I recently attended a two day seminar hosted by USAT, the Art & Science Symposium, so I could get my CEU’s to recertify my coaching credentials. I was able to listen to and learn from some of the select Level II & III triathlon coaches, athletes and speakers from around the world, including Bob Seebohar, Bobby McGee, Gordo Byrn, Ian Murray, Joe Vigil, Max Testa, Monique Ryan, Robbie Ventura, Diana Nyad, and Hunter Kemper. I’m still trying to digest all the information I was given, reviewing their presentations and talking (to anyone that will listen…) about some of the discussions. I wanted to share Hunter Kemper’s response to a question he was asked after his talk on how he became a triathlete and how he is only one of two triathletes to have competed in all four Olympic triathlons.

He took us all the way from his first triathlon at (I think) 8 years old right up through the extremely painful and long recovery from a racing accident last year, before qualifying for the London Olympics this past summer. He had time for a few questions and was immediately asked, “What was the best advice a coach has ever given you?” Realize that he swam and ran during high school, ran at college, and has trained as a professional athlete since 1995 is it?, so he has had many different coaches. His simple yet well thought out answer was this; the best advice a coach has ever given me was to set a goal, write it down, post it someplace that you will see it every day, so that you can really own it.

Nothing about some fancy training set or new coaching ideas, pick a goal and own it. By doing this he said it forced him to deal with each day of training, each new skill he had to learn, and each step he had to take in the journey to reach his goal. And realize that his true goal in triathlon was to race and win at the ITU level, against the world’s fastest short course triathletes, and then ultimately once it became an Olympic sport, to win a medal in the Olympics.

As he saw his goal posted up on his bathroom mirror, or by his computer, or next to his bicycle, he had to work out the process to reach his goal, and this is what each of us needs to be doing right now, this time of year, while we’re enjoying our off season from a long year of training and racing. For those with races still pending, or early season races where you have already rested and started training, you can still work on your plan for next year, or tweak what you already have set out.

For many people though, this step is an afterthought, after they’ve already signed up for a race just because they sell out early so you had too, or because your buddy was going to do it and you thought you’d give it a shot too. Then there’s the big “oh no” moment, what have I gotten myself into, so here’s what you do.

Write down your goal, however simplistic it might be and then begin the process of determining what you need as far as your skill set, your equipment, and your time commitment, to reach your goal. I hope most of you have done your off-season analysis of last year’s racing, have looked at what held you back from reaching your goals, be it physical or mental, and are on track to correct these issues. If not then start this process ASAP, by talking to your friends, reading about it online and asking questions to find the answers and move forward.

The most basic things that I think we all need, myself included, are these:

  • Time to recover from a hard season of racing
  • A physical assessment to determine what, if any, parts of my body need work, be it strengthening, engagement, more rest, etc., and addressing those physical limitations before we take another step
  • A plan for the following year that includes all your races, prioritized, with any vacations or work restrictions on it, so you can step back and see the big picture
  • A focused training schedule, counted back from your first “A” race of the year, which sets in motion the next step you plan to take, which is to determine when your training year really begins

I realize that not everyone knows how to do this, as this is part of the “art” that goes into the planning of a successful triathlon season of racing. So again I suggest you talk to your friends, read, consult a coach if you think you need to go that route, but remember that failing to plan is planning to fail, and I know that none of us likes to fail after investing our time in our training.

Pick a goal, write it down, and own it. Do it now!

Fred Maggiore, USAT Level I Coach