and from a training perspective it was all starting to get on top of him. The will to train was there but as his time was being squeezed it was only having a corrosive affect on him mentally. If he didn’t act soon the negative impact of all of this would have lead to a downward spiral for this athlete who likes to perform to the best of his ability in all areas of his life.
This is a similar situation that many athletes can find themselves as life moves on uncontrollably around them. It’s why as a coach I’m continually looking for the external stressors (work, travel, relationships, sleep etc) outside of training that can have an impact on my athlete’s mind-set and ability to perform in training and racing. It can be like a roller coaster with good weeks and bad weeks and everything in between. The key factor in all of this is to realise when those stressors have become so significant that immediate action has to be taken. Your body and mind can only take so much so the sooner you take action the better.
The problem with many high performers is they frequently make the wrong choice at the wrong time and ignore all of the red flags that are being thrown around them. They then continue to thrash themselves digging a bigger hole each time. Why? Because they become seduced by the little Devil who sits on their shoulder telling them to “keep pushing on one more time because you are weak if you don’t”. What’s usually obvious is that the athletes own instinct is actually telling them they need to do something different because they are close to the cliff’s edge. But the Devil always seems to win.
The way to navigate this during times of high stress and fatigue is to simply think of your body & mind as a ‘battery’. It’s a dual process single battery because the body & mind are inextricably linked. The battery is in a constant state of flux, particularly where training is concerned. When you work hard you deplete it and then re-charge it when you recover. The problems arise when the battery is continually depleted not just because of training but because you add stressors like poor sleep, long work hours, late nights out, travel and other stressors into that mix. It’s the perfect storm and its power can be overwhelming. During high stress days or periods you need to ask yourself the simple question:
“What can I do on this day to help re-charge my battery?”
This is where you should consider applying ‘the rule of 3’. This essentially means on any given day during a stressful period you have 3 choices no matter what it says on the training plan!
The 3 choices are simple:
1: Take a day off
2: Do a session for the soul
3: Do the session that was planned but adapt it and go shorter or easier (if it’s a higher intensity one)
Taking a day off sounds simple doesn’t it, but it’s probably hardest call for most high performers to take. Reason being is because they see it as a sign of weakness when only the opposite is true. Sometimes a well-placed rest day or two can be worth their weight in gold. So if you are really tired, stressed, working long hours then sometimes this is the best course of action to take when it all gets too much, you’ll only bounce back much stronger for it.
One of my favourite sessions to implement with my athletes is the wonderful session for the soul. It’s sessions like these that remind us why we do sport in the first place. This can be anything you feel like doing, could be 30 x 50m easy in the pool or it could be 1500m continuous at the pace that feels good. It could also be a nice easy short run on your favourite run route with no watch to guide pace to help clear your head. It could be you favourite bike loop or it could be sitting on your turbo for 30mins turning the legs over in your dressing down watching trashy TV (no names mentioned) the list is endless. Have a think about what works for you and have a number of these sessions you can fall back on. Just make sure it’s not so long or at such intensity that it adds more stress.
Lastly another sensible approach if you really do want to do the session planned is to just adjust it. So if you have pace and power numbers to hit just take the speed and wattage down to a level that feels more manageable for you so you feel you aren’t going to the well. If you pitch it just right you’ll only feel energised and much more positive mentally at the end of it.
I appreciate sometimes the answer isn’t always clear and you wont always get it right, but by being prepared to think differently during times of high stress you can increase the chances of saving your battery. The funny thing is you only stay fitter, more motivated and healthier for it even though you are doing less training. You can apply this rule for a day or two or in this athlete’s case we applied it for several weeks. In that time he continued to train when he could but felt so much better for easing back from the pressure of the plan. Motivation returned and training became that thing he really enjoyed once more. You always come out of the other side eventually you just have to ride the storm in the most sensible way possible.
The most important thing to remember no matter what option you choose is DO NOT feel guilty about it or give it a second thought. It’s only a huge positive that will have a high return as time progresses.
Team race news
The Outlaw (Ironman)
- Helen Burton
- Splits: 1:24:30 swim/ 8:03:33 bike/ DNF stopped at 23 miles
- Total Time:
- 65-69 category
- Next up: Try to get her to rest, easier said than done!
