I come from a gymnastics and climbing background, and later ventured into CrossFit. I’ve even coached other athletes in both gymnastics and CrossFit, but throughout the first seven years of doing Ironmans I never had a coach for myself.
Let’s face it: Compared to thrill of climbing mountains and the variety of CrossFit, triathlon training is mundane. Swim. Bike. Run. Done. That’s why, after completing 17 Ironmans, I needed to spice things up, to maintain motivation. I decided to hire a coach.
Finding a Coach: Getting to know them
In 2016, I was thrilled to be a part of the inaugural year of Team SFQ. The camaraderie and supportive environment that Hillary Biscay and Michele Landry fostered on Team SFQ was amazing. In March of that year, I also had the opportunity to attend Hillary Biscay’s triathlon training camp in Tucson, Arizona. Despite the fact that most of the other attendees were athletes coached by Hillary or by one of her coaches, my husband, Dave, and I felt completely welcomed. So, in late 2016, I nervously reached out to Hillary about coaching and was fortunate that she was willing to take me on. What did I get myself into?
The Hard Part: Oh, so this is how you are supposed to train for Ironman!
For the previous 10 years, I was a bit of slacker with run training. I had enough confidence from completing many races and climbing multiple mountains, that neither the distance nor the duration of effort phased me, so I maybe didn’t train as much running as I should have. On a good week, I ran maybe twice. It wasn’t uncommon for me to go into an Ironman with a long run of 13 miles. Run intensity, or any sort of run training structure, was non-existent.
This changed quickly under Hillary’s plan. I’m fairly certain I have more run volume in the last ten months than I had in the previous ten years! I was also quickly introduced to speed and hill training. My first treadmill speed interval training workout was terrifying. I was convinced I was going to fly off the back of the machine. It was also a blast! I quickly learned to ignore the stares of the other gym-goers as I jumped on and off the treadmill while the belt flew beneath my feet.
The best part: Fewer arguments with your Ironman spouse
Dave and I have different training philosophies and we are both fairly competitive, which can cause a bit of friction. Dave likes to ride long and has no qualms about four- to six-hour trainer rides…every weekend…in the off-season. I enjoy trainer rides as much as anyone, but was burnt-out and bored. Yet, I’d feel immense guilt if I stopped riding before he did, so I would just keep spinning all while getting more irritated.
Now I simply follow Hillary’s plan. I fondly remember the first time I had a 2:30 trainer ride on my plan and Dave planned to ride 5+ hours. I finished my ride, said “See ya,” and had zero guilt. Simply glorious.
Plus, it all paid off at Ironman Wisconsin, where I earned my Kona slot for next year.
Random things I’ve learned from having a coach:
- Some people workout the day before and the day immediately after an Ironman. Insane!
- When the husband wants to ride 100 miles again for the umpteenth consecutive Saturday, I can say, “Sorry, it’s not on my plan. Swing back and pick me up in a couple hours.”
- If the plan calls for “social pace” or “Ironman pace” and you feel good so you crank up the speed, you may get scolded by your coach.
- When friends ask you to join them for an open water swim and the lake temperature is sub-60 degrees, “Sorry, it’s not on my plan!”
- Triathlon training is no longer boring — although it is sometimes a bit scary.
Is hiring a coach worth it?
Within my first 10 months of working with HIllary, I have obtained multiple PRs, landed on three Ironman podiums, and punched my ticket to the 2018 IRONMAN World Championships. It’s definitely worth it! Why didn’t I hire a coach sooner?