It’s not every newsletter I get to highlight such a magnificent DNF but this is one of them. At the ripe old age of 67 our ‘Super Gran’ decided to take on the challenge of doing her first Ironman this year. I crunched the numbers and knew it would go down to the wire. Most importantly there was a chance…a chance this lady was prepared to take. She was right on track until mile 23 of the marathon, with only 5km to go and 50mins in which to do them her battery simply went flat. It wasn’t for a lack of will, her body just couldn’t go on.
Speaking to her a few days later you have never heard anyone so happy and so proud of what she had achieved and rightly so. She had given her best and knew it. That’s all you can ask of yourselves when out there racing. Sometimes athletes do things that leave you in awe and they make you feel so proud of what they achieved, for me this was a shining example of just that. She’ll be back for more rest assured.
- Splits: 1:07:44 swim/ 5:29:58 bike/ 4:57:32 run
- Total Time: 11:45:42
- 45-49 category
- Next up: The Midnightman Ironman
Best ever Ironman swim, solid bike…stomach disaster on the run! It was looking oh so good until a few moments after this photo was taken. But JJ has licked his wounds and will be quickly getting back into action very soon as there is unfinished business out there…
Banana Triathlon Dorney Lake (The Whole Banana – 800m/31km/7.5m)
- Simon Evans
- Splits: 9:03 swim/ 49:55 bike/ 32:21 run
- Total Time: 1:33:49
- 1st in 45-49 category
- Next up: The London triathlon
Seems like the new beard is working wonders for Si has he continues put in some terrific performances. I just wonder how much faster could he be without it ? Awesome work on hitting that top spot.
Dorney Sprint Triathlon
- Tony Jarvis
- Splits: 14 (non wetsuit) / 30:05 bike/ 19:36 run
- Total Time: 1:05:34
- 1st in 40-49 category / 7th male overall
- Next up: Box End sprint qualifier
This guy just keeps going from strength to strength this year finally managing to hit the top spot in only his 3rd race of the year. Bravo TJ !
Mallory Sprint (GB qualifier)
- Toby Dean
- Splits: 12:30 swim/ 31:25 bike/ 21:24 run
- Total Time: 1:07:08
- 45-49 category
- Next up: Bermuda Triathlon World Championships
- Louise Hutchinson
- Splits: 15:24 swim/ 39:43 bike/ 23:55 run
- Total Time: 1:21:24
- 6th in 60-64 category
- Next up: Bermuda Triathlon World Championships
- Robert Hutchinson
- Splits: 14:03 swim/ 35:26 bike/ 24:21 run
- Total Time: 1:16:05
- 60-64 category
- Next up: Bermuda Triathlon World Championships
The 3 Team GB amigos were in action again with some fine performances at Mallory Park. Huge congrats to Toby for finally managing to complete a full run this year after being plagued with a calf issue for most of it. The Hutchinson’s were also in steady and strong as usual to complete a good day for all. Roll on Bermuda!
The Castle Series (Middle Distance)
- David Rueda
- Splits: 35 swim/ 3:59:46 bike/ 2:46:30 run
- Total Time: 7:33:44
- 45-49 category
- Next up: Ironman Italy
As far as races go in the UK there can’t be many more tougher than this one if the profiles are anything to go by. But our tough guy from Spain rose to the challenge and conquered it after a very tough few weeks of travel. Perfect mental preparation for the big one next.
Holkham (Middle distance)
- Kendra Marsh
- Splits: 36:29 swim / 3:07:42 bike/ 2:00:27 run
- Total Time: 5:50:03
- 8th in 45-49 category
- Next up: She’s had her first taste so another cheeky half maybe…
Not just Kendra’s first ever half Ironman but her first ever triathlon! Huge congrats on an outstanding top 10 finish. I’m sure the kids were proud & inspired!
- Michele Pollack
- Splits: 48:58 swim / 3:55:45 bike/ 2:34:56 run
- Total Time: 7:28:55
- 55-59 category
Great to see Michele return to action such a long time away from racing. Hope it’s the first of many!
Cotswold Classic (Middle distance)
- Charlotte Drummond
- Splits: Swim cancelled due to fog / 2:43:20 bike/ 1:42: run
- Total Time: 4:27:18
- 5th in 25-29 category
- Next up: The London Triathlon
- Elyas Coutts
- Splits: Swim cancelled due to fog / 2:30:01 bike/ 2:02:57 run
- Total Time: 4:35:15
- 30-34 category
- Anna John
- Splits: Swim cancelled due to fog / 3:10:18 bike/ 2:40:40 run
- Total Time: 5:59:37
- 50-54 category
As usual the British weather seems to just love disrupting UK based races! This time thick fog forced the cancellation of the swim. Huge congrats to all 3 athletes who raced and dealt with what was thrown at them on the day. A very big shout out to Charlotte for finally racing after many years of injuries that have held her back. To place 5th and to run a new PB was outstanding.
FACEBOOK series of the month
A terrific insight into the world of the greatest female gymnast of all time – Simone Biles. This follows her troubled and uncertain path through covid in the build up to the Tokyo Olympics. A must watch if you want to understand the pressures these athletes have been under. Maybe even here you will see many of the cracks appearing that we have seen in the past few days. What stands out more than anything is the extraordinary woman and athlete she is.
“I’ve never been much of a competitive runner. Sure, I enjoy the thrill and high drama of competition, but I don’t live for it. To me, running is a grand adventure, an intrepid outward exploration of the landscape and a revealing inward journey of the self. These are the things that keep me going, the lust for exploration and the quest to better comprehend who I am and what I’m made of. In a lifetime’s worth of competition, there’s only been one race I explicitly set out to win, the 2004 Badwater Ultramarathon (which I was fortunate enough to actually win). Other than that, running and racing has been an experiential trip, not a desire to end up on the podium.”
I’ve always been a huge fan of Dean since he wrote his best seller ‘Ultramarathonman: Confessions of an all night runner’many moons ago. If you haven’t read it it’s one of the best running memoirs of all time and is the place to start to learn about Dean’s journey to ultra running greatness. Several books and 25 years later this is his latest offering as an ageing legend of the sport. A new mind-set, a new perspective perhaps but the love and passion for running is still very much there. All his books are terrific insights into the mind, body and some of the greatest running races in the world. You feel like you are right there with him.
New athlete Q & A
Name: Steve Phillips
Star sign: Taurus
Years in triathlon: First triathlon was Blenheim back in 2011 so a (relative!) youngster with only 10 years experience…
In another life you would have? Lived and worked in lots of countries across the world.. the US, South America, Africa, Asia.. we often just live in our own little bubbles and it would be great to sample so many different ways of living.
Who is your athletic alter ego? Lucy Gossage.. down to earth!
Favourite training session: Run intervals (particularly off the bike!) – coming from a run background I’m always delighted to finish the bike and get into my happy run place!
Least favourite training session: Anything getting near or above 300W on the turbo
Favourite training track (music!): Gust of Wind – Pharrell Williams
Favourite book: Barbarians at the Gate (when LBO’s were real fun!! – probably only a reference for those finance folk)
Last book you read: Recommendation from Julian – The Dynasty – well worth a read!!
Favourite training venue/location: Mallorca – lovely, lovely road surfaces
Favourite race experience: IM Copenhagen… Great city, great people, fun race. It was my first IM so will always be special (and did manage to stay on the bike – see below!!)
Top 3 race bucket list: Kona, Challenge Roth, Marathon des Sables.
Favourite mantra: Things happen for a reason.
If you could choose 3 famous people to come to dinner with you who would they be & why?
1) Jan Frodeno… surely he’d give me a few ideas/motivation to knock a few mins off my IM time!
2) Barack Obama – the man has been through some amazing life experiences and I could spend all evening listening to him
3) My great great grandparents for them to see life now and understand what life was like for them!
Training hours per week: 15-20 hours
What are your training & race goals for 2021?
Having crashed out of IM UK in Bolton a few weeks ago and picked up a fractured wrist as a memento, it’s recovery time then onwards to IM Portugal late October. [Mental note to self – stay on the bike] and give myself a shot at qualifying for Kona.
Instagram posts of the month
Team Nagi out & about
We’ll miss this guy, a very big thank you for all the fun, passion, enthusiasm & motivation you brought to our squads. If I could bottle what you have I’d make a fortune. Hopefully our paths will cross again tough guy, much love and appreciation from all of the team.
Don’t they look lovely. Who wore it better?
Seeing your athlete do a proper swim warm up always gets them in your good books
Billy no mates does Le Louvre
Parisian ‘Blue Steel’